Delegates Decide Theme of 2019 Humanitarian Affairs Segment, Authorize Secretary-General to Prepare Human Settlements Programme 2020 Budget
The Economic and Social Council adopted two decisions today, as it also held its annual Partnership Forum amid calls for engaging a diverse range of actors — from Governments and businesses to academia, civil society and, importantly, local decision-makers — in new forms of collaborations that generate better results for those most in need.
In a spurt of mid-day action, the Council decided that the theme for its 2019 humanitarian affairs segment will be “Promoting action to save lives, reach those in need and reduce humanitarian risk, vulnerability and need: looking towards the seventieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and the climate summit called for by the Secretary-General”.
By its second decision, the Council authorized the Secretary-General to proceed, on an exceptional basis, with the preparation of the proposed programme budget for 2020 for the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) based on the agency’s new strategic orientation.
Welcoming participants to the day-long Partnership Forum under the theme “Partnerships driving inclusive implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals”, Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said the global momentum that led to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is increasingly under pressure.
Partnerships, especially those that involve the United Nations, must be transparent and accountable. She challenged participants to come up with recommendations that will feed into the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July.
“We know that the clock is ticking” said Amina Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General. Climate change is having a brutal impact on the world’s most vulnerable, staggering numbers of children lack access to education and health care, and many people are starved of both economic opportunity and social protection.
“Our task is immense but many of the pathways of change are in plain sight,” she said. Investments in high-return priorities can unlock progress on multiple fronts. Transforming the world requires leadership, as well as innovation and strategic collaborations at the local level.
Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, said countries are recognizing the importance of building strategic partnerships with a range of actors — and many are creating an enabling environment for them at the national level. The number of private sector initiatives supporting the Goals is also growing, with different forms of partnerships emerging in such sectors as renewable energy, housing and agriculture.
Throughout the day, delegates engaged with thought leaders in several short dialogues that showcased examples of multi-stakeholder partnerships, and explored how such collaborations can support fulfilment of the Goals as well as ways to enhance both the effectiveness and accountability of United Nations-associated endeavours.
In a high-level conversation on “The Role of Partnerships in Driving Inclusive Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chairman of Mastercard, described the company’s $24 billion Foundation as an innovative commercial business model. Through one programme, it partners with the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide pre-paid cards to Syrian refugees in Lebanon so they can buy food in local stores.
Alaa Murabit, Sustainable Development Goal Advocate, said conflict offers the most opportune time to discuss such critical issues as education and health. Local organizations working day-in and day-out to alleviate suffering have the trust of local people that Governments and corporations will never gain. “We can’t continue to build projects in London, Brussels and New York,” she said. Unless local leaders are the architects, the agenda will not be sustainable.
The Forum also heard two keynote addresses, the first delivered by Ghassan Hasbani, Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon, who pointed to an institutional mechanism established to localize the 2030 Agenda “from the bottom up”, and a ministerial council to coordinate integration of the Goals into national development programmes. Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, sharing best practices, urged delegates to have the courage to discuss migration. As the movement of 65 million people creates significant challenges, partners should seek to help people remain in their homes.
Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, and Olof Skoog (Sweden), co-facilitator for the 2019 High-level Political Forum political declaration, joined the Council President in delivering closing remarks.
INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), President of the Economic and Social Council — opening the Partnership Forum under the theme “Partnerships driving inclusive implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals” — said that as the world faces formidable challenges of climate change, growing refugee flows and inequalities both within and between countries, new frontier technologies are also dramatically changing the development landscape. The global momentum that led to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is increasingly under pressure.
Amid these upheavals, the Partnership Forum is an opportunity to pinpoint success stories, she said. Today, participants will hear from partnership practitioners working to support the Sustainable Development Goals to be reviewed at the Council’s High-level Political Forum in July: Goal 4 (quality education), Goal 8 (inclusive economic growth and decent work), Goal 10 (reducing inequalities), Goal 13 (climate change) and Goal 16 (peaceful and inclusive societies. They will also learn how inclusive multi-stakeholder partnership frameworks led by Governments can drive the Agenda’s implementation at the national level and how inclusion can help harness all development actors and generate better results for all. “Partnerships, especially those that engage with the United Nations, must be transparent and accountable,” she said, and coherent with the Organization’s values and standards.
