Sigrid Kaag: Remarks on the Opening of the ECOSOC Special Policy Dialogue

Apr 23, 2013

Sigrid Kaag
Assistant Administrator & Director
UNDP Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy (BERA)

Remarks on the occasion of an opening
of the ECOSOC Special Policy Dialogue

“The Role of Philanthropic Organizations in the Post-2015 Setting”

23 April 2013, 10 a.m.



Thank you President of ECOSOC Nestor Osorio, distinguished delegates and ASG Thomas Stelzer. I am delighted to join you today to listen and engage with all of you from the UN, foundations and member states about the evolving development paradigm, views on collaboration and the leveraging of our unique skills and competencies for better development outcomes.

Let me begin by congratulating our DESA colleagues for creating space to continue this conversation around the post-2015 agenda, building on previous meetings since 2010 as well as the follow up to the Rio conference. I would like to also extend equal thanks to OECD Netfwd and our partner Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmakers Support, with whom we work on advocacy and knowledge exchanges.

What matters in our conversation is translating our ideas into concrete sustainable development outcomes which are measurable and tangible and the realization of a new development vision at country level as well as globally.

My remarks today will focus on our understanding of how the development landscape is evolving, what this means for us at the UN and also posing some questions to foundations for today’s discussion.

I would also like to mention that prior to this session we organized an e-discussion with some insightful comments that will be useful for today’s conversation:

•    There is a need to recognize and celebrate different roles, contributions and views of different development actors, both big and small, who are all aligned around the need to achieve progress on development outcomes.  
•    We must learn from the past lessons learnt of effective collaboration and strategic partnerships and use these examples when discussing the HOW of the new development agenda currently debated at global and country levels including the High Level Panel and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Open Working Group and country level consultations.
•    There has to be continuous emphasis on building trust, validating equality in relationships whilst recognizing the vast array of approaches and roles of partners. Trust comes from knowledge, understanding and a genuine appetite for mutual learning, the ability to agree to disagree, and not from working in isolation or silos from one another. Ultimately, trust is about building a vision together.
•    Last but not least, we all recognize that transactional partnerships are not the way forward and instead look beyond funding to build multi-assets partnerships.

Philanthropic contributions to development

Based on the above basic relationship building tenets, we should ask ourselves where we are today in order to discuss forward looking relationship to effectively implement the future development agenda. In a world with falling ODA, development resources must be used in most catalytic manner to realize the emerging bold and ambitious development agenda: sustainable, inclusive and representative.

•    Philanthropy has evolved significantly over time, and is recognized as a building block in the development cooperation.
•    We live in an interconnected world and recognize the need to support diverse approaches, including traditional grants as well as new forms of investments to contribute to development design and implementation.
•    Philanthropy is much more than financing. It is also about commitment to research to develop innovative development solutions, it is also shaping public policy through advocacy; including taking global debate to grassroots levels. Finally, foundations provide critical backbone support to local development actors: technical expertise, funds, direct project support.
•    Philanthropic organizations also have the ability to undertake and embrace risk. This is not a strength of the larger system entities like the UN although we are working towards better risk management, where we strengthen our ability to recognize  risks and measures to address situations without stifling action and without creating obstacles in the way of innovation. Foundations can pioneer investments in new areas, and through research to provide proof of concept including how NOT TO do things.
•    Philanthropic ability to take risks is utmost important in supporting technological innovations to development and finding applied solutions to local, sub-national or global levels.
•    These innovations can help to modernize the development industry. Examples of venture philanthropy are compelling, equally so the potential offered through ”impact investing”. Many of us work in an Official Development Assistance -dominated setting. While we appreciate the value of ODA, we also recognize the importance and significance of the complementary nature of all funding and financing streams.
•    We see that the down sides are equal to some of the drawdowns that institutional development providers may present to counterparts which is an increase to fragmentation, competition and a transfer of transaction costs. The Paris, Accra and Busan outcome documents are relevant to all of us, no matter how large or small, when it comes to the needs and demands of partner countries.
•    In a world with increased and consistent calls by citizens, individuals and social actors alike, we hear a clear call and would like to respond with a better data and greater transparency and accountability.
•    The ongoing debate on the effective development cooperation tells us that partnerships are necessary as we must invest more time to better understand respective strengths, appetite to work together and address operational obstacles.
•    Implementation and scaling up is no longer the unique realm of the bilateral or multilateral development organizations. Implementation and scaling can be effective implemented by civil society organizations, private sector and thanks to great outreach of social media. The power of mobilization and citizens engagement is unprecedented and foundations are well placed to tap into this reality, not just in the OECD but even more so in the South.
•    Examples of key philanthropic actors are self-explanatory and their role in policy setting, shaping debate through advocacy and interventions is self-evident. Philanthropic contributions to development have been evident in health, education and agricultural sectors.

We will take messages from today’s discussion to the different policy fora and avenues where substantive discussion on the post 2015 development are taking place; the DCF ECOSOC, the Global Partnership on Development Effectiveness (post-Busan) as well as the future of development goals.  While we recognize that the debate about the next generations of the MDGs in still on-going, we seek to establish a more holistic view on the enablers to development, amongst others through strategic partnerships, the linkages between ODA and broader development finance and the different funding streams available to reach sustainable development outcomes.

How do we look at the role of philanthropic organizations in the post-2015 setting?

Partnerships as a critical enabler in the post-2015 agenda are a priority in the Secretary General second term. Examples include the establishment of a strengthened partnership mechanism: the UN Partnership Facility. Within the UN entities, funds and programs, the HOW and the approach to delivery through co-creation and alliance building is increasingly recognized and supported. The UN’s normative approach, the rights-based-approaches to programming in a context of human rights, is a universal value.

We are looking for a networked approach to development solutions; focusing on transformational change at country level, both in substance and the way through which we arrive at results. Some key ideas and questions include:
•    How would we leverage our assets, best at country level? What kind of coordination mechanisms would be most effective? Are there effective models we should sponsor and aim for, or should we look for the hybrid coalitions against results or specific outcomes, using a more market-oriented approach (have you got the same view, relevant capacity and do you contribute to areas of delivery which others do not have, do you have greater selectivity)?  Discipline and focus being key for all of us.
•    We need to keep our eye on the ball, focus on results and measurable change, including building in to projects effective exit strategies.
•    There is good practice where barriers to inclusive and participatory approaches have been tackled.  In this regard, strong leadership and visible engagement are key to success.
•    Can philanthropic organizations break out of a comfort zone of health, education or other more traditional areas? What could be novel and support substantive work in the new development agenda around issues such as governance, resource scarcity and environmental damage?
•    How do we empower and build the capacity of local actors? It is often less about the constraints to our work but equally so about the inadvertent obstacles we pose to the work of others such as the small local partners.
•    Nobody is excluded from mutual accountability and we all need to recognize how we can build such systems, nationally and globally, taking into account the new roles and the diverse inclusive partnerships we build and nurture.
•    How do we capture the data to better report? What are the necessary tools that we need?

We look forward to today’s discussions. We remain mindful of the different organizational cultures and different languages and also believe that dialogue leads to better understanding and alignment of objectives and actions. Therefore today’s discussion is an important stepping stone in a longer term discussion which will lead to deeper relationship between the UN and the philanthropic sector.

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