Rising to the challenge – looking back at UN DESA’s year

In 2019, four years after committing to the hope of the 2030 Agenda, science paints a starker picture than ever before of the future we are facing. The existential, interwoven threats of climate change, biodiversity loss, rising global hunger and inequalities loom over our generation. The message is clear: we must accelerate our efforts now, as individuals, communities, businesses and nations, to secure the future of our people and planet. It is clearer now than ever before, that our fates are interconnected.

As a Department established to deliver on the Charter of the United Nations, UN DESA found itself again at the crossroads of history in 2015, as Member States called on the Secretary-General to enhance the Department’s capacity to help them achieve the transformative Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By 2019, the response from the Secretary-General was well under way as UN DESA realigned its work with the priorities of the 2030 Agenda in six key strategic areas.

The Department strengthened thought and intellectual leadership on key global economic and financial policy issues. It enhanced support to the intergovernmental processes that underpin the 2030 Agenda. It improved use of data and analysis to inform decision-making. It stepped up capacities to leverage financing for implementing the SDGs. It has focused on strategic substantive support to the reinvigorated Resident Coordinator system and UN country teams. UN DESA has also worked to strengthen strategies and mechanisms to enhance external communications and strategic partnerships, including with the private sector and academia.

Over the past year, UN DESA pioneered innovative approaches to track progress on commitments towards the global goals. The Department launched the first rounds of VNR Labs, which help countries dive deeper into their Voluntary National Reviews, as well as the Federated Information System for the Sustainable Development Goals (FIS4SDGs), which brings multiple data sources in one user-friendly platform.

All eyes were on the Department again in September 2019, when UN DESA served as the substantive secretariat for three meetings at the highest level – the SDG Summit, the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development and the High-level Midterm Review of the SAMOA Pathway. Crowning a year of arduous preparations, these three events accelerated action and raised ambition on sustainable development, financing for the SDGs and delivering tangible progress for small island developing states.

These and many more major accomplishments of the Department are now compiled in the new publication – UN DESA Highlights 2018-2019. It offers a bird’s-eye view of the Department’s contributions over the course of the 73rd session of the General Assembly – a year in which UN Member States confronted some of the greatest threats to humanity since framing their aspirations in the Charter of the United Nations.

Launching the publication, UN DESA head, Liu Zhenmin, said that “through its pages, we hope to give you an insight to the work of a Department that has responded time and again to the call from Member States, a Department that is fully aligned with the priorities of Member States, and a Department that provides more robust, inclusive and evidence-based support to the global community.”

Read UN DESA Highlights 2018-2019 here.