The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations assists the General Assembly in promoting international economic and social cooperation and development. ECOSOC has 54 members, all of whom are elected by the General Assembly for a three-year term. The president is elected for a one-year term and chosen amongst the small or middle powers represented on ECOSOC. ECOSOC meets once a year in July for a four-week session. Since 1998, it has held another meeting each April with finance ministers heading key committees of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Viewed separate from the specialized bodies it coordinates, ECOSOC’s functions include information gathering, advising member nations, and making recommendations. In addition, ECOSOC is well positioned to provide policy coherence and coordinate the overlapping functions of the UN’s subsidiary bodies and it is in these roles that it is most active.
Through much of its history, ECOSOC has served primarily as a discussion vehicle for economic and social issues. ECOSOC had little authority to force action and a number of member states were concerned that its utility was only marginal. However, beginning in 1992, the US and other nations began an effort to make ECOSOC more relevant by strengthening its policy responsibilities in economic, social, and related fields, particularly in furthering development objectives.
The resulting reform made ECOSOC the oversight and policy-setting body for UN operational development activities and established smaller executive boards for the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), which would provide those agencies with operating guidance and promote more effective management. The reform also gave ECOSOC a strong hand in ensuring that UN agencies coordinated their work on issues of common interest, such as narcotics control, human rights, the alleviation of poverty, and the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
One positive impact of this reform was the manner in which the UN development system began to respond more coherently and efficiently to humanitarian crises around the world. Secretary General Annan's recent reform initiatives have attached considerable importance to further strengthening coordination among relief agencies.
Another example was the ECOSOC decision in 1994 to authorize the creation of a new joint and cosponsored UN program on HIV/AIDS. This program (UNAIDS) will bring together the existing AIDS-related resources and expertise of the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UNESCO, and the World Bank into one consolidated global program, eliminating duplication of effort and enhancing the ability of member states to cope with the AIDS pandemic. It began operating in January 1996.
ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 allows for the roughly 2000 NGOs holding consultative status to have input "into ECOSOC's deliberations" including public meetings, UN international conferences, and "to place items on the agendas of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies", and to present statements to governments.
A new function of the Economic and Social Council is the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR). This was the result of the 2005 World Summit attended by Heads of State and Government. Through this review, the ECOSOC will assess progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals, and also the implementation of the other goals and targets agreed at the major UN conferences and summits over the past 15 years.
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Salem signs Keyes.(former US Ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council Alan Keyes to host syndicated midday radio talk show on Salem Radio Network)(Brief Article)
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