In South Sudan, some 6 million people are affected by widespread food insecurity and malnutrition. Credit: UNDP.


As prepared for delivery.

I am honoured to address you today, as we commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the United Nations Charter.

The UN was founded out of the ashes of the Second World War. Its purpose, per the UN Charter, is to maintain international peace and security, to achieve international cooperation on development and humanitarian challenges, and to encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It was a soaring vision that is as relevant today as it was 72 years ago.  

People often turn to me and say "The United Nations is a great idea but look at all the things that you agree and don't achieve, the targets you set but don't meet, and the conflicts that continue to happen." My response to this is clear: while we as an international community have failed in some respects to meet the aspirations of the Charter, there have been some remarkable successes along the way. And failures make us even more determined to reach our aspirations.  

Indeed, we have achieved remarkable things together over the years. Let me highlight some examples: 

• Through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN has established the world’s yardstick on what constitutes the human rights of every person on earth. 

• The UN has established a widely respected measurement of human progress in societies, as measured by human development, which underpins everything the UN development system does and is UNDP’s central philosophy

• The UN played a role in bringing about the independence of more than 80 countries that are now sovereign nations. 

• Polio, a disease that once crippled children in 125 countries, has been eliminated from all but three countries (Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan). 

• Over a thousand UNESCO heritage sites are protecting the world’s most important natural and historic places. 

• The UN has enshrined the concepts of the planet’s sustainability and derived from there the need for climate action to preserve it for future generations, through the Rio and Rio+20 conferences.

• The ozone layer is on the mend thanks to the first universally-ratified treaty in UN history. 

• Finally, the UN has lent political gravitas and scientific anchorage to the disarmament movement against nuclear weapons proliferation

None of this would have been possible by unilateral or bilateral actions alone, and I am proud of and inspired by what the world has achieved by coming together under a multilateral umbrella. 

The historic opportunity of the 2030 Agenda

The adoption of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was a watershed moment in the history of the UN. 

For the first time in history, all countries are guided by one common, universal development agenda. Every country has to do its homework to ensure the health of our planet and the wellbeing of the people that inhabit it. The SDGs acknowledge that nations depend on one another; they must work together to solve the world’s most critical challenges, ranging from climate change and pandemics to poverty and hunger. Importantly, the SDGs recognize that peace and development are linked.

We are just two years into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and already we are seeing extraordinary things.

First, governments across the world are translating their global commitments into action at national and local levels. In July earlier this year, more countries volunteered to report at the SDG review conference, the High-Level Political Forum, than was possible logistically. I am impressed by Sweden’s ambition to be a leader in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, as reflected in the headline of Sweden’s presentation at this year’s High-Level Political Forum and by your country’s top position in sustainability rankings . 

Sweden is also leader in human development. Measured by GDP alone, Sweden ranks about 23 in the world, depending on what year and data source is used.  After accounting for key measures of human development, such as education, health, income distribution and gender equality, Sweden shoots up to 14th place. This suggests that Sweden punches well above its weight in terms of human development.

Second, people are excited about the new development agenda, and this excitement is critical for building and sustaining momentum. On September 25 this year, which marked the second anniversary of the adoption of Agenda 2030, a global day of action (#ACT4SDGs) was convened. Some 500 organisations, partnering with citizens, registered over 1000 actions, such as community events and surveying people’s perception of SDG progress, in over 116 countries and 380 cities. Over 11,000 tweets were sent, which reached an estimated 84 million people around the world, urging them to take action and to send a strong signal to leaders about the importance of the SDGs. 

I am pleased that Sweden emphasises inclusion in SDG implementation and the importance of broad ownership among all actors of society. I would argue that the key to raising awareness in countries around the world is not so much to teach everyone to recite all the 17 Goals. Rather, what is important, is to help people understand what needs to be done differently – and better – when the SDGs are seen as the foundation for national development thinking. There is a strong and urgent need to pursue an integrated approach to the SDGs across sectors and to identify and implement interventions that accelerate progress across several SDGs at once. It is vitally important to leave no one behind, to reach the furthest behind first and to better understand and address inequalities in all their forms. It is also imperative that development be risk-informed and to mitigate adverse effects of many kinds of shocks, such as natural disasters, economic crises and violent conflict. It is not easy, but this is what it will take.

