A proposal to strengthen the role of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) came up again in Geneva in early July but to the casual observer it looked like the council’s acronym may need to be redefined. 

Although there was general debate on world trade and financial issues, the most pressing economic crisis of the day - what to do about Greece’s sovereign debt - received little attention at the one day meeting on ‘Dialogue on Current Developments in the World Economy.” The four days of discussion that followed were devoted to “Education for Sustainable Development”.

Many participants spoke in general terms about the importance of dialogue among international financial and trade institutions but there were few concrete proposals about what to do about current developments in the world economy.

Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey did suggest creating a separate UN panel to deal with sustainable development issues. “We propose transforming ECOSOC into a sustainable development council,” that would include state and non-state actors and form coalitions with multiple participants.

Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, emphasized the need for stronger global governance mechanisms but did not repeat the proposal he made to a UN General Assembly debate on global governance on June 28 that ECOSOC should be given the same status as the UN Security Council.

During that debate, Hardeep Puri, India’s permanent representative to the UN, said that with the G-20 now composed of heads of state, ECOSOC has become ‘totally irrelevant’.

“Why is the Economic and Social Council not addressing the economic crisis in Greece? ECOSOC could not even address the world economic and financial crisis when it broke out in the last few months of 2008.”