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New ECOSOC president aims to maximize ‘reach, relevance and impact’

NEW YORK, USA – The role of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in promoting development has become “even more critical” as a way of guiding and informing the COVID-19 pandemic response worldwide, Collen Vixen Kelapile said on Friday, speaking for the first time as the UN body’s president.

He underscored the importance of international solidarity in recovering stronger and forging ahead with the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Despite the challenges faced we can maximize the reach, relevance and impact of the Council, its segments and subsidiary bodies…to recover stronger from this pandemic”, said Kelapile, who served as vice-president to the outgoing top official, Munir Akram.

Rising to the occasion 

As the world continues to grapple with the unprecedented crisis, the current surge of COVID-19 and its more transmittable variants threaten to further derail global economic recovery, said Kelapile, who also serves as Botswana’s UN ambassador.

He said “ECOSOC’s role has become even more critical” in helping navigate out of the pandemic and beyond.

“ECOSOC must rise to the occasion” and wage “a spirited war against disease, poverty and inequality, impacts of climate change”, as well as mobilize global action and resources during the Decade of Action to accelerate implementation of all the SDGs”, said the new president.

He also underscored how it could contribute to the struggle against global geostrategic tensions, mistrust and “the dark side of the digital world”.

‘Our greatest assets’  

As the world inches through a “fragile and imbalanced” recovery, Kelapile cited the International Monetary Fund in saying that the pandemic has increased SDG financing needs by an average of 2.5 GDP percentage points per year, across all low-income developing countries.

At the same time, vaccines and well-funded stimulus packages are leading developed and emerging economies towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

“One of the most critical lessons we are learning during the ongoing pandemic is that global solidarity, multilateralism and cooperation are indeed our greatest assets”, he said. “When we work together, our ability to overcome hardship is unparalleled”.

By the same token, divisiveness stands as one of our biggest threats. Failure to address differences among nations will only worsen geopolitical and socio-economic tensions, he said.

Closing gaps  

The Botswanan ambassador outlined some of the broad pillars of his presidential agenda, beginning with “swift recovery” from the pandemic.

Before convening the 2022 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) – the UN’s key international forum on sustainable development – he vowed to hold a dedicated meeting to gauge progress and map out how universal access to the COVID-19 vaccines can be bolstered.

And as the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities within and between countries, Kelapile believes that ECOSOC should “decisively address” the root causes of persistent disparities and reinforce national and international efforts to promote equality.

One of the most critical lessons we are learning during the ongoing pandemic is that global solidarity – ECOSOC president

While advances in science, technology and innovation have accelerated during the pandemic, so too has the need to close the digital divide – or risk festering and further widening inequalities.

He plans to “leverage the role of ECOSOC” to assist countries emerging from conflict towards “long-term and sustainable development” and encourage efforts to incorporate climate resilience into COVID-19 response and recovery initiatives.

Upcoming forum 

The incoming ECOSOC president said HLPF 2022 would examine in-depth, SDG Goals 4, on education; 5, on gender; 14 on oceans, 15 on biodiversity and 17 on partnerships.

He said interlinkages across the global goals were “critical” and upheld his firm belief that the forum will recover stronger from the pandemic.

Unique experience 

Outgoing ECOSOC president Munir Akram, also Pakistan’s Permanent Representative, outlined the challenges of leading the Council “in the midst of the greatest economic and social crisis that has confronted the world in a century”.

As the world was in the COVID lockdown, he explained that ECOSOC was at the centre of the “intense international discourse” on ways to respond to the pandemic, and its consequences, while also continuing to implement the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs – all while averting the existential threat of a climate catastrophe.

“I am confident that, under the able leadership of ambassador Kelapile, the ECOSOC will respond actively and boldly to meet these challenges during the next year”, concluded Akram.



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