Photo: Inga Rhonda King, Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to @UN and outgoing President of @UNECOSOC, hands over the gavel to Mona Juul, Permanent Representative of Norway to the UN and incoming President of ECOSOC, at opening meeting of 2020 session. ‏ @UN_Photo July 25. - Photo: 2019

Top UN Economic and Social Body Has a New Head with an Ambitious Agenda

By Santo D. Banerjee

NEW YORK (IDN) – Norway’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Mona Juul, has taken over from Rhonda King of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines the presidency of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), who chaired the recently-concluded High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development. Having served as one of the four ECOSOC Vice-Presidents, Juul was elected by acclamation on July 25 seventy-fifth President of the Council.

The UN Charter established ECOSOC as one of the six main organs of the United Nations. It is the central platform for fostering debate and innovative thinking, forging consensus on ways forward, and coordinating efforts to achieve internationally agreed goals. It is also responsible for the follow-up to major UN conferences and summits.

Juul was previously Ambassador to the United Kingdom (2014-2018), Director General for Security Policy and the High North in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2011-2014), Ambassador/Deputy Permanent Representative at the Permanent Mission to the UN in New York (2005-2010) and Chairman of the 1st Committee of the 61 session of the United Nations General Assembly (2006).

She served as Ambassador to Israel (2001-2005), accredited to Cyprus for the same period. State Secretary/Deputy Foreign Minister at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2000), Special Advisor/Ambassador/Middle East Coordinator in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1997-2000) chairing the AHLC (Ad Hoc Liaison Committee on Assistance to the Palestinians). She was Minister Counsellor at the Norwegian Embassy in Tel Aviv (1994-1997). Her first posting was at the Norwegian Embassy in Cairo (1988-1990).

Mona Juul has been with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1986, during which time she has gained broad diplomatic experience. This includes working in the Cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs (1992-1993) and member of the small Norwegian team that facilitated the secret negotiations between Israel and the PLO leading to the Oslo Agreement.

Along with her husband Terje Rød-Larsen, Juul played a key role in the 1990s Oslo Accords—pivotal agreements on Middle East peace. The secret negotiations, largely arranged and facilitated by Juul and her husband, led to the peace agreement signing on September 13, 1993 in Washington D.C., of the first-ever agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Juul and the rest of the Oslo team of facilitators focused on the conflict between Israel and the PLO, knowing that a peace agreement would have to be created by the adversaries themselves and that a group acting as mediator would be vital in making appropriate arrangements for negotiations.

The 2016 Broadway play, Oslo by noted playwright J. T. Rogers, is a widely praised dramatization of the previously unheralded role of Juul and her husband, and others, in developing the back-channel communications that (reportedly) saved the Oslo negotiations from collapsing.

In her inaugural address at the ECOSOC, Juul underscored that the Council’s mandate today remains “as relevant and compelling” as it did back in 1945 when it was tasked with “fostering international cooperation on economic, social, and cultural issues”.

The Council should promote “universal respect and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. For all,” continued the newly elected president. “Without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” She added: “Today, we also have the overarching 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” which “guides our efforts to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity for all”.

ECOSOC offers “a multitude of opportunities” to assist the global community in reaching the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Juul said, noting that “ECOSOC and its intergovernmental structures make up a whole ecosystem”, with each component providing a specific function.

While thanking her predecessor, Rhonda King, for “her great work and dedication”, Juul declared: “It is my ambition as President, to make ECOSOC work better – as an ecosystem”:, adding that she would work “to ensure that we collectively deliver on our goals”.

She encouraged the Council to use the HLPF to follow-up and review the Agenda 2030, saying that she would hold “an inclusive, fact-based and action-oriented” HLPF in 2020.

The new ECOSOC chief also advocated that the Council align “the whole UN family” for improved results and under Government leadership, strive to make a difference in countries. “The UN must be of value to people,” she stressed, adding that UN reform would yield “better, more coherent and more effective” results.

Citing Secretary-General António Guterres calling for bold changes in UN funding, she asserted that “the UN development system needs more flexible and predictable funding”. And at the same time, the UN development system “must deliver on their commitments”, she stated. “We expect better results, greater transparency and accountability, and a more efficiency.”

“Unless we see a reformed UN, our credibility is at stake,” she declared. “The true test of our success will be whether persons, communities and countries actually experience improvement in their lives and societies.”

Juul said that women’s rights and gender equality “must remain a reform priority and a cross-cutting issue”, and that ECOSOC must place gender equality “at the heart of our work”.

“Next year, we celebrate 25 years of championing women’s rights since we adopted the Beijing Platform for Action,” she flagged, calling it “a vision of a more prosperous, peaceful and fair world, that is better for women and men, girls and boys”.

Turning to the 2019 Financing for Sustainable Development Report, she pointed out that collective action is “truly” needed to address today’s global challenges. “Rather than retreating from multilateralism, the international community should acknowledge what is at stake”, she pinpointed. “We must accelerate the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the global partnership for sustainable development that it sets out.”

Juul vowed to “make financing for development a priority of my presidency” as transparent and well-functioning institutions, good governance and anti-corruption measures are “key policy areas”.

She promised that Norway will “work hard to enable ECOSOC to do its very best for our common future”. She will “rely on all of you so we together can live up to the expectations of the people we serve”, concluded the new ECOSOC president.

For her part, outgoing ECOSOC President King spotlighted strides made during the Council’s 2019 session, and also voiced her conviction that much more can – and will – be done in 2020.

Describing the HLPF and its Voluntary National Review (VNR) process as the “jewels” of the Council’s agenda, she said discussions at the 2019 Forum revealed that countries are not yet on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

However, she said, that meeting also demonstrated that there is still time to change course. “It is our mandate to use [the Economic and Social Council] to guide the work of the United Nations system,” she said.

While it may not be the UN’s most glamorous organ, the Council remains a formidable tool and should seek to deepen its collaboration with other agencies and Charter bodies, stated King.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, thanking King for her work, highlighted her many achievements, including efforts to make the Council deliver on its mandate, from addressing climate action to widening participation of young people.

Confident that the newly-elected members will continue this legacy, she commended ECOSOC for electing a woman President for the third consecutive year. Nevertheless, Mohammed stressed that great challenges remain, and more action is needed to realize the SDGs. In 2019, the Council’s segments and forums paved the way for a valuable HLPF, and steps must be taken ahead of time to plan well for the next one. The Council must continue to discharge its important work as the world transitions into a new phase to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, she stressed.

Read > Meet Ambassador Mona Juul as surprise hit OSLO opens in London at National Theatre & Harold Pinter Theatre. [IDN-InDepthNews – 27 July 2019]

Photo: Inga Rhonda King, Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to @UN and outgoing President of @UNECOSOC, hands over the gavel to Mona Juul, Permanent Representative of Norway to the UN and incoming President of ECOSOC, at opening meeting of 2020 session. ‏ @UN_Photo July 25.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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