Facing multiple, cascading global crises, the United Nations development system stands committed to “rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals” as the only viable way forward, Secretary-General António Guterres said today, as the Economic and Social Council opened its annual operational activities for development session.
“We are facing a development emergency of global proportions,” said Mr. Guterres, delivering a keynote address. Outlining the findings of his latest report on the implementation of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review — the mechanism by which countries evaluate the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and impact of the United Nations development work around the globe — he said that, in the past three years, the Organization’s development system has been transformed to better respond to countries’ needs and priorities. That includes helping them to overcome today’s multiple crises, such as a pandemic that led to more than 15 million deaths and pushed 100 million people into poverty in 2020 alone.
Stressing the lopsided nature of the global recovery, he said many developing countries remain unvaccinated and have been left to fend for themselves in the aftermath of COVID-19 amid a global financial system “that favours the rich and punishes the poor”. Those challenges are compounded by the effects of the climate crisis and shocks to food, fuel and markets caused by the war in Ukraine. Noting that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development remains the clearest path forward, he reported positive findings about the work of the reformed United Nations development system, pointing out that over 92 per cent of Governments said the Organization responded effectively to COVID-19. However, he also cautioned against complacency and called for the benefits of reform to be urgently scaled up, declaring: “The world is on fire, and so far, international cooperation has not delivered for those who need it most.”
Collen Vixen Kelapile of Botswana, President of the Economic and Social Council, also drew attention to the striking inequalities that continue to characterize how the global community is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, inequality remains extensive, poverty is on the rise, and the climate crisis as well as protracted conflicts are generating all-time-high humanitarian needs. Against that backdrop, the multilateral system is facing a major “stress test” and the global community has a responsibility to decide how it will move forward. For its part, the United Nations development system — guided by the 2020 quadrennial comprehensive policy review — is demonstrating its value in supporting countries as they work to recover from COVID-19 and achieve sustainable development, he said.
Miia Rainne of Finland, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said the segment’s main objective is to ascertain how well the United Nations development system is meeting the demand to “build back better from COVID-19” and get on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. In that work, participants must focus on countries in special situations, including those transitioning from conflicts and crises and the many reeling from record-high food prices and assaults on human rights. “We need bold steps to steer the world onto a more sustainable path, and a recovery that leads to greener, more inclusive economies and stronger, more resilient societies,” she said.
Echoing some of those points, General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid of Maldives emphasized that the goal is not to “rebuild the world as it was before 2020”. Instead, the international community must use the process of recovering from the pandemic to adopt the structural reforms and transformative policies that will achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In that context, he recalled that the latest quadrennial comprehensive policy review — adopted by the General Assembly in 2020 — contains, for the first time, explicit calls for the United Nations development system to support social protection, universal health coverage and education.
The Council held two interactive sessions throughout the day, including one in which representatives of Member States were able to make comments about the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review and pose direct questions. Many speakers welcomed the positive findings set out in the report, while spotlighting remaining challenges. Some delegates called for more attention to the needs of least developed countries, middle-income States and those in special situations, while voicing deep concern over the growing trend of developed nations cutting back on their official development assistance (ODA) just when it is needed most.
During the second interactive session, delegates considered the annual report of the Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group on the Development Coordination Office and the resident coordinator system. They made comments and posed questions to Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and Robert Piper, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Development Coordination Office, who jointly presented that report.
The Council will reconvene in a formal session at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 May, to continue its operational activities for development segment.
COLLEN VIXEN KELAPILE (Botswana), President of the Economic and Social Council, drew attention to the striking inequalities that continue to characterize how the global community is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. “Vaccines remain unavailable in many parts of the world and the socioeconomic impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable countries and people remains concerning,” he said, adding that lives and livelihoods continue to be disrupted by new outbreaks. Meanwhile, inequality — including gender inequality — remains extensive, poverty is on the rise, and the climate crisis as well as protracted conflicts are generating all-time-high humanitarian needs and setting back progress towards achieving the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Emphasizing that the conflict in Ukraine now threatens to unleash major crises in food security, energy access and the financial system with effects across the globe — particularly for the poorest countries — he said the multilateral system now faces a major “stress test”. Moreover, the international community bears a big responsibility in how it chooses to confront all those challenges. “We need to forge ahead and accelerate action to achieve a transformative post-COVID-19 recovery, as well as the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals for a better future for all,” he said, adding: “Global solidarity is the only way forward.”