AMINA J. MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, underscoring the importance of strengthening multilateral multi-stakeholder partnerships for achieving the Goals, stressed: “We know that the clock is ticking”. Climate change is having a brutal impact on the world’s most vulnerable, staggering numbers of children continue to lack access to education and health care, many people are starved of economic opportunities and social protection measures, while inequalities are fraying the fabric of peaceful societies. “Our task is immense but many of the pathways of change are in plain sight,” she said. Sustainable Development requires engaging all stakeholders. Partnership will be critical.
Calling Goal 17 “the connective tissue” that will ensure holistic approaches for sustainable development will take root at national level, she said Governments, the United Nations and a diverse range of stakeholders must work together in a more coordinated manner. “Everyone is a development actor,” she said, and those involved must cluster investments in coalitions that harness a much larger ecosystem of partners, including small- and medium-sized enterprises. Stressing that investments in high-return priorities have strong potential to unlock progress on multiple fronts, she said transforming the world requires leadership, as well as innovation and strategic collaborations at the local level. Socializing the Goals and enhancing ownership is also critical. Calling the promotion of equitable access and equal participation “a fundamental ethic of the SDG era”, she said capacity-building should always be applied through a lens and empowerment, placing the most vulnerable at the centre of the Sustainable Development Goal implementation, particularly women and entrepreneurs. “Let’s make sure we listen carefully to their vision,” she said.
LIU ZHENMIN, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that while Governments have the primary responsibility for implementing the Agenda, no single Government or institution can address the multitude of challenges alone. “We need cooperation and collaboration,” he said, and new ways of working in multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize knowledge, expertise and resources. Noting that 140 countries have submitted their voluntary national reviews to the Council, he said analysis of their reports by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs has identified a few common threads: More countries are recognizing the importance of building partnerships with various stakeholders, including the private sector, civil society and local governments. They are also recognizing the importance of creating an enabling environment for partnerships at the national level and witnessing private-sector initiatives in support of the Goals. Different forms of partnerships are also emerging in such sectors as renewable energy, agriculture and technology. At the same time, innovative initiatives are complementing national efforts, he said, calling today’s Forum an opportunity to brainstorm on how to both replicate and scale up such good practices.
GHASSAN HASBANI, Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon, recalled that he presented the country’s first voluntary national review report to the Economic and Social Council’s High-Level Political Forum in 2018. Since that time, efforts have been under way to build up multi-stakeholder partnerships and bridge the gaps identified in that review. A structured institutional mechanism was established — aimed at localizing the 2030 Agenda according to its own needs, challenges and resources — which employs a bottom-up, whole-of-Government approach to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Lebanon appointed a council of ministers, including representatives of civil society and the private sector, tasked with coordinating all national efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda; integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into national development programmes and strategies; raise awareness of the Goals; develop a national database of indicators; and contribute to the preparation of the voluntary national review.
Meanwhile, he said, the Government has ensured the autonomy of civil society representatives in the work of the national committee. The latter consulted some 300 non-governmental organizations, including in remote areas of the country, and an official channel of communication was established. The work of the United Nations Global Compact Lebanon was also integrated into the committee’s work, aimed at raising awareness about the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals within the private sector and civil society. In addition, Lebanon created a parliamentary committee to monitor the implementation of the Goals and maximize impact at the local level. “Our experience has been that much more can get done when more stakeholders are engaged in defining targets and priorities, and when tasks are divided into thematic groupings,” he said.
PÉTER SZIJJÁRTÓ, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said his country is committed to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals — one of the United Nations most important accomplishments. Sharing some best practices in implementing the Goals, including in sensitive areas, he urged all delegates to have the courage to discuss such issues as migratory flows. “Never in history have so many people been on the road,” he said, noting that the movement of some 65 million people creates significant challenges for the international community. Calling for a proper assessment of the situation, he said partners should seek to help people to remain in their homes under peaceful conditions. Meanwhile, those who have been forced to flee their homes should be assisted to return. Large numbers of migrants have entered Hungary in recent years under uncontrolled conditions, putting pressure on host communities.
