Sustainable Development Unattainable without Sustaining Peace, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa

DSG/SM/1262
23 March 2019

Sustainable Development Unattainable without Sustaining Peace, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s opening remarks to the twentieth session of the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa, in Marrakesh, Morocco, today:

It is a pleasure to address the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa and to co-chair today’s session alongside the African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology.

In creating this Mechanism in 1998, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations had entrusted its chairmanship to the newly created position of Deputy Secretary-General.

This was an acknowledgment of the importance of the regional dimension for development.  And it was a response to the vision and reforms of our late Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had proposed to the General Assembly that a Deputy Secretary-General position should be established to help coordinate the development activities of the United Nations.

Two decades after the creation of the Deputy Secretary-General position, Secretary-General António Guterres has taken steps to reassert the aspirations of the General Assembly.  In taking office, he requested me to coordinate our United Nations development assets in support to the 2030 Agenda.

And as I honour this responsibility, you can count on my personal commitment to accompany and support your work at the regional level.

It is why, this year, I have made a priority to attend Regional Coordination Mechanisms in all regions.  I am starting in Marrakesh, in a journey that will take me to all continents within few weeks.  It is great to see first hand what is expected of our leadership globally and in the region, in the hands of Vera Songwe.

2019 will be a defining year to deliver the promises we made to humanity through the 2030 Agenda and Africa’s Agenda 2063.

We are heading quickly towards the first stocktaking on the Sustainable Development Goals at the General Assembly in September, and this will be our first opportunity to assess progress and galvanize action, 4 years into the new Agenda.

But, the data that starts to emerge suggests that we are not on track to meet the 2030 Agenda.  Put in simple terms:  we need to accelerate to meet the ambitions that we have set for ourselves.

Action on the Sustainable Development Goals is still to reach the scale required to address the increasingly complex and interlinked challenges facing humanity and our planet.  Climate change, rising inequalities, persistent gender discrimination, fraying social cohesion around the globe, conflict in its many different forms, deteriorating political consensus and mass movement of people across borders are the sign of the times of our lives.

These challenges know no borders, and cannot be resolved through solutions of the past.  We need to look forward — together and bringing the best of our assets and leadership.  Multilateralism matters and makes us stronger.

Our youth potential remains underused, hindering the ability of our girls and boys to shape not only our future — but our present.  In other words, as we heard from youth all around the globe:  the future is now.

We have made incredible progress in empowering women, but we need to do much more to close the gender gap and enable half of humanity to contribute to our collective full potential.  In this regard, let us take a moment to appreciate the incredible leadership of women in this region and in the room today.

In the United Nations, the Secretary-General has made gender parity a key priority.  For the first time in history, we have gender parity within our senior management and in our resident coordinator system.  And our five heads of regional economic commissions are women.

The African Union is also the first regional body to have full parity; setting the example for many others.

I also see in the room Hanna Tetteh, head of the United Nations Office to the African Union, and Bience Gawanas, our Special Adviser on Africa.  All African women, leading important aspects of our global work.

We now know all too well that we cannot have sustainable development without sustaining peace.  Neither can we build a secure future for everyone without addressing the root causes of conflict and vulnerabilities.  This is very much the reality of our work here in Africa.

This year’s focus on refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons is clearly indicative of this reality.

Africa hosts the largest number of displaced people worldwide.  The factors are many and varied — including conflict, political upheaval, poverty, inequality, persecution and food insecurity.

Sometimes people run away from a nightmare.  Sometimes they run towards a dream and the hope of a better future.  But, whatever the cause, whatever the crisis, Africa’s response has been admirable.

Countries have demonstrated remarkable solidarity — far more than in other parts of the world, and often despite limited means.  In the United Nations, we are determined to support your solidarity and leadership.

Over the last two years, we have signed two dedicated partnership frameworks with the African Union focused on enhancing partnerships in peace and security, and to advance implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.  Addressing root causes to promote resilience and development is a key objective of both frameworks.

In this very Marrakesh, the world has also agreed to a Global Compact on migration that carries the promises of enhanced cooperation to manage human flows with people at the centre.