Against that backdrop, he said the United Nations development system — guided by the 2020 quadrennial comprehensive policy review — is demonstrating its true value in supporting countries as they work to recover from the pandemic and achieve sustainable development and peace. The repositioned development system is providing more integrated, efficient and better-quality support to country needs and priorities on sustainable development. Empowered resident coordinators and a new generation of United Nations country teams are now better positioned to provide tailored support, leveraging assets from across the United Nation system and benefiting from improved Cooperation Frameworks and other planning tools.
Urging participants to discuss the challenges laid out in the Secretary-General’s report, he pointed in particular to issues related to poverty eradication, social protection, quality education, universal health coverage, climate action, energy transition and digital transformation — all based on the 2015 pledge to “leave no one behind”. He also proposed that Member States consider adopting a resolution to review and accelerate the implementation of mandates laid out in the quadrennial review and to engage actively and productively in discussions throughout the operational activities for development segment.
ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, noting that “we do not aim to rebuild the world as it was before 2020”, stressed that the international community must use the process of recovering from the pandemic to adopt the structural reforms and transformative policies that will achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. For many countries, this will require the support of the United Nations development system, and the quadrennial comprehensive policy review — adopted by the General Assembly in late 2020 — contains, for the first time, explicit calls for that system to support social protection, universal health coverage and education. Further, it calls for assisting the most vulnerable, for reinforcing rights-based approaches and gender equality and for tailoring support to the needs of countries in special situations. He went on to say that the Economic and Social Council’s operational activities segment is tasked with reviewing how the United Nations development system implements the General Assembly’s policy guidance and encouraged those present to ensure that such system is equipped to support Member States in inclusive recovery.
MIIA RAINNE (Finland), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council responsible for the operational activities for development segment, also delivered opening remarks. She noted that the segment’s main objective is to review progress made by the United Nations development system on the 2030 Agenda and the implementation of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review, “and ascertain how well the system is meeting the demand to build back better from COVID-19 and get on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”. Over the course of the segment, participants will consider the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the review, as well as the annual report of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group Chair on the Development Coordination Office, and consider how well United Nations entities are aligning their policies and practices to their contents.
Outlining additional goals for the session — including taking stock of how the system is tailoring its support to countries in special situations, including transitions from conflicts and crises — she noted that many developing States are still facing immense challenges in recovering from a pandemic that has pushed millions to extreme poverty and hunger. “As we speak, our food systems and financial systems are fronting more crises,” she said, adding: “Inequalities, food prices and human rights assaults are at record highs.” Meanwhile, increasing violence against women and girls and setbacks on gender equality goals are rolling back decades of progress. The most vulnerable people and countries are at the brink of collapse — all for reasons of which they bear little responsibility — and the world is facing a “code red” on climate change with potentially devastating impacts.
Noting evidence in the Secretary-General’s report that the United Nations development system came together “as never before” to support countries’ response to COVID-19, she said resident coordinators played a key role in that effort. Meanwhile, the new generation of United Nations country teams stepped up and rallied around the new Cooperation Frameworks, and at the regional level collaborative platforms are providing a robust foundation for improved support to countries. “The pandemic has been an unprecedented wake-up call, one that laid bare the deep inequalities between and within countries,” she said, calling for global solutions to global problems. “We need bold steps to steer the world onto a more sustainable path, and a recovery that leads to greener, more inclusive economies and stronger, more resilient societies,” she said.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, declared: “In a world in crisis, rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals is more important than ever.” The pandemic has led to the loss of some 15 million lives, pushed 100 million people into poverty in 2020 alone and set back human development — especially women’s rights — by a full generation. “The pandemic demanded a united response based on solidarity between developed and developing countries, but that did not happen,” he said. Developed countries invested trillions in their own recovery, while developing States have been left to fend for themselves “in a global financial system that favours the rich and punishes the poor”. About 72 per cent of people in high-income States received at least one dose of a COVID‑19 vaccine, compared to just 17 per cent of people in low-income countries. Many in those countries are still dealing with the pandemic’s impacts, along with the effects of the climate crisis and the shocks to food, fuel and financial markets caused by the war in Ukraine.
