The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, as specified in chapter III of the United Nations charter. It consists of 54 member-countries, each of which are elected by the General Assembly and serve for three year terms.
The main purpose of ECOSOC is to help plan and execute UN-sponsored economic and social programs. To fulfill its tasks, ECOSOC coordinates the actions of the many agencies under them: 14 specialized UN agencies, 9 functional commissions, and five regional commissions. ECOSOC uses these subsidiary bodies to perform studies and collect data on a wide variety of issues, ranging from poverty, deforestation, and erosion of human rights. This data can then be sent to the General Assembly along with recommendations on the best course of action. Along with this key privilege, ECOSOC has recently been granted the mandate to assemble an Annual Ministerial Reviews (AMR) and a biennial Development Cooperation Forum (DCF).
Since its inception, ECOSOC has tackled many issues with a great deal of success. One of the most prominent examples of ECOSOC’s success is its involvement towards completing the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG). ECOSOC has an integral role in achieving these goals through its use of the AMR and DCF, which are tools to report, discuss, plan, and execute the most efficient method to fulfill the MDG. Another case of ECOSOC’s success is through the use of its ADHOC Advisory Groups. These groups are sent to specific impoverished countries where they will provide advice towards achieving long- term developmental goals. The Advisory Group is also responsible for writing reports to assess the social and economic conditions of the country. These annual reports are given much clout within the organization and are often used as the foundation for many resolutions, which will assist the specified country.
ECOSOC, however, does not have a perfect record in completing its goals. One of its most glaring failures is its inability to rally support behind a global action to combat increasing carbon emissions. The effect of climate change is a recurring topic for ECOSOC, and is a hot topic in many of its AMRs. Another instance of ECOSOC’s failures is its inability to improve working conditions in many developing countries. Sweatshops in countries such as India, Bangladesh, and Malaysia are commonplace, and employees live akin to modern slavery, with long hours, unsafe working conditions, and poor pay. ECOSOC’s failures in both these issues highlight the fact that it lacks the political clout to directly remit a nation’s actions, especially when it’s economically favorable.
One of ECOSOC’s main issues going forwards is its ability to stay economically relevant in an increasingly globalized world. ECOSOC’s ability to affect policy making is usually limited to only making recommendations for the General Assembly. Because of its lack of direct involvement, global economic policy is usually led by other organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization. Reforms are currently being planned and executed to ensure that ECOSOC will always have a role in the direction of the international economy.
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