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The Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) is part of the United Nations Secretariat. It promotes and supports international cooperation in the pursuit of sustained economic growth, the eradication of poverty and hunger, and sustainable development for all.

DESA serves as the secretariat to the General Assembly’s quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR) of operational activities for development of the UN system, and also serves as principal secretariat to certain global conferences, most recently the Rio+20. Together with UNDP, DESA has a lead role in coordinating the work of the UN development system in the follow-up to Rio+20, through the UN Task Team on the post-2015 UN Development Agenda.

DESA has three functional pillars – normative, analytical and operational. It provides support to the normative functions of the UN charter bodies dealing with development issues, such as the General Assembly, the ECOSOC, and its related functional commissions and expert bodies. DESA also monitors and analyses development trends, prospects and policy issues globally, and produces reports such as the Millennium Development Goals Report, the World Economic Situation and Prospects, the World Economic and Social Survey, World Population Prospects, and global statistical reports.

DESA’s operational activities include providing upstream policy advice and training to country level partners, particularly in the areas of macroeconomic and social policies, strengthening statistical capacities, and sustainable development.  As such, DESA assists governments to translate internationally agreed policy frameworks, such as the MDGs, into national strategies and programmes. For example, DESA provides training and capacity development support in specific areas, such as intensive practical training through workshops for government officials on the use of modelling tools adapted to evaluate the impact of external shocks on attaining the Millennium Development Goals, and other national policies.

DESA provides direct assistance to countries, in collaboration with UN country teams, in five key priority areas around which its capacity development work is centred:

  • Strengthening of statistical capacities, including monitoring of the MDGs
  • Macro-economic advisory services and international tax cooperation
  • Social integration and inclusion of vulnerable groups
  • Sustainable development including climate change mitigation and adaptation, and forests
  • Public administration and ICT for development, including e-government

Briefing notes for UN Resident Coordinators:

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