“We are facing a development emergency of global proportions,” he continued, adding that Governments and people are looking to the United Nations for support through these difficult times. The 2030 Agenda remains the clearest pathway forward. Over the past three years, the United Nations development system has been transformed and is better prepared to respond to countries’ needs and priorities, including helping them to overcome today’s multiple crises. Independent sources and evaluations in my report on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review point to the same conclusion: “The new generation of United Nations country teams is already greater than the sum of its parts.”
Noting that 95 per cent of Governments in countries where programmes exist said that the country teams are more integrated and collaborative than before, he added that over 92 per cent of Governments confirmed that the United Nations responded effectively to the pandemic. Meanwhile, more than 80 per cent said they benefited from policy advice on climate action, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported 120 countries to formulate and revise their nationally determined contributions and national adaptation plans ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Nearly 85 per cent of small island developing States considered United Nations country teams to be aligned with their national needs, and more than $195 million in efficiency gains were generated in 2021 — an increase of 53 per cent since 2020.
Welcoming those gains, he nevertheless stressed that “this is no time for complacency”. “The world is on fire, and so far, international cooperation has not delivered for those who need it most.” The benefits of the development reforms must turn into results at an unprecedented scale in order to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals. Underlining the need to support transitions needed in food systems, energy and digital connectivity, he said resident coordinators have a key role to play, while international financial institutions and multilateral development banks must increase the provision of immediate liquidity to developing countries and expand fiscal space through more financing in the form of grants and concessional loans.
“Over the longer-term, we need a complete overhaul of the global financial system,” he continued. The recommendations in his report on Our Common Agenda include a New Global Deal to ensure power, wealth and opportunities are shared more broadly, so countries can invest in their people. Proposed biennial summits, convening United Nations Member States with the “Group of 20” (G20) and international financial institutions, will be a forum for more inclusive governance of the global economy. Our Common Agenda also calls for all forms of public and private finance to be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
He also outlined several areas for urgent attention within the United Nations country teams, including ensuring they have the specific skills, expertise and configuration to support countries’ transitions in energy, food systems and digital connectivity. More use must be made of the resident coordinator’s convening role by helping Governments to expand and improve partnerships, know-how, financing and development solutions. A change of approach is needed in collaboration on the humanitarian, development and security nexus, ensuring that assets are deployed coherently. The United Nations must also continue to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its business operations, “to make every dollar count”, and collaboration at the regional level must be strengthened.
“None of this can be achieved without adequate, predictable and sustainable funding to the United Nations development system,” he said. Member States and entities have made progress in achieving the Funding Compact, but more is needed, and all partners must align their funding to provide integrated support to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Welcoming that Governments are increasingly satisfied with the support offered by the United Nations development system, he said the multiple crises facing humanity are now “raising the bar even higher”. “We know the solutions, and we are ready to scale up to meet the expectations of Member States,” he said, affirming the Organization’s commitment to the promise of peace, dignity and prosperity on a healthy planet.
Interactive Session I
Participants then took part in an interactive session with the Secretary-General, focused on the contents of his report on the implementation of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/77/69-E/2022/47). It was moderated by Ms. Rainne.
Many speakers welcomed the positive findings set out in the Secretary-General’s report, while raising concerns about remaining challenges — all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, the unequal global recovery and the shocks resulting from rising geopolitical tensions. Some delegates called for more attention to the needs of least developed countries, middle-income States and those in special situations, while voicing deep concern over the growing trend of developed nations cutting back on their official development assistance (ODA) just when it is needed most.
