It takes more than two to tango

A platform to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in Argentina

June 11, 2018


Buenos Aires is a charming city – rich with history, magnificent architecture, and a soul and music that can pull you to tango in a heartbeat.

But the city’s staggering beauty and its abundant culture comes along with some serious challenges. Argentina’s poverty rate stands at 25.7 percent today. Hard-core poverty has averaged around 20 percent in the last few decades, unequally distributed around the country and concentrated in urban areas.

Argentina is in a need of a new development paradigm, to combat a slew of development challenges. At UNDP, we believe those development challenges require a platform approach, using technology and innovation to hack development challenges even faster.

One of the favourite maxims of development experts is that everything is complex and interconnected. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted by all nations manifest those strong linkages. To contend with those complex linkages, we are developing a platform in Argentina to facilitate connections between an unprecedented range of actors, to help the country achieve the SDGs.

The objective of such a platform is to intensify support to the government in dealing with development challenges, while providing space for building relationships beyond traditional partners. The idea is to partner with so-called ‘unusual suspects’ to convene, connect, engage in co-creating innovative solutions, and raising much needed resources to finance those solutions.

This will foster active collaboration between UN agencies as well as a range of institutions including government agencies, the private sector, international financial institutions, academia, unions, faith-based institutions and civil society organizations.

René Mauricio Valdéz, UN Resident Coordinator in Argentina, sees UNDP as a platform to interconnect different actors, sectors and even other platforms to generate sounder policies and programmes. “The world of digital economies is dynamic, and speed and flexibility in decision making are imperative. Mobile technologies have enabled millions to live their lives online. A platform approach is vital if we are to keep up with this ever-shifting development landscape,” he says.

Our vision is to try to focus on so called ‘wicked problems’ – problems that seem impossible to resolve. In Argentina, this means, for example, taking on the challenge of Matanza-Riachuelo River, which meanders around the southern edge of Buenos Aires. 

That once sleepy and muddy river – as the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges described it – on whose banks more than 5 million people reside is now a toxic waterway, contaminated by factories, tanneries and sewage. It has high levels of arsenic, cadmium and other pollutants that are affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, especially children who live along the riverbanks. They have lead in their bloodstreams, and suffer from a host of respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.

UNDP is supporting the Government’s efforts to transform the lives of the people living by the river.

It is the kind of problem that befits platform thinking. It requires giving up control and opening up the space for creative processes to thrive. This will mean moving away from business as usual in an organization steeped in traditions and processes, which allows for unprecedented openness and freedom, to harness integrated responses to economic, social and environmental issues.

We are up for that challenge, as adapting and innovating to a shifting development landscape has long been part of our raison d’etre. A platform approach to our work represents that evolution. It would ensure that programmes and projects are implemented more efficiently, and with greater transparency and accountability. And it would spawn a growing archive of knowledge, experience, and best practices from the region and from across the world.

UNDP’s new Strategic Plan sets out a vision for UNDP’s ambitions over the next four years, reflecting the people-centred nature of the 2030 Agenda. UNDP Argentina has already contributed to mapping available information on sustainable development through the country’s 2017 National Development Report, and developed an online platform (in Spanish) with statistical information on baselines and targets for select indicators. Assessments of the country’s resources to meet SDGs targets will allow for identification of funding gaps for prioritized goals and help raise resources to bridge those gaps.

This will further strengthen and accelerate the process of integrating the 2030 Agenda into Argentina’s plans and policies. The aim is to create a more prosperous Argentina at every level. Argentina is showing that when the goal is “to leave no one behind”, it takes more than two to tango.