Background Release



    26 June 2003





Scheduled to Conclude on 25 July, Council Will Also Consider UN Development Activities, Coordination Issues, Humanitarian Affairs, Conference Follow-up



NEW YORK, 25 June (UN Headquarters) -- The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) begins its substantive session in Geneva this year with a high-level segment scheduled for 30 June to 2 July. The annual four-week session, held alternately in Geneva and New York, is scheduled to end on 25 July.


The theme of this year’s high-level segment is “Promoting an integrated approach to rural development in developing countries for poverty eradication and sustainable development”. During this part of the meeting, the Council expects to adopt a Ministerial Declaration on integrated rural development, providing policy guidance and recommendations for action.


The President of ECOSOC, Gert Rosenthal (Guatemala) and Secretary-General Kofi Annan, will address the opening of the high-level meeting, followed by a high-level policy dialogue on current developments in the global economy and international economic cooperation. Participants will include Horst Köhler, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund; Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Mamphela Ramphele, Managing Director of the World Bank; and Francisco Thompson Flores, Deputy Director of the World Trade Organization (WTO).


Following the conclusion of the high-level segment, the Council’s work will be divided into four segments: operational activities of the United Nations for international development cooperation; Coordination; Humanitarian affairs; and a General segment, in which the Council will consider a variety of other issues.


In its operational activities segment, the Council will examine United Nations system activities and their degree of implementation. In the Coordination segment, ECOSOC will reflect on its role in the implementation of the outcomes of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits.


The Humanitarian affairs segment will focus on strengthening coordination of United Nations humanitarian assistance, with particular attention to humanitarian financing and the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance. It will also consider the question of transition from relief to development and will hold a panel on responding to the effects of HIV/AIDS and other widespread diseases on humanitarian relief.  


Finally, during its General segment, the Council will consider, among other items, the implementation of and follow-up to selected major United Nations conferences and summits, with special focus on the International Conference on Financing for Development and the implementation of the Programme of action for the Least Developed Countries for 2001-2010.


The Council serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues, and for formulating policy recommendations addressed to Member States and to the United Nations. It makes or initiates studies and reports, and makes recommendations on international economic, social, cultural, educational, health and related matters. The Council also promotes respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms through subsidiary bodies, commissions and committees that carry out its year-round work.


High-level Segment


Following the high-level policy dialogue on the global economic situation, the Council will hold four simultaneous ministerial round tables during the afternoon of 30 June to be co-chaired by a government minister and a head of a United Nations agency, fund or programme. The discussions will focus on each of the four key aspects of rural development in developing countries: natural resources and rural development; the need for an integrated approach to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals in rural development; global partnerships for rural development; and rural/urban interface and slums.


On 1 and 2 July, the Council will hear statements from Member States and representatives of the United Nations system, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the private sector on the high-level segment’s theme.


Report of Secretary-General


For the high-level portion of the meeting, the Council will have before it the Secretary-General’s report (document E/2003/51), which analyzes the role of rural development in developing countries in poverty eradication and sustainable development and examines how to promote an integrated approach that would contribute to the attainment of the internationally agreed development goals. It recognizes that accelerated rural development is essential to achieve the internationally agreed development goals, particularly the Millennium Development Goals.


Noting that 75 per cent of the world’s poor live in rural areas of developing countries and depend mainly on agriculture and related activities for their livelihood, the Secretary-General cites a report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) pointing out that in 2025, when the majority of the world’s population is expected to be urban, 60 per cent of poverty will still be rural.


The Secretary-General’s report provides policy recommendations on ways to promote an integrated approach to rural development, encompassing the economic, social and environmental dimensions, with a number of mutually reinforcing policies and programmes. Common elements of such an integrated approach include creation of an enabling macroeconomic policy environment conducive for poverty eradication and sustainable development in rural areas; reversing the decline in the flow of domestic public resources and official development assistance going to the rural areas and agriculture; promotion of economic growth in developing countries by strengthening agricultural productivity; enhancing the livelihoods of the rural people starting with the rural poor; and empowering poor people to overcome poverty.


Other elements include eliminating supply-side constraints at the national level, especially in the least developed countries; enhancing public and private investment in rural infrastructure through utilization of technology that allows maximum operation and maintenance by the users and their institutions; increasing public investment in agriculture and human capital development in rural areas; and enhancing access of poor rural people, especially women and smallholder farmers, to productive assets, especially land, water and other natural resources, as well as access to financial services and appropriate technology.


In his report, the Secretary-General stresses the pivotal role of technology and techniques in the reduction of poverty, particularly sustainable agricultural technologies intended to improve farming practices and natural resources. There is need for increased access to modernized information and communication technology for capacity-building and for making farmers better informed about practices, prices and access to input and output markets, the report adds. Eradication of poverty and promotion of sustainable development is dependent on the empowerment of all stakeholders in rural communities and households. Closely linked with the issue of governance that should be inclusive and accountable is women’s empowerment.


Other elements of an integrated approach to rural development include promoting environmentally sound and sustainable natural resource management; increasing access to social services; addressing HIV/AIDS and rural development in an integrated manner; empowering poor people to overcome poverty by enabling them to have a larger voice in decision-making processes on resource allocation; sustaining support for African countries facing triple crises of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, food insecurity, famine, poverty and weak governance; encouraging donor support of innovative approaches to the integration of emergency and development programmes; and recognizing that poverty affects a substantial proportion of rural households.


The report of the Secretary-General and all other preparatory material is available on the ECOSOC Web site at


ECOSOC Composition


The Council is made up of 54 members with geographical distribution as follows: 14 members from African States; 11 from Asian States; six from Eastern European States; 10 from Latin American and Caribbean States; and 13 from Western European and Other States. Eighteen members of the Council are elected each year to serve three-year terms of office, beginning on 1 January and ending on 31 December.


The current 54 members of the Council, with their expiration dates are: Andorra (2003), Argentina (2003), Australia (2004), Azerbaijan (2005), Benin (2005), Bhutan (2004), Brazil (2003), Burundi (2004), Chile (2004), China (2004), Congo (2005), Cuba (2005), Ecuador (2005), Egypt (2003), El Salvador (2004), Ethiopia (2003), Finland (2004), France (2005), Georgia (2003), Germany (2005), Ghana (2004), Greece (2005), Guatemala (2004), Hungary (2004, India (2004), Iran (2003), Ireland (2005), Italy (2003), Jamaica (2005), Japan (2005), Kenya (2005) Libya (2004), Malaysia (2005), Mozambique (2005), Nepal (2003), Netherlands (2003), Nicaragua (2005), Nigeria (2003), Pakistan (2003), Peru (2003), Portugal (2005), Qatar (2004), Republic of Korea (2003), Romania (2003), Russian Federation (2004), Saudi Arabia (2005), Senegal (2005), South Africa (2003), Sweden (2004), Uganda (2003), Ukraine (2004), United Kingdom (2004), United States (2003) and Zimbabwe, (2004).


The members of the Bureau for 2003 are: Council President Gert Rosenthal (Guatemala), and Vice-Presidents Marjatta Rasi (Finland), Valery P. Kuchinsky (Ukraine), Murari Raj Sharma (Nepal), and Abdul Mejid Hussein (Ethiopia).






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