Third, the private sector is finding more opportunities to engage with the SDGs than it did with the Millennium Development Goals. Whereas before the private sector’s participation in the process was viewed in terms of contributing to economic growth, job creation, and tax revenue, now there is an opportunity for the private sector to take on a broader, more integrated role in the development agenda. Two weeks ago, I spoke at a conference with around 3,000 social impact investors in San Francisco who are excited about the role they can play in SDG progress. 

UNDP’s work to support the SDGs

The enthusiasm for the SDGs has translated into increased demand by governments for UN support. To date, 114 governments  have requested support from UN Country Teams on a range of SDG-related issues: general orientation and assistance in mainstreaming the SDGs in national development plan, measurement and reporting, governance and participation, and finance. Through its broad country presence, UNDP has been actively engaged with governments on these requests. 

In close collaboration with other UN agencies and partners, we have also provided integrated policy support to 21 countries across all regions over the last year. Applying the UN Development Group’s common MAPS approach, we help these countries mainstream the 2030 Agenda and to identify bottlenecks and accelerators for progress and to monitor and report on progress.

Governments are also requesting our assistance in in following up on and reviewing SDG progress. In the lead-up to this year’s High-Level Political Forum in July, UNDP supported 29 programme countries to prepare their Voluntary National Review. We are also supporting 21 countries to prepare their first-ever National SDG Country Reports (akin to MDG Reports).

Timely, high-quality data is crucial for tracking SDG progress and for establishing credible accountability systems. UNDP is working with partners to strengthen the evidence base for an African Data Revolution and to pioneer national “data ecosystems” assessments. These are inspired by the notion that the data revolution should place people – as users, producers, beneficiaries, and owners of data – at the centre of participatory and accountable mechanisms for SDG implementation at country level. 

Member States made powerful commitments in the 2030 Agenda to “leave no one behind” and “to reach the furthest behind first”. The SDGs are grounded explicitly in human rights, including equality and gender equality. We must utilize a human rights-based approach to support member states to achieve the SDGs. Since 2015, UNDP has adopted Social and Environmental Standards that guide our engagement and work at the country level. These require a human rights-based approach to our development programming. 

When we look at who is most often ‘left behind’, who is marginalised without equal access to basic services and rights, we see that the most excluded groups include, among others, persons with disabilities, minorities, and women and girls – and poor women and girls, in particular. Among the most egregious examples of this is violence against women, which impacts women and communities on every continent and in every country, cutting across all generations, nationalities and communities, regardless of age, ethnicity, disability or other background. UNDP is proud to be a partner in the newly launched EU-UN Spotlight Initiative to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls, a 500 million Euro initiative which will strengthen laws, institutions, services and data to bring an end to violence against women, with a particular focus on domestic and family violence, sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices, femicide, trafficking in human beings and sexual and economic exploitation.

On the ambition to ‘Leave No One Behind’, let me also turn to UNDP’s support in crisis contexts.

UNDP’s main point of departure is to help countries build longer-term resilience, working closely with our humanitarian partners. We do this in many countries from Afghanistan to Syria to Somalia. Let me highlight two examples:

• In South Sudan, some 6 million people  are affected by widespread food insecurity and malnutrition, a dire situation that is compounded by insecurity and conflict. UNDP’s response has focused on building local-level resilience and enabling conditions for peace, security and stability. To this end, we work with UNICEF, FAO and WFP, under the New Way of Working, to restore basic services and sustainable livelihoods and promote access to justice, peacebuilding, and reconciliation. We also work closely with UNMISS support the national dialogue secretariat and establishment of a Joint Integrated Police force.

• In Iraq, UNDP is pioneering a new approach to stabilization focusing on speed, functionality and scale. Through our Funding Facility for Stabilization, we work in 28 cities newly liberated from ISIL control, reaching over two million Iraqis  returning home. Over 1,100 projects are currently underway, including 400 in Mosul. More than 95% of all stabilization projects are delivered through the local private sector, employing local labor, which helps IDPs return home. I am very grateful to Sweden for its contribution to this facility.

Looking ahead

To achieve the bold vision of the SDGs, we must do things differently – that includes the UN system. The UN Secretary-General has made very clear in his reform proposals that business-as-usual is not an option. Our goal must be a 21st century UN development system that is more focused on people, less on process; more on results for the poor and marginalized, less on bureaucracy; more on providing integrated support across familiar silos, less on turf battles and competition.

