21 May 2019

Tackling Complex Global Crises Requires Collective Action, Secretary-General Tells Economic and Social Council’s Operational Activities Segment

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Economic and Social Council’s operational activities segment, in New York today:

I welcome this opportunity to provide an update to these Economic and Social Council operational activities segment.

You have before you my first report to the Council since the landmark General Assembly resolution 72/279 on the repositioning of the United Nations development system.  The report outlines progress not only in response to direct mandates of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review, usually designated as quadrennial comprehensive policy review and General Assembly resolution, but also on all measures I am taking to ensure effective, cohesive and accountable support to the 2030 Agenda.

This includes strengthening our internal platforms and tools in the work of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group — such as new guidelines for sustainable development cooperation frameworks and a management and accountability framework that clarifies the new relationships between United Nations country teams and resident coordinators.

In the spirit of transparency, these that are not direct consequence of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review resolutions will in any case be posted on our websites.

My report also includes updates on all mandates and indicators of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review, which are produced annually by DESA, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

On 1 January, we pivoted to a new era for the United Nations development system — and as my report observes, we are well advanced on this transformative journey.  We have transitioned to a reinvigorated, independent resident coordination system, with sustainable development as its DNA.

The Development Coordination Office, usually called DCO, is up and running, supporting resident coordinators and the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.

We are moving ahead in establishing a new generation of United Nations country teams — more integrated, responsive and accountable as they respond to country priorities and needs with updated guidance, instruments and tools.

We have made a number of adjustments to our Headquarters mechanisms and tools to incentivize and enable transformative change on the ground.

We have crafted a funding compact, hand-in-hand with Member States, to shift away from funding practices that fragment action by United Nations country teams.

We have reviewed our regional assets and our multi-country office arrangements and are now working to better organize ourselves to ensure that every country receives optimal support to achieve results and to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

We are making significant efforts to bring the system together to enhance efficiencies in our operations.

We have put in place important mechanisms to allow United Nations country teams to progressively move towards common back-offices and common premises wherever possible as a key instrument of efficiency.

We are also developing a methodology to periodically track and report efficiencies across the system.

Our objective is clear.  It is not to seek savings simply for its own sake.  Our goal is to strengthen our response to the 2030 Agenda.  Every dollar saved is a dollar that can be reinvested in development activities.

We are also moving ahead in strengthening independent system-wide evaluations, in close consultation with the Joint Inspection Unit and evaluation units of various United Nations entities.

And the United Nations Sustainable Development Group has come a long way in the complex task of drafting a system-wide strategic document that responds to varied needs and expectations of Member States.

We will finalize this document in the coming weeks, in consultation with Member States.

I know that you will have dedicated discussions throughout the next three days on all these elements.  Your feedback on our journey — and on my recommendations for the road ahead — continues to be vital.

Yes, this is a complex, fast moving and far-reaching process.  But I remain absolutely determined to forge ahead with full confidence in our ability to keep moving forward with the same ambition and pace that has marked the process so far.

Why am I confident?

First, because we have clarity on our objectives.  What are those objectives?  To ensure that the United Nations development system is well-positioned to help Member States implement the 2030 Agenda.  And to be more responsible and accountable to national priorities.

National ownership and leadership are and will remain at the centre of our efforts.  An empowered, development-focused resident coordinator will help drive an integrated and meaningful response to your priorities and needs on the ground.

Second, we share a sense of urgency.

The world is not moving fast enough to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to leave no one behind, as it is our central objective.  We are also losing the race against climate change.

We need to fill the financing gap, drawing on all available sources, public and private, so countries can make focused investments to reach the Goals.

No one country or institution can tackle these challenges alone.  We must work together.  For our part, we need a more cohesive, integrated and accountable United Nations development system to help countries accelerate action and achieve the transformative change our world requires.

Third, there is strong political will to rise to this historic opportunity.

I am grateful to all Member States for your support.  You have agreed on a remarkable global blueprint for sustainable development, and a bold and clear General Assembly resolution to usher in the most ambitious reform process in the history of the United Nations.

You have showed unity of purpose across the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Fifth Committee and the governing bodies of the United Nations development system.

You have consistently voiced support for these reforms in your bilateral engagement with entities of the system.

And several Member States have already contributed to the Special Purpose Trust Fund in support of the Resident Coordinator System.  This has allowed us to transition as planned, but a funding gap remains to sustain the resident coordinator system capacities beyond 2019.

The 1 per cent levy is starting to materialize and should help bridge the gap.  We expect to yield resources from the levy as of next month.

I continue to encourage every Member State to contribute.  The resident coordinator system belongs to everyone and a wide funding base is essential.

I am also grateful to all entities of the United Nations development system for their support and engagement.  A smooth operational transition to a new resident coordinator system would not have been possible without the remarkable dedication of colleagues in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Secretariat.

And the timely cost-sharing contributions by the entities of the United Nations development system have been decisive and will remain so as we look ahead.  I am grateful to the Chairs of Governing Bodies of United Nations entities across the world who have demonstrated decisive leadership.

We must sustain the momentum.  These are your reforms, and our transformation to meet your aspirations.  The investments you make in the United Nations development system will yield better results and greater transparency.  Most importantly, our shared efforts will have a stronger impact in the lives of the people we serve.

With that in mind, we come to you for consideration of further proposals to reposition the system and meet the ambitions you have set.  These proposals result from an open and transparent process, marked by extensive consultations within and beyond the United Nations system.

They are informed by a wide array of technical inputs and recommendations from Member States, entities of the United Nations development system, think tanks and other stakeholders.

I count on Member States to endorse the proposed way forward in four specific areas.

First, improving multi-country offices.

I have offered a set of concrete proposals, with a clear road map for implementation.  I will continue to consult with all countries concerned to operationalize them — particularly in discussions about how best to strengthen our presence and capacities.

Second, revamping our regional assets.

We want your feedback around the core transformative areas put forward in my report.  Implementation will be tailored through an open and consultative United Nations system region-by-region change management process.  We will continue to seek your inputs as this process unfolds.

Third, I look forward to the Economic and Social Council’s endorsement of the Funding Compact.

The Compact is the product of a truly collaborative process with all of you.  It symbolizes the spirit of collective responsibility that is at the core of these reforms.  Your endorsement will send a strong signal of mutual trust.

Fourth, I look forward to your feedback as we work together to finalize the system-wide strategic document.  This is a first of its kind exercise — and we need to get it right.

The changes proposed to our regional architecture, multi-country offices, and funding base are critical to maximize the impacts of our reforms.  All these pieces are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.

I trust that the informal sessions held ahead of the Economic and Social Council helped to clarify some of your questions.

As we finalize the document, we will consult the membership.  To move forward, we need to continue to work hand-in-hand.  We have achieved much thanks to our partnership and unity of purpose.

Together, we have made progress that many deemed impossible.  Together, we have indeed found common ground.  Together, we are implementing change at an unprecedented pace and scale.  And we are doing so because the challenges facing the world demand no less.  Because it is only through collective action that we can tackle increasingly complex global crises, threats that know no borders, the race against climate change, financial uncertainty and pervasive inequalities.

We need to continue to move with the same determination and mutual trust for people and planet.

The 2030 Agenda is our best chance to change the world and ensure a future of prosperity, peace and dignity for all.  Let us renew our commitment to action and take bold decisions on the remaining mandates of this transformative journey.

We are crossing a major hurdle in our transformative journey.  Let us complete this journey, together.

For information media. Not an official record.