Helen Clark: Speech at the Dialogue with Executive Heads ECOSOC Operational Activities for Development Segment on "Functions and Capacities to Improve the UN Development System's Collective Support to Implementation of the 2030 Agenda"

Feb 28, 2017

Helen Clark addresses the ECOSOC Operational Activities Dialogue with Executive Heads, New York City, 28 February 2017. Photo: Freya Morales/UNDP

I thank H.E. Mr. Cristian Barros Melet, Permanent Representative of Chile and Vice President of the ECOSOC, for convening this year’s Operational Activities Segment.

One year ago, at last year’s Operational Activities Segment and against the backdrop of the ECOSOC Dialogues, I expressed on behalf of the UN Development Group its hopes and ambitions for the 2016 QCPR.

The QCPR agreed in December has an unambiguous message: Member States expect – and pledged their support for – a strong UN development system which delivers coherent and integrated support for SDG achievement.

The theme of today’s discussion on the functions and capacities which the UN development system needs to improve support for implementation of the 2030 Agenda 2030 is at the very heart of this call.

The UNDG has identified the functions through which it provides both strategic and demand-driven services to the countries it serves. These functions are also identified in the QCPR in the following areas:

  1. Providing integrated, evidence-based policy advice and analysis on the SDGs, and supporting SDG mainstreaming into national plans;
  2. Providing integrated normative support to establish, implement, monitor, and report in the context of operational activities for development;
  3. Strengthening capacities of national institutions, including for data collection and root cause analysis, and providing support to national SDG reporting, as requested;
  4. Maximizing the UN system’s convening role by bringing together stakeholders from across different constituencies, and leveraging partnerships, knowledge, and resources for the SDGs, including through South-South collaboration; and
  5. Delivering support at national and subnational level for effective service delivery, particularly during emergencies and in least developed and low income countries, to help reach the most vulnerable people.

So how can the UN development system best bring its collective capacities to bear around those core functions in joined up, coherent, efficient, and effective ways? Let me make four points:

First, it is important for development actors to be well linked to the UN’s humanitarian, human rights, and peacebuilding actors. We need a whole-of-UN effort applied to the complex challenges faced by countries. This is not about mixing global mandates. It is about responding to the needs of countries in the most effective ways we can and maximizing the synergies between us.

Second, our policy, programme, and operational capacities can be better organized with business models which incentivize collaboration and not separation. We need to be organized around country context and need, and in all cases to work collaboratively on policy, programming, and shared business services.

Third, committed UN leadership, with requisite authority at country level and an adequately resourced Resident Co-ordinator system, is critical.

And fourth, we need to become better at ensuring that the knowledge and expertise accumulated at the global and regional levels feeds into the work done at the country level, and that the experiences and lessons from country-level work feed back into what is happening at the global and regional levels. 

Moving forward:

The UN development system has come together around better Standard Operating Procedures for delivering collaboratively, and on a coherent approach to SDG implementation – the MAPS, standing for Mainstreaming, Acceleration, and Policy Support.

Last year, the first year of SDG implementation, nine MAPS missions went to countries, and this year, based on government requests, forty MAPs missions are planned to support SDG mainstreaming and acceleration efforts being incorporated in national plans and budgets.

At the global level, UNDP and DESA are providing technical assistance to close to thirty programme countries which intend to present Voluntary National Reviews to the High Level Political Forum in July.  As well, UNDP is managing an advocacy and partnership platform, the SDG Action Campaign, on behalf of the UN Development System.

The UNDG has provided a number of tools to support UNCTs in their efforts to support national SDG achievement, including new guidance for the next generation of strategic UNDAFs, a Reference Guide for UN Country Teams on Mainstreaming the 2030 Agenda, and SDG Country Reporting Guidelines.

As recognized by the QCPR, the integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda also requires more sustainable financing and funding. To that end, the UNDG is exploring diverse financing options, including more predictable multi-year funding, increased emphasis on pooled funding mechanisms, and leveraging funding for SDG achievement in the countries we serve.

The UNDG is in the final stages of setting up a Joint Fund for the 2030 Agenda to support UNCTs to provide the integrated policy support for which countries are asking.

New Strategic Plans for Funds and Programmes:

The 2016 QCPR affirms that the core mandate of the UN development system is to support countries to implement the 2030 Agenda, and asks us all to address the integrated nature of that agenda. That requires more collaboration on our analysis, in our systems, and in the way individual entities discharge their mandates. The QCPR asks entities in the UNDS to reflect this core mandate of ‘working together’ in each new strategic plan.

Speaking as UNDP Administrator, let me note that the QCPR is helping to shape how UNDP is developing its new Strategic Plan, and that UNDP is closely co-ordinating with UNICEF, UNFPA, and UNWOMEN which are also preparing their new plans.

The four agencies are meeting frequently, and firming up proposals in a number of areas, including on:

  • having a specific chapter in each Plan which outlines a common approach to 2030 Agenda implementation, in accordance with each agency’s mandate;
  • further harmonizing and streamlining the design of results frameworks and reporting;
  • having a common position on how best to link results to resources; and
  • how to promote a coherent and complementary approach to women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Member States on our governance boards are paying close attention to these issues.

On the RC system

The QCPR reaffirmed the centrality of the Resident Co-ordinator’s leadership in ensuring a well-co-ordinated UN response in-country. Reinforcing that, in the UNDESA survey of Member States, last year, more than ninety per cent of governments said that they want a well-co-ordinated and coherent UN working with them in country.

As the host and manager of the RC system, UNDP is committed to strengthening and enhancing its effectiveness, and to supporting RCs to lead UNCTs to deliver to their full potential around shared results.

This calls for more Member State support. The RC system must be sufficiently and sustainably funded. UNDP continues to pay the bulk of the global RC system costs, which is appropriate given its management and hosting role. The agencies represented here today – UNICEF, UNFPA, WFP, and UN Women pay their shares in full, as do a number of others. Some, however, still pay only partially, and the nineteen Secretariat entities do not pay at all. This is a cause of great concern to those who do pay fully.

Getting Member State support at each and every governing body and in the Fifth Committee for full compliance with financial responsibilities towards the RC system is vital. We need a well co-ordinated system which can drive the 2030 Agenda forward.

The UNDG looks forward to working closely with the Secretary-General as he carries out the work asked of him this year by the QCPR to improve the UN development system.

The Group is committed to deliver on the QCPR’s call to prioritize the 2030 Agenda and give coherent support to national implementation.

UNDP Around the world