New York

08 December 2020

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at Virtual Global Resident Coordinators Meeting [as prepared for delivery]

Dear Resident Coordinators around the world,

Dear colleagues from across the system,

A special welcome to Laurie Garret – a leading voice on epidemics and various other issues that concern us today.  

It is a pleasure to be with you.

Let me begin by joining the Secretary-General in thanking you for your commitment to supporting Governments and the people we serve, everywhere, during this unprecedented crisis.

The Secretary-General was pleased to exchange with you in the opening of the retreat yesterday. He appreciated your insights and reflections.

The UN’s collective response in countries, under your leadership, has been remarkable.

We asked that the UN development system switch to emergency mode. And together, from country level to the global level, we demonstrated this was possible.

Within the space of a few months, we developed a crucial overarching UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19; helped to mobilize resources through a dedicated COVID-19 Trust Fund and launched a major push on financing for development.

And in less than 9 months, you developed 118 socio-economic response and recovery plans covering 136 countries that are beginning to deliver impressive and promising results.

Close to 6 million non-COVID vaccinations were performed; almost 7 million people received maternal health services and 5 million benefited from nutrition programmes.  42 countries have implemented social protection policies focused on at risk populations with UN support.  

We must celebrate this success and take inspiration from it moving forward.
           
Yet, in spite of our efforts, COVID-19 continues to have a dramatic impact on lives and livelihoods and has knocked the Sustainable Development Goals even further off track.

The widespread closure of businesses and factories, coupled with the contraction of the formal and informal economies, could push a further 115 million people into extreme poverty; and employment, particularly for young people, has been hit hard.

An estimated 495 million full-time equivalent  jobs had been lost by the end of the second quarter, and working-hour losses are expected to remain high in the third quarter of 2020.

At its peak this summer, the pandemic also disrupted the education of more than 90 per cent of students worldwide; deepening a pre-existing learning crisis and further widening the education financing gap.

With rates of domestic violence increasing exponentially —  and with women bearing an added care burden at home and dropping out of the labor force at alarming rates —COVID-19 could set back gender equality considerably.

And amidst these dramatic socioeconomic impacts, we have moved closer and closer to climate catastrophe. 2020 is on track to be one of the three warmest years on record.
 
In times like these, the world needs direction and hope.

And it needs innovative solutions.

That is why, as the Secretary-General put it very clearly yesterday - more than ever, the 2030 Agenda must remain our compass.

And in 2021, through recovery strategies and investments that are anchored in driving greater inclusion, resilience and sustainability, we have a truly unique opportunity to help bring the Agenda to life, drawing on our proven results that development can, indeed, be done in emergency mode.
           
Today I want us to focus on our role in facilitating concrete, scalable solutions to make this happen.

I am delighted that we are joined by colleagues who have been instrumental in designing and implementing our Socio-Economic Response framework.

The framework is our blueprint for emerging stronger and recovering better.  
We must use it to the fullest, with the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals as the overarching goal.

In all countries, we must support access to a COVID vaccines with the utmost priority. We must support progress towards universal social protection, building on the increase of coverage during the COVID-19 response and redesigning social protection systems so they bolster resilience and better enable people to withstand shocks, including climate shocks.

It is also key that our response be targeted and tailored to country and regional contexts, and integrated across the humanitarian, development and peace pillars.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, we must focus efforts on reversing growing poverty and addressing historic inequality that perpetuate structural challenges; we must rebuild confidence in institutions and democracy - by showing it can deliver a better life for all; we must fight all forms of violence, including by accelerating the Spotlight Initiative and eliminate violence against women and girls.

In Europe and Central Asia, we must rethink key drivers of economic growth; and supporting communities’ resilience through social dialogue and the participation of women, young people and the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in decision-making.

In the Arab States, we need to use equitable socio-economic investment and recovery as a means to address gender, ethnicity and geographic disparities; strengthening the interlinkages with peace activities, particularly within complex settings and sanctioned countries.

In Africa, we must focus efforts on leveraging the immense potential of youth; bolstering institutions’ agility to respond to crises and strengthen mechanisms to address inequalities; promote digital inclusion and center our efforts on youth, women and marginalized communities.
We must strengthen synergies of regional strategies such as on the Great Lakes, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel with the Cooperation Frameworks in these countries.

In Asia-Pacific, we must support greater investment in strong social protection programmes, with a focus on groups that are increasingly excluded as a result of COVID-19; and increase the use of digital technologies for equitable, inclusive and sustainable economies.

Dear colleagues,
In the coming days – possibly even later today - the General Assembly is expected to take action on the 2020 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review resolution, setting out Member State expectations of the entire UN development system for the first half of the Decade of Action.

Given the changes since the 2016 resolution, it is clear that they are as committed as ever to fully operationalizing the reforms.

They also wish for us to deliver better on financing and means of implementation; on leaving no one behind and mainstreaming gender equality; on collaborating across our development, humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts; and on driving climate action.

This week is an opportunity to discuss what more is needed to meet these expectations and to ensure the reform reaches its full, intended results – UN country teams working together as one cohesive team, harvesting the wealth of expertise available at the regional and global level.

Dear colleagues,

Stepping back from it all, the challenge ahead of us can be daunting. But with the ambition, collective expertise and the convening power of the UN system we can support truly transformative change over the next ten years.

We have to believe it is possible.
 
We have to convince others it is so.

And we have to be ready to provide the type of advice and support that can drive the greatest impact.

We are at a pivot point.  Decisions over the next year will make a difference for generations to come.
 
Look no further than UNDP’s recent study on poverty and COVID-19.
Under one scenario, 250 million more people could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030.  Under another, almost 150 million people could be lifted out.

In other words, a net difference of whether 400 million people will live in extreme poverty, 
It all comes down to leadership and policy choices.  Targeted investments.  Strategic choices.   
At the global level, we will play our part to mobilize the resources, momentum and leadership needed.

But you and your teams at country and regional levels are where the rubber hits the road; where the recovery and the SDGs will either sink or swim.

The stakes are high.

So let us make good use of our time this week to discuss how we can move forward together and support you better to truly reignite our Decade of Action.

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