Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Closing Remarks at 'Montreux IV’, Workshop for Resident Coordinators and Senior UN Officials

May 27, 2016

I hope that the 4th Edition of the Montreux series of workshops has lived up to your expectations, provided the space to network, to share interesting experiences and talk over the challenges.

  • As Spielberg says, “my job is to create a world that lasts two hours”, our job was to create a world that lasts 3 days. Your job is to create a world that lasts forever, having the most important job in the UN.
  • This is a tie of convergence in the multilateral development system, forced by the complexity of the crises, the interrelation between the political, the humanitarian, the developmental, climatic, peace and security, human rights dimensions of the problems governments have to resolve.
  • Within the UN System, we have different roles, mandates and configurations. Our agendas can’t cancel each other out. Our mandates can’t be subordinated as there is no hierarchy of objectives, but a synergy of international obligations under international norms. 
  • You have arguably some of the toughest jobs in the UN System, working in the most trying circumstances outside mission settings. Our job is to equip you well, to mobilise resources for you, to allow for knowledge-driven policy to materialise. I am aware that you have discussed with your counterparts in-country excellent ideas that could resolve some of the problems, and have the capacity to deliver. There is some frustration of having these good ideas on standby with a shortage of means of implementation.
  • Our donors share the same frustration. Let me be very clear: they are on our side, and are also facing competing demands. We work with the senior officials who are making exactly the same case as we are. Some of them are in the room today. But donors have several options at hand to provide support. We need to prove that we are amongst the most effective, the fastest, the most knowledgeable, trusted, neutral and principled of the development partners.  
  • Three years ago we embarked in the renewal of the international development agenda. We said it needed to reunite the three strands of development, but also that it needed to integrate peacebuildingconflict prevention, recovery and governance – it took the shape of Goal 16 and the strong principle of leaving no one behind. We said it had to be a human rights agenda. We did it. Now it’s time to execute the SDGs, roll out the MAPS. We have a framework that gives us the sky as the limit. We need to be as ambitious as we can. If someone has been left far behind, it is the vulnerable groups in the societies you work in. You, out of all of us, work for the people who are hardest to reach. This is why Agenda 2030 applies more urgently to you than to anyone else, and its success is even more important in your countries than elsewhere. 
  • From distrust and suspicion, we have come a long way. The relationship between the new DPA and the new UNDP has never been at a better point. We are already working across the charter when we work together, and with the humanitarian and human rights structures. You have heard their leadership here. This allows us to keep en ear on the ground and have more capacities available, at the disposal of the nations we serve. Some people have not read the memo but believe me: there is a Memo and it says: WORK TOGETHER under the LEAD of RC.
  • I can’t emphasize enough the importance of coordination. To our partners and Member States, we ask that they strengthen the coordination structures at a time of crunch and fragmentation, at a time when unity of purpose and coherence in the action is more needed than ever. Strengthen those whose job it is to analyse for the joint plan, those who get others to deliver against the agreed outcomes, strengthen those who make the trains run on time.   
  • Punctual railways bring me without much effort to Switzerland! Let me thank, once again, Marcel Stoessel, Nicole Ruder, Mirjana Spoljaric for their support, and for hosting us to hold “Montreux IV”. Right at the World Humanitarian Summit, The Swiss Federal Councilor Mr. Burkhalter and our Administrator, Helen Clark, signed a broad agreement on conflict prevention, crisis response and recovery. Double digit millions of Swiss support, which will soon be materializing in concrete resources for your work. As I said before, we have very good partners who in times of difficulty continue to trust us. We need to live up to that trust, as I know we will.   
  • I am also very thankful to all other partners from the UK, Sweden, the EU, the WB, colleagues from other organisations, who have made of Montreux an “open event” and continue to support the Joint Programme, DPA and UNDP. We will engage now on a way forward to multiply the impact and continue bringing support to you as you need it.
  • There is a lot of good work going on in conflict prevention and sustaining peace. We are also recognizing important and positive links to your role as the UN human rights advocates at country level.
  • We have strong engagement from PBSO. We have discussed how deployments need to be complemented with analytics,so that we have a better overview and a solid grasp of the main elements of fact that will inform our work and allow us to measure progress, beyond perception, with hard evidence.
  • We have work to do to improve our collaboration through the Human Rights Up Front initiative. Much can be learned of the collaborative engagement in the Joint Programme, and we are getting there. This is a tool with enormous potential, where again, human rights, political affairs and development partners can work together to detect and avoid crises, and offer constructive solutions. Just like with the PDAs, we need resources not only to deploy more or less light teams, but also to implement their recommendations. This will be the next challenge for the mechanism.    

