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|Headquarters||New York City, New York, U.S.|
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) is part of the United Nations Secretariat and is responsible for the follow-up to major United Nations Summits and Conferences, as well as services to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and the Second and Third Committees of the United Nations General Assembly.UN DESA assists countries around the world in agenda-setting and decision-making with the goal of meeting their economic, social and environmental challenges. It supports international cooperation to promote sustainable development for all, having as a foundation the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015. In providing a broad range of analytical products, policy advice, and technical assistance, UN DESA effectively translates global commitments in the economic, social and environmental spheres into national policies and actions and continues to play a key role in monitoring progress towards internationally agreed-upon development goals. It is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.
The United Nations Secretariat is one of the six major organs of the United Nations, with the others being (a) the General Assembly; (b) the Security Council; (c) the Economic and Social Council; (d) the defunct Trusteeship Council; and (e) the International Court of Justice. The Secretariat is the United Nations' executive arm. The Secretariat has an important role in setting the agenda for the UN's deliberative and decision making bodies of the UN, and the implementation of the decision of these bodies. The Secretary-General, who is appointed by the General Assembly, is the head of the secretariat.
The United Nations Economic and Social Council is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, responsible for coordinating the economic and social fields of the organisation, specifically in regards to the 15 specialised agencies, the eight functional commissions and the five regional commissions under its jurisdiction.
The United Nations General Assembly is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), the only one in which all member nations have equal representation, and the main deliberative, policy-making, and representative organ of the UN. Its powers are to oversee the budget of the UN, appoint the non-permanent members to the Security Council, appoint the Secretary-General of the United Nations, receive reports from other parts of the UN, and make recommendations in the form of General Assembly Resolutions. It has also established numerous subsidiary organs.
UN DESA is part of the UN Secretariat, which is funded through regular assessed contributions from Member States. The Department was reorganized into its present form in 1997. The Department is headed by Liu Zhenmin who assumed the office of Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, following his appointment to this position by Secretary-General António Guterres on 26 July 2017. Mr. Liu advises the Secretary-General on the three pillars of sustainable development—social economic and environmental, and nurtures key partnerships with governments, UN agencies and civil society organizations, including the SDGs. In directing and managing UN DESA, the Under-Secretary-General is supported by the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs.
UN DESA's mission is to promote sustainable development for all, focusing on the most vulnerable. This reflects a fundamental concern for equity and equality in countries large and small, developed and developing. It underscores the need for all stakeholders – governments, UN and other international organizations, civil society and the private sector – to do their part to improve economic and social well-being. This emphasis on equitable participation by all people and nations is what makes the United Nations unique and gives the development agenda its universal legitimacy.
Sustainable development is the organizing principle for meeting human development goals while at the same time sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy and society depend. The desired result is a state of society where living conditions and resource use continue to meet human needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the natural system. Sustainable development can be classified as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations.
UN DESA's work programme can be categorized into three areas:
Norm-setting: By facilitating major global conferences and summits, as mandated by UN Member States, UN DESA assists countries as they find common ground and take decisive steps forward. Specifically, UN DESA is tasked with supporting deliberations in two major UN charter bodies: the UN General Assembly and UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), including ECOSOC's subsidiary bodies. In addition, UN DESA organises and supports consultations with a range of stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society. In this regard, UN DESA's main priorities are promoting progress toward and strengthening accountability in achieving the SDGs. Furthermore, UN DESA is responsible for ensuring civil society engagement with the UN through the ECOSOC bodies.
Data and Analysis: UN DESA, generates, analyzes and compiles a wide range of official economic, social and environmental data and information on which Member States draw to review common problems and to take stock of policy options. One of the Department's primary contributions is providing policy research and analysis for governments to use in their deliberations and decision-makingUN DESA is also the lead “author” Department of the UN Secretariat. The research and analytical work covers a range of economic, social and environmental issues. The Department produces a host of flagship publications and major intergovernmental reports, which are essential to UN negotiations and global policy decisions. The publications are distributed in print and electronic formats around the world.
Capacity-building: UN DESA also advises Member States / Governments on implementing the policies and programmes developed at UN conferences back in their home countries. It assists interested Governments in translating policy frameworks developed in UN conferences and summits into programmes at the country level and, through technical assistance, helps build national capacities.
Economic Analysis and Policy Division: The Economic Analysis and Policy Division is the think-tank for development economics within DESA and the main development research unit within the United Nations. The core functions of the Division include monitoring the global economic and social situation, promoting macroeconomic policy co-ordination and analyzing development trends to improve the implementation of the UN Development Agenda. It has recently been contributing an array of analyses and policy recommendations to the international debate on the global financial and economic crisis. The division is responsible for publishing the yearly World Economic Situation and Prospects and the World Economic Social Survey reports, as well as a monthly briefing on the world economic landscape. It is also host to the Committee for Development Policy, which monitors and benchmarks the Least Developed Countries.
