The Economic and Social Council, commonly known as ECOSOC, is the main body for coordinating the UN’s economic and social activities. It is one of six main UN bodies (under Article 7 of the UN Charter) and is governed by Chapters IX and X of the Charter.
Its functions are: to promote higher standards of living, full employment, and economic and social progress; to identify solutions to international economic, social and health problems; to facilitate international cultural and educational cooperation; and to encourage universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
ECOSOC has 54 members elected by the General Assembly for a three-year renewable term. France is traditionally a member of ECOSOC. Its current terms expires on 31 December 2011.
Issues are decided by simple majority, on a one-vote-per-member basis.
Membership expires for one-third of members at the end of each year, and 18 members are elected each year to a three year term, based on the following geographical distribution:
14 African States
11 Asian States
10 Latin American and Caribbean States
13 Western European and other States
6 Eastern European States.
ECOSOC consists of a Bureau and, in accordance with its rules, creates the subsidiary bodies (technical or regional commissions, permanent or ad hoc committees, expert groups, etc.) needed to implement its objectives.
ECOSOC examines international economic and social issues and draws up practical recommendations on these issues for Member States and the United Nations system as a whole. It prepares studies and reports on the economy, social and cultural issues, education, public health and related areas. It convenes international conferences on these issues; it prepares draft conventions for submission to the General Assembly; and it consults with Non-Governmental Organizations on relevant questions.
—Throughout the year, ECOSOC’s subsidiary and related bodies hold short sessions on relevant topics
—Each July, the Council holds a four-week substantive session alternating between New York and Geneva during which it consults with academics, representatives of the business community and Non Governmental Organizations. The session includes five debates (the High-level Segment, Coordination Segment, Operational Activities Segment, Humanitarian Affairs Segment and the General Segment). At the end of the High-level segment, a ministerial declaration is adopted, which provides policy guidance and recommendations for action. Several resolutions are adopted each year
—Since 1998, ECOSOC holds meetings each April with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO) and UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). These meetings have helped deepen the dialogue between the United Nations and international financial and trade institutions, and strengthened their partnership for achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
—At the 2005 World Summit, heads of State and government tasked ECOSOC with conducting annual ministerial reviews and holding a bilateral development cooperation forum:
Annual ministerial substantive reviews (AMR) assess the progress made in the implementation of development goals
The biennial Development Cooperation Forum enhances coherence and effectiveness in international development cooperation.
Link to the ECOSOC website