DESA News got an exclusive interview with the department’s new Under-Secretary-General, Mr. Wu Hongbo, who took office on 1 August, bringing over 30 years of experience from leadership roles in international relations and diplomacy. Prior to joining DESA, Mr. Wu was the Ambassador of China to Germany.
A veteran diplomat with broad diplomatic experience, Mr. Wu will guide DESA’s normative, analytical and capacity development work, especially as it advances towards a post-2015 development framework with sustainable development at its core.
Sharing first impressions
With energy and enthusiasm, Mr. Wu talked about his first weeks in DESA, getting to know his staff and the many and varied issues handled by the department. “We have over 500 staff, all of whom are very dedicated, talented and intelligent and hard-working. They have rich experience and knowledge and I am very much impressed by the quality of the staff,” he said. Mr. Wu also praised the atmosphere, saying that it is characterized by “coordination, cooperation and harmony”.
Discussing the responsibilities and mandates of DESA, Mr. Wu noted “DESA covers very extensive ground. I think almost all the social and economic development areas are wholly or partially responsibilities of this department,” he said. “We are facing a lot of challenges. Together, all of us in DESA can make a difference for the future.”
Vision and priority areas for DESA
Well-informed of the Rio+20 outcome document, Mr. Wu said, “One thing is very clear. We as an international community are at a very critical juncture in our social and economic development”. He discussed the importance of pushing forward on implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but at the same time pointed to the emergence of new challenges. “During the past few years, we have witnessed a lot of new challenges, for instance shortage of energy, the food crisis, shortage of clean water and drinking water, which all point to an essential issue: whether we are going to have sustainable development or not.”
Mr. Wu underscored that sustainable development – with its three interlinked dimensions of social and economic development, and environmental protection – is foremost on his list of priorities for the department. “It is also the top priority of the Secretary-General and the United Nations,” he added.
Regarding specific tasks of the department, Mr. Wu elaborated on the three integral components of DESA’s work: analytical, normative; and capacity development. “In these three areas we have strong and rich experiences, and we have a lot of expertise.”
Mr. Wu discussed the importance of ensuring high-quality analytical reports of the department, providing “Member States with policy advice that would ensure future sustainability”. In terms of DESA’s normative work, Mr. Wu explained, “we are talking about economic global governance, we are talking about the changing situation, we are talking about a lot of challenges.” He also underscored DESA’s strength when it comes to normative work as well as the importance of capacity development, linking policy plans and capabilities at the country level.
Keeping the momentum beyond 2015
DESA is fully engaged in promoting and supporting the emergence of a solid and ambitious post-2015 development agenda. DESA has established a department-wide task force and is also leading, jointly with UNDP, the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN development agenda, established by the Secretary-General. DESA News asked Mr. Wu how he believes the world community can keep the momentum beyond the MDGs target date.
“Certainly it is a rather complex issue. I think the awareness of the need for sustainable development, post-2015, is there.” Mr. Wu said. However, he also explained that when talking with Prime Ministers and other stakeholders, the question is often raised how the outcome document of Rio+20 can be implemented. “I think the point has been stressed by many PRs from developing countries, the vulnerable countries in particular, that efforts should not be relaxed, we should push forward strongly, to implement as much as possible the MDGs.”
Mr. Wu also shared that he is sometimes asked questions on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where representatives seek a clearer picture of the way forward. “SDGs will be at the core of the post-2015 UN development agenda”, he said.
Mr. Wu emphasized the importance of informing Member States in a timely manner and providing them with sufficient materials and information. DESA and other agencies involved in the development agenda have a vital role to play.
“If you want to keep the momentum of the Member States and the international community in forming sustainable development for the future, we need successful coordination of efforts within the UN system,” he said. In this context, Mr. Wu praised the fact that there is both a UN system wide Task Team, as well as a departmental task force on the development agenda already in place.
“I believe the momentum for sustainable development is there. We will do our best to push this programme and the process forward,” said Mr. Wu.
Mr. Wu expressed confidence in the world community’s ability to keep the momentum beyond the MDGs target date. “If we do our job well, I think we will be successful,” he said, adding, “I think all DESA colleagues share my wish, that what we are doing today, in the next few years, will serve the well-being and the happiness of our future generations.”
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