The Economic and Social Council is the principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues, as well as implementation of internationally agreed development goals. It serves as the central mechanism for activities of the UN system and its specialized agencies in the economic, social and environmental fields, supervising subsidiary and expert bodies. 

It has 54 Members, elected by the General Assembly for overlapping three-year terms. It is the United Nations’ central platform for reflection, debate, and innovative thinking on sustainable development.

Coordination within the UN

ECOSOC links a diverse family of UN entities  (Organigram) dedicated to sustainable development, providing overall guidance and coordination. The entities include regional economic and social commissions, functional commissions facilitating intergovernmental discussions of major global issues, and specialized agencies, programmes and funds at work around the world to translate development commitments into real changes in people’s lives.

Reforms over the last decade, particularly General Assembly resolution 68/1, have strengthened ECOSOC’s leading role in identifying emerging challenges, promoting innovation, and achieving a balanced integration of the three pillars of sustainable development—economic, social and environmental. ECOSOC is charged with giving special attention to coordinated follow-up on major UN conferences and summits.

Partnership with the rest of the world

Building on its coordination role within the UN system, ECOSOC is a gateway for UN partnership and participation by the rest of the world. It offers a unique global meeting point for productive dialogues among policymakers, parliamentarians, academics, foundations, businesses, youth and 3,200+ registered non-governmental organizations.

A spotlight on global issues

Each year, ECOSOC structures its work around an annual theme of global importance to sustainable development. This ensures focused attention, among ECOSOC’s array of partners, and throughout the UN development system. 

By emphasizing combined economic, social and environmental concerns, ECOSOC encourages agreement on coherent policies and actions that make fundamental links across all three.

ECOSOC’s annual High-Level Segment includes:

  • High-Level Political Forum provides political leadership, guidance and recommendations for sustainable development, and reviews progress in implementing sustainable development commitments.
  • Development Cooperation Forum reviews trends and progress in development cooperation.

Other sessions encompass:

  • Integration Segment promotes integrated actions on economic, social and environmental issues, within the United Nations system and beyond.
  • Humanitarian Affairs Segment strengthens coordination of UN humanitarian efforts.
  • Operational Activities for Development Segment provides overall guidance for UN funds and programmes.
  • Coordination and Management Meeting reviews reports of ECOSOC subsidiary and expert bodies; promotes UN system coordination on development issues; and considers special country or regional concerns.
  • Youth Forum brings youth voices into discussions on global policy-making on development issues of the day.
  • Partnership Forum encourages collaboration among Governments, businesses and foundations, non-governmental organizations, academia and Parliamentarians.
  • Special meetings to address global development emergencies or crises, to raise awareness and to serve as a high level policy platform for coordination of actors working on a specific situation.

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