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New ECOSOC President Aims To Maximize ‘Reach, Relevance And Impact’


UN
Photo/Mark Garten Collen Vixen Kelapile of
Botswana, the newly-elected President of the Economic and
Social Council (ECOSOC).

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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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, Mr. 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, Mr. 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 Mr.
Akram.

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