Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Economic and Social Council Integration Segment on the Annual Overview Report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), in New York today:
I am very grateful for the opportunity, as Chairman of the Chief Executives Board for Coordination, to introduce the CEB Annual Overview Report and to update you on recent inter-agency cooperation. The Report provides highlights of key system-wide activities, as well as insights into the progress we have made as United Nations leaders to deliver real value in supporting you to attain the Sustainable Development Goals. Obviously, in my introduction, I will refer only to some of the aspects of the Report; the Report in itself, of course, covers all the activities that we have developed.
Soon after taking office, I underscored my intention to bring the organizations of the United Nations system closer together in recognition of our interconnectedness and in pursuit of our shared goals. The Chief Executives Board is a unique forum that can and should be a strategic policy space and a driver of integration and coherence. By functioning more like a think‑tank, the Board has become a critical component in enhancing the coordination and direction-setting role of the United Nations leadership.
We use this forum to speak freely and candidly, with an eye to the future even as we address current challenges. The Chief Executives Board members possess deep multidimensional, multisectoral and multidisciplinary capacities. Our meetings are an opportunity to apply this wealth of expertise to shared challenges that can only be addressed at the highest level of leadership.
I have taken a less formal, more focused approach to the CEB sessions, exploring fewer issues in greater depth. I have found it more valuable to us collectively, and to you as our mandate-setters, that each executive head participant acts as an individual, bringing a career’s worth of wisdom to the table, rather than exclusively wearing his or her current organizational hat.
I also started inviting senior managers in the areas of peace and security to participate in the sessions of the Board to ensure that we take an integrated and inclusive approach to decision making and planning that will result in coordinated, coherent outcomes for sustainable development. And for the first time, I have invited my Youth Envoy to take part in the CEB deliberations. In a world marked by rapid change and evolving power dynamics, and where more than half the population is under the age of 30, the United Nations system has a duty to include young people at the table.
In our discussions we cover strategic, cross-cutting matters and we focus on common working methods. My aim is for each CEB member to leave our sessions with a shared understanding and vision of the immediate priorities of the United Nations system, with clarity about each entity’s respective contribution and with the conviction to lead courageously. Of course, the high-level committees on programmes and management are instrumental in helping to drive these priorities forward by translating them into concrete, coherent and impact-oriented joint action.
Let me now turn to some key CEB workstreams to illustrate the Board’s recent direction and engagement. I have made it a priority to bring the United Nations system into the twenty-first century. Over a year and a half ago, I put innovation on CEB’s agenda and asked the Board to examine the opportunities and challenges presented by frontier technologies and the fourth industrial revolution, as well as the potential entry points for United Nations system engagement.
Our aim as United Nations leaders is to support the delivery of the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement [on climate change] and all our international commitments in a manner that is suited for the digital age. In order to fulfil our respective mandates, we need to keep pace with exponential technological advances to ensure that they serve humanity and to understand the risks. While these technologies have made the world more connected and commerce more efficient, we have also seen the ways they can be misused to spread xenophobia or polarizing rhetoric.
I strongly believe that, without these new technologies and future technological breakthroughs, it will be impossible for us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. As we all know, we are lagging behind in relation to our timetable. Our heads of policy have looked carefully at issues that relate to artificial intelligence, cyberspace, biotechnology and new weaponry. And our heads of management and administration have explored how to integrate frontier technologies and new ways of working into their business processes and infuse their domains with a dose of innovative spirit.
As an example, United Nations entities adopted the United Nations Semantic Interoperability Framework, bringing us into a new era in managing the high volume of parliamentary and normative documents produced by different United Nations organizations and helping us move beyond the “paper paradigm”. Having machine‑readable documents available in a common, semantically rich format will be a considerable asset for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which requires a robust review mechanism and a solid framework for evidence-based policies and accountability.
The Board has also tasked the CEB secretariat, along with the United Nations Innovation Network, to develop a set of tools to enable United Nations system entities to cultivate and scale up innovation. This toolkit will help us navigate what is, for many of us, uncharted territory — topics such as human-centred design, ecosystem analysis and managing innovation partnerships. The United Nations System Staff College, which will host and manage the tools, will start rolling out the first-generation United Nations system innovation toolkit over this summer. It will be accessible to you, as well, and your Governments may wish to make use of it. I want to take this opportunity to thank the Governments of Switzerland, United Kingdom, Japan and the Republic of Korea, as well as the United Nations Foundation, for their support for this initiative.
Furthermore, our changing social and political systems require us to rethink our educational systems, social safety nets, regulations and our own role in the world. The CEB deliberated on these changes through the lens of work, since it is in that arena where society faces some of the most universal, disruptive and consequential developments. The CEB has produced a strategy on the “Future of Work”, and all entities will be involved in taking it forward.
As another example, and in response to the call of Member States to strengthen inter-agency coordination and coherence regarding the world drug problem, in 2018 CEB adopted a United Nations system common position on drug policies. Among the actions agreed is a commitment to “support the development and implementation of policies that put people, health and human rights at the centre […] and to promote a rebalancing of drug policies and interventions towards public health approaches”. This agreement creates potential for significant policy evolution on drugs.
Finally, I would like to mention CEB’s role on several other priorities. In line with the Board’s and my personal commitment to make addressing sexual harassment a priority for all system entities, the CEB endorsed a series of measures developed by its Task Force to ensure that the United Nations is a place where staff are valued and empowered to speak up, and where sexual harassment is never tolerated. The United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy, which I launched at last month’s meeting of Parties to the Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities, was also endorsed by the CEB in 2019. CEB members were also actively engaged on the Strategy for Sustainability Management in the United Nations system, which covers the period from 2020 to 2030 and is an important push towards mainstreaming environmental considerations into our programmes and operations.
At the latest CEB session in May of this year, the Board members issued a Joint Appeal for the Climate Action Summit this September, outlining concrete United Nations system actions and targets in the areas of mitigation, adaptation, finance and innovation. The CEB is committed to making this gathering, and the other important meetings taking place during the high-level week, a galvanizing and unifying moment. In closing, let me again thank all of you for this opportunity to brief you. I look forward to your views as the CEB continues to forge solutions to today’s global challenges that can advance peace and sustainable development for all. Thank you.