Secretary-General Calls for Strengthening United Nations Capacity to Harness Strengths of External Actors in Tackling Development Goals

9 April 2014

Secretary-General Calls for Strengthening United Nations Capacity to Harness Strengths of External Actors in Tackling Development Goals

9 April 2014
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

General Assembly & Economic and Social Council

 Joint Thematic Debate/Forum on Partnerships

AM & PM Meetings

Secretary-General Calls for Strengthening United Nations Capacity to Harness


Strengths of External Actors in Tackling Development Goals


Concerted Efforts Key, Say Presidents of General Assembly,

Economic and Social Council, Jointly Hosting Thematic Debate on Partnerships

The United Nations must increase its capacity to harness the strengths of external actors in its efforts to achieve international development targets, delegates heard during a debate on partnerships today.

“The means of implementation for the post-2015 development framework must be as ambitious as the goals,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Joint Thematic Debate/Forum on Partnerships, held jointly by the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, on “The role of partnerships in the implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda”.  Stressing that success would require engaging a range of new partners, he said increased public financing, including official development assistance (ODA), as well as contributions from the United Nations, multilateral development banks and other official financing channels, would also be needed.  Success would also require significant private financing and philanthropic contributions, as well as expertise and in-kind contributions from the business sector and civil society.

In recent years, new, influential actors had started playing a growing role in promoting the global public good, he said, adding that they had been accelerating United Nations efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and bringing fresh perspectives to the table.  The Secretary-General said that his proposal for a Partnership Facility — submitted to Member States for consideration and approval — was precisely meant to ensure that the Organization had the capacity it needed to harness the strengths of its external partners.  Agreeing on an ambitious post-2015 development framework without preparing the world body to implement it would marginalize the institution at precisely the moment when it should be leading the charge, he said.

John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda), President of the General Assembly, noted that since the adoption of the Millennium Goals in 2000, dramatic global changes as well as national and regional transformations had led to unprecedented and increasingly complex socioeconomic and environmental challenges, including pressures from climate change, resource depletion, population growth and increasing urbanization, all of which would require vision, clarity of thought and creativity.  The depth and breadth of contagion from the recent financial crisis and the consequent socioeconomic effects clearly demonstrated their interconnectedness, and reinforced the need to strengthen the global partnership for sustainable development.

“It is not through isolated and disconnected actions but through the pooling of our efforts, ideas and resources that we can achieve the greater good,” he emphasized.  The United Nations was in a unique position to forge innovative partnerships, bringing together stakeholders from Governments, the private sector, civil society and the academic and scientific communities.  The Organization could also use its agencies at the national and regional levels to support the development policies and programmatic efforts of Governments, he said, adding that such creative partnerships could help to build bridges across the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, resulting in a truly holistic approach.

Martin Sajdik (Slovakia), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that, for several years now, that body had brought together various actors to discuss how partnerships could leverage the implementation of international development targets, including the Millennium Goals.  Today, for the first time, the Council was joining hands with all 193 Member States in the General Assembly in seeking action-oriented solutions for moving the development agenda forward.  As the United Nations system became more actively engaged in multi-stakeholder partnerships to promote implementation of the post-2015 development agenda, consistent with its mandate on coordination, the Council could also take up a more active role in reviving those partnerships, particularly with the private sector, while at the same time facilitating the exchange of experiences among its agencies, funds and programmes, he said.

Delivering the keynote address, Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, said that achieving the Millennium Goals would require tackling unemployment and stimulating job creation, increasing access to electricity and engaging the private sector as key stakeholders.  The process of formulating the Goals had not taken macroeconomic development into account and lacked an explicit commitment to engaging the private sector as partners.  That was not to say that the sector was totally absent, however, but that the partnerships were most effective when businesses were brought in.

The world could not continue to close its eyes to the looming problem of unemployment in Africa, particularly given the continent’s growing population of young people, he warned.  If the global community helped people make something of themselves by creating economic opportunities, the beneficiaries would purchase health care, educate their children and look after their families.  They would live longer and in greater dignity.  As for concerns about unethical private sector actors, he said it would be wrong to assume that all businesses were driven exclusively by profit.  The world must harness political will and resources, combine them with the private sector’s compassion and selflessness and multiply that by the drive, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of the people in need of help.