The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) is a list of developing countries that, according to the United Nations, exhibit the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development, with the lowest Human Development Index ratings of all countries in the world. The concept of LDCs originated in the late 1960s and the first group of LDCs was listed by the UN in its resolution 2768 (XXVI) of 18 November 1971.
Division for Sustainable Development Goals: The Division for Sustainable Development Goals supports intergovernmental processes related to sustainable development at the UN and serves as the substantive secretariat to the High-level Political Forum on sustainable development. The Division provides leadership and catalyses action to promote and implement the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Developmentand the related 17 SDGs by conducting research and undertaking substantive analysis to inform policy making, providing capacity development, and facilitating UN inter-agency coordination and the engagement of Major Groups and other Stakeholders in the United Nations’ work on sustainable development. The Division also houses a Unit that is mandated to support the further implementation of intergovernmental agreements related to the sustainable development of small island developing states (SIDS), including the SAMOA Pathway, the Mauritius Strategy for the further Implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action and the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States
Public Administration and Development Management: The Division for Public Administration and Development Management helps countries build and strengthen their public institutions. It assists governments to advance public sector reform and improve the quality of public service delivery. By offering capacity-building activities, promoting knowledge-sharing and providing training and online tools, the Division champions efficient, effective and citizen-oriented public services based on the principles of transparency, accountability and civic participation. It stresses innovative approaches to public management, particularly through e-government development.
Statistics Division: The Statistics Division of DESA is a global centre for data on all subject matters, bringing to the world statistical information compiled by the entire UN system. It manages and facilitates the development of the global statistical system and serves as the secretariat of the United Nations Statistical Commission. The Division strives to develop statistical standards and norms for global statistical activities and supports the efforts of countries to strengthen their national statistical systems. It has an extensive publication programme on technical manuals and statistical information.
Financing for Sustainable Development: The Financing for Sustainable Development Office provides support for sustained follow-up to the commitments contained in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, building upon the 2008 Doha Declaration and the 2002 Monterrey Consensus, in seven main areas: (i) domestic public resources; (ii) domestic and international private business and finance; (iii) international development cooperation; (iv) international trade as an engine for development; (v) debt sustainability; (vi) addressing systemic issues; and (vii) science, technology, innovation and capacity-building. The Addis Agenda also deals with data, monitoring and follow-up in its conclusion and establishes a dedicated and strengthened follow-up and review process for the financing for development (FfD) outcomes, and all the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Financing for Sustainable Development Office supports the FfD follow-up and review process, working with Member States, major institutional stakeholders, other relevant organizations, civil society, the business sector.
Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development: The Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development provides substantive support and promotes consensus in the United Nations Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly. It works with Member States, other DESA divisions, the UN system entities, NGOs and other major groups and other stakeholders of society to support the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda by UN intergovernmental bodies.The Office also supports the General Assembly quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR) and is the entry point for NGOs seeking consultative status with ECOSOC, through its support to the NGO Committee.
Population Division: The Population Division in DESA is a world leader in demographic research. It prepares estimates and projections on matters such as total population, fertility, mortality, migration and urbanisation, which serve as reference for the UN system, many Governments, academics, the media and corporate users throughout the world. The Division is the substantive secretariat of the Commission on Population and Development and therefore monitors the implementation of the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and its follow-up commitments. It produces selected indicators related to the reproductive health targets of the Millennium Development Goals and assists the deliberations of the General Assembly in the area of international migration and development.
Division for Inclusive Social Development: The Division for Inclusive Social Development assists governments and civil society organizations formulate social policies that foster more secure, just, free and harmonious societies. The Division works with development partners to promote the realization of a 'society for all', where all members, including older persons, youth, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and other often-marginalised groups all have equal say and equal participation. It provides the primary support and servicing to the Commission for Social Development, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Forum on Forests: The United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat is the DESA focal point on all forest policy issues. It provides substantive support to the biennial sessions of the Forum, prepares technical reports and analytical studies, and fosters dialogue to enhance co-operation and co-ordination on forest issues. It provides a comprehensive and integrated view of forests which encompasses economic, social and environmental aspects. In 2009, the Secretariat was mandated to launch a Facilitative Process to assist countries in mobilizing financing for sustainable forest management.
UN DESA is the lead “author” Department of the UN Secretariat and the Department produces a host of flagship publications and major intergovernmental reports, which are essential to UN negotiations and global policy decisions. The publications are distributed in print and electronic formats around the world. Access UN DESA's reports here.
