Vincentian envoy elected president of UN body

I. Rhonda King (Photo via St Lucia Times)
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UNITED NATIONS, (Caribbean Media Corporation) – St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations, I. Rhonda King, has been elected, by acclamation, the new president of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

King – appointed as Ambassador to the United Nations by Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves in 2013 – was elected ECOSOC president during its 2019 opening session (last) Thursday.

ECOSOC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, responsible for coordinating the economic, social and related work of 15 UN specialized agencies, their functional commissions and five regional commissions.
The ECOSOC has 54 members.

The General Assembly selects 18 new members for ECOSOC annually for the term of three years, with a provision that a retiring member can be re-elected.

ECOSOC holds one seven-week session each year in July.

Since 1998, it has also held an annual meeting in April, with finance ministers heading key committees of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

ECOSOC serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues, and formulating policy recommendations addressed to member states and the United Nations system.

A number ofnon-governmental organizations have been granted consultative status to the Council to participate in the work of the United Nations.

King told the Caribbean Media Corporation on Friday that she is the fourth female, the first woman from the Latin American and Caribbean region and the first woman from the Global South to serve as the president of ECOSOC.

At ECOSOC’s opening session, three vice presidents were also elected: Omar Hilale (Morocco) from the African States; Teodoro Lopez Locsin, Jr. (Philippines) from the Asia-Pacific States; and Tore Hattrem (Norway) from the Western European and other States.

King said the seat to be occupied by the Eastern European States is yet to be filled.

In her opening address Thursday, the Vincentian envoy said she hopes to make the year ahead “a defining” one for ECOSOC, which leads the UN’s ambitious drive for sustainable economic, social and environmental development.

“It promises to be a defining year, which could help set a new course for the work of the Council and the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) held under its auspices,” said King, after being voted in as ECOSOC’s 74th president.

Calling it an honor to serve, she thanked the Council members and asked for their assistance in moving forward, “so that ECOSOC and the HLPF could live up to expectations.”

It said she paid special tribute to the outgoing president, Marie Chatardova, “whose leadership and vision” King said she would continue to rely and build on, “with its emphasis on inclusion and participation.”

King listed a revived ECOSOC as one of her main priorities, the UN said.

“You heard me correctly,” she said, “with your committed participation, we will revive the ECOSOC, using in full the hard-won innovations introduced by the General Assembly.

“There has been some dissatisfaction with the functioning of ECOSOC over the recent few years,” she added. “But, in the coming 12 months, let us work together to restore the ‘deliberative function’ of ECOSOC.”

She also cited the HLPF as “the centerpiece” of her priorities, saying that when it meets in the General Assembly, Heads of State and Government will review the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, according to the UN.

“We will have to think of ways to strengthen the conduct of the next cycle of reviews,” King said, while looking towards the early 2030 Sustainable Development Goal targets, that are set for 2020.

The new ECOSOC president argued against focusing solely on what does not work, urging members instead to tone down criticism and avoid skipping meetings, the UN said.

“Let us focus on what does work well and why,” King said. “Let us reflect on how we can make ECOSOC deliver fully.”

The Vincentian diplomat later said in a statement that she intends to restore ECOSOC’s deliberative function, policy guidance and coordination role.

King also plans to ensure that the upcoming 2019 HLPF remains a “visionary and action-oriented platform” under the theme of “Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality.”

Acknowledging the existential concern pertaining to climate change, King said she hopes to make “Building Climate Resilience” her presidential sub-theme.

She underscored “the transformative actions that can be taken to help Member States manage climate change and become more resilient.”

King said ECOSOC has “a key role in demonstrating the interlinkages between climate change and other [UN] SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals].”

The six SDGs under review during her presidency are SDG 4 (Education), SDG 8 (Growth and Employment), SDG 10 (Inequality), SDG 13 (Climate Change), SDG 16 (Peaceful Societies and Robust Institutions) and SDG 17 (Means of Implementation).

In order to “catalyze more creative thinking in preparation for the High-Level Segment of the HLPF,” King said she plans to “convene periodic dialogues with and lectures from thought leaders.”

King was born in Curaçao, to Vincentian parents.

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