Rebeca Grynspan: Opening of UNEP's Global Ministerial Environment Forum

Feb 18, 2013

Ministerial Plenary at the opening of UNEP's Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GMEF) - UNEP's Governing Council
Remarks by
Ms. Rebeca Grynspan
UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator
Nairobi, Monday, 18 February 2013

Mr. President,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to begin by congratulating H.E. Mr. Hassan Abdel Gadr Hilal with his election as President of UNEP's Governing Council.

I would also like to warmly thank Mr. Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, for inviting me to be a part of such a distinguished panel.

Member States took a landmark decision at Rio+20, when they decided to strengthen and upgrade UNEP. This decision reflects the trust and expectations held for UNEP. I want to congratulate UNEP, Achim Steiner for his strong leadership, and his team and Amina for all the work that has gone into building and strengthening the organization.

UNDP and UNEP are natural partners when it comes to advancing sustainable development around the world. We have enjoyed a longstanding collaboration, which has only expanded in recent years.

Now, as we start implementing the outcome from Rio, UNDP remains committed to strengthen this partnership even further to support countries develop inclusive green economies and sustainable human development trajectories that will improve in a meaningful way the lives of all and eradicate poverty, within our planetary boundaries.

An important legacy from Rio+20 is the strong commitment to integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development starting by recognizing that these are not competing objectives but complementary and fundamentally interconnected ones.

We need to move from a discourse that emphasizes the trade-offs between growth, poverty and environment, to an agenda that concentrates in what UNDP has called "the triple win" approach to sustainable development, designed to advance economic, social, and environment objectives together. Too many times the conversation still concentrates in the perceived trade offs. We know this is the wrong way to see it. We know that sustainable development is not only an option but the ONLY option for a shared future in this planet. We know as many say, that there is no Planet B! We recognize that there are costs associated with moving to a sustainable development path, but we also know that the costs of not doing so are incredibly higher and that we are already paying for our inability to act much more forcefully and that the ones that are suffering the most are precisely those that contributed less to create the problem, the most vulnerable, women and children!

UNDP works on the ground in 177 countries and territories to help governments formulate and implement their development priorities, policies, and programmes. We work with multiple ministries and partners together with our UN sister agencies.

It is our experience that successful achievement of environmental objectives on the ground requires a sustainable development approach that both mitigates and incentivizes the economic and social forces that put the environment at risk. Let me very quickly summarize the main points of this approach.

a. We need country ownership.

b. We need to maintain the poverty and equity focus of the agenda.

c. We need to have a multistakholder, multidisciplinary and multisectoral conversation to advance smart public policy solutions.

d. We need to bring the voices of civil society, the private sector community and the men and women that will be the real actors in a transformative agenda.

e. We need to include a gender focus to enhance development effectiveness and the results in all streams of sustainable development. This should not be an afterthought in the discussions. Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of participating in the Forum on Gender and the Environment of the Network of Women Ministers and Leaders for Environment. A most encouraging meeting showing that women are indeed more than ready to exercise their influence and leadership to help put us on a more sustainable trajectory.

f. We need to change the way in which we measure progress. You know that this is very close to UNDP's heart having been the proponent of the Human development paradigm, and the Human development index. We know the importance of measurement for decision making and for policy makers! Governments recognized this in Rio when they decided to request the UN Statistical Commission to launch a programme of work to look into broader measures of progress to complement GDP. The Statistical Commission will be meeting in a few weeks.

g. And finally, we need a coordinated and coherence approach from the UN system and from all development partners of the international community. This need for collaboration and coherence was clearly recognized in the Rio Outcome Document, as well as in the recently agreed GA resolution on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of the UN development system operational activities. Here, the Resident Co-ordinator system plays a critical role as it brings together all members of the UN Country team at the country level, making them better equipped and less fragmented to provide integrated support and address cross-cutting issues.

In this spirit let me very quickly list some of the things we are doing with UNEP and others partners:

1.UNEP and UNDP are carrying out two very important joint projects.

a.The Poverty Environment Initiative (PEI), under which UNEP and UNDP work together in 28 countries,

b. and the more recent Green Economy Joint Programme, where UNDESA is also a partner and that we hope to complement in a joint multi-partner collaboration in the PAGE initiative.

  • I am convinced that the Poverty and Environment Initiative (PEI) that is already in its second phase will provide very important lessons for the Post 2015 agenda and the discussion on the SDGs. A very good example is Bangladesh, where PEI has been working with the ministries of planning, environment, and finance since 2008 to mainstream pro-poor, gender-sensitive environment and climate change issues in national development processes, budgets and economic decision-making.
  • As a result, (1) poverty-environment-climate issues have been incorporated into key national and sectoral planning documents; (2) a Climate Public Expenditure and Institutional Review has allowed the Government to ensure that money spent to adapt or mitigate climate change is allocated the best way; and (3) proposals seeking public funding in Bangladesh must now demonstrate the percentage of poor people who will benefit, what the impact on natural resources will be, and the extent of resilience of new infrastructure to climate change.
  • In the case of advancing the inclusive green economy agenda we have learnt from our joint program with UNDESA and UNEP that the priority areas asked by the countries is: first to unpack and operationalize the "green economy" concept; second, the importance of capacity building for enhanced collaboration and coordination across sectors and levels of government; third, to leverage South South and trilateral cooperation and finally to remember that green does not necessarily mean inclusive so NOT to sideline the inclusive agenda.

2. With UNEP we are also carrying out a study which has indicated that there is considerable scope for enhancing efficiency and minimizing transaction costs for our partner governments if we are more conscious about taking lessons learned into consideration when we set up new or revise existing joint programmes.

3. And we are co organizing the thematic consultation on environmental sustainability in the framework of the post MDG agenda that will be held in Costa Rica in the coming month of March.

I thank UNEP and UNDP teams for giving such good examples of what we can achieve when we work together.

Post-2015 framework, MDGs, and SDGs

Finally, I'd like to share a few reflections on the MDGs and SDGs and the post-2015 development agenda.

The MDGs have succeeded on many levels and enormous progress has been made towards achieving them - helping improve the lives of billions. A fundamental element showing that it has been a clear, observable and meaningful agenda.

The challenge we now face is to accelerate progress to the 2015 MDG target date, while working towards agreement on a bold, ambitious, unified and universal post-2015 development agenda that links to a set of SDGs which truly reflects the three dimensions of sustainable development in an integrated manner.

In the UN system, we are doing everything we can to help further convergence around a single development agenda, including by ensuring that feedback and outcomes from different work streams will be available to inform the GA's Open Working Group on the SDGs.

To this end, we are seeking the views of governments and citizens around the world through an unprecedented set of global, national, and regional consultations: a virtual global dialogue, 11 thematic consultations and 74 already confirmed national consultations.

It is our hope that all these streams will lead to the development of clear, measurable, and easily communicated goals and targets which will advance sustainable development.


Allow me to conclude by reemphasizing that UNDP is strongly committed to play its part in implementing the outcome from Rio+20.

In so doing, we look forward to working with UNEP, and all other partners present, in making the most of our collective strengths to support countries in advancing their sustainable development objectives.

Thank you

UNDP Around the world