Within UN DESA there are a number of units that work with Civil Society and non-state actors. The NGO Branch of the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination is the focal point for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and acts on behalf of government to provide support for the committee which evaluates. UN DESA services 4,700 NGOs in consultative status with the ECOSOC, and all other NGOs seeking to work with the UN. Each year, some 9,000 NGO representatives participate in those events in New York City alone.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. It is involved in data gathering and analysis, research, field projects, advocacy, and education. IUCN's mission is to "influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable".
The consultative status is a phrase whose use can be traced to the founding of the United Nations and is used within the UN community to refer to "Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council". Also some international organizations could grant Consultative Status to NGOs. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) could grant Consultative Status in the form of "Researcher-in-residence programme" : accredited representatives of national and international NGOs are granted access to all records and to numerous topical compilations related to OSCE field activities.
The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was a body under the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) tasked with overseeing the outcomes of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development/Earth Summit. It was replaced in 2013 by the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which meets both under the General Assembly every four years and the ECOSOC in other years.
The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is a dedicated training arm of the United Nations system. UNITAR provides training and capacity development activities to assist mainly developing countries with special attention to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other groups and communities who are most vulnerable, including those in conflict situations.
The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) is "an autonomous research institute within the United Nations that undertakes multidisciplinary research and policy analysis on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues”. UNRISD was established in 1963 with the mandate of conducting policy-relevant research on social development that is pertinent to the work of the United Nations Secretariat, regional commissions and specialized agencies, and national institutions.
The Commission for Social Development (CSocD) is one of the ten functional commissions established by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 1946 to advise and assist it in carrying its work.
UN-Energy is an interagency mechanism within the system of the United Nations related to energy. It was created after the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, and its purpose is to create a coherent approach towards a sustainable energy system especially in developing countries to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
United Nations Water (UN-Water) coordinates the efforts of United Nations entities and international organizations working on water and sanitation issues.
The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) is a high-level intergovernmental policy forum. The forum includes all United Nations Member States and Permanent Observers, the UNFF Secretariat, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, Regional Organizations and Processes and Major Groups.
Nitin Desai is an Indian economist and international civil servant. He was Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations from 1992 to 2003.
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, is a United Nations entity working for the empowerment of women.
The United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to promote and develop constructive relations between the United Nations and civil society organizations. UN-NGLS operates autonomously across the United Nations system and with civil society constituencies and social movements on cross-cutting and emerging issues on the UN agenda. For example, UN-NGLS currently focuses on the UN General Assembly preparatory process for negotiations of a global compact on migration, and high-level events organized by the President of the UN General Assembly. UN-NGLS advises civil society organizations on opportunities to engage with the UN and facilitates their participation in various UN processes and events. UN-NGLS has offices at UN headquarters in New York and the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
The International Federation on Ageing is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1973 and based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada working in the field of ageing, older persons and ageing-related issues such as ageism, The intent of the organisation is for NGOs, the corporate sector, academia, government, and individuals working together to make, according to the IFA’s mission statement, a "change for older people throughout the world by stimulating, collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information on rights, policies and practices that improve the quality of life of people as they age". The IFA has General Consultative Status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
The United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) is a subsidiary body of both the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Economic and Social Council responsible for the entire organization's policy on sustainable development. It adopts negotiated declarations, reviews commitment and the progress of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Forum replaced the Commission on Sustainable Development on the 24 September 2013 Meetings of the Forum are open to all Member States of the United Nations.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organisation mandated to facilitate cooperation, advance knowledge, and promote the adoption and sustainable use of renewable energy. It is the first international organisation to focus exclusively on renewable energy, addressing needs in both industrialised and developing countries. It was founded in 2009 and its statute entered into force on 8 July 2010. The agency is headquartered in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. The Director-General of IRENA is Francesco La Camera, a national of Italy. IRENA is an official United Nations observer.
The United Nations Interagency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (UNIATF) was established by the United Nations Secretary-General in 2013 in order to provide scaled up action across the UN system to support governments, in particular in low- and middle-income countries, to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease. Following the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, UNIATF’s scope of work was expanded in 2016 to include “NCD related SDGs” - i.e. mental health, violence and injuries, nutrition, and environmental issues that impact on NCDs. The UNIATF works to support countries through a biennial work plan, the key elements of which are joint programming missions and follow up technical assistance, global joint programmes, and thematic working groups. The World Health Organization acts as a Secretariat and lead for the Task Force.
Established in 1992, the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth is the United Nations General Assembly mandated, official, formal and self organised space for children and youth to contribute to and engage in certain intergovernmental and allied policy processes at the United Nations.
The Addis Ababa Action Agenda was the outcome of the 2015 Third International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was adopted by heads of state and government on 15 July 2015. 174 United Nations member states sent delegations; 28 heads of State, vice presidents and heads of government attended. Governments were joined by the heads of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO), prominent business and civil society leaders, and other stakeholders. The agreement is a follow-up to the 2002 Monterrey Consensus and the 2008 Doha Declaration on Financing for Development.