27 May 2020

Leverage Reforms to Help World Win ‘Epic’ Battle against Coronavirus, Deputy Secretary-General Urges Economic and Social Council

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s remarks to the fifth session of the Economic and Social Council Operational Activities Segment:  Dialogue with the United Nations Sustainable Development Group Chair and Heads of Entities — Working together to accelerate Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) progress during the Decade of Action and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, in New York today:

It is a great pleasure to join you today, alongside my colleagues from the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG).  I commend the ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Bureau for organizing this Segment.  On behalf the Secretary-General and the UNSDG, I want to recognize our Chair, Ambassador Sandoval, for leading this Segment with great passion and determination to make it a success despite the limitations posed by COVID-19.  We were all hoping for a landmark Operational Activities Segment firmly positioned as the main accountability platform for the system’s collective support to the 2030 Agenda.  And in my opinion, the Segment has delivered just that.

Today, I am accompanied by a small, yet critical group of Principals who embody the commitment and diversity of the wider UNSDG.  My colleagues have not only ensured timely changes to the working modalities and policies of their entities in response to the guidance of the General Assembly; they have also led critical workstreams of the UNSDG.

From Achim Steiner’s able coordination of the Core Group of the UNSDG as my Vice-Chair; through the steady progress made in advancing system-wide partnerships under the co-chairship of Henrietta Fore and Guy Ryder; to the tireless work of Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Inger Andersen in anchoring all that we do in strong foundations of sustainability and gender equality.  I also want to recognize Under-Secretary-General Liu for [the Department of Economic and Social Affairs’] support to all of these discussions.  Another champion of the UNSDG — Dr. Tedros — could not be here today for reasons we can all understand, but we are in good hands with Dr. Jakab.

We are here to today to share some of the experiences of our new generation of United Nations country teams and illustrate how each agency is rewiring its work to strengthen coordination and help countries scale up efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  But, most importantly, we are here to listen to your guidance and perspectives.

Over the past few days, we have reported on progress in implementing the 2016 quadrennial comprehensive periodic review and repositioning the United Nations development system.  We have provided extensive data on where we stand.  We have introduced a first-of-its-kind report on the operations of the Development Coordination Office.  The Secretary-General has put forward detailed proposals to deliver on the remaining QCPR [quadrennial comprehensive periodic review] mandates.

Throughout the Segment, we have heard your views, questions and guidance on the direction of our travel.  The Secretary-General and I are heartened by your continued support and commitment for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  The COVID-19 pandemic hit just as we were preparing for this milestone ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment.  In many ways, it could have hindered our efforts.  It could have put a pause in the organization of this Segment.  Or even to the repositioning process itself.

Well, it has not.  Thanks to your leadership and determination, the Segment has highlighted how the pandemic underscores the urgency of our efforts and the imperative to act.  We are now better prepared to adapt and respond swiftly to crises, switching gears to “development emergency mode”.  Stronger leadership and new accountability systems in United Nations country teams have helped ensure integrated support to Governments, with strong coordination support to resident coordinators by DCO and technical leadership from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNDP and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In the UNSDG, Principals worked together to develop a Framework for action by United Nations country teams, while reprogramming resources and programmatic assets to support the response.  An independent coordination system for development has also enabled stronger collaboration with other pillars.  I am especially grateful to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Peacebuilding Support Office and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), for their substantive inputs, which have helped inform our response to COVID-19 and for the backstopping support they provide to United Nations country teams facing special crises and vulnerabilities.

The ECOSOC discussions with resident coordinators and United Nations country teams members last week have helped to put faces behind the data and statistics in our reports.  Coming from countries as diverse as China, Yemen, Haiti, Mauritius, Uruguay and Armenia, our field colleagues shared their perspectives on how reforms were being implemented as a living experience on the ground.  The substantive discussions on the regional review and multi-country offices showed, once more, the immense opportunity offered by these components to take our reform efforts even further.

Colleagues from regional commissions and other regional offices of the United Nations have helped address many of your remaining questions on the regional repositioning.  Their interventions also provided tangible examples of how the proposed changes to enhance collaboration and transparency in regions can lead to major improvements in our support to the 2030 Agenda.

The session on multi-country offices also revealed how far we have come, together, to get this package right.  I am convinced that we need to continue to move forward together, in a continuous dialogue; and I am also convinced that the time has come to move forward with urgency and step up our support to small island developing States, the majority of which are serviced by multi-country offices.  We emerge from this Segment with an ever-clearer vision of Member States’ positions and expectations on areas that will require a deeper focus moving forward.

I thank each and every one of you for stressing your support, for conveying your perspectives, for asking the hard questions, for identifying areas where we still need to engage and clarify.  As I have said before, we do not take your trust for granted.  We heard you carefully on questions that remain unclear, and on areas that require further attention to consolidate.  And I believe that in the course of this session, our Principals will help clarify additional issues.

I agree with all those Member States who have stated that we must ensure a transparent implementation process should we receive your agreement to move ahead in implementing the remaining mandates.  You can count on my determination to move ahead in full transparency, ensuring frequent reporting to Member States and proposing adjustments to course correct as needed.  We have also heard you loud and clear on the need to continue to consolidate results and deeply engrain the reforms in the work of all parts of the United Nations system and its partners.

Several delegations also underscored their wish to see continued progress in our efforts to ensure more efficient operations, leave no one behind and strengthen the collaboration between development and humanitarian action and its linkages to peace.  The Secretary-General is determined to continue to move ahead with the same ambition that has marked the reforms from the begging.  And the UNSDG is already taking steps to accelerate progress on all these aspects, while also improving its overall ability to provide strategic direction and support to our new generation of United Nations country teams.

The Secretary-General and I are grateful to Member States for putting their weight behind the historic Funding Compact we agreed upon last year.  Even though we are at an early stage, we see commitment and progress on all sides.  This is encouraging and symbolic.  Few reform elements illustrate our spirit of mutual responsibility better than our Funding Compact.  It is also important because only the Funding Compact can help ensure that the funding base of the United Nations development system incentivizes coordination rather than competition.

The COVID-19 crisis has provided a tragic reminder of the importance of core budgets for United Nations development entities, and of a well-resourced coordination function for the system.  Next year’s review by the General Assembly of the resident coordinator system and its funding model will be a welcome opportunity to make any further adjustments needed.  For now, we are on the right track.

You have set an ambitious transformation path for the United Nations development system — a path that could only be delivered through a collective vision and dedicated efforts on all sides.  At times, we had to come out of our comfort zones and institutional positions to make the impossible possible.  It has paid off.  We now have the structures, accountabilities and coordination tools in place to move with energy to implementation on the ground.

Let us remain fully mobilized.  Now is the time to push forward and leverage our reforms to help the world win this epic battle against a virus.  Our achievements thus far were made possible thanks to your leadership and by the collective efforts of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.  Without the support of each member of the United Nations country teams, a reinvigorated resident coordinator system would not be possible.

This is a collective effort, for which the Secretary-General and I are deeply appreciative.  Once again, we are now in the steady hands of Member States.  We count on your decisive action to close the current, deeply transformative, chapter of the QCPR.  We look forward to swift decisions on the remaining mandates — and to a forward-leaning and equally transformative new QCPR cycle.  And we count on your consistent voice across governing bodies around the world.

What we do today and in the days that follow will determine where we will be by the end of the next QCPR cycle in December 2024 — almost mid-way into the Decade for Action.  Let us do all we can to ensure that by the time we get there, the world will be well on track to deliver on the SDGs for everyone, everywhere.  I thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.