Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Statement delivered at the event "Reaching the Furthest Behind First: Implementing the 2030 Agenda"

Dec 7, 2016

Your Royal Highness, Crown Prince Haakon, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Meeting the aspiration of leaving no one behind calls for an unprecedented effort by governments, the international community, and other stakeholders from the private sector and civil society.

The 2030 Agenda asked us to reach those furthest behind first. This may seem an abstraction. Until we see the faces of those who have been left behind, sometimes generation after generation, with their deprivations cutting across all the Sustainable Development Goals.  Your Royal Highness mentioned some of these at the UNDP Gala Dinner the other night:  the people met in Nepal, Zambia or Timor Leste.

They are the poorest of the poor, without income to eke out dignified livelihoods. The malnourished, especially children and old people. The illiterate and the sick. Almost everywhere, women, female household heads, victims of SGBV. People living in climate-vulnerable communities or polluted slums, people who have no access to safe drinking water or electricity. Workers trapped in poverty wages, the unemployed, often young and alienated. People living with a disability, or HIV and AIDS, and their relatives. People discriminated against because of race or sexual preference, LGTBI. People without a legal ID or access to justice. Forcibly displaced, people who need protection, the poor on the move, those who have no freedom from want, those who live in fear.   

Their faces are everywhere. But in times of violent conflict or in situations of fragility or shock (from natural disasters, epidemics or economic crises), suffering and exclusion are exacerbated, and more faces are added.  

Reaching these people gathers even more urgency. More than 1.4 billion people live in areas affected by conflict, violence and fragility; by 2030, possibly as many as 2 billion.  Half of the world’s poorest now live in fragile settings. The global cost of conflict – cautiously estimated at $817 billion per year – drains resources we could otherwise invest to achieve and maintain development gains.  And it’s not the money.  It’s the moral indecency of all that, while we have the knowledge, the science and the resources to avoid so much suffering.

UNDP, working with others across the UN and increasingly with the World Bank, is finding new approaches across the peace-humanitarian-development nexus.  It is not easy.  Silos have very thick walls, and financial incentives have entrenched isolated behaviours.

That’s why the UNDG came up with the common approach called MAPS (Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support) to support the implementation of the SDGs. In Liberia and Guinea, the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States drives the SDG agenda, essentially towards reconciliation and economic recovery after Ebola.  Somalia’s New Deal compact is another positive example of SDG-based national development priorities, working with the diaspora and the private sector.

Even in the toughest conditions, the SDGs are relevant.  The localization of Agenda 2030 is the hope there, where the reach of central authorities may be limited or non-existent. In Libya, for example, UNDP works at the municipal level, in the absence of a national political settlement, on stability and service continuity. In Syria and Yemen, local communities receive UNDP’s support to ensure that no one is left behind: like in Syria where we rehabilitate destroyed infrastructure, remove debris, relocate schools, power hospitals and take care of the urban waste management.   

We do this because these are also the people, the communities and the services left behind when the crisis hits.  We allocate about half of UNDP’s core resources for these purposes, walking the talk.  It would be fair to say that UNDP is committed to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, especially in fragile contexts where it matters most, because we work in countries before, during and after the conflict: we don’t disengage.  We cannot afford not to.  They cannot that we wouldn’t stay the course.

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