The unfolding global financial and economic crisis, the most severe economic downturn that the global community has experienced in the past 60 years, was at the top of the CEB agenda during the period under review. In a communiqué issued following the CEB session in April 2009, the executive heads emphasized that the social effects of the crisis were already disturbing and could worsen. Unless urgent action were taken, the crisis could have devastating effects for the most vulnerable and voiceless, with growing social insecurity and displacement of people. The achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and of progress in reducing poverty and hunger in developing countries was at stake. There was also need to prevent the global economic crisis from becoming a humanitarian and security risk of potentially immense proportions. In addition, the accelerating trends of climate change presented unprecedented new risks.

The Board considered it imperative that the global financial and economic crisis be tackled head-on and be turned into an opportunity for a sustainable future. The multilateral system, which had an important role to play in articulating and delivering a global and coherent response to the crisis and in translating it into action at the country level, should deploy all of its resources and capacities in a rapid and effective response, while upholding the principles, values and goals to which the international community was committed. Responding to the crisis required a coherent and comprehensive strategy which rallied the knowledge, experience, strengths and capacities of the entire system and enhanced the interaction and cooperation that would allow the multilateral system to make a bold, comprehensive and coherent response to the crisis in its multiple dimensions: globally, regionally and nationally. In this light, and cognizant of the various mandates and responsibilities of the organizations of the United Nations system, CEB agreed on the nine joint initiatives presented in box 1 below. This common commitment was designed to assist countries and the global community to confront the crisis, accelerate recovery, and build a fair and inclusive system of globalization based on sustainable economic, social and environmental development for all, while facing the future in a spirit of conviction of the need for transformational change.