Press Releases

    15 January 2002


    Beginning Organizational Session for Coming Year,
    Council Elects Ivan Simonovic of Croatia as Its New President

    NEW YORK, 14 January (UN Headquarters) -- The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) held its first meeting for 2002 this afternoon, electing Ivan Šimonovic (Croatia) by acclamation as its President for 2002-2003.

    Also by acclamation, the Council elected its four Vice-Presidents for the following regional groupings: Gert Rosenthal (Guatemala) from Latin American and Caribbean States, Marjatti Rasi (Finland) from the Western European and other States, Jassim Mohammed Buallay (Bahrain) from the Asian States, and Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo (South Africa) from the African States.

    In his opening speech, incoming President Ivan Šimonovic said the Council had great potential to increase the cooperation of nations around the world. Its role had become vital in helping ensure that globalization became a positive force for all. That meant greater policy coherence in the Council as well as a focus on broad-based growth and poverty eradication, including HIV/AIDS, the digital divide and particularly human resources development. Despite progress in education and health in developing countries over the last half-century, both the volume and quality of human capital were clearly inadequate to meet the challenges of the new millennium.

    Given the increasing awareness of important ties between peace and development, links among the principal organs –- the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and the Security Council -- should be strengthened, he continued. The ECOSOC was well-positioned to look at the root causes of conflict. It should take a lead in considering the economic, social and humanitarian dimensions of conflict prevention and peace-building, and provide system-wide coordination of activities under its purview.

    As ECOSOC increased its involvement in peace-building, he said, there would be need for far greater dialogue with the Security Council, so that there could be an integrated and comprehensive response by the United Nations to support countries emerging from conflicts. The ECOSOC could play an important role in coordinating assistance on the ground. In that respect, he stressed that Africa had remained a high priority for the Council. There, emphasis must be placed on peace-building as well as support for the continent’s efforts to achieve sustainable development.

    The Council must also gradually increase its "circle of influence" by reaching out to the world public at large, he said. It needed to strengthen ties at the national level, increase interaction among senior-level policy makers and take into account contributions by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector, national and local authorities, academia and other non-State actors in Council work. The Council’s success would not be measured by the numbers of resolutions it passed, but by the improvement of living conditions around the globe.

    Before handing over the gavel to the new President, the outgoing President, Martin Belinga-Eboutou (Cameroon), said the main concern of the Council during last year had been to contribute to the implementation of the Millennium Summit goals by strengthening of the ECOSOC, implementation of the ECOSOC Declaration on Information and Communication Technologies of July 2001, consolidating its relationship with its partners -- NGOs and the specialized institutions -- and emphasizing Africa.

    He said the strengthening of the ECOSOC had had a critical impact on the effective operation of the United Nations system in the economic and social areas. The visibility of ECOSOC had been enhanced through participation in two important world summits: The World Conference on Least Developed Countries in Brussels, Belgium, and the World Conference on Racism and Racial Discrimination in Durban, South Africa. There had been two historic decisions of the General Assembly: to examine in plenary session the annual Council report; and to give the ECOSOC Bureau the resources necessary for its actions. The Council had also sought more synergy with the Security Council, in particular in conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction operations.

    Regarding Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), the Council had presented and disseminated the Presidential Declaration of July 2000 on that subject on several occasions, he said. It had created a working group on technology at the Secretary-General level. The Council had also prepared an International Symposium on Africa and Information and Communication Technologies.

    The high point of 2001, he said, had been the annual proceeding of ECOSOC in Geneva. The Council's high-level segment had been dedicated to Africa. Major topics of that segment were: a new North-South partnership for cooperation and support for development; stimulation of private investment in Africa; access for African products in markets of developed countries; and affirming economic and social rights of the most disadvantaged people of the world.

    Also this afternoon, the Council adopted its provisional agenda as set out in document E/2002/2. Regarding the Council's proposed basic programme of work and other organizational matters, delegates were informed that informal consultations would be held on 11 February. The results of those consultations would be considered in a formal meeting on Tuesday, 12 February.

    The 54 members of the ECOSOC are: Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Libya, Malta, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Zimbabwe.

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