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Pakistan completes year-long UN’s ECOSOC presidency

Munir Akram was elected last year for the second time to head ECOSOC. Source: Twitter

NEW YORK: Pakistan has completed its presidency of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), after leading the 54-member body amidst the deadly coronavirus pandemic that created the greatest economic and social crisis especially in the developing countries.

“It was a unique experience,” Ambassador Munir Akram said, as he handed over the presidency to Botswana’s Ambassador Collen Vixen Kelapile at a ceremony. Several ambassadors, including the Chinese, Tunisian, Thai and Botswanan, paid high tributes to Ambassador Akram’s leadership during a period that led to a consensus on debt relief and restructuring to enable Covid-hit nations build back better.

Ambassador Akram was elected last year for the second time to head ECOSOC, which is the third principal organ of the UN, along with the General Assembly and Security Council. He last served in that capacity in 2005. The only other ambassador to have had this distinction was Juan Somavia of Chile, the former Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

ECOSOC was established in 1945 under the UN Charter to promote international economic cooperation and oversee the work of all international economic organizations. Pakistan has been elected as ECOSOC President six times.

In his remarks, Akram said that throughout the past year, the ECOSOC was at the centre of the intense international discourse on ways and means to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, while also persisting in the endeavour to implement Agenda 2030 and the SDGs and avert the existential threat of a climate catastrophe.

During the year, he said the ECOSOC made its contribution to building the responses to these challenges; it set out the actions needed to provide “a vaccine for all”. Unfortunately, Akram said the challenges the international community faces are far from being overcome, noting WHO Director-General recent statement that the world is failing the test of solidarity in assuring the availability of the COVID vaccine to all.

“If we fail this test, we will put in jeopardy the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people in the developing world as well as the prospects of a quick recovery of the world economy.”

Despite the consensus in ECOSOC, the Pakistani envoy said, the developing world has yet to find the financing needed to recover from the recession and economic downturn triggered by the pandemic. He said burden of debt is triggering the collapse of weaker economies. With large financial injections, the rich are recovering, while poor slide further into poverty even as new strains of the virus spread to unvaccinated populations.

“The promises of vaccine unity, larger concessional funds SDR creation and reallocation, must be fulfilled on an emergency basis,” Ambassador Akram said.

Actions on climate and the environment also hang in the balance, as there is so far no assurance that the developed countries will fulfill their promise of providing $100 billion in climate finance annually, he said.

“Unless there are visible steps taken towards international solidarity, the success of COP26, and achievement of the goals and objectives of the Paris Agreements, will be in jeopardy.” He wished success to Ambassador Kelapile, hoping that under his leadership, the ECOSOC will respond actively and boldly to meet these challenges during the next year.

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