Noting that millions of migrants currently live in southern Europe under tenuous conditions, he said efforts are needed to assist African countries, in particular, to support their expanding populations. In that regard, Hungary provides more than 5,400 scholarships to African students annually and supports persecuted people — including Christians, who face escalating attacks — across the Middle East. In addition, he called for more special assistance programmes for war-affected areas, which will allow existing refugees to return home. Development and trade policies, including the provision of priority access to trading markets, can assist in that respect. Hungary also supports technology enhancements for developing countries, including by providing funds to boost agricultural programmes on a deferred loan basis.
The Forum then began a high-level conversation on “The Role of Partnerships in Driving Inclusive Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Moderated by Laura Trevelyan, BBC Anchor/Correspondent, the panel featured presentations by: Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chairman of Mastercard; Alaa Murabit, High-level Commissioner on Health Employment and Economic Growth and Sustainable Development Goal Advocate; and Jayathma Wickramanayake, Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.
Ms. CAIRNS, reflecting on how partnerships will help achieve the Goals, said there are enough philanthropic dollars or enough aid to address the Goals in the manner necessary to resolve today’s global challenges by 2030. The private and public sectors must be engaged. She described the creation of the Mastercard Foundation in 2006, which has grown to $24 billion today, as an innovative commercial business model. Because of its size and scale, the Foundation has invested in Africa, educating leaders and providing scholarships. Committed to bringing 500 million people into the financial system, it has reached 38 million so far, many of whom are women. It has partnered with Governments, technology players and banks to build out an ecosystem that works, country by country.
Ms. MURABIT, on her approach to achieving the Goals, said that when it comes to challenges such as migration and conflict, the reality has been built by everyone. “We are all responsible for them,” she said. Without solving such underlying problems as the global arms trade and corruption, the biggest issues on the ground will never be resolved. No country in the world has met the standards on women’s rights, quality health or education. All countries are challenged when it comes to meeting the needs of minorities. The 2030 Agenda says that because these challenges have been created collectively, all stakeholders, not simply Governments, must be involved. Today, corporations have more ability than Governments to reach audiences. The position of citizen government has also changed to rely more on non-State actors. “If we’re not working on this together, it’s not going to get done,” she said.
Ms. WICKRAMANAYAKE, relaying messages from the Council’s recently concluded Youth Forum, called for a new collective approach to resolving today’s challenges. Young people are organizing, resisting and challenging Governments, corporations and others through climate marches and other forms of protest. Another message that emerged from the Youth Forum is that the international community is not doing enough. “Action is needed,” she said, stressing that women and girls are being left behind. While incremental progress is happening across the Goals, in the last two years the number of out-of-school girls has increased. Young people are also aware that Governments are not taking enough action to tackle climate change.
Ms. MURABIT, asked about a change in the political climate, said that while it is easy to have people support the Goals, there is a lack of desire to implement them. The reality of global migration, for example, started well before 2015. Comparing the difference between public support for the Agenda, and resourcing it to “Mars and Earth”, she said that to resource the Goals would cost $2 to $3 trillion annually — a fraction of the global military and security budget. She advocated investing in health care and education, without which countries will only “shoot themselves in the foot”. She pointed to a shift in the United States in how people discuss drugs, from the “war on drugs” to recognition that it is a health and humanitarian crisis. “We shouldn’t have to spend 30 years doing it wrong to finally do it right,” she said. “Let’s do it right from the beginning.”
Asked why it is “good business” to be philanthropic, Ms. CAIRNS said corporations can be as powerful as Governments. Corporations owe it to the countries in which they operate to be involved in social issues. “How can you do good business in a failing world?” she asked. Corporations also can often move more quickly than Governments. She described Mastercard’s work with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to create a smart communities coalition, involving 40 organizations to create products, solutions and services — from clean water to financial inclusion — to help refugees. “It is making me feel a bit optimistic,” she said.
Ms. WICKRAMANAYAKE, recalling that 80 per cent of the world’s migrants live in Africa, called for creating better access to education, quality health care and dignified job opportunities. Young people use social media to hold policymakers accountable, from taking part in protests to challenging entire systems. She cited the “Not Too Young to Run” initiative, in which young people encourage each other to run for office and force sustainable change within institutions. She also pointed to the youth council in the Netherlands, which wrote a chapter in the country’s voluntary national review to the High-level Political Forum.
