“This first month has been very exciting,” said Mr. Lenni Montiel, who was recently appointed as Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in UN DESA overseeing a wide portfolio of areas crucial for economic and social development. In his first DESA News interview, he discussed some of the most current issues, which are also vital for this year of global action, including preparing a data monitoring framework and financing for sustainable development.
With almost thirty years of experience, Mr. Montiel has held strategic positions within the Government of Venezuela and in several international organizations. Throughout his career, he has been systematically involved in policy making and analytical work on issues related to economic development.
“It was like a very natural situation, but it was a great surprise, so I really enjoyed that moment,” Mr. Montiel said smiling, as he shared his reaction when he received the offer to join the department. At the time, and before taking office in UN DESA on 16 January, he worked as Director for Economic, Social and Development Affairs in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, leading the analytical work in the area of economic and development affairs.
New assignment kicks off in high gear
In his new capacity; Mr. Montiel oversees the work of many divisions including the Financing for Development Office, the Statistics Division, the Development Policy and Analysis Division, the Social Policy and Development Division and the Division for Public Administration and Development Management. With this portfolio, Mr. Montiel’s new assignment has kicked off in high gear, as one of the major tasks ahead involves a milestone event later on in July – the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.
“This is a very important event,” said Mr. Montiel, also stressing that this is so much more than just another event. “This is a very important process, in terms of the future of development,” he added. Taking place in Addis Ababa on 13-16 July, under the leadership of UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Mr. Wu Hongbo, who has been designated the Conference Secretary-General, this conference is expected to prepare the framework for financing the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
Mr. Montiel praised the preparations carried out so far and the solid set of recommendations that have been delivered by the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing. He also highlighted Mr. Wu’s recent mission to Ethiopia and the very active exchange that he has initiated with the host government to ensure a successful conference.
“We all expect a very strong commitment to a policy framework that will guide the development work on financing for development in the years to come”
Expecting ambitious new financing framework
“We all expect a very strong commitment to a policy framework that will guide the development work on financing for development in the years to come,” Mr. Montiel said. “Many are speaking about it as the Monterrey plus, meaning it is good that we have a consensus already in place,” he added, also explaining that some additional elements have to be put in place. “Unquestionably one of the key elements […] is a reassurance, a recommitment of many countries to the question of official development assistance.”
At the same time, Mr. Montiel acknowledged that there are other sources than ODA and that Member States will need to agree on other questions like the facilitation for private sector to engage in development activities on the ground. “This includes improving the conditions of governance and tax collection in many countries, […] fighting illicit flows of finance from many countries; so the line of options is large,” he explained.
While the world is still struggling on the road to economic recovery, Mr. Montiel shared his hopes for high-level engagement from countries and international organizations, going beyond the outcome document. “I have no doubts at this point that the conference will be successful,” he said, highlighting the commitment of a wide range of organizations including the IMF, the World Bank, WTO, UNDP and UNCTAD.
“All of them together with Mr. Wu are, I would say, carrying out the flags of success of Addis Ababa together with 193 Member States and unquestionably the private sector and NGOs,” he added encouragingly.
Work on data central
Mr. Montiel also shared his views on another key element this year, namely the work outlining the post-2015 monitoring framework which will help the international community evaluate the new sustainable development goals once adopted by UN Member States. Here, UN DESA and its Statistics Division play a leading role.
“Secure and reliable data to monitor development requires effective, strong, sound national statistical systems,” Mr. Montiel underscored, also describing the work on statistics as central and highlighting the ongoing efforts to make sure we have a dependable system in place to collect reliable data in order to monitor global development. These efforts will also be in focus on 3-6 March when the UN Statistical Commission convenes for its 46th session.
“DESA carries on the legacy […] on statistics and monitoring of development since 1947,” Mr. Montiel noted. “So if we are celebrating this year the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we can very proudly say that DESA has made a fundamental contribution to the question of quantifying the world,” he praised.
Discovering wealth of efforts by UN DESA
“If we are celebrating this year the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we can very proudly say that DESA has made a fundamental contribution to the question of quantifying the world”
With a great amount of enthusiasm, Mr. Montiel highlighted other major tasks at hand. “First of all, DESA has a regular responsibility to provide to Member States annual analysis of the economic situation around the globe,” he said, pointing to the solid work of a strong team of economists in the department. “It is a great honor to be working with a team like that.”
He also described the important work within the area of social development and the efforts to strive for social inclusion of older persons, youth, family, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples. “Particularly relevant will be the question of building up […] a system wide action plan to address the needs and requirements of indigenous peoples around the globe,” Mr. Montiel noted. “This was a mandate given to DESA by the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples that took place last year in September 2014.”
Mr. Montiel also discussed the department’s work on public administration and development management, providing support to strengthening good governance, civil service and fighting corruption. “We are also dealing with very challenging topics such as internet governance and cyber security,” he explained. “This shows to you the wide range of issues that DESA is involved in by mandates and requests coming in from Member States.”
Throughout the interview, Mr. Montiel displayed much excitement about having joined the department. “I have to say that I thought I knew what DESA was about,” he said. “I have to acknowledge that I have learned a lot during this month and I have no doubt that I will have a lot of fun learning more in the many months to come.”