Support of United Nations Agencies Key in Reforming Development System to Achieve 2030 Agenda, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Executive Boards Meeting

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the joint meeting of the Executive Boards of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS); United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women); and the World Food Programme (WFP), in New York today:

I am grateful to the Presidents of the Executive Boards for inviting me to address you today.

This joint meeting could not be more timely.  Yesterday, the General Assembly adopted the most comprehensive reform of the United Nations development system in decades — a reform that will make us fit for purpose to support countries on the transformational 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and which enhances our chances to deliver on our collective promise to improve the lives of everyone, everywhere.

That work starts now.  This will be a large-scale change management process that will rely significantly on the leadership of entities in the United Nations development system, and their Boards.  In many ways, the future of the United Nations development system lies in your hands.

We will need your continued support, within each and every governing body, to continue to hold us accountable and ensure we reach our final destination:  a United Nations development system that is more cohesive, agile, impactful and accountable as it helps deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

The resolution on the repositioning of the United Nations development system emphasizes the important role of the Joint Meeting of the Executive Boards.  This is critical.

As the system steps up its joint initiatives, led by empowered and impartial resident coordinators, Member States will need greater space to provide guidance and oversight on issues that do not pertain to any individual Board.

This includes taking forward critical aspects of the reform.  Your role will be critical to ensuring an enabling environment for the various entities to contribute their respective funding shares to the Resident Coordinator system and — more broadly — to fully partake in our country-based efforts for greater coherence, more tailored physical presence and common back offices.

Your role is also critical in ensuring cohesive action and vision at the global level.  This is in line with Member States’ request for a system-wide strategic document to accelerate alignment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the country, regional and global levels.

The first effort by entities of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group to produce such a document was commendable, but did not meet the expectations of Member States.  As we move towards the next iteration, it will no doubt benefit from the ideas emerging from your discussions.

We encourage you to be ambitious in looking at the functions and legislative role of the joint meeting of the Boards moving forward.   The topics that you are addressing today are particularly relevant to deliver on the 2030 Agenda across all its dimensions, and will help inform the repositioning process.

Let me first say a few words about working together, the focus of this morning’s session.

We welcome the choice of Sudan as a case study for assessing collaboration at the country level.  In spite of commendable progress on many fronts, Sudan continues to face multiple and complex development challenges, similar to many other countries in the region and beyond.  At the same time, we can see how the various strands of the United Nations are working together to deliver results in support of Sudan’s national development priorities.

System coherence can serve as a powerful accelerator.  It is also a way to bring our action to greater scale.  Individually, we are 40 medium-sized development entities.  Together, we are a $30 billion organization with unparalleled expertise and physical presence.

Strengthening our ability to collaborate is also vital to effectively addressing the root causes of deprivation and the structural drivers of discrimination and inequality.  This requires integrated planning and skill sets that are currently scattered across the system.  We need to ensure we pull them together.

The complexity of the challenges we are facing — exacerbated by the effects of climate change — make systematic collaboration more important than ever.  These joint efforts — involving new ways of working together — will provide a stronger foundation to account for progress, promote accountability and, ultimately, to achieve the results we are seeking, whether in a humanitarian or development context.

Let me turn now to this afternoon’s focus — rising inequalities and pervasive discrimination — which pose a major threat to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Inequalities limit the opportunities of individuals, put a hard ceiling on markets and tear away at social cohesion.  To overcome them, the United Nations must be equipped with deep knowledge and insights about the people we serve and their aspirations.  This means we need better and more disaggregated data and evidence to help us identify and address inequalities in their multiple forms.

We also need to be much stronger in anchoring our analysis in robust economic thinking, which will require new skill sets, a stronger interface among country teams, regional commissions and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, as well as a stronger partnership with the Bretton Woods institutions and other multilateral banks.  These are key priorities of the current reforms.

Let me now outline some of the joint actions the Secretary-General and I feel are needed in response to these challenges.

First, we must intensify international support to joint efforts in overcoming rising inequalities.  This means building equitable and inclusive governance systems, strengthening national institutions and civil society, tackling discrimination head-on and promoting the rule of law.

Second, we must continue to strengthen the collaboration and coherence of humanitarian, development and peacebuilding efforts.  That means forging a greater shared understanding of contexts among development, humanitarian and peace actors across the United Nations system; better joined up planning and programming; improved leadership for collective outcomes in affected countries; and flexible and predictable financing.

The Joint Steering Committee on humanitarian and development collaboration, established last year by the Secretary-General, is showing the promise of enhanced collaboration.  This is not about confusing mandates or resources, but ensuring more synergistic results according to each country context.

Third, we must increase investments in sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including in energy, water, transport and waste, as well as in the enabling resources for health, education, employment and housing.

Fourth, we must continue to reach out to young people, recognize their potential as peacebuilders and invest in the well-being of girls in particular.

Fifth, we need to take partnerships to a new level.  We must be determined to strengthen our capacity to engage with civil society, the private sector, international financial institutions and others.  There is enormous, unexplored potential in this area.

I am confident that we are heading in the right direction.  The reform train has left the station and is moving firmly towards a system that is better able to help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, leaving no one behind.

Reform is inherently about processes — with many nitty gritty details and indecipherable acronyms that may unfortunately go with it.  But, processes must be about people.  The action taken yesterday by the General Assembly will translate into better lives for people around the world.  It will get us closer to ending poverty, expanding opportunities for women and young people, building a fair globalization and leaving no one behind.

Let us stay closely engaged as the transition process unfolds.  We will be coming to you frequently — as individual entities, Member States or in this joint configuration. We will rely on your guidance and support as we reposition the system.

I wish you all an engaging discussion.

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