Ms. CAIRNS, asked to discuss a successful partnership, described Mastercard’s collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), which addressed the migration of people to Lebanon from Syria. The company is working with a local bank to help people buy their own food by using a “digital food” card. The data gleaned from those transactions then allowed WFP to secure discounted prices from powdered milk suppliers. Mastercard then considered how to link these efforts to what WFP needs and came up with a goal to achieve 100 million school meals. It created various programmes to achieve it, among them, one in which commuters in London donate a school meal to a child each time they use their subway card. With that one idea, dollars are flowing to the first five Sustainable Development Goals. “If children are being fed, parents send their children to school,” she said. It is also good business for Mastercard, linking its efforts to new products, as well as addressing climate change by encouraging people to use public transport.
Ms. MURABIT said countries in conflict have the greatest opportunity to change, noting that post-genocide Rwanda now has highest percentage of women in parliament, and in information and communications technology sector. “They completely transformed their gender norms, as well as their power norms,” she said. Conflict offers the most opportune time to discuss such important issues as education, women in technology or infrastructure. Ghana has made a shift in addressing education. Stressing that the most important aspect of the Goals is local leadership, she said many local organizations work day-in and day-out in the middle of conflict and have the trust of local people that Governments and corporations will never have. “We can’t continue to build projects in London, Brussels and New York,” she said. Unless local leaders are the architects, the agenda will not be sustainable.
Ms. WICKRAMANAYAKE described a programme that recognizes 17 young people working on sustainable development — entrepreneurs, tour guides and fashion designers among them — who are changing their communities. The programme provides them with mentorship and resources to amplify their work in their communities. Touching on the importance of innovation, she pointed out that 62 per cent of Asia’s population lacks access to the Internet.
Turning to the topic “What It Takes to Build Effective Country-level Partnership Platforms”, the Council convened an interactive panel discussion and subsequent question-and-answer session moderated by Simona Marinescu, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tokelau. It featured Lois M. Young, Permanent Representative of Belize to the United Nations; Hongjoo Hahm, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); and Josephine Satyono, Executive Director of Indonesia Global Compact Network.
Ms. MARINESCU said the unprecedented expansion of partnerships in the development space is good news in light of the limited timeframe and resources available to meet the targets of the 2030 Agenda. If well-designed and transparent, such partnerships can help accelerate progress. However, challenges remain. Partnerships are largely not streamlined or sufficiently funded, while a lack of stakeholder engagement often limits results. Turning to the panellists, she asked them to share their experiences regarding the value of stakeholder engagement, especially in light of climate change and other emerging challenges.
Ms. YOUNG, sharing her experience with those questions in the context of small island developing States, said international cooperation and partnerships are paramount to tackling the impacts of a changing climate. It was not until the adoption of the 2014 Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action document (SAMOA Pathway) that a partnership framework emerged to mobilize genuine and durable “small island developing States-specific” partnerships. Since then, a steering committee and web-based platform have been developed and an assessment conducted. A partnership toolbox is being developed to help national and local stakeholders build up their partnerships. Outlining Belize’s national development strategy — a holistic and comprehensive approach to addressing national priorities — she said it focuses on poverty eradication, developing sustainable patterns of consumption and production, and better managing the country’s natural resources base. Describing the monitoring and review of partnerships as one of the biggest challenges facing small island developing States, she said efforts are under way to design tools — incorporating “SMART criteria” — to assist States in that regard.
Mr. HAHM recalled that the Asia-Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development was held recently in Bangkok, serving as the building block for the region’s review of the Sustainable Development Goals implementation. Outlining the various types of partnerships serving Asia and the Pacific, he said the outcome of the Forum is funnelled back to the Economic and Social Council while also serving as a road map for future action. Citing multiple examples of partnerships in the region, he said the concept of partnerships is “not just words” but is instead a concrete element critical to mobilizing the estimated $1.5 trillion — a “herculean task” — required to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific.
