UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner at The Hague at a public event of the SDG Charter to foster multi-stakeholder partnerships and engagement to accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UNDP.


As prepared for delivery.

I thank the SDG Charter Director, Mrs. Oosterman, for hosting this meeting.  It is a privilege to address such a great crowd of SDG enthusiasts and to be here in the Netherlands - a strong promoter of multilateralism, and the importance of shared values and global commitments as a basis for sustainable development and sustaining peace.

2030 Agenda – time to scale up action
Since the adoption of the SDGs we’ve seen very promising momentum all around. The SDGs have shifted from the General Assembly Hall to communities around the world. In line with the interlinkages of the SDGs, we see governments walking the talk in terms of national coordination, resource mobilization and budget allocation, and engaging parliaments and local authorities. Stakeholders like you are helping to lead the implementation process. To me, your signing on to the SDG Charter is an unmistakable commitment to working closely with the UN and all national and international partners to realize the 2030 Agenda. This is truly commendable.

However, our assessment clearly shows that the pace of progress to date is insufficient to fully meet the ambition of the SDGs. Around 1.3 billion people live in multidimensional poverty and an estimated 879 million people are at risk of falling into multidimensional poverty, which could happen quickly if they suffer setbacks from conflict, sickness, unemployment, disasters and other shocks. The number of people who are undernourished has been on the rise, mainly due to conflict, drought and disasters linked to climate change. Women continue to be held back and deprived of basic rights and opportunities. We face mounting challenges related to climate change and environmental degradation; a growing number of conflicts; inequality and exclusion; an erosion of human rights. New technologies offer unparalleled opportunities to achieve sustainable development for all; however, they also pose risks, which need to be carefully managed. If the benefits of achieving the SDGs are enormous, unfortunately, the costs of failing to do so are equally, if not more, staggering.

But trends are not a fatality. History shows that trends can be broken with innovation in policy, institutions, management models, finance, sciences and technology. Innovation is increasingly becoming a core ingredient of how UNDP goes about its business. We need to improve our work, to take risks, to design ambitious and bold experiments and systems-changing initiatives. Traditional development methods are becoming inadequate. There is no alternative given the scope of the 2030 Agenda.

Because development challenges are too many and too complex for any one actor to tackle alone, progress on the 2030 Agenda requires unprecedented collaboration at all levels. We need to build new models of partnership and collaboration, joining people and organizations across society, and across the private and public sector. We need to blend different kinds of financing to increase impact, with contributions from a broad range of actors. And we need to spur experimentation and new thinking to accelerate joint progress.

How will UNDP help achieve this?
In many ways, the 2030 Agenda reflects what UNDP was created for - to look at development as a systemic and complex response to multiple factors. With expert staff working in nearly 170 countries and territories, UNDP has people, connections & access across the world, representing the most cost-effective and strategic complement to bilateral cooperation. Every day, our 17,000+ workforce is at the frontline to tackle the world’s most critical challenges.

The core of our vision, as embodied in our Strategic Plan 2018-2021, is to serve countries as they lead their own development paths to: end poverty in all its forms and dimensions, accelerate structural transformations for sustainable development, build resilience to crisis and shocks – for the benefit of current and future generations.

Our Strategic Plan requires us to focus on six signature solutions: help countries keep their citizens out of poverty; support inclusive and accountable governance; build resilience; promote nature-based solutions for a sustainable planet; close the energy gap and strengthen gender equality. These are areas where we believe we can make a critical contribution to achieving the SDGs.

To meet the grand ambition of the 2030 Agenda and in response to UN Member States’ call for UNDP to provide an “integrator function” in support of countries’ development efforts, UNDP is adapting to become more agile in tackling big and complex issues. For example:

• A foundational pillar of UNDP will be the new Global Policy Network (GPN) that will re-align UNDP’s policy advisory and programme functions with new demands. The GPN will underpin and power our advisory work on integration: it’s inclusion of both ‘development’ and ‘crisis’ expertise in one network is a clear expression of this intent.  Another is our commitment to developing the UNDS’s first dedicated cadre of global SDG experts, including investment in national talent.

• Building on our network of country offices, UNDP is rolling out ‘country support platforms’ to co-create and jointly apply solutions to complex, multidimensional, challenges. These platforms can open the door to ‘development cooperation beyond projects’ and are better suited to the world we live in now: open to a wide range of partners, not least the private sector, the tech community, finance and banking and civil society.   We expect this approach to harness social energy, ideas and capital in a way that yields results far beyond what we are generally used to in development cooperation – genuinely game changing and transformational.  And the good news is that platform-like initiatives are already sprouting-up around the world. 

• We are setting up a global network of Country Accelerator Labs, to locally-source development solutions that can be scaled up, and serve as the largest, fastest global learning network on development challenges. The network – which plans to launch up to 60 Labs by end 2019 – will test new approaches and provide an experimental space where different partners can explore unconventional and even radical ideas to inspire change and create new opportunities. It will connect knowledge and solutions, whilst investing in disruptive approaches. The Netherlands innovative top sectors – agri-food, water, life sciences and health, chemicals, high tech, energy, creative industries - are among the world’s best. We count on you to join us in this exciting journey of testing new frontiers and approaches to development challenges.

• UNDP’s SDG Impact provides investors (financial and corporate), with clear guidance, tools, and insights to support and authenticate their contributions to the SDGs. By promoting the development and adoption of universally agreed standards for SDG-enabling investment; designing a SDG Impact Seal and certification training; developing data-driven, investor-oriented market intelligence reports that illuminate specific sectors, geographies, or thematic areas of interest for SDG investment opportunities; and developing matchmaking services for investors seeking to connect with local entrepreneurs, this new initiative will help UNDP to catalyze much-needed private capital in support of the achievement of the SDGs. 

• UNDP is looking ‘beyond the horizon’. We’ve kicked off new collaborations with Thomas Piketty’s World Inequality Lab and are working on a new generation of Human Development Reports. We are teaming up with partners such as the Open Society Foundation to find threats and opportunities ten to twenty years down the line and help decide where to invest and intervene today.

The fundamental importance of multilateralism

UNDP is embarking on this journey, with other partners, in an international system that is beset with challenges. Multilateralism is under threat. We are in an era of heightened uncertainty about the global order.  We have seen an erosion of trust in institutions—at the national, regional, and global levels. Many say that we are witnessing a loss of trust in political parties, national governments, regional authorities and the international system as we know it. The UN has also suffered a deficit of trust. 

We have faced demands again and again to reform to meet the changing needs and expectations of the international community. In this context, we are now in the midst of a significant reform process that will build a system that is demand-driven, oriented around achieving results at scale, and accountable in providing support to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

While we undergo significant reforms, the fundamental principles and work of the United Nations remains as relevant as it was 73 years ago. Multilateralism is the only credible and durable answer to the global problems we face. Strong multilateral institutions are more critical than ever. We cannot take them for granted.

The 2030 Agenda provides us with a critical pathway to rebuild global confidence in the rules based international system and in multilateral organizations like the United Nations. Strong partnerships will be fundamental to scaling up progress towards the Agenda’s core promises of poverty eradication and leaving no one behind.  We at the UN are very grateful for the critical role the SDG Charter is playing in promoting such partnerships, and look forward to our continued fruitful collaboration.   

UNDP Around the world