Alessandra Cabral dos Santos Nilo, Co-founder and Executive Director of GESTOS, an HIV/AIDS organization in Brazil, deplored the rampant greed and corruption around the world.  “The planet is not for sale,” she emphasized, noting that about $30 trillion was hidden away in international tax havens.  Trade policy was not aligned with sustainable development objectives and there was an urgent need to address inequality, she stressed, pointing out that a mere 29,000 individuals owned 99 per cent of global wealth.

She went on to underline the need for a mechanism of accountability, recommending a development target equipped with an indicator to monitor civil society engagement and endowed with resources devoted to that purpose.  Many partnerships were not transparent, she said.  Concerning the financing of partnerships, she said it was obvious where the money was, and expressed support for imposing taxes on extra-territorial financial transactions by transnational corporations and allocating the revenues to sustainable development.  Another key point was that sustainable development could not exist without respect for human rights, she said.  That link was missing from the deliberations on the post-2015 framework.

The General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 10 April, to continue their thematic debate on partnerships.

Panel Discussion I

Moderating the panel discussion on “Realizing the MDGs: Building on Key Partnership Opportunities and the Way Forward” was Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Planning in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.  The panellists were:  John Whitehead, CNZM, former Secretary of the New Zealand Treasury and former Asia-Pacific Executive Director at the World Bank; Michael O’Neill, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Miguel Pestana, Vice-President, Global External Affairs, Unilever; Betty Maina, Chief Executive Officer, Kenya Association of Manufacturers; and Bhumika Muchhala, Coordinator, Third World Network.

Mr. ORR said that despite today’s immense global challenges, progress on the Millennium Development Goals was proof enough that they could be met.

Mr. WHITEHEAD, describing the changing partnership landscape since the adoption of the Millennium Goals 14 years ago, noted that ODA had increased in volume while diminishing in relative importance.  In a constantly changing world, successful new partnerships had developed, and many gains had been made over the last decade, such as the private sector’s delivery of life-saving medicines to those most in need.  Such partnerships must be honed, monitored and harnessed in order to accelerate the global goal of ending poverty.  While innovative initiatives had already resulted in progress on the Millennium Goals, a level trade “playing field” would additionally benefit all developing countries.  It was time to transform lofty ideals into concrete progress, he said.

Mr. O’NEILL said that even more partnerships were needed to further accelerate progress on the Millennium Goals.  UNDP was tackling remaining gaps in that regard by working with a variety of actors, including the private sector, civil society and all levels of government.  A joint UNDP-World Bank project was addressing Goal 1, ending poverty, in thousands of households worldwide, and UNDP had also partnered with Brazil, China, Turkey and South Africa.  But more needed to be done, he said, adding that civil-society and private-sector partners could accelerate efforts.  Contributions would be needed from all actors in order successfully to meet all the targets, he said, encouraging more initiatives to engage civil society, such as The World We Want campaign.

Ms. MAINA emphasized that even though business had not been involved in shaping the Millennium Goals in 2000, it had a clear role to play today.  Collective action and partnerships were required if the world was to achieve true sustainability, she said, noting that the private sector had already paved the way for economic development in many countries and that business was also increasingly aware of environmental issues, including those relating to water, energy, food and forests.  While private-sector engagement in development issues faced challenges, it also produced innovative solutions to problems, she said, adding that she was excited about the level at which business was rising to those challenges through its involvement in shaping national and international development policies.  The private sector’s role in shaping the post-2015 development agenda demonstrated its critical engagement in responsible and sustainable development, she said, urging United Nations agencies and Governments to partner with business to emphasize sustainable outcomes.

Mr. PESTANA said sustainability was essential and investors were already starting to demand it.  Noting that all stakeholders had unique and complementary strengths, he said Government could put policies in place to guide development, and the private sector could find innovative solutions to challenges.  Good governance and transparency were essential to progress, and Unilever had already begun to assess positive and negative social outcomes and impacts.  Technology could also play a key role, he added, citing a tool that the company had developed to track the commitment of companies to sustainable forests.