Ms. SATYONO said local networks are essential to the success of the Global Compact’s mission — namely, scaling up financing from the private sector for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. The network comprises a set of organizations that in turn engage thousands of partners on everything from climate change to human rights. Through a diverse range of awareness-raising and capacity-building programmes, they work to “move the needle” on corporate sustainability, helping companies to make meaningful contributions in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Outlining several partnerships between businesses and the United Nations, she said the unique private sector expertise brought by those partners will be crucial to the Organization’s future work. In that vein, she urged States to stop thinking of the private sector as only a source of investment and to instead consider it a true partner.
As the floor opened for questions and comments, several speakers — including the representative of the Russian Federation — agreed that corporations can play a role beyond the mere provision of financing. Describing the United Nations as the optimal platform for multilateral partnerships, he emphasized that those should always take into account national priorities.
The representative of the State of Palestine, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, echoed that sentiment while adding that national realities, capacities and levels of development must be respected in all partnerships. Noting that implementing the 2030 Agenda requires the provision of the means of implementation as well as a renewed commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 17 on partnerships, she said partnerships with United Nations entities should aim to prevent further imbalances between core and non-core resources, giving priority to the former.
The representative of the European Union said the bloc has always been a strong advocate for multi-stakeholder partnerships, believing that sustainable development is not only a State responsibility but one for the whole of society. The Union’s experience has demonstrated that “diversity makes us stronger and not weaker”, he stressed, noting that the bloc has achieved more together than it would have as a collection of countries acting on their own.
Morocco’s delegate underscored the need to push forward for more actionable and collective efforts ahead of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal deadline. Noting the need to empower women and girls and seriously consider the perspectives of youth, she added that migration — a central global challenge — should also be incorporated in efforts to meet sustainable development targets.
Several speakers also posed questions to the panellists. The representative of the United States — citing an increase in uncoordinated private sector outreach — asked them how more joint programming can be encouraged when United Nations agencies are, at times, not incentivized to do so.
Indonesia’s delegate asked for advice in enhancing partnerships in isolated, remote areas or island countries.
A representative of the International Chamber of Commerce welcomed the move away from a perception of the private sector as a source of funding and towards more holistic partnerships. He asked the panellists for their insights into what drives a successful partnership with the private sector, and for their views on specific areas where the latter can make meaningful contributions to implementing the 2030 Agenda.
Ms. YOUNG, responding to those questions, spotlighted the need for partnerships that fall under the acronym “SMART” — namely, those that are specific, measurable, achievable, resource-based and time-bound. Those elements are even more crucial in remote areas, including in small island developing States, she stressed, proposing that projects pool together several islands in order to maximize results for their private sector partners.
Mr. HAHM agreed that, for the private sector, results are critical. Underscoring the need to mitigate risk, he said businesses will not work with small island developing States and others in remote areas if the risks are too high and the potential benefits are too small. Grants from institutes, along with other financing sources, can help mitigate that risk and draw in private sector partners, he said.
Ms. SATYONO urged United Nations agencies to avoid the duplication of efforts often seen when they approach companies individually in a piecemeal manner. She cited examples of partnerships with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and the World Bank as good examples of streamlined practice.
Ms. MARINESCU echoed the importance of streamlining, noting the United Nations recent introduction of the principle of “mutual recognition” — meaning that once a private sector entity has been cleared by one agency, all agencies are free to work with it. Meanwhile, more specific skills are needed within the Organization, and at the country-level, to ensure the effective design and management of partnerships.
Also speaking were representatives of Cambodia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as a representative of the business community.
In the afternoon, the Forum held a dialogue on “Multi-stakeholder Partnership as a Lever to Drive Inclusion and Impact”, which explored how innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships are supporting implementation of the Goals in focus at the 2019 High-level Political Forum in July.
Moderated by Robert Lawrence Skinner, Executive Director, United Nations Office for Partnerships, it featured presentations by: Rebecca Affolder, Senior Adviser, Global Partnership for Education (Goal 4, education); Susana Puerto, Senior Youth Employment Specialist, Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, International Labour Organization (ILO) (Goal 8, decent work and economic growth); Mari Skåre, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations, representing the “Every Woman, Every Child” Initiative (Goal 10, reduced inequality); Wasim Ahmed, Director, Islamic Financial Sector Development Department, Islamic Development Bank, representing Global Islamic Finance and Impact Investing Platform (Goal 13, climate action); and Karina Gerlach, Senior Program Adviser, New York University Center on International Cooperation, representing Pathfinders for Just and Inclusive Societies (Goal 16, strong institutions).