The representative of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the world was already off-track to achieve the Sustainable Development before the pandemic, which further exacerbated existing inequalities within and between countries. Calling for the eradication of poverty in all its forms to remain the system’s overarching objective, he said national ownership and leadership is critical for the delivery of effective results. Expressing deep concern over the trend of major cuts in core allocation for development, he said pervasive imbalance between core and non-core resources also threatens the long-term viability of the United Nations development pillar. “Cutting funding for development is the opposite of what the world needs at a moment when recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is urgent and we are facing global disruptions to supply chains, food insecurity and energy insecurity in most developing regions,” he said.
The representative of Colombia, speaking on behalf of the Like-Minded Countries Supporters of Middle-Income Countries, called for revamped support by the United Nations development system to those States. Support should be provided in line with an approach that reflects the multidimensional vulnerabilities of each country and goes beyond the traditional indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP). In the present context, rising geopolitical tensions, food insecurity and increasingly restricted access to energy have added to the challenges facing middle-income countries as they seek to get back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. He therefore welcomed the creation of the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance and called for additional efforts going forward.
The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States and associating himself with the Group of 77, declared: “It seems that the world is falling apart.” Calling for urgent global solutions — in which the United Nations development system plays an integral part — he cited the special situation faced by the world’s small island developing States and urged stakeholders to ensure that their next blueprint is action-oriented and well-supported at the global level. He also drew attention to the process of addressing their unique needs through the development of a multidimensional vulnerability index, which would allow for access to concessional financing, among other things, and facilitate a more tailored approach to international support.
New Zealand’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Australia and Canada, posed four questions to the Secretary-General. First, she noted that there is mixed feedback from the field on the extent to which United Nations reforms are being modelled and asked how Member States can better assist in ensuring those approaches cascade down to the country level. Second, she recognized the need for tailored approaches to countries in special situations and asked how the United Nations is supporting the development of special offers to such States. Third, she emphasized the importance of mainstreaming the considerations of those in vulnerable situations — particularly women and girls, youth, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples — into the work of the United Nations country teams and asked how resident coordinator offices are supporting that work. Finally, in light of persistent underfunding of the resident coordinator system, she asked how the United Nations can better demonstrate the added value of that system.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, voiced his strong support for the ongoing reform of the United Nations system and welcomed the increased coherence demonstrated at the country level. Remaining challenges include the need for a “coordination culture” among agencies, the finalization of the new results framework, the restructuring of regional assets and financing issues. Current developments in the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which must be fully and transparently investigated, are an unambiguous call that auditing procedures need to be stronger and more harmonized throughout the system. “Let us not be blind to the overall global situation in which these reforms take place,” he added, describing the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine as the most acute threat to development gains and calling for its immediate end.
Thailand’s representative, associating himself with the Group of 77 and stressing that the world has gone “beyond red alert” in its efforts to achieve the sustainable development Goals targets, called for urgent measures to make better use of the Economic and Social Council’s high-level political forum and the Future Summit to push forward quick impact plans aimed at “rescuing the SDGs”. The issue of human security should be incorporated, as appropriate, into national development plans. He also spotlighted the crucial roles being played by the world’s various regional bodies — such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — and called for even stronger partnerships between them and the United Nations system.
The representative of Nigeria, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the United Nations development system must be at the frontlines of supporting countries as they work to fully eradicate poverty. There should be a focus on the specific needs of developing countries, as well as those in special situations, he said, adding that support from the private sector, international financial institutions and other sources will also be critical. He echoed other speakers in expressing concern over reductions in funding and in stressing that national ownership and leadership is critical for delivery and effective results.
India’s representative agreed that the United Nations development system must not weaken its focus on poverty eradication or the needs of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. “The United Nations must therefore sharpen its tools to address the issue of poverty more directly,” she said, voicing India’s support for the current resident coordinator model. However, should any changes be made to that system and its funding structure, they must be Member-State-driven, she stressed.
