UNITED NATIONS (AN) — Norway's veteran diplomat Mona Juul won election on Thursday to lead the United Nations' top economic and social body based on an agenda of seeking more international cooperation for universal freedoms and human rights.
Elected by acclamation to serve as president of the U.N.'s 54-nation Economic and Social Council, Juul said she would focus on anti-corruption, development financing, good governance and transparent institutions in 2020. The council adopted a 3-page agenda for the coming year that emphasizes making progress on the U.N.'s 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, including an end to poverty and hunger.
"ECOSOC’s mandate remains as relevant and compelling as ever. Today, we also have the overarching 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," she said in her inaugural speech. "It guides our efforts to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity for all. The 2030 Agenda is our shared roadmap to transform the world."
Other priorities include responsible borrowing and lending, fair and predictable taxation regimes and identifying and carrying out effective solutions to the climate crisis, according to an ECOSOC statement.
Juul, who is Norway's U.N. ambassador, had a lead role in the 1990s Oslo Accords, which formed the basis for talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Her role and that of her husband, Terje Rød-Larsen, another Norwegian diplomatic powerhouse and veteran U.N. official, were fleshed out in J. T. Rogers’ Broadway play “Oslo” about the pursuit of international peace.
She also served as the top Norwegian diplomat to Israel and the U.K. and has been a formidable insider around the U.N.'s New York headquarters for 15 years, including her previous service as one of four ECOSOC vice presidents.
The council should "promote universal respect and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. For all. Without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion," Juul told colleagues.
One of the U.N.'s six main arms
Juul said the council must work as part of a United Nations that is "of value to people," and that reforms to the U.N. system will bring more cohesiveness and efficiency. But, she added, the U.N.'s development system also needs more flexible and predictable funding.
"We need the whole U.N. family to become better aligned — for better results," said Juul, who took over the presidency from Inga Rhonda King, an ambassador to the U.N. from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
"The U.N. must be of value to people. To our family. To our neighbors. To our friends," Juul said. "It is important to hear the voices of civil society. U.N. reform must and will make the U.N. deliver results better, more coherent and more effective."
Denmark's U.N. envoy, Martin Hermann, citing others' calls to select a strong, dedicated and skillful woman to lead the council, said that Juul "fits that description perfectly, just like" her predecessor King did.
Juul also urged the world body to provide better results, greater transparency and accountability, and more efficiency in its work.
"Unless we see a reformed U.N., our credibility is at stake," she said. "The true test of our success will be whether persons, communities and countries actually experience improvement in their lives and societies."
The U.N. Charter established the council in 1945 as one of the world body's six main arms. Though usually overshadowed by the better-known and more powerful U.N. Security Council, ECOSOC strives "to advance the three dimensions of sustainable development — economic, social and environmental" — and to serve as a central platform for advancing work towards internationally agreed goals, according to a council statement.
Juul said 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."
Without naming the United States or President Donald Trump's administration, Juul echoed U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres' alarm over nations withdrawing from U.N.-led and other multilateral institutions in part due to an erosion of trust.
"We need truly collective action to address the global challenges of today. Rather than retreating from multilateralism, the international community should acknowledge what is at stake," Juul urged, citing a 2015 U.N. agreement in Ethiopia's capital to establish a global framework that aligns financing flows and policies with economic, social, and environmental priorities.
"We must accelerate the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the global partnership for sustainable development that it sets out," she said. "Transparent and well-functioning institutions, good governance and anti-corruption measures are key policy areas. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda and its follow-up should form the basis of these discussions — and our action."