UNDP shares the Secretary-General’s reform vision to make the UN far better at working together to deliver results for people. At the core of our proposed new Strategic Plan are two interlinked objectives: (1) to optimize UNDP’s capacity to help countries to achieve the 2030 Agenda, and (2) to respond effectively to new and emerging needs in an increasingly turbulent world.

To realize this vision, we will focus on developing integrated solutions tailored to specific country needs and framed by priorities in three overarching development settings: 

1. Ending poverty; 

2. Accelerating structural transformations for Sustainable Development; 

3. Building resilience to shocks and disasters.

To deliver the Plan, we must also examine our future business model with the aim of accelerating delivery of quality programmatic results for SDG achievement and developing scenarios and options for making UNDP financially more sustainable.

In 2016 total contributions to UNDP reached $4.9bn, 8% higher than in 2015. Bilateral, multilateral, domestic resources and vertical funds remained the main sources of funding, accounting for two-thirds of the total. I take this opportunity to thank Sweden for entrusting us with their valuable development resources.

But 2016 was challenging for core funding, which fell 12% to $618m. Regrettably, we expect a further drop this year, to about $600m. This jeopardises our ability to deliver on our core mandate. It is my hope that the new Strategic Plan will give Member States the confidence to raise both the level and predictability of core funding to UNDP.

Beyond this, we know that public resources will only go so far in securing SDG achievement. Building on UNDP’s convening power, we are committed to strengthen our partnerships with the private sector and to help support the alignment of business interests and investments with the SDGs. Our partnership with international financial institutions is critical, too. I am encouraged to see how this area of collaboration has been steadily growing in recent years, and expect it to progress even more in future.

UNDP/Sweden partnership

At the heart of the new Strategic Plan is the fundamental role of strong, open partnerships and adding value to the work of the UN family. UNDP’s long-standing partnership with Sweden is a case in point. Together we are championing work on climate action and environment. UNDP is grateful for Sweden’s leadership and contribution to the Global Environment Fund and Green Climate Fund. As one of the largest implementers of climate change projects in the UN system, UNDP supported more than 140 countries to access over $2.8 billion in grant financing for adaptation and mitigation from 2008-2015. We are also hoping to work even more closely on making Nationally-Determined Contributions gender-responsive, on climate security and migration, and climate and biodiversity finance. UNDP also looks forward to breaking further ground with Sweden on the poverty-environment nexus, inclusive green economy, and linking inclusive and responsive governance, human rights and environmental protection to longer-term peacebuilding within the context of good governance of the extractive sector.

UNDP appreciates the generous support from Sweden to UNDP’s Water & Ocean Governance Programme and UNDP’s events and activities during the Ocean Conference. UNDP looks forward to continuing to work with Sweden on these programmes, the Ocean Conference follow-up and prep work towards 2020, and possibly a new Ocean Innovation Facility.

We are also close partners in strengthening the rule of law and human rights for sustaining peace and fostering development. We share democratic values and the importance of freedom in the construction of cohesive societies, an essential element to sustain peace. UNDP very much welcomes Sweden’s contribution that is being put to work to support across a broad range of issues such as elections in the Middle East, conflict prevention in more than 40 countries, the rule of law in crisis countries, national human rights institutions in 80 countries and implementation of Goal 16 across the board. UNDP is a world leader in the provision of democratic governance assistance to Member States who request such support – it is not only the smart thing to do to maintain stability and peace, it is also the right thing to do to protect liberty and promote human rights.


Let me conclude by emphasizing the scale of the momentum of the 2030 Agenda around the world. Though they find themselves in complex situation, some of the most inspiring examples of SDG action come from countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Uganda.

Afghanistan was one of the 43 countries presenting their plans for SDG achievement at this year’s UN High-Level Political Forum, embracing the 2030 Agenda as a means for establishing the conditions for peace and development. Uganda was part of the very first cohort of reporting countries last year, presenting impressive efforts to raise awareness and to integrate the SDGs into its national framework. Somalia has mainstreamed the SDGs into its new National Development Plan – its first in more than three decades.

These are remarkable efforts, in remarkable times. And they require multilateralism at its finest. We at UNDP look forward to continuing our collaboration with Sweden, in particular on the critical work of achieving the SDGs.


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