Following are Deputy UN Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the Executive Board of the World Food Programme (WFP), in Rome today:
I am truly grateful for the opportunity to meet with you today — a day we mourn those lost to the earthquake in the border between Iran and Iraq.
Our common imperative, in these times of increasing global challenges, is to remain focused on human lives. Secretary-General António Guterres and I continue to look at our constituency of 7.6 billion people with a commitment to leave no one behind.
I thank the Executive Board of the World Food Programme for this timely opportunity to discuss the efforts of the Secretary-General to reposition the United Nations development system. I look forward to hearing your views on the response from WFP, informed by your strategic priorities.
United Nations funds and programmes like WFP have always made efforts to abide by the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of the General Assembly — the QCPR. I commend WFP for its constructive engagement and leadership role in this process, both over the two-year-long Economic and Social Council dialogue for the repositioning of the United Nations development system and in the QCPR follow-up.
WFP’s contribution has been instrumental in consolidating some of the parameters for reform and in leading the United Nations Development Group to act on it. I want to acknowledge, in this regard, the critical contribution by Amir Mahmoud Abdulla — the Deputy Executive Director of WFP and former Vice-Chair of the United Nations Development Group. Thank you, Amir.
Since January, the Secretary-General has heeded the calls from Member States and moved forward as asked by the QCPR. In June, the Secretary-General presented his vision for repositioning the United Nations development system to effectively support the delivery of the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development]. It included 38 concrete ideas and actions for discussion.
Combined, these ideas offer a preliminary road map 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 skill sets and strengthened leadership.
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 are consulting closely with the WFP representatives to further detail his proposals moving forward. We are now turning an important corner in our efforts to realign the United Nations development system with the 2030 Agenda.
Allow me to outline a few key work areas aimed at ensuring a system that is fit for purpose and designed to deliver shared results. First, the development of a system-wide strategic document for collective support to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement. It will focus on key areas where system‑wide action truly adds value, around four cornerstones: coherence, instruments — including data, funding and functions, with an emphasis on partnerships.
Second, the review of the Resident Coordinator system and United Nations country presence. We are very clear on the need to ensure that Resident Coordinators — impartial, competent, non-politicized — and United Nations country teams remain focused on sustainable development and poverty eradication. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that United Nations country reams align more flexibly to specific Sustainable Development Goal needs and priorities, with results that leave no one behind.
Third, a revamped regional approach to respond to challenges that know no borders. The Sahel is one example amongst many. The Secretary-General has proposed to proceed in two steps: first, by optimizing existing arrangement and use of regional presences; and by refocusing regional economic commissions to become the think-tanks and providers of the intergovernmental platforms that the regional space requires.
Fourth, the development of a funding compact to provide Member States with sufficient accountability, transparency and value for money to build a strong case for more flexible funding. A funding compact is critical to the success of all proposals. Fragmented funding can only deliver fragmented results. A better funded system will also be better positioned to help countries mobilize financing for the Sustainable Development Goals — these are different, but complementary efforts.
The dual humanitarian and development mandate of WFP and its key role, under the guidance of its Executive Board, can play an important part in helping the Secretary-General realize the changes needed to reposition the United Nations development system. WFP leadership can bring together the development and humanitarian communities to navigate the transition from crises to development and clarify the “grey areas” in this regard.
The nexus is not about diverting resources out of development, confusing mandates or infringing on humanitarian space. It is about ensuring that all efforts contribute to long-term development and the Sustainable Development Goals while meeting immediate humanitarian needs. It is about ensuring that long-term development and building resilience are at the core of all our activities — even in emergency phases. It is about better integrated analysis, a focus on common results and more accountability.
The “nexus” necessarily takes different forms in each context. In countries of protracted crises, for example, where Resident Coordinators are double-hatted, the need for coherence is most evident. At the same time, we know that in any emergency the long-term must be central.
It is imperative that we are prepared to invest in development from the outset and as we transition out of a crisis. To this end, the Secretary-General has established a Joint Steering Committee, under my leadership, to advance humanitarian and development collaboration to guide policy-setting and to foster greater synergies in humanitarian and development action to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, changes are required in the governance of the system to fill the governing gap to guide a system-wide approach.
Strategic guidance is critical to drive this process of change, including to respond to the increased demand for accountability, transparency and oversight.
The proposed progressive merger of the New York-based boards would unify the voice of Member States and ensure a coherent approach in guiding the system to deliver in line with decisions taken in the United Nations principal organs, such as the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, while building on all entities’ strengths and comparative advantages at the country level.
This would also create a robust interface with the Rome-based entities and the boards in Geneva. In recent times, WFP’s engagement at the joint meeting of the Boards in New York proved very helpful.
Additionally, we intend to strengthen the work of the Economic and Social Council on operational activities for development in order for it to be the focus for strategic guidance, discussion and oversight on collective functions and tools, such as the system-wide strategic document, so that it truly becomes the accountability platform for our support to the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Economic and Social Council needs to be the go-to place for thought leadership grounded in country realities and state-of-the-art expertise. The next few weeks will be critical to build the architecture around the vision for change set out by the Secretary-General, your requests and the QCPR resolution.
We are now halfway into a change process that could deliver a much stronger, repositioned United Nations development system. This is the outcome of the work and leadership of Member States — captured in the 2030 Agenda — to deliver a United Nations that advocates for the marginalized and vulnerable, and works with national partners in the advancement of all human rights.
We need to pick up the pace as we move towards 2030. There is no time to lose. Expectations are high, especially for youth and women who have been carrying the burden for too long. We have a unique opportunity to reposition the United Nations development system and we simply cannot miss it. The work ahead will be intense, uncomfortable and complex.
Delivering on the QCPR is a joint endeavour. It is also key to the two other reform streams led by the Secretary-General on management and peace. These aim to delegate responsibilities closer to the point of delivery and consolidating the peace pillar, ensuring strengthened focus on prevention. We count on the insights and perspectives from this Board. Help us keep the ambition high for a system that is better able to deliver support to the people we serve.
I also count on the expertise, knowledge and network of WFP to lead by example, to bring the system together across the pillars of our work, to exert their influence within the system to spur change and, ultimately, to ensure that the system comes together to deliver collectively on the 2030 Agenda.
The Secretary-General and I will remain deeply involved in this, 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.
I look forward to proceeding in our collective journey. And once again, I thank this Board and the WFP Executive Director for this unique opportunity to exchange thoughts with you on the way ahead.