Ms. AFFOLDER said the Global Partnership for Education prioritizes the poorest countries most affected by fragility or conflict. Involving numerous partners, its model is about country-leadership and aligning partners behind national strategies. It works with Governments to bring players into a single planning process, starting with a single sector plan. The Partnership led to 77 million more children attending primary school between 2002 and 2016. However, there is a crisis in health and education, and she underscored the need to teach, empower and employ millions more young people in the coming years. The Global Partnership for Education supports countries in overcoming the barriers that keep girls out of school. Describing an example of where a multi-stakeholder approach is critical, she said girls, especially those in the most disadvantaged areas, must see more trained female teachers and books with images that empower them, and they must attend safe schools. The entire system must be responsive and evidence-based, she asserted.
Ms. PUERTO said the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth seeks to scale up action on youth employment. In 2015, it drafted a strategy that could adapt and support the 2030 Agenda, understanding that there is ample evidence about what works. Moving to action is the objective. The Initiative, led by the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination, decided in 2017 to involve other types of partners and today is a multi-stakeholder partnership involving 63 partners from Government, civil society, youth organizations, regional organizations, academia, Parliaments and the media. It has eight thematic areas, including: green jobs, digital jobs, apprenticeships, transitions from informal to formal employment; self-employment; and youth in hazardous occupations. She described a strong evidence-based value proposition, driven by a diverse set of partners, and a set of core principles, to which partners subscribe.
Ms. SKÅRE said gender inequalities have existed for centuries. The Every Woman, Every Child Initiative is working with Governments, civil society, the private sector — and “everyone who wants to achieve this goal”. Women need access to health services, education, the job market and decision–making affecting them. To accelerate progress on the Goals, “we need to step up”, she said, recalling that the Initiative was launched in 2010 to reduce maternal mortality and ensure access to reproductive health. Investing in health means investing in human capital; it means prosperity for all societies and a good life for individuals. Noting that Norway invests $500 million in health every year, she more broadly noted that while maternal mortality has fallen globally by 45 per cent since 1990, 300,000 women died during pregnancy or child birth in 2015, two thirds of them in countries affected by conflict or fragility. Each year, 5.6 million children die before their fifth birthday. Good partnerships are crucial for maximizing health outcomes.
Mr. AHMED said the President of the Islamic Development Bank has focused on turning the institution into a “developers bank” of like-minded partners to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. It could not have had a better partner than the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with which it started the Global Islamic Finance Impact Investing Platform, leveraging private sector finance for impact investments. The Bank is also working on a green school initiative in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Pakistan, and holding an impact investment challenge, matching investors and clients to achieve social goals in various countries. By combining strengths, it seeks to achieve comprehensive development, and all the while, maintain human dignity.
Ms. GERLACH said the Pathfinders involve 40 States, international organizations and others to accelerate delivery of peaceful, just and inclusive societies. Goal 16 is among the broadest and deepest of the Sustainable Development Goals. When it was launched, it was a daunting task to devise a way to achieve it, as there are 34 other targets related to Goal 16. So, those involved came up with the concept of “SDG16+” demonstrating its relationship to the other Goals. They also reviewed ongoing efforts to understand what was already working and published a Roadmap for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, which supports implementation through a recommendation of nine catalytic actions. It also focuses on delivery. It created three challenges in areas which, if there were not a huge push, would not be achieved: Indicators 16.1 focuses on reducing violence, and 16.3 on access to justice. Another challenge focuses on inequality and exclusion. The process involved two years of negotiating, discussing and drafting. The roadmap was adopted by 24 States and 18 partnerships, which today, has expanded.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers highlighted the various ways in which multi-stakeholder partnerships are improving societies. Lead discussant Otmane Bennani Smires, Executive Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, of OCP Group, noting that Morocco is among the 20 most water stressed countries in the world, drew attention to a project in which ministries and public institutions are tackling that challenge. To support a green revolution, the company is partnering with Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Nigeria and others.
