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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.