United Nations Envisions Stronger Leadership, Country-Specific Support for Helping Countries Achieve 2030 Agenda, Deputy Secretary‑General Tells Second Committee

25 October 2017

United Nations Envisions Stronger Leadership, Country-Specific Support for Helping Countries Achieve 2030 Agenda, Deputy Secretary‑General Tells Second Committee

Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks to the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), in New York today:

I am pleased to be with you today to discuss the operational activities for development of the United Nations system.  The Second Committee remains at the forefront of the multilateral cooperation for sustainable development.  Most recently, you demonstrated decisive leadership in driving forward the landmark 2016 resolution on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review.

The quadrennial comprehensive policy review has established the groundwork for a fundamental repositioning of the United Nations development system to meet today’s challenges and better support implementation of the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development].

The repositioning of the United Nations development system is taking place against a backdrop of monumental shifts in the global development landscape.  These shifts have given rise to new opportunities but have also posed serious challenges to our work.  Demographic trends, advances in technologies and the sciences, new knowledge networks and big data hold great potential for sustainable development and are already yielding exciting results.

At the same time, the international community continues to contend with a series of challenges that have put stress on our interconnected societies and economies, and on the multilateral system.  Key “stressors” include persistent inequalities within and between countries; unprecedented rates of migration and urbanization; climate change; conflict and violence, and growing dissatisfaction with political institutions.

The global financial and economic crisis of 2008-2009 revealed systemic imbalances in the financial system and overturned many assumptions in mainstream economic thinking.  It has also slowed down the financing of poverty eradication and sustainable development.  First, the crisis itself restricted financing as market actors pulled back, and Government fiscal instruments were deployed to save the banking system.  Second, many of the policy solutions that were used to stabilize the financial system have had the unintended effects of discouraging longer‑term lending and investment, and leading many global financial actors to draw back from developing countries.

There is an obvious need to re‑establish the role of the financial sector in financing an inclusive, sustainable, real economy.  It is time to usher in an era of fair globalization, with better financial policy and regulatory frameworks to ensure that the financial system is aligned to the 2030 Agenda and climate commitments.

The reality of climate change is irrefutable and has raised questions about standard growth and development pathways.  As the world faces unprecedented movements of people and urbanization rates, it is critical to shift away from high-emission energy sources and consumption and production patterns.

The poorest countries and communities suffer most from the adverse effects of climate change.  Droughts in Africa are increasingly prevalent, while dry conditions related to El Niño have negatively affected crop production in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Small island developing States and coastal areas are particularly vulnerable.  And of course, risk and hazard levels are expected to worsen in the decades ahead.

There has also been a growing crisis of confidence in the Governments and institutions entrusted to navigate these extreme and complex challenges.  In recent decades, rising prosperity and standards of living raised expectations for greater economic and political inclusion world-wide.  Far too many people have been left behind.  A handful of rich men hold as much wealth as half of humanity.

Across the globe, citizens are demanding a new relationship with Governments and institutions — one based on increased effectiveness, transparency and accountability.  One notable recent survey showed that only 14 per cent of people fully trust their Governments to do what is right for their country.

Despite growth and the expansion of opportunities in many regions, gender and social inequality and youth unemployment remained stubbornly slow to change.  Meanwhile, the vulnerabilities triggered by the increasing number of interrelated global crises have exacerbated citizens’ discontent with rapid change in the economic, social and environmental spheres.  The United Nations itself has not been immune from such feelings.

The 2030 Agenda is the international community’s best tool for changing this alarming narrative and building a world of prosperity, peace and dignity for all.  This Committee is uniquely placed to provide guidance and unity of purpose across the membership to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

This will require us to reflect on how best to ensure that the Second Committee — alongside the other committees of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council — can effectively deliver on the heightened demands and integrated nature of the new development agenda.  In this regard, I welcome the efforts of Member States over the past two sessions of the Assembly, both in this committee and in the plenary, to align with the 2030 Agenda.  I encourage you to continue to move forward in the coming months.

The United Nations development system, for its part, is exploring what changes are required to remain a partner of choice as countries localize and implement the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Secretary‑General’s report released in June responded to Member States’ requests and outlined his vision on repositioning the United Nations development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.

Throughout this process, the Secretary-General has sought to be as concrete and forthcoming as possible regarding his proposals and recommendations for change.  We envision a new generation of country teams, to service the 2030 Agenda with a greater level of coherence, effectiveness and accountability.

Our objective is to have stronger leadership, reduce fragmentation and ensure that the United Nations support is calibrated to the specific Sustainable Development Goal needs and priorities of each country.

Traditional coordination tools are no longer enough.  We are therefore devising proposals to strengthen the authority and impartiality of the Resident Coordinators, while ensuring that they have the right profiles and expertise.  We want Resident Coordinators to be the highly skilled individuals who connect the global and local to serve one agenda on the ground, and who help Governments unlock the potential of partnerships and financing.

We are taking steps to be more effective in supporting financing strategies, and engaging upstream, particularly internationally, to uphold commitments on official development assistance and to shape the policy context within which financing decisions are made.

We also need to step up our capacities to help countries crowd in all resources — public and private — which are required to take action to scale.  We must support and leverage the role of South‑South cooperation, which is a unique source of knowledge and development solutions at the service of countries.

We also must improve our work in urban environments.  Your discussions on strengthening the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) are critical in this regard.

We must also do more to increase the meaningful participation of women.  Gender equality is not just a goal in its own right but is also a strategy for success in all our efforts for sustainable development.

Results at the country level must be the litmus test for success.  That means we must strengthen the accountability of the United Nations development system — from the Boards of the Funds and Programmes to the Economic and Social Council Operational Activities segment and, indeed, back to the Second Committee for its overarching policy guidance.

In December, the Secretary‑General will deliver his second report.  I am in contact with the President of the Economic and Social Council, the Chair of this committee and the President of the General Assembly on the consideration of these issues by the Economic and Social Council in February 2018 and, subsequently, the General Assembly itself.  In the meantime, my doors are always open to this committee and its members.  We want to build — together with you — the United Nations system of the future.

I have outlined today some of the profound changes which have affected the world and the sustainable development landscape in recent years.  The United Nations development system has been on your side as you responded and adapted to this changing context — as it had been in the decades before that.

We have been with you as funding partner, convener, provider of technical support and much else.  Whatever our role, it is the United Nations development system’s ability to combine normative functions and operational capacities that makes it so useful and unique.

We take great pride in your continued trust.  But we know we must earn it every single day.  The system is now facing new challenges, and our boldest agenda yet.  It is time to look forward.

Much like devising the 2030 Agenda itself, repositioning the United Nations development system is our shared responsibility.  We will need to remain focused and move quickly.  The clock is ticking.  Every day lost is a wasted opportunity in upholding our collective promise to the people we serve. 

I look forward to continuing to engage with all of you on the path forward.

For information media. Not an official record.