Meanwhile, the representative of South Africa, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, expressed strong support for United Nations reform efforts and said her country’s long-term development plan is aligned with the strengthened resident coordinator system. “These reform processes are already bearing fruit,” she said. Underlining South Africa’s commitment to the important principle of non-politicization of that system and to its sustainable and predictable funding, she echoed concerns raised about the challenges facing middle-income countries and called for strengthened efforts to address them.
The Russian Federation’s delegate said it is unfortunate that the Economic and Social Council’s work has been politicized by States that have for years lied to developing countries and shifted the blame for such challenges as food insecurity to others. He also welcomed the fact that national development approaches and leadership in that arena are increasingly being respected.
The representative of the United States, pointing out that his country is the largest contributor to the United Nations development system, acknowledged the “life-saving value of reform” and spotlighted several areas that require further improvement. On accountability, he expressed appreciation for the development of a resident coordinator results framework, “a much-needed tool”, and agreed that evaluations will help close accountability gaps. He also requested a specific briefing on that matter.
Mr. GUTERRES, responding to some of those questions and comments, agreed with the representative of the Group of 77 on the need for national ownership in development processes. In fact, he said, 96 per cent of Governments recognized an alignment between Cooperation Frameworks and national development priorities. While everyone agrees on the need for development funding, he drew attention to the potentially “disastrous” trend of reductions in core funding, which must be reversed. Noting the peculiar situation facing middle-income countries — which still face very limited access to concession financing and no access to debt relief — he expressed concern that graduation to middle-income status “has become a punishment” and voiced strong support for the development of a multidimensional vulnerability index, as called for by several delegates.
Responding to questions posed by the representative of New Zealand, he said Member States must engage strongly as part of the boards of United Nations entities to make their views and expectations known. Mainstreaming the needs of women, youth, indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups into the work of United Nations country teams is indeed crucial, as is galvanizing partnerships with the private sector. In response to concerns raised by the representative of the European Union, he agreed that high-quality audits are crucial across the United Nations system but noted that they “sometimes come too late”. Therefore, investigation systems must also be working effectively. He also echoed the importance of prioritizing the needs of least developed countries — especially with regard to funding and debt relief — and voiced concern that the latter is currently “strangling” many of the world’s least developed nations.
Also responding to questions and comments was Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, who drew attention to the cascading nature of the world’s current crises. Agreeing with speakers that “no one size fits all” in the work of the United Nations development system, she said the priorities of any given country must drive the process. The questions of vulnerability — exacerbated by emerging crises — and of development system funding are ones that the United Nations takes extremely seriously and is currently working to address, she said, noting that the commitment by developed countries to spend 0.7 per cent of their gross national income on ODA has still not been met. Instead, there is a trend towards deep cuts. Expressing grave concern over that tendency, she urged Governments to meet their commitments, adding: “This is about investing in peace and development.”
Also speaking were the representatives of Turkey (also on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia), Mauritania (on behalf of the African Group), Peru, Oman, Japan, Finland, Norway, Bangladesh, Mexico, Morocco, United Kingdom, Philippines, Egypt and China.
Interactive Session II
Ms. MOHAMMED, delivering opening remarks, pointed out that the world is currently moving backwards on most of the Sustainable Development Goals, which was happening even before the onset of the pandemic. “When we declared the decade of action, we knew we were coming from behind,” she said, and pandemic-related challenges have been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine to fuel triple crises in food, energy and finance. Urgent efforts must be made to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals and, towards that end, a repositioned resident coordinator system is enabling a more effective convening of partners and stakeholders to support countries in achieving the Goals. Resident coordinators — supported by economists — have also played a key role in expanding access to financing for the Goals.