Ms. MUCHHALA said the United Nations must ensure that multi-stakeholder partnerships were held accountable to delivering results that were equitable and rights-based.  Key concerns and risks must first be addressed through open discussions and not behind closed doors.  Tracking recent trends, she said that over the past decade, multilateral development banks had tripled their private-sector portfolios; however, almost 50 per cent of aid money from the European Investment Bank and the World Bank had ended in tax havens or in supporting developed country companies, with only 25 per cent going to private-sector firms in the least development countries.  Moving forward, she proposed criteria that should determine whether a private sector actor was “fit” to be a post-2015 development partner, which addressed, among other things, abusing human rights, corruption or actions that were contradictory to the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the sustainable development goal framework.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, more than a dozen speakers raised a number of issues, including resource mobilization, accountability and the roles of business and civil society.  Among those participating were representatives of Uganda, Costa Rica (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Netherlands, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, Russian Federation, Venezuela, Thailand, Nicaragua, Turkey, European Union Delegation and the Third World Institute.

Panel Discussion II

Christine Bader, Visiting Scholar and Lecturer at Columbia University, moderated the second discussion, on “Collaborating with businesses, foundations, civil society and other actors in support of the Post-2015 Development Agenda”.  It featured the following panellists:  Anthony Smith, Director of International Relations, Department for International Development, United Kingdom; Lise Kingo, Executive Vice President, Novo Nordisk A/S; Benedict Cheong, Chief Executive Officer, Temasek Foundation; Yaya Winarno Junardy, President of Commission, PT Rajawali Corporation, and of Global Compact Network, Indonesia; and Alice Albright, Chief Executive Officer, Global Partnership for Education.

Mr. SMITH said his Department worked to make development assistance more effective, and had three unique selling points — inclusiveness, its developing-country perspective, and its focus on partnerships.  It would participate in a meeting in Mexico on how to monitor progress and the problems that some countries faced in managing their own capacities, among other issues.  Foundations would have an opportunity to discuss interactively how they could improve collaboration, he said, adding that greater effectiveness in that regard was important in determining the main priorities for the post-2015 development agenda and realizing the goal of “leave no one behind”.

Ms. KINGO said organizations must be more specific about what partnerships could accomplish and identify concrete ways to make them successful.  Partnerships could lead to successes that would not be possible if the individual partners had operated independently.  Novo Nordisk A/S would be able to document how diabetes could be prevented before pregnancy and in young people, she said, adding that it would contribute to slowing down the diabetes pandemic confronting the world.  There were currently 380 million people suffering from diabetes and that number would exceed 500,000 million in another 20 years.  Partnerships were not a theoretical exercise, but should be rooted in concrete actions, she said.

Mr. CHEONG said his Foundation worked across a wide range of disciplines in Asia, and its programmes were relevant and useful because of the unique ownership role taken up by host communities.  Capacity-building programmes had a particular multiplier effect because the information learned was often shared between peers.  The Foundation devoted 24 per cent of its funding to educational programmes in Asia, he said, adding that urban governance and management was another area of its work.  To be successful, programmes needed the right partners and host communities, he said, stressing also the importance of appreciating local culture and customs.

Mr. JUNARDY said that, while his firm had enjoyed great success, it remained surrounded by poverty and environmental degradation.  Company leaders had identified partners to help Government leaders better address poverty issues, and the firm had taken the initiative to develop partnerships with United Nations agencies, as well.  Some of its collaborative efforts included clean-water projects, community-based sanitation programmes and establishing governance working groups.

Ms. ALBRIGHT said her organization brought together education stakeholders from around the world to help improve opportunities in some of the poorest countries.  Most of the millions of children not in school lived in fragile States, and ODA for basic education had dropped in recent times.  That was a matter of concern since education was central to addressing many other issues, such as building democracy, climate change and gender equality, among many others.  Successful education relied on a great deal of interdependence and was not merely a matter of resources, but more importantly, the coordination of resources, she said.

A representative of the European Union Delegation said partnerships with civil society could help overcome critical challenges and that the development of the post-2015 agenda would be enriched by the participation of civil society organizations.  It was essential for the United Nations also to work closely with civil society in a transparent and open manner.

A representative of South Africa said efforts to address sustainable and equitable development must be shared across multiple sectors, with partnerships predicated upon the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

A representative of Japan emphasized the critical importance of a people-centred approach, and said the private sector was well-placed to play a greater role because it had much more to offer than financial resources, such as technology transfer.  ODA also continued to play a critical role, although it was essential to leverage private resources as well.

A representative of Morocco said that ODA remained crucial, although the private sector could also play a vital role.  Private investment, however, should operate within a framework of national ownership by partner countries.

