The Economic and Social Council - Proposed restructuring



In his 1992 Agenda for Peace, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali issued a wide-ranging strategy for the future of the United Nations system, including proposals for changes in ECOSOC. It was suggested that those would reflect changes in the very definition of economic and social progress that had naturally resulted from the dissolution of the former USSR. In addition, a wealth of information now existed on successful and unsuccessful efforts at development, information that in itself called for a fundamental change in the structure of the United Nations so that it could respond more effectively to its members' needs in the area of economic and social development.

In his Agenda, the Secretary-General proposed that ECOSOC report to the Security Council on economic and social developments that might pose threats to international peace and security. He also urged the creation of a high-level, intersessional mechanism to enable ECOSOC to react in a timely way to new developments. He also called for lines of communication between the General Assembly and ECOSOC to be clarified and streamlined. In addition, the Secretary-General urged that the relationship between ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies be redefined. For example, he reported to the General Assembly in 1992 (A/47/434) that members of ECOSOC were frustrated by discussing the same issues four times in the same calendar year: in the council's subsidiary body, in the committee session, in the council plenary, and in the General Assembly.

Intense negotiations occurred during a resumed session of the 47th session of the General Assembly in June 1993. A draft package of reforms was proposed that had as its main aim eliminating duplication of work in the General Assembly and ECOSOC and providing guidelines for a division of labor. For example, it was suggested that the governing bodies of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) be transformed into smaller executive boards under the overall authority of ECOSOC. Other proposals would have affected the procedures of ECOSOC and would have subsumed the council's two subcommittees (on economic and social issues) into the plenary body.

Although there was clearly a consensus on the need for reform and rationalization, the developing countries (in particular those countries that make up the Group of 77) blocked passage of the package because of concerns over the numerical and regional composition of governing bodies of the different funds and programs of the United Nations. The smallest countries felt that the drastic reduction in representation would exclude them from participation in the decision-making processes of these bodies. In March 1996 Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Gali emphasized ministerial participation and increasing involvement of the new global leaders for the revitalization of ECOSOC. In July 1996 he noted that ongoing reform efforts produced significant improvements but that ECOSOC's capacity to monitor and coordinate the work of the UN system needed to increase.

In his acceptance speech on 17 December 1996, Secretary-General-designate Kofi Annan outlined certain goals for UN reform under his tenure. He pledged to make the UN leaner, more efficient and more effective, more responsive to the wishes and needs of its members and more realistic in its goals and commitments. One of his first reforms was the creation of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) on 17 March 1997. DESA was created as the result of the consolidation of the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, the Department for Economic and Social Information and Policy Analysis and the Department for Development Support and Management Services. DESA's program is to provide substantive support to the Second and the Third Committees of the General Assembly and to ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies. As well, as part of continuing reform, ECOSOC initiated in 1998 a tradition of meeting each April with finance ministers heading key committees of the Bretton Woods institutions—the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These consultations initiated inter-institutional cooperation that paved the way for the holding of an International Conference on Financing for Development, held in March 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico. At that conference, ECOSOC was assigned a primary role in monitoring and assessing follow-up to the Monterrey Consensus.

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