Let me give you my few take-aways from these days in Montreux

  • Firstly, the PDA system is first-class, some of the best capacities we have in the RC Offices for the UN Country Teams.  
  • Second, we have higher ambitions than the deployment of staff capacity. UNDP and DPA possess significant expertise, tools and technical resources that can be geared towards providing support to RCs and UNCTs in countries.
  • We have readily available technical support for issues such as mediation; good offices; preventive diplomacy; electoral assistance; inclusive political processes; national dialogue; rule of law and transitional justice; core government functions – and we have the MAPS to roll-out the SDG agenda – also tailored for situations of fragility.  This names only a few.
  • Third, joint and detailed conflict analysis is perhaps the single-most important of the tools at our disposal, as we’ve seen in countries like Cambodia and Guatemala, where “theories of change” inform the programme development. The prevention of violent extremism will require joint work in the immediate future, it is already part of what we do, under the coordination of the Secretariat. We need to be cautious though not to repackage everything we do under an apparently fashionable label to catch attention. Credibility of what we do is our strongest currency.
  • Fourth we discussed how the phenomenon of shrinking space is widespread. The “space” is not only the UN’s space but frequently that of civil society opposition, labour organizations, media.  These challenges require more effective back-stopping from us all in HQ, so that we use the right person to say the right thing to the appropriate interlocutor, and don’t put our frontlines at risk unnecessarily.
  • I also heard over the past 2 ½ days that we need to continue strengthening the national capacities, the national actors and the national institutions, invest more in them, and avoid capacity substitution. This includes working with the institutions of the region, as is for instance extremely important in Africa and Latin America.  
  • Our PDAs are a key deliverable of this Programme. We can stabilize the contingent and sustain the system. We can replace deployments that can be mainstreamed, to support to emerging needs that are more pressing. There is a solidarity principle in the JP so that it doesn’t become a zero-sum game. Stephen Jackson just said it all in this regard.
  • The issue of cost-sharing of the PDA function is inherently linked to the possibility of covering more ground with multiple sources of funding, including local ones.
  • I am pleased to tell you that we have received keen interest from both Turkey and Canada to come on board from 2017. I would like to recognize the work of UNDP’s Istanbul Regional Hub and DPA’s Europe Division in this resource mobilisation effort.
  • Finally, notwithstanding the quality of the presentations and of the debates, of the commentaries and discussions, I believe that the most important part of Montreux happened outside of the meeting rooms. We did not allow the meeting to shrink your networking space. I don’t quote His Holiness the Pope often, but when he just met Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-AzharAzhar, he said “The meeting is the message”. I believe this applies to us. The meeting is already a very powerful message.

In conclusion,

  • Allow me to express some votes of thanks. First, to the planning team - Fikerte, Ilona and Alex especially. Second to Katy Thomson, Patrick Keuleers Stephen Jackson and Ignacio Saez Benito in the strategy and planning engine room, who have been terrific all along.   Thanks also go to the facilitators/gues resource persons.
  • Let us say a big "goodbye and thank you" to Alex Shoebridge who will be leaving in mid-August and moving to Beirut. He has been the most responsive, meticulous and substantive policy staff we have had in the programme, always ready to find solutions when struggling with problems. We wish Alex well in his new endeavours.
  • The value of this workshop lies in the honest, open, self-critical discussions that have taken place over the last few days. Similarly, the action points and recommendations emerging from the discussion this morning also rely on mutual accountability and empowered leadership. We mean it. As you have seen, we conduct this work much less as guidance to the field from HQ than as a collective learning and improvement experience, with very little deference to hierarchy and protocol. Truly a workshop, the place where faulty parts are repaired and a well-oiled machinery is put back on the road.
  • However, in all of this I want to express my heartfelt thanks for your time, your frank exchanges and efforts this week. I want to recognise the presence in the room of Neil Buhne, ex RC in Sri Lanka, ex Director of our Geneva Office in UNDP and now RC in Pakistan, who represents a proud tradition of participation  and the best spirit of Montreux.
  • When we take our oath, we promise to uphold the Charter and declare ourselves determined “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, and “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”. This is what we discussed here for the last days: how to make it happen better, faster and broader. It will be our best legacy to the next leadership of the United Nations. Please continue integrating peace and development.
  • For those who stay on for the upcoming meetings, keep enjoying the good weather and beautiful landscape of Switzerland, and for those back to duty stations, safe travels back home. To all - thank you for coming and making this workshop a success.

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