The representative of the Republic of Korea called for listening to the voices of those in vulnerable situations, including women, youth, indigenous people, migrants and local communities. Multisectoral partnerships can foster understanding of the myriad issues involved in addressing the Goals. He advocated breaking down traditional silos in order to integrate across sectors, stressing that mobilizing private and public resources through partnerships is critical.
A speaker from the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) asked how to achieve freedom without security, and security without partnerships. Interpol is a politically neutral means for States to share best practices and information and to connect with key actors. It is ready to support the maintenance and development of multi-stakeholder partnerships for attaining the Goals.
Also speaking in the discussion was a speaker from NGO Sustainability Inc.
The Council then held a final dialogue on the theme “Raising ambition for United Nations-associated partnerships”. Moderated by Rie Vejs-Kjeldgaard, Director of Partnerships and Field Support, International Labour Organization (ILO), it featured: Yuri Afanasiev, Strategic Advisor to the Director of the United Nations Development Coordination Office; Petru Dumitriu, Inspector, Joint Inspection Unit; and Priya Gajraj, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Senegal (via video conference).
Ms. VEJS-KJELDGAARD recalled that, 100 years ago today, the ILO’s constitution was signed in Paris. That organization was built on partnerships, she said, inviting the panellists to share their perspectives on what has made various partnerships effective and accountable.
Mr. AFANASIEV said partnerships — including those that go beyond traditional models — are now a “must-have” at the country level. Partnerships now figure into the United Nations reform process, he said, citing good examples of partnerships with private companies. However, very rarely do such practices scale up to the global level, partly because “we are still working in experimental mode” and because the historical attitude of the United Nations system was often one of 100 per cent risk avoidance. In contrast, he outlined newer partnerships where the Organization is “punching above its weight” without major financial investments — including through projects with Unilever, the International Solar Alliance and India’s tea industry. Looking forward, he raised questions about scaling up the use of blended finance and attracting more financing to developing markets, among others.
Mr. DUMITRIU described changes in the United Nations policies and guidelines on partnerships, noting that they were historically more geared to managing reputational risks than to promote the proactive creation of partnership. Echoing other panellists throughout the day, he said the Organization remains fundamentally risk averse, often missing out on opportunities on the ground as a result. “Our procedures are cumbersome and they take too long in administrative terms,” he said, adding that such challenges sometimes make the United Nations incompatible with private sector partners. In response, the Joint Inspection Unit has recommended a set of revised guidelines — including significant streamlining, a new system-wide database on partners and a set of common standards — as well as other related improvements.
Ms. GAJRAJ emphasized that a stronger understanding of the regional and subregional context — as well as recognition of national leadership and a heightened focus on the 2030 Agenda — are all crucial to building more effective partnerships. Underlining the importance of localizing the 2030 Agenda to bring about a different set of partnerships and objectives, she described efforts to support local development plans on the ground in Senegal. Financing for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is also an important focus, she said, noting that in Senegal some 40 per cent of implementation is Government-funded while much of the rest will be met with private sector funding. To that end, she said several critical actions are needed, including creating an enabling environment; utilizing blended finance; and building up local capacity to evaluate the impact of investments.
TAREQ ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), speaking as a discussant, agreed with others on the need to bring about more flexible, innovative financing. Multi-stakeholder partnerships have acquired a new importance in the 2030 Agenda era, but challenges remain, including the question of benefit for private sector partners. The United Nations should embrace a system-wide approach to partnerships, he said, also encouraging Member States to task the Organization with a wider mandate in that arena. Underlining several crucial objectives, he drew attention to new and still untapped sources of development financing; cross-sector partnerships; and more streamlined, organized engagement between United Nations entities and private sector companies. Meanwhile, United Nations country teams must be able to understand the local context and challenges, as well as the behaviour of local business entities.
Ms. VEJS-KJELDGAARD asked the panellists what steps should be taken at the national level to render partnerships more effective.
Ms. GAJRAJ welcomed the opportunity presented by the United Nations reform process to reframe how the Organization handles partnerships. Spotlighting several important issues, she said the United Nations is already strong in delivering on Sustainable Development Goals 1-6 — which are carryovers from the Millennium Development Goals — but less successful on Goals 7-17. Describing those targets as an untapped opportunity, she said the Organization should also seek to play more of a “brokering and connecting” role between implementers on the ground and work to better match local development priorities with partnerships and resources.
