Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Keynote speech INCOSAI Theme 1 Plenary Session
“How INTOSAI can contribute to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including good governance and strengthening the fight against corruption?”

Your Excellency Dr. Hussam bin Abdulmohsen Alangari,
Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here to exchange ideas on “How INTOSAI can contribute to the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, including good governance and strengthening the fight against corruption.”

I thank the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for inviting me to speak at this plenary session, and the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for chairing this session.

I also wish to express my appreciation to the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) for selecting this topic as one of the main themes of the XXII International Congress of Supreme Audit Institutions (INCOSAI). Thank you also for your long-standing collaboration with UN DESA.

This is a very important and timely discussion.

Last year, United Nations (UN) Member States unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its core.

The Agenda is a comprehensive and transformative blueprint for peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity for all people on a healthy planet.

It provides a vision of what the world should be in 2030, and identifies goals, targets and some steps for getting there. Achieving the SDGs requires action in and by all countries, not just developing ones.

This year marks the beginning of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Successful implementation requires everyone’s support. Governments play a critical role in driving the process, but other institutions and stakeholders are also critically important.

The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July showed that many countries are already working hard to implement the Agenda.

The HLPF showed the strong commitment of INTOSAI and Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) to contribute to the follow-up and review of SDGs. The commitment was clearly expressed in the side event DESA organised in collaboration with INTOSAI, Austria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). SAIs are rapidly moving ahead with auditing SDG implementation. At the global, regional and national levels, SAIs are aligning their audit work with the SDGs.

Achieving the 17 SDGs will depend, in large part, on having effective and inclusive institutions in place, building implementation capacities, mobilizing technology and resources and, crucially, ensuring that resources are spent better and more transparently, and not lost due to corrupt practices and illicit transactions.

This is the focus of SDG 16.

The Agenda recognises the critical role of accountability for successful implementation of the SDGs, and includes detailed provisions for follow-up, review and reporting. It encourages countries to conduct regular reviews of progress at home. Member States may consider engaging SAIs as part of the follow-up and review process.

These country-level reviews will feed into National Voluntary Reviews (NVR) at the HLPF. The HLPF will also conduct thematic reviews. In 2017, the thematic focus will be on “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity”. It will review the SDGs on poverty, food, health, gender equality and oceans as well as Goal 17 on strengthening the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development, which is cross-cutting and will be reviewed each year.

At the national level, each country decides how to conduct its own national reviews. It is important to engage in a dialogue on the potential for SAIs to contribute to national reviews within your countries and in meetings such as this one today.

Some countries are already engaging the SAI in the follow-up and review and in the preparation of the National Voluntary Review (NVR). We heard about one case at the 2016 HLPF.

I would like to highlight opportunities for SAIs to contribute in innovative ways to the follow-up and review of the SDGs.

SAIs can oversee the integration of the Agenda into national frameworks, the performance of programmes aimed at achieving the SDGs, data collection capacity, and budget allocations.

At the global level, you could consider working together, through INTOSAI, to produce a report on progress towards the SDGs from the SAIs’ perspective. This would be a valuable input for the HLPF, particularly for the review of Goal 16 at the HLPF in 2019.

At the regional level, SAIs could engage with the UN Regional Commissions and contribute to regional review mechanisms.

INTOSAI’s Strategic Plan 2017-22, which will be endorsed at this Congress, identifies four approaches SAIs can take to contribute to national implementation of the SDGs;

  • First, by assessing national readiness for implementing the SDGs and reporting progress towards the targets.
  • Second, by auditing the performance of government programs that contribute to the SDGs.
  • Third, by assessing and supporting the implementation of SDG 16, including budgetary commitments, transparency and helping fight corruption.
  • And finally, by serving as models of transparency, integrity and accountability in their own operations.

These approaches are a blueprint for action and for SAIs’ possible contributions to national implementation, follow-up and review.

A most welcomed development is the commitment of SAI leadership in many countries to advancing the SDGs. There is strong interest in the SDGs and broad support of the INTOSAI community to the four approaches. It is heartening for me to see this commitment. It is testimony of SAIs’ pledge to help advance people’s well-being. It also shows the broad ownership of the SDGs. Now it is important to put these commitments into practice.

The theme paper for this session provides suggestions for moving forward. I encourage you to identify specific actions you can take to implement these approaches and think about the challenges and opportunities we face.

Responding to the complexity of the SDGs requires SAIs to adapt. SAIs need independence. While the SDGs are not new to many SAIs, some may need to adapt their mandates to effectively contribute to the 2030 Agenda, for example, to take a proactive role on anti-corruption.

Proactively integrating the SDGs into SAIs’ strategic processes, audit plans and activities is also important.

So is enhancing SAIs’ capacities to assess and review complex governance issues and to raise awareness of the SDGs at the staff level.

SAIs and INTOSAI need to find collaborative and innovative ways to aggregate data, at global and regional levels, to report to international audiences and provide inputs to SDG follow-up and review processes.

SAIs should engage citizens, civil society, the media and public/private partnerships to better communicate and share the results of SDG audits.

The linkages with Parliament and other accountability institutions are also critical. They will help ensure that the findings and recommendations of SDG audits are followed-up and connected to budget processes.

Across regions, SAIs have different experiences with sustainable development. You may also have different ideas on how you envisage the role of SAIs around the SDGs. This diversity opens opportunities for mutual cooperation and knowledge sharing among SAIs.

My department, DESA, is committed to working closely with INTOSAI and the INTOSAI community to support your engagement in the follow-up and review of the SDGs at different levels, and to help strengthen the capacity of SAIs to enhance accountability in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

We have participated in recent meetings of the INTOSAI Working Group on Environmental Audit (WGEA) and the Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions Working Group on Environmental Audit (ASOSAI WGEA) to raise awareness about the 2030 Agenda and discuss SAIs’ contributions.

DESA has also been working with the INTOSAI Knowledge Sharing Committee (KSC), the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI) and national SAIs on a global program on “Auditing the SDGs.” As part of this program, we are working on a Guidance on auditing the SDGs for the INTOSAI community.

The next joint UN/INTOSAI Symposium in 2017 will provide an opportunity to take stock of SAIs’ ongoing efforts in support of the 2030 Agenda and to continue the discussions initiated in this Congress.

Excellencies and distinguished delegates,

Today’s session, the new INTOSAI Strategic Plan, as well as the inspiring initiatives SAIs are undertaking around the world, all show that the INTOSAI community is highly committed to advancing the role of SAIs in sustainable development.

You have made major contributions towards improving budget transparency and reporting on the performance of sectoral policies that address relevant sustainable development challenges.

I urge you to continue working in support of the 2030 Agenda and to contribute to its follow-up and review. With you, we can ensure that no one is left behind in the implementation of the SDGs. I am sure today’s discussions will generate many ideas to overcome the challenges ahead for realizing the SDGs.

I look forward to an interesting, informative and inspiring discussion.

Thank you.                                 *****

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