Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Statement at High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Side Event “Walking the Talk:Transformative Pathways for Achieving the SDGs”

Jul 18, 2016

I would like to thank the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) for inviting UNDP to speak on the important topic of transformative change needed for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent an unprecedented commitment to improve people’s lives on a healthy planet. That in itself is an aspiration to “transform our world.”

Let me elaborate on what we mean at UNDP by transformation, referring to some of our think pieces, particularly the conceptualization that the UNDP Administrator, Ms. Helen Clark, offered at the Global Transformation Forum in Malaysia last October.  

Transforming the world, transforming the way we do development is about transforming the conditions, the ways in which people live: how we are born, fed, study, work, age, produce and consume; and how we are protected, serviced and governed.

The 2030 Agenda requires us to transform “for people”. It puts people at the centre of sustainable development as its ultimate actors and beneficiaries. This people-centered approach is in line with the human development approach that was developed by Mahbub Ul Haq and the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and introduced by UNDP’s first Human Development Report in 1990.

Human development means that the most meaningful yardstick for progress is the extent to which people are able to live lives they choose to live. Lives where they are free to make those choices, where they are healthy and educated enough, have sufficient income, and where they are not impaired in exercising those choices by arbitrary and ad-hoc restrictions.

The good news is that the 2030 Agenda offers a far-reaching formulation for this people-centered approach to development, in its pledge to “leave no one behind”. Its universality posits that all countries to some extent are developing in some way; it calls for ALL countries to reach the last-mile of exclusion, and address structural, financial, political and social drivers of inequality.

The 2030 Agenda requires us not only to transform “for people” but also “for planet”. It commits us to reversing existing patterns of environmental degradation and taking urgent action on climate change. That is our 2030 Agenda and climate change agenda are inseparably linked.

The health of our planet is under threat largely because of the way we have structured our economies, and the incentives that we have entrenched that allow us to under-report, or ignore, the true environmental costs of our activity. The new agenda requires us to transform our economies, to shift to sustainable consumption and production patterns and to manage natural resources sustainably.

To do that, we need to transform how we understand and strive towards prosperity. The 2030 Agenda calls upon us to consider not only the rate of economic growth, but also its quality. That is, the extent to which economic performance translates into inclusive and sustainable growth – growth that is pro-poor and job-rich, which reduces poverty and inequality while also protecting our planet.

Our road to transformation should also be based on peace, stability, and inclusion. SDG 16, which aims to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies, provide access to justice for all, and build effective and inclusive institutions at all levels” is a recognition of the indispensable link between achieving sustainable development and achieving peace.

As the UNRISD research also highlights, we need to better understand the root causes of vulnerability, their complex economic, social, and political dynamics, as well as the interactions between populations and their ecosystems.

To achieve the SDGs, we also need broad partnerships, across countries and multiple stakeholders. Collective action must be taken to address shared challenges, such as climate change and violent conflicts, and the security and refugee crises they generate; an unsettled global economy; the threat of contagious diseases; disasters and violent extremism.

While each country has primary responsibility for its own economic and social development [let me also highlight that the Declaration on the Right to Development is 30 years old], national development efforts need to be supported by an enabling international economic environment, including coherent and mutually supporting world trade, monetary and financial systems, and strengthened and enhanced global economic governance.

The UNRISD report presented today is absolutely to be welcomed. It highlights that choices about the pathways to transformative change need to be grounded in solid evidence and which provides critical insights on policy innovations that have the potential to contribute to progress across many of the SDGs at the same time.

As stressed in this report, the breadth of the agenda implies, more than ever, a need to go beyond silos and take an integrated approach to development interventions. We need to connect the dots and identify the actions and synergies that will take us forward more quickly, across a broader range of interlinked goals and targets. We need to point out how actions in one area draw dividends in others. For example, investments in biodiversity and climate change adaptation leading to a wide range of co-benefits and multiplier effects in advancing other SDGs, including health, food security and job creation. Or the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act which provides social protection for poor and rural areas is also an action to protect the environment.

This is well reflected in the “acceleration” component of the common approach designed by the UN Development Group to support governments and national stakeholders in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. This approach, called ‘MAPS’, stands for Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support.

“Mainstreaming” refers to the support the UN development system gives governments upon request as they incorporate the agenda in their national and local strategies, plans, and budgets, and strengthen their data systems. This means mapping what a country is already doing, and where it may need to change direction. It is also about continuing to inform national stakeholders about the new agenda. On Wednesday, the UNDP Administrator will launch a new UNDG publication, “The SDGs are Coming to Life”, which ties very nicely with the idea of transformative change and offers a snapshot of mainstreaming efforts by 16 countries around the world, with UN support.

“Acceleration” enables the identification of synergies and trade-offs across possible interventions, of potential “accelerators” that could lead to faster progress across multiple SDGs at the same time. Depending on the context, this could lead to the identification of factors ranging from social protection to energy access, citizen security to girls’ education, HIV prevention to youth employment. It depends on the development conditions in the country. The UNDG’s objective is to create a toolkit and partnerships across stakeholders to support this important work. For example, UNDP and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs are partnering to simplify existing modelling and forecasting tools that enable countries to adopt integrated approaches to SDG implementation.  

The “Policy Support” work we do allows coordinated policy and technical support available to countries again upon their request, drawing from its extensive expertise and programming experience.

In pursuing MAPS-related activities, we seek to adjust to each development context and set of challenges faced across different countries. We also seek to develop partnerships, including to improve the availability of quality data and analysis, to promote accountability, and to make available to the wider public and decision makers as much information and analysis as possible to support SDG implementation. In that spirit, we look forward to strengthening our collaboration with academic and research institutions like UNRISD, and to draw on the research such as that presented in the report today.

Thank you.

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