ECOSOC is one of the six main organs of the United Nations. As the principle UN body for tackling the world’s economic, social and environmental challenges according to the UN Charta, it coodinates related international activities. One of its core tasks consists in articulating development policy and ensuring policy coherence. Therefore, ECOSOC is responsible for promoting the implementation of international development goals including the Millennium Development Goals as well as for some 70% of the human and financial resources of the entire UN system. In addition, ECOSOC will play a major role in the preparations, monitoring and implementation of a post-2015 development agenda for sustainable development.
The Council consists of 54 members elected for three year terms by the General Assembly (GA), according to a fixed geographical distribution of five regional groups. Germany has been continuously represented in ECOSOC since 1974 (with the exception of 2008 and 2013), and is one of its longest standing members to date. As the third largest contributor to the regular UN budget, Germany has a big impact on the capacities of the Council.
ECOSOC coordinates the activities of fourteen UN specialized agencies, nine functional commissions and five regional economic commissions. About 3900 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have so-called consultative status with ECOSOC, meaning they may submit expertise and reports and make recommendations to the council on issues relating to their fields of work. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) are just some of the organizations that report to the General Assembly via ECOSOC.
Member States decided to strengthen ECOSOC through comprehensive reforms in 2013. New elements of the reform package are:
- to provide substantive leadership to the system through adoption of an annual theme on which the program of work will be based;
- to adopt an integration segment that promotes and monitors the balanced integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social, environmental - throughout the work of the ECOSOC; and
- to stagger the segments of the Council’s substantive session throughout the year, with a work program cycle beginning in July.
The four Segments of ECOSOC’s Substantive Session
The work of ECOSOC is organized in four segments throughout the year.
High-level Segment (HLS) (July)
The High-level Segment provides a framework for the reflection of the annual theme, the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) and, every two years, for the Development Cooperation Forum. It culminates in the adoption of the HLS/HLPF’s ministerial declaration.
Operational Activities Segment (February/March)
The Operational Activities Segment takes place after the first session of the meetings of the funds’ and programs’ executive boards and lays down the guidelines for their operational activities for development. It aims to improve the overall impact of these activities, in support of national development priorities.
Integration Segment (May)
The Integration Segment promotes the balanced integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development. It provides an opportunity to review the key ideas of the Council and its subsidiary bodies with respect to the Council’s annual theme and to make practical recommendations in response to the ideas. The subsidiary bodies of the ECOSOC are requested to provide input to this segment whenever the annual theme falls in the area of their competence.
Humanitarian Affairs Segment (June)
The Humanitarian Affairs Segment helps to strengthen the coordination and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance and support provided by the UN. A special event devoted to the transition from relief to development takes place following the humanitarian segment. This segment is the only one that, following the last reform, will continue to rotate between New York and Geneva.