Remarks at the 56th Commission for Social Development

Hector Brown
Adviser for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
February 1, 2018


Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would like to address reform of the Commission for Social Development. The United States of America believes the voices of older persons, youth, and persons with disabilities –people with specific needs and with the ability to make significant contributions to the broader society – should be heard at the United Nations.

We note that in the decades since the establishment of the Commission in 1946, a number of other UN bodies and mechanisms have been created to provide for both in-depth and cross-cutting consideration of topics of greatest concern to these communities. Among them are the Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2030 Agenda, the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing, and the Conference of States Parties to the UN Disabilities Convention. Given these developments, it is appropriate that we take stock as to whether the Commission remains relevant in today’s UN system. A core element of the Secretary-General’s reform agenda includes eliminating areas of overlap and duplication among UN bodies and focusing UN institutions so they provide added-value to the UN’s work.

We thank Mexico for introducing the draft resolution on the Commission’s future organization and methods of work, and we will continue to work toward making this a strong resolution. We support several main reform elements in the resolution.

First, shortened annual sessions would be adequate for hearing statements from stakeholders, discussing the main theme, and taking action on any negotiated documents. If negotiations on the draft resolutions are to start well before the annual sessions begin, the current ten-day meeting period is too long. We can further discuss the appropriate number of meeting days, which we think should be in the two to four range.

Second, instead of multiple reoccurring resolutions, we support a single negotiated document each year on the main theme. Various UN commissions, including the Commission on the Status of Women that focuses on a main theme each year for its Agreed Conclusions, have effectively used this approach to conduct an in-depth examination of a topic and focus their work on the most relevant emerging issues.

Third, instead of considering a single theme for two years, we favor having an annual theme as the draft resolution states. Again, this would allow the Commission to select timely topics of interest and facilitate a more relevant policy debate.

These reforms are consistent with our recommendations for making the work of the United Nations General Assembly and ECOSOC more efficient and effective, to include striving for a 50 percent reduction in reports, conferences, and negotiations, and we believe the Commission can contribute to the “talk less, do more” ethos. We further encourage member states to be bold and reflect upon whether there is a real need for this forum, or whether its work can effectively be folded into other forums.

Thank you.