In that same spirit of shared endeavour, I would like to salute the strong African Union-United Nations partnership that we see so clearly in the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa and its Subregional Coordination Mechanisms.

This Regional Coordination Mechanism is now serviced by a joint Economic Commission for Africa and African Union Commission Secretariat.  And you are developing joint workplans involving United Nations and African Union entities, informed by African Union priorities and the cooperation frameworks that our organizations have signed.

The level of ownership in our regional interface is a model that should inspire other regions, and a story that I will be telling as I join the upcoming Regional Coordination Mechanisms in Bangkok, Beirut and Santiago.

But, today offers an opportunity to also recognize our common challenges and maximize the impact of our regional work.

The Regional Coordination Mechanisms can help galvanize and accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, in at least four areas of integration.

First, vertical integration.  Regional Coordination Mechanisms can help connect the global, regional and country-level action.  The Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved on a country-by-country basis only.  It is time to revamp and reenergize the regional level as a connector between these three levels.

Second, horizontal integration.  There is incredible expertise scattered across many different entities at the regional level.  Regional Coordination Mechanisms can help pull that together — under strong leadership of our regional bodies — to improve the offer available to countries.

The close coordination between the Regional Coordination Mechanisms with the regional United Nations Sustainable Development Group is essential in this regard.

We are conscious that we need to reassert the relevance and value of the United Nations regional presence as a trusted partner to the African Union and the people on the continent.

Third, integration across all dimensions of sustainable development.  This is at the core of the paradigm shift of the 2030 Agenda.  But, our institutions — including at the regional level — still need to complete this shift and move away from silos.

And fourth, integration across development, humanitarian and peace.  Our discussions later today on displacement are an indication of the critical role Regional Coordination Mechanisms can play in this regard.

We have in our hands a once-in-a-generation opportunity to undertake these transformational shifts.  The African Union and the United Nations are engaged in comprehensive and unprecedently ambitious reforms to better support our Member States.

You can count on our determination to ensure that these transformations make us a better partner for Africa.  The reforms are built on a premise of a strong commitment to national priorities and a focus on the 2030 Agenda and prevention of crises and vulnerabilities.

We now have a road map for change and clear and ambitious mandates by the United Nations General Assembly, and guided by our mothership, the Economic and Social Council.  And we are moving forward at full speed.

On 1 January, we have created — for the first time in the United Nations — an independent and empowerment system to coordinate all development activities of the United Nations.

Before January, resident coordinators were also representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  But, as we all know, development coordination in the era of the Sustainable Development Goals is a full-time job.  And so is leading a large development agency, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

This has now been addressed, and you can all expect to see more cohesive, effective and accountable United Nations country teams around the globe.  Country teams that adapt more closely to the priorities and needs of each developing country, and which can leverage more systematically on all assets across the United Nations — including in the regional economic commissions and specialized agencies.

As part of these reforms, we are also working on the review of all United Nations regional assets, aimed at establishing a new architecture adapted to trans-boundary priorities and realities.

The practice of collaboration among United Nations regional entities, linking policy discussions with operational realities, is already established in this region that saw the African Union becoming a co-chair of the Regional Coordination Mechanism.

This will be further developed as we respond to heightened demands of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.

The review has seen its first set of consultations, looking into ways to harness regional assets and ensure the integrated policy advice required to deliver on the 2030 Agenda and mount effective responses to cross-border and subregional issues.  To deliver on these critical functions, the review will also look at how to most effectively reorganize the regional and subregional systems and mechanisms.

Today, we welcome your views and feedback to inform our review and recommendations that the Secretary-General will put forward to Member States in May.

The clock is ticking on the 2030 Agenda and our reform will only be truly successful if we can help countries scale up action towards the Sustainable Development Goals.  It is our collective responsibility to show greater urgency.

We must find the courage, the ingenuity and the means to raise the ambition of our action and move with far greater speed towards more peaceful, prosperous and inclusive economies and societies on a healthy planet.

And may the discussions today on refugees and displacement help to focus our attention on root causes and put prevention at the centre.

I count on this Regional Coordination Mechanism to lead the way.  And I look forward to proceeding in this journey with you in the coming years.

For information media. Not an official record.