She went on to say that, while the collective results of the United Nations development system show that it can rise to the challenges ahead — especially with ongoing reforms — “there is still a long way to go”. The system must prioritize supporting key transitions in the energy, food and digital sectors, strengthen human-capital investments and overhaul the global financial system to support access to Sustainable Development Goal financing. The resident coordinator system has an important role to play in enabling these transformative changes, and United Nations development system business models must enable resident coordinators to play their convening and coordinating roles to the fullest. She also noted that, at a time when a push towards the Sustainable Development Goals is needed, funding to the resident coordinator system continues to fall short of its required annual budget of $281 million.
ROBERT PIPER, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Development Coordination Office, thanked Member States for their support and engagement over the last four years in areas such as funding-compact negotiations, efficiency issues and recent collaboration on Afghanistan. While there is still a way to go, he welcomed the achievements of resident coordinators in the field and the Development Coordination Office in supporting the same. He added that, while he will soon transition to working on the issue of internally displaced persons — a long-term issue that has been treated for too long as an emergency short-term one — he will not be far removed from the work he is currently performing.
Participants then took part in an interactive session with the Deputy Secretary-General and the Director of the Development Coordination Office, focused on the contents of the Report of the Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (document E/2022/54). It was moderated by Ms. Rainne.
Many speakers highlighted the critical support provided by resident coordinators and country teams to countries during the pandemic, while also welcoming the same’s contribution to national plans to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Delegates expressed concern, however, over the chronic underfunding of the resident coordinator system and over the need for better indicators for evaluating its efforts. Others also stressed the need for increased coordination and coherence across the entirety of the United Nations development system in order to make the most efficient use of existing resources.
The representative of Pakistan, speaking for the Group of 77, expressed regret over the delay in the dissemination of the report, which did not give Member States enough time to properly review and analyse the same. Turning to the resident coordinator system results framework in Annex II of the report, he said such a framework must be responsive to the Secretary-General’s proposals for a reinvigorated resident coordinator system and to the objectives and mandate contained in the quadrennial comprehensive policy review. Further, it should give an accounting of the system’s estimated budget of $281 million and include performance indicators that reflect the system’s contribution towards helping programme countries implement the 2030 Agenda. He added that resident coordinators must be transparent and accountable to host Governments, including through timely reporting.
The representative of Cuba, aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the statement to be delivered by the Alliance of Small Island States, recognized resident coordinators’ leadership in providing support to national plans and priorities. She stressed, however, that financing levels for the resident coordinator system are lower than what is necessary, noting that the report indicated a financing deficit of $66 million in 2021 due, inter alia, to insufficient voluntary contributions. Sustainable, predictive financing for the system must be achieved. She went on to say that any evaluative framework for the system must be flexible so that resident coordinators can adapt to national specifics. Noting that many operational activities have been limited in recent years by pandemic-related restrictions, she asked how it will be possible to effectively and efficiently carry out operations on the ground given both this fact and the financial deficit.
The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking for the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, echoed calls to receive reports in a timely manner to enhance deliberations in the Economic and Social Council, which provides oversight for the United Nations development system. Noting that such system, along with the resident coordinator system, can be effective instruments in helping small-island developing States report and monitor SAMOA Pathway achievements, she stressed that resident coordinators must tailor their efforts to specific populations. Further, the evaluative framework for the latter system should focus on the Secretary-General’s proposals for revitalization and repositioning of the same, along with input from the quadrennial comprehensive policy review. The Alliance will remain engaged towards this end, as the resident coordinator system is a critical support system for small States.
The representative of Armenia welcomed efforts by the United Nations development architecture in assisting Governments with pandemic-induced challenges and with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. He went on to say that proper functioning of the resident coordinator system requires stronger coordination between the Development Coordination Office and relevant United Nations entities, particularly where complex conflict situations exist. In this regard, development efforts must go hand-in-hand with the peace process to facilitate mutual support and reinforcement between the two. On the issue of evaluating the system’s efficiency, he pointed out that an important indicator of the same is the timely selection and appointment of resident coordinators.
