NEW YORK: Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Munir Akram, was elected unanimously as the President of the UN Economic and Social Council for a year (2020-2021).
The 54-member ECOSOC is the third principal organ, along with the General Assembly and Security Council, established in 1945 under the UN Charter to promote international economic cooperation and oversee all international economic organisations.
This is the sixth time that Pakistan has been elected as ECOSOC President, and the second time Mr Akram has been elected to this post, having served as ECOSOC President in 2005. The only other ambassador to have had this distinction was Juan Somavia of Chile, the former Director-General of International Labour Organisation (ILO).
In his acceptance speech, Ambassador Akram outlined the objectives of Pakistan’s presidency. He said UN member states face three simultaneous coronavirus, health and economic crisis, achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the existential threat of climate change, while commitments made in each area must be implemented.
Quoting the UN Secretary-General, he said, “Inequality defines our times”. The legacy of colonialism, foreign occupation and racism is “a major systemic cause of inequality”, among and within nations. He hoped that a COVID-19 vaccine will be developed soon. “Everyone, everywhere – rich or poor – must have equal access to the vaccine”.
Ambassador Akram proposed that in the coming year, ECOSOC should focus on three areas – financing COVID-19, SDG and climate change goals; sustainable infrastructure investment; and application of advanced science and technology for development, and he would convene special meetings to advance action in these areas.
He recalled the early call by Prime Minister Imran Khan for a ‘Global Initiative on Debt Relief’, noting that IMF Managing Director has estimated that developing countries will need over $2.5 billion to recover from the current COVID induced recession
He also mentioned the proposals for new SDGs and other financing proposals under consideration. He said the pledge of the advanced countries to raise 100 billion annually for climate action must be fulfilled. He added that additional investment of over $1.5 trillion annually in sustainable infrastructure was essential for the achievement of the SDGs.
The incoming ECOSOC President called for preferential access for developing countries to advanced technologies and for making the intellectual property regime “compatible with the SDGs”. The digital revolution has opened vast opportunities for the developing countries, not so much to catch up with the advanced countries, but to leapfrog into a new and modern development paradigm, he added.
The ambassador said he would work closely with the incoming President of the General Assembly’s 75th Session, Ambassador Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, who is visiting Pakistan at present.
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