Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks to the Economic and Social Council informal meeting on the second report on the repositioning of the United Nations development system in the context of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review, in New York today:
Let me begin by thanking all of you for your insights, your guidance and your support. In November, before this report was prepared, we had a very important meeting, and I must say that I did my best in order to make sure that the results of that discussion would be reflected in the final version of the report to be presented at the end of the year.
When I took office one year ago, Member States provided clear directions for a more effective, cohesive and accountable United Nations development system. The 2016 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review and its resolution were far-reaching and straight forward.
In implementing your vision, we faced a strategic choice. On the one hand, we could take an evolutionary approach, tinker around the edges, and try to improve the system as it is. On the other hand, we could adopt a more ambitious pathway and seek the necessary changes for the system to become what it needs to be.
We have chosen the path of ambition. We did so for a fundamental reason. The 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] — our boldest agenda for humanity — represents an imperative for profound change and our contribution to a fair globalization.
Business-as-usual approaches simply will not provide countries with the support they need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals or meet the Paris commitments on climate change.
Yes, we must build on what works — and the UN development system has done much to better lives, advance rights and reduce poverty, illiteracy, disease and hunger. But, that alone is not sufficient for the UN to remain a central partner for countries to meet their development goals. Yes, our individual UN entities are doing vital work around the world. But, we need to make sure the sum is greater than the parts to better support Member States in implementing such a transformative agenda.
It comes down to this: In a rapidly changing world, we cannot afford to have a slowly reforming UN development system. We must recognize this in an honest way. And we must act. And so, in the end, ambition isn’t really a choice. It is our only option.
The report before you is the product of extensive analysis and intensive consultations. We were determined to hear all perspectives — and I thank you for your deep engagement.
Taken together, the report proposes seven keystone reforms based on renewed commitment to better coordination, transparency and accountability. First, the emergence of a new generation of UN country teams, demand-driven, with enhanced skill sets and tailored to meet the specific development priorities and needs of countries.
Second, a reinvigorated Resident Coordinator system. Resident Coordinators will have sustainable development in their DNA, with stronger capacity, leadership, accountability and impartiality. Third, a coordinated, reprofiled and restructured regional approach to better support work on the ground.
Fourth, renewed spaces for Member States to guide system-wide actions and bring greater transparency and accountability for results, at the country level where it matters the most. I would also like to see a strengthened ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council], empowered to hold the system accountable and challenge us to do more, together.
The question of accountability to Member States is essential for the UN development system to work. This has, indeed, two levels. One level in which accountability relies in relation between the UN development country teams, and to the Government of the country. And the second level, the global one, in which the relation within ECOSOC is absolutely crucial. It is for Member States to decide how ECOSOC to be formed and to be organized and to work. In our vision, a strengthened ECOSOC is a very important contribution to our common work.
Fifth, a stronger UN institutional response and system-wide approach to partnerships for the 2030 Agenda. Sixth, concrete steps to accelerate the system’s alignment to the 2030 Agenda, through a system-wide strategic document developed by the UN Development Group.
Seventh and finally, a funding compact to bring better quality, quantity and predictability of resources, increased accountability and transparency and enhanced capacities of the system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.
The specific proposals and targets in my report were devised following extensive analysis of funding trends and intensive dialogue with Member States and other partners. They offer a realistic way to start reversing the funding trends that have led to a highly fragmented funding base within the United Nations development system.
Our request includes increasing share of core resources allocated to individual agencies, across the system, from 21.7 per cent to 30 per cent; and doubling the share of contributions to pooled funds at country level from 8 per cent to 16 per cent of non-core. Our commitment is to implement a series of measures that will dramatically improve the transparency and accountability of resources entrusted to us for system-wide activities.
A common theme runs through all these proposals — a rock-solid commitment to reinforce national leadership and ownership for sustainable development. Member States will be in the driver’s seat and the 2030 Agenda will be the driving force.
These reforms will require a step change in the UN coordination system. We know, however, that our development coordination function is vastly underfunded. In many countries, Resident Coordinators lack the basic staffing capacities to credibly lead the sustainable development activities of the United Nations in support of countries.