Others contributing to the interactive discussion included representatives of Canada, Benin, Brazil, China, International Labor Organization, Save the Earth Cambodia, Global Water Partnership, and the International Cooperative Alliance.

Panel Discussion III

Jane Wales moderated the third discussion, which featured the following panelists:  Brenda Killen, Head, Global Partnership and Policy Division, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development–Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC); Frances Beinecke, President, National Resources Defence Council; Joy Phumaphi, Co-Chair, Independent Expert Review Group, Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, and Executive Secretary, African Leaders Malaria Alliance; and Jorge Soto, Director of Sustainable Development, Braskem, and President, Global Compact Network, Brazil.

Ms. KILLEN said the international community must do better with monitoring and accountability mechanisms.  There must be mutual accountability for delivering on promises as well as efforts to address gaps.  The global community had learned a great deal from its experiences with the Millennium Development Goals and the monitoring mechanisms built into it, but the metrics for the success of that top-down approach were often murky.  Moving forward, different stakeholders in the development agenda would adapt their approaches to ensure that the intended results were in line with the areas that would receive most attention in the measurement process.

Ms. BEINECKE said her Council used law, science and policy to hold leaders accountable and ensure that concrete actions yielded tangible results in relation to climate change.  Many stakeholders were addressing the issue, but given the significant scale of the problem, it was important to work collaboratively to ensure an effective approach.  She said her Council was examining the promises of Rio+20 in order to determine the sort of accountability needed to ensure follow-through.  For the next set of goals, coalitions must be established and more partners involved in the implementation process.  Data must also be gathered in order to track commitments and ensure they were achieving the necessary measurable results.  International organizations like the United Nations must work with those who made commitments to ensure there were results on the ground, she stressed.

Ms. PHUMAPHI said that her review group’s core functions included assessing the adequacy of commitments, tracking resources committed, reviewing progress on country-level implementation, identifying obstacles as well as best practices, and making recommendations.  Over the past two years, the group had produced two reports, and many of its recommendations had already been implemented.  Enforcement was one of the biggest challenges, but the principle of mutual accountability was one of the strongest motivators, she said.  However, accountability was not a single event, but something to be managed throughout a given life cycle, she said, stressing that national accountability must be strengthened and was critical to the post-2015 agenda.

Mr. SOTO said his company was a chemical producer in Brazil, seeking to improve people’s lives and create sustainable solutions.  The Global Compact initiative was all about partnerships.  Accountability was crucial, although it was not easy to apply monitoring metrics in a cross-cutting manner because many of those involved were still learning how to carry out accurate measurements.  Reporting was frequent, but not carried out in way useful to stakeholders, he said.  If businesses were to be active partners in implementing the global agenda, they must build sustainability into their own strategic agendas.

Following those presentations, speakers participated in an interactive dialogue, broaching such areas as Government-driven partnerships, attracting new partners and monitoring mechanisms.

Mr. SOTO, responding to a question as to whether complex processes discouraged countries from reporting, and whether simpler processes should be used instead, said the Global Compact’s operations required a commitment to report from companies, and those failing to do so were delisted.  However, there was no one-size-fits-all reporting method.  Simplifying reporting processes was a matter to be studied, he said, adding that the great challenge was getting all actors working together on concrete actions to bring real development around the world.

Ms. PHUMAPHI, addressing questions about country-level accountability mechanisms, said it was unfortunate that there were no robust accountability mechanisms in any country, adding that improvements were needed to facilitate national accountability and deliver the desired results.

Ms. KILLEN, in response to queries about different types of accountability frameworks, said there was much to be gained by having local people, from Government to the grass roots, describe what success looked like to them and matters on which they wished to be consulted.  Discussions must also continue on accountability.  Responding to a question about accountability for those employing child labourers, or the effects of climate change, she said that guidelines and cooperation with civil society organizations would help differentiate companies on the basis of their records so that consumers could decide for themselves.  Better data were needed, however, she said.

Ms. BEINECKE agreed, saying that data collection, reporting and transparency were tools that should be made available throughout society, from corporations to individuals in communities, so that people could see whether goals were being met.  That approach had already benefited efforts to track deforestation and declining fishing stocks, she said.

Also participating were representatives of the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Indonesia, New Zealand, Peru, Dominican Republic, civil society and non-governmental organizations.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.