Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the Economic and Social Council, in New York today:
I am grateful for the opportunity to meet with you today. I thank each of you for your efforts to match the boldness of the 2030 Agenda with an ambitious repositioning of the United Nations development system. You have delivered a QCPR [quadrennial comprehensive policy review] that lays the foundations of a system that is more cohesive, accountable and relevant. And you have given valuable feedback and insights on the United Nations development system review.
In June, the Secretary-General presented his vision for repositioning the United Nations development system to effectively support the 2030 Agenda. It included 38 concrete ideas and actions for discussion. Combined, these ideas offer a preliminary roadmap for change that would significantly enhance the system’s effectiveness, cohesion, leadership and accountability.
These changes would pave the way for the emergence of a new generation of country teams, which can provide more cohesive and responsive support to partners on the ground, with new skillsets and strengthened leadership.
The Secretary-General and I are heartened by your continued support and preliminary feedback. Yet, we are acutely aware that many questions still require further consideration. We want the answers to be informed by you, ahead of the Secretary-General’s follow-up report in December. This is why the Secretary-General has decided to be as concrete as possible in his first report. We count on your insights and perspectives.
Your feedback so far has been instrumental in consolidating some of the parameters for reform. Allow me to outline a few. First, we are very clear on the need to ensure that Resident Coordinators and United Nations Country Teams remain focused on sustainable development and poverty eradication. The 2030 Agenda is the guide and framework for the United Nations development system.
It will remain so as we detail the required functions, profile and footprint of RCs [Regional Coordinators] and UNCTs [United Nations country teams]. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that UNCTs align more flexibly to specific SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] needs and priorities, with results that leave no one behind.
Second, all our proposals are firmly anchored in respect for national priorities, national sovereignty, leadership and ownership. This is a guiding principle of the United Nations system review and a critical foundation of effective development cooperation.
Third, we heard you clearly on the need for reasonable and sustainable funding arrangements to operationalize the Secretary-General’s proposals. All ideas so far were devised with the objective of achieving systemic impact without major increases to the overall budget. Whenever possible, we have sought to operate within existing structures and costs. We are conscious, nonetheless, that a truly revamped RC system will require a multi-funded approach and we are working on identifying options.
Fourth, we are committed to ensuring that the proposed changes do not dilute entity-specific accountability as we strive to increase coherence across the United Nations development system. We count on this Council to help us move forward on this work stream and welcome any early perspectives you may have.
Finally, we are conscious of the need for greater clarity on how the different reform streams led by the Secretary-General will interact. All efforts serve a common purpose: ensuring that the Organization is well positioned to address the increasingly complex challenges facing the world, as reflected in the 2030 Agenda, with the prevention of crises as a priority across all United Nations pillars.
Other more specific interlinkages are becoming increasingly clear. Management reform and the development system review intersect in their mutual focus on improving skillsets, leadership, transparency and accountability within the system. Both also aim at ensuring faster, more flexible, efficient and decentralized support to Member States.
Decentralization is also a critical dimension of the ongoing reform of UN-Habitat [United Nations Human Settlements Programme], which must go hand in hand with a UN that more effectively delivers in urban areas. United Nations Country Teams need enhanced capacities to help countries manage the risks of urbanization and the opportunities driven by environmentally sustainable, equitable, diverse and economically vibrant urban environments.
The review of the peace and security architecture relies directly on improvements in management structures and on strengthening the United Nations development system — after all, investing in the SDGs and in stronger institutions is the best investment in prevention and peace. A more cohesive and effective development system will be better placed to help build resilient economies and societies, and support transitions in countries affected by crises.
The next few months will be critical to build the architecture around the vision for change set by the Secretary-General, guided by your requests set out in the QCPR resolution. Moving forward, my consultations with you will increasingly focus on key issues that require further deliberation. These specific issues are reflected in the guiding questions circulated for your consideration, ideas and suggestions.
They include: the operationalization of the Secretary-General’s proposals on the RC system and United Nations country presence; a review of the United Nations development system regional functions and capacities; the delineation of a Funding Compact to address the consequences of the currently fragmented funding base; and more detailed proposals on strengthening system-wide accountability, transparency and oversight.
In this regard, we believe that a redesigned ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Operational Activities Segment, combined with a progressive merger of the Boards of New York-based entities would go a long way. Another critical area will involve the development of a system-wide strategic document for collective support to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
This work will build on the outline of functions and capacities of the United Nations development system that was presented as part of the June report. It will focus on a few critical areas where joint work can have a systemic impact on our support to the SDGs.
Finally, we will continue to reinforce our proposals to strengthen the UN’s focus on capacity building for the United Nations system and Member States and partnerships to deliver on the SDGs. South-South and triangular cooperation, just as much as continued North-South cooperation, will be critical. Exchanges amongst countries offer a rich source of knowledge, technology and expertise to support the achievement of this universal agenda. Each of these work streams will feed into the second report of the Secretary-General, which will be released in December.
As we develop these ideas and work streams, we are also moving forward on a number of areas falling under the prerogative of the Secretary-General. In the coming days, we will be announcing changes to the United Nations Development Group as we implement the Secretary-General’s vision for a more impartial and accountable coordination system at all levels.
The Secretary-General has asked me to assume the Chairmanship of the group, with the UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] Administrator as my Vice-chair, playing a critical role in helping steer the work of the UNDG and guiding operational support to United Nations Country Teams. We are also working closely with OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] and UNDP to establish a Steering Committee of Principals to foster synergies in humanitarian and development action.
The Committee will include key entities from the development and humanitarian sides to promote greater coherence of humanitarian and development action in reducing risks and vulnerabilities, while building resilience. The Secretary-General has already outlined his strategy to ensure robust action on the climate front. He is taking decisive steps to ensure that the United Nations system steps up its support to financing for development.
This will build on the Addis agreement and on the work of the Task Force on Financing for Development. The Secretary-General is committed to promoting a further alignment of economic and financial policy making — and the global financial architecture — with the 2030 Agenda. The United Nations development system can — and should — offer more effective and cohesive support to Member States as they mobilize the financing required to deliver a better future for their citizens.
These are key aspects in our ambition to accelerate the system’s transition from the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] to the SDGs. There is no time to lose. We hit the post-2015 ground walking. We need to pick up pace as we move towards 2030. Delivering on the QCPR is a joint endeavour. We truly count on your insights and perspectives as we move forward.
We have a unique opportunity to reposition the United Nations development system and we simply cannot miss it. Day after day, step by step, we are getting closer to your aspirations. However, the work ahead remains intense and complex. Honouring the ambition of the 2030 Agenda and the QCPR will have implications, which we will need to assess collectively and transparently. Change is not easy.
Let me assure you that we are taking all measures to ensure that the proposed changes would be implemented in balanced and well sequenced way. The Secretary-General and I will remain personally invested in this process of change, to ensure that by the end of the year we stand on solid ground, fit to deliver the 2030 Agenda in the short, medium and longer-term.
My simple appeal to all of you is to stay engaged, help us keep the ambition high, and work with us in this collective endeavour to ensure the United Nations system takes the bold steps the 2030 Agenda requires for implementation. I look forward to proceeding in our collective journey.