General Assembly Dialogue on Development, Presenting the United Nations Development Agenda

Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to join you for this special event.

As you may know, I am relatively new to this side of the United Nations, with most of my UN career spent as an Ambassador.

I arrived at the Secretariat determined to have no agenda, political or personal. I came here to serve. Yet, my job, as Under-Secretary-General of DESA, came with an agenda – the United Nations Development Agenda, which I have the honour to present to you today.

The United Nations Development Agenda represents the synthesis of the outcomes of nearly two decades of UN conferences and summits on economic, social and environmental issues. Yet, it does not belong to the United Nations alone, or to any particular group of States.

The power of this Agenda is that it belongs to everyone. The Agenda covers development issues important to all countries and to all people. And everyone has a stake in its success.

I would like to say a few words about the Agenda’s origin and geographical roots, from New York in 1990 to Tunis in 2005.

Do not be afraid – I will not take us on the full tour of the conferences and summits. But let me mention some, so we can recall the richness of the policy consensus and commitments produced.

Rio rethought the relationship between economic development and environmental protection. It recognized the common yet differentiated responsibilities of all countries to contribute to such protection. And it produced a path-breaking programme of action on sustainable development, with its economic, social and environmental dimensions.

Vienna achieved unprecedented agreement on democracy, development and respect for human rights as interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

Cairo forged a new vision about the relationships between population, development and individual well-being.

Beijing framed the principle of gender equality as a basic human right and a central means to achieving development and peace and security.

Copenhagen pointed up the vital links between poverty eradication, employment and social integration. And it called for full and productive employment and decent work to be a central objective of national and international policies.

Each of these conferences had distinct roots, some decades old. But, by the time of the “Social Summit”, at Copenhagen, it was clear that something special and wider was at work.

One after another, each conference focused on a different dimension of development. Yet, the issues they dealt with were inevitably interlinked. Each new outcome was reinforcing the others. Together, they were generating a comprehensive vision of development – and an ambitious set of internationally agreed development goals, with time-bound targets and plans for implementation.

As the Deputy Secretary-General has underscored, the Millennium Development Goals, with the overarching theme of cutting extreme poverty, are an integral part of this United Nations Development Agenda.

Indeed, from the outset, the Agenda has concentrated attention on improving the situation of the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable segments of the world community, addressing inequalities both within and among countries. My colleague, Under-Secretary-General Diarra, will elaborate on the Agenda’s inclusion of issues concerning countries in special situations.

Meanwhile, the Agenda has continued to evolve, incorporating new and emerging issues. Madrid, for instance, focused on population ageing – the need to respond to its challenges and opportunities, and to promote a society for all ages.

At the same time, the participatory process of the conferences and summits – engaging developed and developing countries, UN system and other international organizations, civil society and the private sector – has been transformed. The process has produced a global partnership for development, with a framework for mutual accountability. The partnership is now recognized as critical for advancing progress towards all the development goals.

The spirit and specifics of this partnership are captured: in the Millennium Declaration, and its vision of a more peaceful, equitable and just world; in the Monterrey Consensus, with its six dimensions of financing for development – domestic resource mobilization, private resource flows, ODA, trade, debt and governance of the global economic system; in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, which firmly positions sustainable management of the world’s resources as a cross-cutting development objective; and in the outcome of the 2005 World Summit, which strongly reaffirms the global partnership for development, and calls for stepped up national efforts to achieve all the development goals, backed by more effective international support.

The United Nations Development Agenda is thus truly comprehensive.

It encompasses specific economic, social and environmental issues. From poverty eradication, employment, education and social integration to gender equality, human rights, health, HIV-AIDS and population; children and youth, ageing, disability and indigenous issues. Food, housing, urbanization and migration; disaster risk reduction, climate change and sustainable development; support to productive sectors and technological capacity building; countries in special situations; and financing for development – aid, debt, trade; participatory governance and closing the digital divide.

The Agenda also includes systemic issues, such as mitigating the differential impacts of globalization, addressing inequalities within and among countries, and promoting greater developing country participation in global economic governance.

And it highlights the links between the three pillars of the United Nations’ work: peace and security, development and human rights.

With its comprehensive mandate and universal membership, the United Nations is uniquely suited as a vehicle to produce such an agenda.

The Agenda today expresses the development aspirations of 192 Member States and their peoples. No other development agenda can make such a claim. More, the Agenda represents a profound shift in the way the world thinks about and pursues development.

Nonetheless, the ultimate value of the Agenda lies in its implementation and translation into concrete development results for women, men and children around the world.

Implementation lies primarily in the hands of Member States, who integrate the internationally agreed development goals and policy recommendations into their national development strategies.

Yet, success will require a combination of national efforts and international cooperation. And Member States, especially the developing countries, expect the UN system to play an important supporting role.

The entire UN system has a contribution to make – the global and regional intergovernmental bodies, the United Nations Secretariat, funds, programmes and specialized agencies, and the research and training institutes.

Allow me to focus today on the Secretariat, which has played a crucial behind-the-scenes role in putting development issues at the centre of global deliberations and helping Member States and other stakeholders to generate this Development Agenda.

DESA – the Department of Economic and Social Affairs – itself has served as secretariat for many of the UN conferences and summits since 1990. I would like to acknowledge the tireless efforts of both my predecessors: Mr. Nitin Desai, who was at the helm in the midst of the “boom” phase of the conferences; and Mr. José Antonio Ocampo, who helped crystallize the Agenda concept as a clear and coherent way to capture the full set of conference outcomes and development goals.

This is precisely the purpose of our presenting the United Nations Development Agenda today, in this compact, readable format. It is intended for all stakeholders: from policy makers and those who advise decision-makers at the country level to media and civil society groups, whoboth play essential roles in raising awareness and ensuring accountability.

From the perspective of the UN Secretariat, our most fervent hope is that presenting this Agenda, in this comprehensive yet user-friendly format, will allow all participants in the global partnership for development to keep in mind, at all times, the whole of the Agenda, even while they are focused on advancing implementation of individual parts of it.

This goes for the Secretariat as well. We must be smarter and more strategic in pursuing the different strands of our work and how they fit together: our research and analysis and support to the global statistical system; our normative and policy support to UN intergovernmental processes at global and regional levels; our assistance in capacity building for implementation at the country level; and our efforts to foster integrated approaches, collaboration and partnership among all stakeholders at all levels.

The great promise of the United Nations Development Agenda is within reach. With all stakeholders, working together, we can succeed in the great human cause of development for all.

Let me close with a personal confession. Normally, I do not have time to read books; I am awash in UN documents. In my five months here, I have succeeded in reading only one book. This one – The United Nations Development Agenda: Development for All. And it is really excellent, very important. I urge all of you to read it.

Thank you.

File date: 
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the General Assembly Dialogue on Development, Presenting the United Nations Development Agenda

New York, 6 December 2007