New York

18 May 2022

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at the 2022 ECOSOC Operational Activities for Development Segment (OAS) Session 4: Regional Repositioning: Role of regional leadership in supporting countries [as prepared for delivery]

Madam Vice President,
Excellencies,

A strengthened United Nations response at the regional level is essential to supporting the 2030 Agenda in every country.

This simple but important aim was at the core of the regional review process that you initiated.

Today, a perfect storm – from climate and biodiversity to most recently the global impact of the war in Ukraine – is threatening to cancel hard-won gains and set us back.

The impact of these crises - rising inequalities, a shrinking fiscal space, ongoing disruptions in global supply chains and financial markets, rise in food prices and inflation – are felt across borders.

No country alone can address them. But regions have an essential role to play. Bringing advocacy, targeted solutions and support to our cross-border challenges.

Ensuring our regional assets are best equipped to respond to countries’ and people’s pressing needs has become even more urgent.

Expert advice, tailored to country and regional contexts in real time, is essential to bring ambitious solutions.

Excellencies,

Over the course of March and April, I chaired the second annual meetings of the Regional Collaborative Platforms in each of the five regions.

I saw first-hand that our reforms have brought us much closer to that objective.

The Regional Collaborative Platforms and their working modalities are now fully established in all regions.

I was encouraged by the emergence of a strong spirit of collaboration and thought leadership in all regions, supported by strengthened dialogues with Resident Coordinators and UN country teams and a solid understanding of countries’ needs and priorities.            

In every region, Resident Coordinators and UN country teams have benefited from consistent support from the regional level. This has resulted in stronger Common Country Analysis and more ambitious Cooperation Frameworks.

The “Issue-based coalitions” or IBCs, one of the main vehicles of the substantive work of the Regional Collaborative Platforms, are providing agile support to countries’ key concerns in the regions. 

In Asia-Pacific, for example, the IBC on Climate Change Mitigation supported UN country teams and Governments to raise the level of ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions in the lead up to COP26 in Glasgow.

In Europe and Central Asia, the IBC on environment and climate change equipped Resident Coordinators and UN country teams with a compendium of measures for green post-pandemic recovery to support Member States in “greening” recovery plans.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the IBC on human mobility deployed system-wide expertise to facilitate a coordinated response to challenges posed by increased human mobility flows across Central America, Colombia and Mexico.

The establishment of knowledge management hubs in all regions have brought us closer to our key objective of providing Resident Coordinators and UN country teams with access to real-time expertise for SDG implementation needs.

In Asia-Pacific, for example, the collective SDG data and statistics work helped enhance the capacity of Resident Coordinator Offices and UNCTs in their work with national statistical systems.

And, with business operation strategies being completed in all regions, we are making our support more effective for our teams.

Published for the second year, the system-wide Results Report of the Regional Collaborative Platforms in 2021 illustrates the results achieved jointly:

For example, in Africa, the Regional Collaborative Platform supported implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, including in-country consultations to inform the proposed Women in Trade Protocol.

In the Arab States region, the Regional Collaborative Platform provided support in the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration with key guiding principles for post-COVID-19 social protection and supported nine countries in their preparations for the Food Systems Summit.

Excellencies,

These are important achievements. But we still have a significant way to go.

Only a little over half of programme country Governments indicated that expertise from the regional offices of United Nations development system entities was easy to access.

 Moving forward, I see four priorities to ensure that our regional assets best support countries in the important transitions of food systems, energy and digital connectivity.

First, I have asked every region to provide updated mapping of the expertise available at the regional level and to ensure that Resident Coordinators can access it, in real time.

Second, we must ensure that regional support, through our issue-based coalitions, remains nimble and agile.

This is not about creating an additional layer of bureaucracy, but bringing together the best experts in the UN to deliver on specific tasks.

Third, with less than eight years to go until 2030, we need to urgently address data challenges to allow for effective monitoring and reporting on the 2030 Agenda.

Building on results achieved, technical support to Resident Coordinators and UN country teams to ensure countries have access to SDG data and statistics is critical in all regions.

Fourth, we must use our improved coordination structures to maximize the impact of our regional assets. This is about avoiding duplication of our action, and using the newly developed business operation strategies to drive an effective response.

I have asked the think tank from Latin America and the Caribbean, CEPEI, which has accompanied the regional review process, to provide an independent stocktaking and their recommendations to support our ambitious objectives for the region.

Excellencies,

For too long, regional entities of the United Nations were left outside of reforms and efforts to enhance the coherence of the United Nations development system.

In many instances, the work of the regional level has also resided outside of system-wide reporting efforts, leading to an accountability gap, or making success stories largely invisible.

With the able support of my Vice-Chairs in regions, the Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions and UNDP regional Director, we are in the process of changing this reality. And I want to welcome the key roles the Regional Commissions are playing in supporting and enabling these changes.

Ultimately,

Our litmus test remains our ability to respond as a system, in real time and efficiently, to changing demands from the country level, and for our collective actions to bring results at scale, with a sense of urgency, towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

I look forward to our exchange to see how we can, together, accelerate that change.

Thank you.