Mr. Eliott Harris Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist

at the 67th DPI-NGO Conference
“We the peoples…Together Finding Global Solutions for Global Problems

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to open this conference on the important theme of “Finding Global Solutions for Global Problems”. Reflections on the approaches and technologies for the implementation and promotion of the 2030 Agenda by various stakeholders, including NGOs, are both timely and pertinent.

The historic adoption of the 2030 Agenda by world leaders in 2015 reaffirmed the value of concerted action to address the most acute problems facing the world today. The Agenda outlines a road map for people, planet and prosperity that addresses critical problems across the environmental, social and economic dimensions and aims to ensure that all peoples everywhere enjoy peace and prosperity. The Agenda recognizes that the challenges facing the world today are intrinsically linked and therefore require integrated solutions. The 17 goals and 169 targets balance the three dimensions of sustainable development and provide a platform for integrated action to respond to the needs of peoples and planet.

The 2030 Agenda is the outcome of an unprecedented preparatory process, marked by the participation of a wide range of civil society actors from every corner of the planet. This inclusive process embodied the true spirit of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—it reaffirmed the universal nature of our needs and the interconnectedness of peoples around the world. The preparatory process to the 2030 Agenda has set a high standard for stakeholder participation. By the same token, the implementation of the Goals presents immense opportunities for revitalized cooperation and partnerships between all stakeholders including governments, civil society actors and the United Nations.

I would like to highlight three key aspects of the Agenda that provide a strong basis for your engagement and for strengthened partnerships between all stakeholders in taking this important Agenda forward.

The 2030 Agenda recognizes that sustainable development requires countries and peoples to work together. Sustainable and inclusive development cannot be achieved by one country, or by one category of actors. It cannot be achieved unilaterally. Some have said, this Agenda is a “declaration of solidarity and interdependence”. The realization of the bold vision laid out in the 2030 Agenda will require innovation and the mobilization of knowledge, resources and expertise by all stakeholders. Governments, NGOs, the private sector, research institutions, academia and individuals must work together in a coherent and integrated approach to sustainable development. Non-governmental organizations can support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda by mobilizing resources and contributing their expertise to help Governments achieve sustainable development, based on their specific context.

Secondly, the 2030 Agenda indeed commits to leave no one behind and to “reach the furthest behind first”. This is a fundamental pledge, which places human dignity at the forefront of public action. The 169 targets contained in the Agenda are our guide to ensuring that all policies and interventions are inclusive and serve all segments of society, including the most vulnerable, without discrimination. Non-governmental organizations, with their unparalleled access to grassroots communities, are well placed to reach vulnerable and marginalized populations and to amplify their voices. I am very pleased to note that thematic roundtables at this conference will address the mobilization of women and girls as well as youth, all of whom are important drivers of change, who must be fully engaged in our efforts to achieve the SDGs for all.

A third critical aspect of the 2030 Agenda is its pledge to promote accountability to the people. The role of NGOs in monitoring the progress of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and holding leaders accountable for their commitments is vital. In adopting the 2030 Agenda, global leaders committed to engage in a systematic follow-up and review of implementation at the national, sub regional and global levels over the next fifteen years. The review processes are meant to promote accountability to all global citizens. Civil Society actors can promote people-centered and participatory approaches to these reviews by bringing the people’s voices to the review table at various levels.

However, I see in these three aspects of the 2030 Agenda, and in the central role assigned therein to multi-stakeholder partnerships, two important challenges that I would like to share with you.

The first is the challenge of ensuring the appropriate forms of accountability in the multi-stakeholder partnerships. Each partner may be of equal standing in the partnership, but they do not each bring the same contribution to the partnership. Each may also be subject to different expectations of accountability and responsibility from their own and from other constituencies. Developing accountability structures that respond to these different characteristics and expectations with the required flexibility and predictability will require some effort.

The second challenge relates to the interlinked nature of the 2030 Agenda itself. Because of these interlinkages, we can expect that interventions in one area will have an impact on outcomes elsewhere. This is, in fact, a strong motivation for multi-stakeholder partnerships. But these partnerships bring together actors of different backgrounds, resource endowments and competencies, many of whom may be pursuing different objectives or priorities. This puts a premium on the capacity and willingness of each actor in the partnership to accept and support the priorities of others. In many cases, someone from an entirely different constituency supporting one’s agenda alongside their own, may be a very effective advocate, provided one is prepared to reciprocate. This too takes effort and a willingness to understand that supporting the priorities of others could, in fact, be a good way to advance one’s own.

The UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development—which serves the central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda—allows for broad and inclusive stakeholder participation. The Forum provides a crucial opportunity for Member States and other stakeholders to share best practices and lessons learned. The Forum therefore creates an important platform for partnerships, including through the participation of major groups and other relevant stakeholders.

The steady increase in the participation of NGOs in the Forum over the past three years has been encouraging. Over 2,100 NGOs registered to participate in the Forum this year alone. I encourage you to take advantage of the Forum to engage with Member States as they present their voluntary national reports on their implementation of the 2030 Agenda. NGOs can also engage in the process by submitting reports on the actions that they have taken to implement the Agenda, disseminating information on lessons learned and promoting the replication of best practices.

In addition, ECOSOC and its functional commissions also serve as important platforms to follow-up on specific Goals and targets where NGOs and other actors, working in similar fields can mobilize, build synergies and create global communities of practice.

Ladies and gentlemen, in closing, I would like to stress that the realization of the 2030 Agenda demands a fundamental shift in the way that we operate. It will be important for us to break down the silos in our approach to development and overcome internal and institutional barriers in our collective efforts to accelerate the achievement of the Agenda. At the UN, the Secretary-General has committed to repositioning the UN development system to ensure that it is demand driven, result oriented and accountable and to make our operations cohesive, effective and efficient in providing support to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

Non-Governmental Organizations are the oldest and most important partners of the United Nations in seeking solutions to global problems. This partnership has gained even greater significance with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. The 2030 Agenda is bold, ambitious and transformative and there are enormous challenges ahead. However, there is great momentum and support for its implementation. I therefore encourage all of us to seize the immense opportunity before us to be innovative, to enhance our existing partnerships and forge new ones as we work hand in hand to deliver the promises and pledges of the Agenda to the all peoples everywhere.

Thank you.

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