Achieving Sustainable Development Will Require Reinvigorated International Support to Middle-Income Countries, Says Deputy Secretary-General

DSG/SM/1127-DEV/3311
6 February 2018

Achieving Sustainable Development Will Require Reinvigorated International Support to Middle-Income Countries, Says Deputy Secretary-General

(Delayed for technical reasons.)

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed's remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the way forward for the United Nations development system on middle-income countries, in New York on 31 January:

I am pleased to be with you today to discuss how the United Nations development system can better support middle-income countries.

Achieving the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development], with its overarching promise to leave no one behind, will require a renewed focus on and reinvigorated international support to middle-income countries.

This diverse group of 108 States is home to 5 billion of the world’s 7 billion people — and three quarters of the world’s poorest.  Poverty is pervasive in some middle-income countries, while in others it remains concentrated in specific regions or sectors, with dire implications for social cohesion.  In many middle-income countries, economic growth has exacerbated inequalities.

Confronted with these challenges, many middle-income countries have limited access to international financing, or must contend with volatility in capital flows.  Domestic financing of the development agenda remains under leveraged.

As we are all aware, policy options to address synergies and trade-offs between development pathways of an integrated and interlinked 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are increasingly complex in the middle-income countries.  Sustainable development is not a linear process.  Structural, environmental and demographic challenges put hard-won development gains at risk.

Even when people move out of poverty, they can easily be set back by conflict, natural and man-made disasters, climate shocks, economic crises and epidemics.  We must change our understanding of inequalities and vulnerability.

Far more vulnerable people live in middle-income countries than in low-income ones.  That is why the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the quadrennial comprehensive policy review all recognize that we need to respond better to the complex and diverse situations their people and Governments face.

The Sustainable Development Goals are the ultimate recognition by the international community of the multidimensional nature of poverty and development.  United Nations entities and intergovernmental bodies must reflect this reality in their strategies, programmes and operational systems in order to leave no one behind.

The Secretary-General has emphasized the United Nations commitment to supporting to middle-income countries.  He has advanced a set of proposals to reposition the United Nations development system to ensure that it is fit to deliver a tailored response to the needs and priorities of each country, while reinforcing national ownership and leadership.

Supporting countries to deliver on their efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda begins with a new generation of United Nations country teams.  We have proposed that the configuration of country teams should move from the current model, which is largely based on historic representation, to a demand-driven approach, based on the capacities needed in each particular country and context.

Under our proposals, United Nations country teams will seek to match the United Nations presence and skills with the unique priorities and circumstances of each country.  Their work will be based on a strengthened United Nations Development Assistance Framework, agreed by individual Governments.

Each United Nations country team and resident coordinator will need to be able to adapt more flexibly to needs, which may change quickly and dramatically.  This will be critical to give a new impetus to our support to middle-income countries — not through top-down approaches that rarely change realities on the ground, but through a bottom-up approach anchored in national priorities and ownership.

The new generation of country teams will need access to methodologies and approaches that can cope with volatility and complexity.  They will need accurate analysis and the agility to respond.

Impartial and empowered resident coordinators will be the linchpin of stronger and more responsive relationships between host countries and United Nations agencies.  They will provide an entry point for Governments to the whole United Nations system.  And they will play a role in integrating and coordinating a system-wide United Nations response.

To deliver on their mandates, resident coordinators and United Nations country teams will need adequate and predictable resources.

We therefore propose to support the resident coordinator system through assessed contributions.  We also propose the establishment of a discretionary integration fund, which will enable resident coordinators to make the best use of programmes for priority initiatives.  This will be important to ensure basic capacities for coordination in all developing countries, regardless of their income status.

The total amount required to renew the resident coordinator system and establish this fund comes to 1 per cent of annual contributions to the United Nations operational activities for development.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will continue to play a critical role in supporting United Nations country teams and resident coordinators.  It will continue to be the driving force behind an integrated, multisectoral and multi-stakeholder approach.  UNDP will also continue to provide technical expertise and advice from across the United Nations system, to mobilize external partners, and to provide back office support.

The proposed changes at country level will need to be matched with changes at the regional and global level.  At the regional level, we need to restructure our architecture to make it more efficient so it meets the needs of resident coordinators and country teams.  For example, there is high demand for policy advocacy from the Regional Economic Commissions, so we envisage strengthening their capacity to provide this.  At the global level, the system-wide strategic document will align the entire United Nations development system to support the 2030 Agenda.

We will also reposition the system to better support South-South and triangular cooperation, which will be particularly important for middle-income countries.

We need to leverage the strengths of your countries so you can share knowledge, expertise and resources, and strengthen the capacities of others.  Then they, in turn, will emerge as active players.

To support these shifts, we are proposing measures to strengthen Member States’ oversight of system-wide actions and to bring greater transparency and accountability for results.

These changes will require adequate resources.  The funding compact is a critical piece of the equation.  In the dual role of many middle-income countries as both providers and recipients of international financing, I encourage all of you to endorse the framework of the compact.

Our proposals to reposition the United Nations development system are bold.  But they are necessary, and achievable.

Three years into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, we have no time to waste.  We have a shared responsibility to make sure we deliver for the people of the world, and particularly for those most in need.  I count on your constructive engagement.

For information media. Not an official record.