Mr. DUMITRIU said developing a good understanding of the local context is critical and means many things. United Nations actors should consult closely with the Government and the business sector to avoid any regulatory surprises. Meanwhile, the Organization should seek to think innovatively and act as an integrator or “guarantor”; resources do not necessarily have to run through the United Nations. There are major opportunities in the areas of big data and technology, he said, urging United Nations staff to work with Governments and technology professionals to unleash the benefits of those sectors. In addition, renewable energy, reforestation and other climate-related activities offer great potential for engagement and growth.
Mr. ISLAM said it is time to encourage a shift away from ad hoc, short-term partnerships aimed at resource mobilization to more sustainable, permanent forms of cooperation with the private sector. “Partnerships are not an end in themselves,” he stressed, underlining the need to continue to assess and evaluate them. Turning to Member States, he said they should be an active part of efforts to help the Organization break down silos. If they are not, they will continue to waste funds on duplication and ineffective solutions. Warning against a dynamic in which the United Nations begs funds from the private sector, he said the latter also has a responsibility to support those actors delivering public goods — including strong governance, peace, development and stability — from which corporations also benefit.
In a short ensuing discussion, several speakers echoed the importance of inclusive multilateralism and the potential of partnerships to enhance it. A representative of the Organization of Employers noted that for the business community, inclusivity means engaging with a wide variety of stakeholders on a number of fronts. In light of the substantial global challenges ahead, she said States should open their doors wider to partnerships with the private sector — including helping to drive sustainable business practices. Due diligence does not just manage risk, she said, stressing that it should also identify talent and opportunity and help contribute to greater goals.
A representative of the International Organisation of Good Templars underlined the need for partnerships that effectively promote and protect human rights.
The panellists delivered brief closing remarks on those and other issues.
LISE KINGO, Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact, said the day’s discussions were rich and illustrative of many innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships. Calling for a “strategic pivot” from small-scale, short-term partnerships to longer-term and more sustainable ones, she said that the scaling up process could prove to be a turning point in the 2030 Agenda’s implementation. The United Nations needs to cut out bureaucracy and become more accountable to its private sector partners — while sending the message that transparency is of the highest importance — and private entities need to continue to build momentum in areas related to sustainable development. Citing the vast financing requirements of the 2030 Agenda, she called on companies to take a sustainable development approach to their daily work, including their foreign direct investments; consider issuing sustainability bonds, including green bonds and gender bonds; and influence pension and retirement plans — estimated to represent some $19 trillion globally — to invest in sustainable development. In addition, she said the United Nations can help local actors become more “partner-ready” and engage more effectively with the private sector.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), Co-facilitator for the 2019 High-level Political Forum political declaration, recounted progress to date in negotiating that document. The co-facilitators continue to invite input from all Member States, he said, pledging to push forward a text with a focused political message that inspires action and highlights the universality of the 2030 Agenda. That document will serve as a kind of linchpin for the Sustainable Development Summit planned for September, as well as the other high-level meetings taking place that month. “The past four years have unleashed a wave of [Sustainable Development Goals] and climate action,” he said, noting that 185 parties out of 197 have ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change; inequality between countries is falling; and many developing countries have seen strides. However, he also cautioned that the world remains off-track for meeting the Goals, forced displacement is on the rise and inequality has risen in some places. A complicated geopolitical landscape, growing intolerance and nationalism have emerged. Against that mixed backdrop, he called on States to support for an action-oriented political declaration that “embraces the positive” and renews the energy and spirit of 2015.
INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), President of the Economic and Social Council, underlined three key messages emanating from the Forum. First, she said, the day’s discussions have demonstrated how multi-stakeholder partnerships can serve as important means of implementing the 2030 Agenda. Second, participants shared how more Governments are seeking to build inclusive partnership platforms with a whole-of-society approach. Finally, delegates also stressed that partnerships that are led by, or associated with, the United Nations should follow distinct, high standards of accountability, transparency and impact. In that regard, she expressed hope that the Forum will continue to promote open and dynamic dialogue among Member States.