Remarks by Nerissa Cook, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations on the Special Ministerial Meeting of the Economic and Social Council, October 10, 2012

Narissa Cook, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
New York, NY
October 11, 2012


Thank you for the opportunity to address the Special Ministerial Meeting of the Economic and Social Council. I wish to thank the ECOSOC President for his leadership on this issue and our distinguished panelists for their thoughtful views. The United States values ECOSOC as a valuable platform for exchanging ideas, learning from each other’s national experiences, and sharpening our collective thinking about a next generation global development agenda. In the run-up to Rio+20, we began a conversation about our multilateral system, and how we can better adapt it to meet the challenges we face as a global community. This conversation is, importantly, happening in many venues -- from APEC to the AU and from the C40 to the G20.

By 2030 the world population will grow to 8.3 billion people, who will make increasing demands on our world’s resources and have rising expectations for their future. There are currently over three billion people in the world under the age of 30, and at the same time, all states are managing the social and economic effects of rapidly aging populations. While urbanization accelerates, we continue to grapple with poverty, pollution, and many other social and environment problems that require our immediate attention. We also need to bring more focus to gender in the entire equation.

The international architecture for sustainable development is large and unwieldy; it has also historically been largely disconnected from what drives development decisions and outcomes. However, it houses extensive expertise, resources, and ability. We created the system with diverse authorities across sectors for a number of reasons, but we built in few incentives for coherence. Further, competition for funding makes it difficult to set system-wide priorities, promote integrated effort, and allocate resources strategically to achieve results. The result is a disconnect between policy goals and institutions. Beyond inefficiencies, this has particular (especially opportunity) costs in a globalized economy, where issues like food, energy, water, poverty, urbanization, and so on are interconnected, multi-dimensional, and rapidly evolving, requiring more dynamic and reliable mechanisms for international cooperation.

Let us also consider how to better organize ourselves, as well as the kind of kind of support system sustainable development requires. For example, key challenges, such as women’s role in sustainable rural development, can be established as a thread that runs through all parts of ECOSOC’s system -- from the Spring meetings of the Bretton Woods Institutions to the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Science and Technology. We know that we must cooperate in new ways that span the existing development architecture and bridge institutional barriers. This includes partnerships with the private sector, other multilateral entities and non-government organizations as well civil society and local actors.

We will need innovative working methods and the means to assess progress based on concrete analysis of scientific evidence. We also need to institutionalize the use of data-based decision-making to inform our policies. And we need to retain flexibility – especially because we are at the beginning of the process to set a new development agenda.

ECOSOC should be a key player in this discussion and in our multilateral response. It is one of the venues in which we need to examine this problem. Its thematic breadth and responsibility for both policy deliberation and oversight makes it an ideal forum for a new approach which emphasizes convergence and integration.

Thank you.


PRN: 2012/211