NEW YORK, 24 January, 2016 – 70th birthday for the Economic and Social Council ECOSOC on January 23,
2016. The UN organ established under the United Nations Charter in 1945, became operative the following
year. In the seven decades since its creation, it has committed to remove the root causes of war,
degradation, as well as socio-economic gap between all people. “We have a rich history in ECOSOC, but the
bar has been raised”, Council’s President Oh Joon commented during a the commemoration held at UN
Headquarters in New York on Friday. He also stressed the results so far achieved the body, including
pushing forward with the sustainable development goals, the “2030-agenda”.
One of the six principal organs of the United Nations, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)’s mandate
since its origin was to offer direction to, and provide coordination of, the economic, social, and cultural
activities of the United Nations, with responsibility for advancing international economic and social
cooperation and development.
The first meeting of the Council was convened from 23 January to 18 February 1946, in London, UK.
Ramaswami Mudaliar of India served as its first President. On January 12 and 14, 1946, the General
Assembly had elected 18 members of the Council, which later increased, comprising 26 members (1965) to
its current 54 members (1974). Membership is based on geographic representation.
But its doors are also open to engage the civil society, and currently more than 4,000 NGOs, ranging from
the International Federation of Red Cross/Crescent Societies to International Federation of
Business/Professional Women, signed up to help ECOSOC achieve its mandate. This includes: “promotion
of: higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and
development; solutions of international economic, social, health, and related problems, and international
cultural and educational cooperation; universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and
fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”.
“We must deepen our thrust to work with Member States and other stakeholders to meet the growing
expectations for transforming the world for the benefit of mankind,” Council’s President Oh Joon declared,
explaining that “the Council’s primary role has been the formulation of policy recommendations for
Member States and the coordination of development action by the UN system”.
“Seventy years on, the United Nations achieved another significant milestone by adopting the 2030 Agenda
for Sustainable Development in September last year,” he continued, calling it “the reflection of a
remarkable evolution in international development thinking since the United Nations was created in the
aftermath of World War II. I believe that the work of this Council has been pivotal to that evolution”.
Among the “milestones” achieved since its establishment, the UN Economic and Social Council can count
the drafting of the Universal declaration of human rights in 1947 and the Convention on the elimination of
all forms of discrimination against women in 1979 for the promotion of human rights of women. An
ECOSOC resolution established in 1994 UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations
Programme on HIV/AIDS. Launched in 1996, it leads the global response to fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis
and malaria. It works with partners from many sectors of society and, includes associations of people living
with HIV/AIDS in its governance and programmes, which is something unique for an international
To supporting countries transition from conflict to peace and development, in 2002, ECOSOC launched Ad
Hoc Advisory Groups on African Countries Emerging from Conflict, which contributed to calls for the
creation of the Peacebuilding Commission in 2006, which also recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
In 2012 the first ECOSOC Youth Forum was held. It became an annual platform for youth to engage in
dialogue with Member States and contribute to policy formulation on global economic, social and
environmental issues. This year, it will take place on February 1-2. At the heart of the discussion, there will
be the role youth can play for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and
how to communicate its goals, using social media and communication tools.
While such instruments are in place, the world still witnesses conflicts, inequalities, discrimination and
human right violations. Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Jan Eliasson recalled the UN
officials and delegates attending the event on Friday of the challenges ahead. He used the ECOSOC
chamber as a metaphor of the organ’s work: “It was designed by my fellow countryman, Sven Markelius. In
creating this beautiful room, there appears to be a flaw: part of the ceiling is unfinished. This serves as a
fitting reminder that the work of ECOSOC will continue to be needed across the world.”