Economic and Social Council

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), under the overall authority of the General Assembly, coordinates the economic and social work of the United Nations and the UN family of organizations. As the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues and for formulating policy recommendations, the Council plays a key role in fostering international cooperation for development. It also consults with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), thereby maintaining a vital link between the United Nations and civil society. The Council has 54 members, elected by the General Assembly for three-year terms. It meets throughout the year and holds a major session in July, during which a high-level meeting of Ministers discusses major economic, social and humanitarian issues.

Inside the ECOSOC Chamber

Inside the ECOSOC Chamber

The work of ECOSOC involves so many issues it has many commissions to help it. Some are known as functional commissions. They meet regularly and report back to it on such issues as human rights, social development, the status of women, crime prevention, narcotic drugs, and science and technology.

Other regional commissions deal with special problems that people living in different geographical areas face. ECOSOC has five regional commissions that promote economic development and cooperation in their respective regions:

  • Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
  • Economic Commission for Europe (ECE)
  • Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
  • Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
  • Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)

The Annual Ministerial Review (AMR), which was mandated at the 2005 World Summit, assesses the progress made in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the other goals and targets agreed at the major UN conferences and summits over the past 15 years, which constitute the United Nations Development Agenda (UNDA). Each year, the AMR focuses on a specific aspect of the UNDA.

While the Security Council’s primary responsibility is maintaining peace, ECOSOC focuses on promoting social progress and better standards of living. Achieving international security and social progress go hand in hand.  You can’t have one without the other. Poverty and the denial of human rights greatly increase the risk of instability and violence. Similarly, war sets back development.

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