This creates a significant gap between the resolutions of Member States to advance sustainable development and poverty eradication — and the actual resources to help make those resolutions a reality coordinated on the ground.
That is why I am recommending that Member States consider funding the core capacities of the Resident Coordinator system through assessed contributions. This would be a logical step as the Organization repositions sustainable development at the heart of its work.
Sustainable development is a fundamental human right. It is also humanity’s best chance for a future of peace and prosperity. It must be in the centre of UN activities.
A more robust coordination function — at only about 1 per cent of the annual contributions for operational activities for development — would bring value for money. It would significantly improve effectiveness and strengthen leadership and accountability of the system.
In the medium term, it could generate many hundreds of millions in savings and added resources for the countries we serve — through renewed approaches to physical presence, common back offices and more effective integrated planning.
Effectiveness. Efficiency. Results. Results for people and value for money. These are our shared goals. And delivering is our shared responsibility. We remain at your disposal and will work to ensure that Member States — at the ECOSOC and the General Assembly — have access to all available information to inform their positions.
At the same time, we will continue to take all possible measures, within existing mandates, to lay the groundwork for precisely what we seek: a repositioned system, reinvigorated by a more impartial and accountable coordinated function for sustainable development. I ask for your leadership and timely decisions to allow us to translate the proposals outlined in my report into action.
The repositioning of the United Nations development system is part of our broader effort to transform the United Nations with prevention at the centre. Reforming the peace and security architecture of the Secretariat will be critical to strengthen the UN’s action before and after a crisis and ensure more agile and effective capacities to sustain peace. Improving our internal management will allow us to be more flexible and field-focused in our action.
We will strive to ensure that all reform streams explicitly show how they are strengthening our capacity to deliver on gender equality. All reform streams are equally looking at how they can contribute to gender parity. On the development side, there is a good foundation on which to build. For example, today 47 per cent of Resident Coordinator positions are now held by women.
I commit to ensure full parity with the next round of appointments. I will launch a similar effort to achieve geographical balance. We also look forward to other critical transformation processes taking place within the system.
At the country level, UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] is taking steps to serve as the “integrating platform” that will allow UN country teams to boost joint support to governments in cross-cutting areas.
I have asked the leadership of DESA [Department of Economic and Social Affairs] to be ambitious in its efforts to evolve alongside the rest of the development system.
And we are working with the leadership of regional economic commissions to improve their capacities and mechanisms for collaboration. The regional level must offer a convening platform and deliver integrated policy advice, normative and technical support on regional priorities. Reprofiling and repositioning the work of our regional economic commissions — as true think tanks of the system — is, therefore, a priority.
As a first step, we will fine-tune the regional economic commissions to be those regional think tanks the system requires.
We also will move immediately to clarify the division of labour among regional structures; implement a clear protocol for country engagement by Secretariat entities and other non-resident agencies to ensure comprehensive understanding of UN action in a country and coherent UN support; ensure that UNDAF [United Nations Development Assistance Framework] benefits from a more thorough analysis of regional and transboundary issues, with regional economic commissions as an integral part of this process; and enhance regional coordination between the Regional Coordination mechanism and the Regional UNDG — the UN Development Group — taking profit of good practices and instruments that already exist.
These actions, which we will take by the end of this year will lay the foundation for a new set of measures for longer-term restructuring at the regional level that is today, as you all know, very dysfunctional, with all kinds of different divisions among regions in all the different bodies of the UN. I will update Member States by 2019 as part of my annual report to the ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment.
Reform is a constant process — but we also know our Organization has a mixed track record in its efforts. We now have in our hands — perhaps more than ever before — all the key conditions for success. We have a common agenda — [the] 2030 Agenda. We share a sense of urgency.
And have set our sights on the same destination — delivering for the people we serve, staying true to our ambitious goals, and making good on our collective pledge to leave no one behind. Our efforts are about fulfilling our promise for a future of dignity, prosperity and peace in a healthy planet. I look forward to hearing both your comments and your questions.