The representative of Norway said that the increasing number of United Nations entities signing on to Cooperation Frameworks is a positive development, but stressed that more must be done to enable entities without a physical presence to contribute to the collective efforts of country teams. While welcoming that the draft evaluative framework for the resident coordinator system focuses more on evidence-based indicators — and less on perception-based ones — and, further, limits the number of indicators used, she stressed the need to include indicators that measure the degree of collaboration within United Nations country teams. These could include, for example, the number of joint programmes and the degree of joint resource mobilization at the country level.
The representative of Bhutan, spotlighting the United Nations development system’s critical role in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals and pandemic recovery at the country level, pointed out that the system enabled over 90 per cent of his country’s population to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Further, the United Nations country team in Bhutan is an integral partner in the country’s development journey, with 31 United Nations agencies operating therein along with eight resident entities all working under the United Nations resident coordinator. He stressed that developing countries — particularly least-developed and landlocked developing States — need a strong, reinvigorated resident coordinator system to lead a new generation of United Nations country teams in delivering a scaled-up response to national needs and priorities.
The representative of Morocco said that the success of the reinvigorated resident coordinator system is encouraging, and that the repositioning of the United Nations development system has been noticed at many levels, especially during the pandemic. On the evaluative framework for the system, she supported applying the programme-budget structure to ensure clear linkages between inputs and outputs. Further, indicators should be limited, balanced and aligned with clear expected outcomes depending on the priorities set by the quadrennial comprehensive policy review. She also called for funding the system in a predictable, sustainable manner and asked how discussions pertaining to its evaluative framework could reflect resident coordinators’ financial situations.
The representative of Canada expressed hope that, moving forward, the United Nations can take full advantage of the lessons learned during the last two years, including the use of digital processes and virtual tools. Canada will continue to support consistent approaches and standards at Headquarters and in the field, particularly to avoid competition for funding, as effective business operation is an essential element of the reform agenda to facilitate better use of resources and reduce duplication of effort. She also expressed concern over the chronic underfunding of the resident coordinator system — especially during these uncertain economic times — and encouraged all Member States to contribute to the system’s special purpose trust fund.
Ms. MOHAMMED, responding to some of those questions and comments, addressing the representative of the Group of 77’s query on accounting, said that the $281 million estimated budget for the resident coordinator system is for the basic infrastructure of the Development Coordination Office and is supported by considerable documentation and analysis. No programmatic activities are funded from this budget, she added. Responding to the representative of Cuba’s question on operational activities being affected by the pandemic, she said that in developing countries the first priority is to get vaccines to everyone. However, due to issues with deployment and pushback from certain communities, there is a parallel need to engage with Governments on these matters along with those relating to the 2030 Agenda. However, this has proved difficult, as Governments currently face many financial constraints.
She went on to say that, in considering how to better coordinate the Organization’s footprint on the ground to maximize its response to the substantial challenges faced by Governments, resident coordinators are there “to convene the best of what we have to deliver for Member States and their priorities”. However, while the resident coordinators can take the horse of United Nations country teams to water, it cannot make them drink. For this to happen, the leadership of that system must be challenged to move closer to delivering the Sustainable Development Goals. If cooperation frameworks and country project documents don’t align, she stressed, “we will never reach the promised land”.
Mr. PIPER, also responding to questions and comments, emphasized that the evaluative framework for the resident coordinator system is a draft that has been through several rounds of consultations at the regional level. He added that any feedback thereon is welcome. He went on to note that, as the system functions as an enabler, results achieved by agencies must not be attributed to the system. As such, indicators must be found that capture this essential enabling role without taking credit for the final outcome. The draft framework currently uses a mix of perception-based indictors — for example, Government opinions on the quality of policy advice — and quantitative ones such as the number of joint programmes that focus on gender equality. It has not been designed to create a compliance system; rather, it attempts to analyse and respond to gaps, he said.
Also speaking were the representatives of Mexico, Germany, Spain, Japan, United States, India, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland.
* The 12th & 13th Meetings were not covered.