Stronger Development System Enables Work of All Individual Parts while Prizing Coherence, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Joint Meeting of Executive Boards

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the Joint Meeting of the Executive Boards of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS, UNICEF, UN-Women and WFP (United Nations Development Programme/United Nations Population Fund/United Nations Office of Partnership Services/United Nations Children’s Fund/United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and the World Food Programme), in New York today:

I am grateful to the Presidents of the Executive Boards for inviting me to present a few remarks.  My thanks to our Chair — the President of the Executive Board of WFP, Ambassador Hisham Mohamed Badr.

Last year, I had the privilege of engaging with you just a day after the General Assembly approved its landmark resolution to reposition the United Nations development system.  At the time, I said that the reform train had left the station.  Thanks to your support, we are a year into our journey and the train is moving full steam ahead.  All entities of the United Nations development system are on board.  And we are headed towards a common destination:  a system that is better positioned and equipped to help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, leaving no one behind.

I am grateful to the Chairs of the Executive Boards for your decisive leadership in advancing the reforms over the past year.  I thank all Member States for your support and cohesive messaging.  You played a pivotal role in ensuring timely cost-sharing contributions by the entities of the United Nations development system.  This has been critical and will remain so as we move ahead.  We count on you to also continue to reach out to your colleagues in governing bodies around the world.

You showed unity of purpose across the General Assembly, the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council), the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), and the governing bodies of the United Nations development system.  This Joint Meeting is itself a testament to your determination.  The six entities for which you provide intergovernmental guidance, support and oversight deliver, together, a substantial share of operational activities on the ground and account for close to half of the total staff of the United Nations development system.  The decisions you take here have a real impact on the ground and in the lives of real people.

I also want to acknowledge the support and engagement of all colleagues across the system.  We are pleased to see that all entities are taking steps to update their policies and internal administrative tools to align with the various strands of the reform.  And our Chief Executives are personally engaged in making the new generation of United Nations country teams a reality.  In transforming resolutions into realizations, the Heads of the agencies in this Joint Meeting have been leading by example.

  • Achim Steiner’s leadership as the Vice-Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group has really helped to take forward key workstreams of this repositioning process.  And the operational transition to a new resident coordinator system would not have been possible without the remarkable dedication of colleagues in UNDP;
  • David Beasley’s leadership, together with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), in advancing our efforts to improve business operations has allowed us to make significant progress, including through a new mutual-recognition agreement that lays the foundation for more efficient operations on the ground;
  • Henrietta Fore’s key role in advancing a new approach to partnerships will help us to step up our engagement and scale up partnerships for the 2030 Agenda;
  • Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Natalia Kanem are helping to maintain a strong focus on gender equality, inclusion and making available robust rights-based tools to ensure sustainable development that leaves no one behind;
  • And Grete Faremo is contributing UNOPS’s great expertise on project management, operations and financial management services, to support efforts of a new generation of United Nations country teams.

The ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment last week was our first opportunity to reflect on joint progress.  Allow me to share what I see as the four key takeaways from the Segment:

First, there is wide recognition of the steady pace of implementation of all reform mandates.  We appreciate your positive feedback regarding the Funding Compact and a successful transition to a new resident coordinator system in January.  These are our joint achievements.  Our resident coordinators will ensure that all host Governments and other key partners are fully briefed on all aspects of the reforms and seek guidance on the way forward.

Second, the Segment revealed a keen interest, across the membership, in the system’s new planning and administrative documents that will support the transition on the ground.  These internal tools — such as the Management and Accountability Framework or the guidelines for the new United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks — translate your guidance in resolutions into genuine change within the system.

They are guided by the QCPR [quadrennial comprehensive policy review] and General Assembly resolution 72/279.  And they are focused on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and ensuring that we leave no one behind.  We have said it time and time again, achieving the SDGs everywhere, for everyone, is humanity’s best tool to ensure the realization of human rights and a future of peace and prosperity for all.

We will keep you fully informed as we finalize the guidelines for the new United Nations Cooperation Frameworks and as we move forward with the regional- and global-level components of the Management and Accountability Framework.  These documents will be posted on the UNSDG (United Nations Sustainable Development Group) website as soon as the new guidelines are endorsed by the UNSDG in the coming days; and we will ask all resident coordinators to immediately brief your capitals.

Third, you have high expectations and will continue to hold us accountable on mandates that require further progress — for example to deliver a robust system-wide strategic document and to strengthen our reporting on efficiencies.  We welcome the scrutiny and accountability.  We are committed to strengthening the system-wide document in a continuous dialogue with you — a new draft will be circulated to respond to the constructive feedback voiced by several delegations.  And we will do our utmost to track transparently and redeploy efficiency gains towards development priorities, in close partnership with our colleagues in the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.  In some cases, this will require initial investments by the system to collect these efficiencies down the line.  In others, savings may take time to materialize.  But you can count on our full commitment to make it happen.

Fourth, we appreciate the need for continuous dialogue with Member States as we take forward the Secretary-General’s recommendations to strengthen our regional assets and multi-country offices — or MCOs.  All recommendations are rooted in thorough analysis, extensive consultations and reflect our best effort to better service the 2030 Agenda.

Of course, these are complex efforts and processes.  The MCO set-up, our regional architecture, a first-of-its-kind system-wide strategic document — all of these critical efforts are grounded in the same understanding: no single solution can respond universally to the wide expectations and diverse national and regional contexts of the membership.  And we also acknowledge fully those delegations that seek greater input in the case of the MCO review.

What we are asking at this stage from Member States is not a blank check; but rather your endorsement of the direction of travel, so we can proceed with a shared understanding of the way forward and in full consultation with the membership, both here and in the capitals.  I am confident that we can count on your backing to continue to forge ahead to finally address long-standing bottlenecks in our ability to maximize the impact of our assets in regions and multi-country office settings.

Your leadership in the Executive Boards will remain critical.  Today, as you look at the working methods of the boards; harassment, sexual abuse and exploitation; or innovative financing for the SDGs — we encourage you to maximize the opportunities offered by these reforms.  Make the most of every Board discussion as an opportunity to make the system more collaborative, cohesive and accountable.  Keep in mind the decisions of the General Assembly, ECOSOC, for mutually-reinforcing outcomes.

A stronger development system is one that enables the work and mandate of all its individual entities at the same time it prizes coherence.  Your clear signals and guidance will be needed in a number of critical areas in your board sessions over the course of this year.  Let me take the opportunity to mention four:

First, ensuring that respective reporting systems and country programme documents are guided and in line with the United Nations Cooperation Frameworks, new accountability systems of UNCTs, and efforts to increase the share of common premises and common services;

Second, guiding entity-specific discussions on the Funding Compact, especially regarding commitments for core and pooled funding;

Third, maintaining your support to ensure sustainable cost-sharing contributions to the new resident coordinator system and adequate collection of the 1 per cent levy;

Fourth, encouraging and inspiring all entities to put forward their best candidates for our pipeline of new resident coordinators, and review human resources procedures to ensure country team members have the right skillsets and incentives, bearing in mind the imperatives of parity and geographic balance.  These are all critical actions to ensure alignment and maintain momentum.

Finally, the Secretary General and I are acutely aware of the tremendous workload that you face in the run up to the seventy-fourth General Assembly.  We are working with the PGA [President of the General Assembly], ECOSOC and the co-facilitators to ensure that the five September summits lead to mutually-reinforcing outcomes to take SDG implementation to the next level.

I know we have come so far because of one fundamental reason:  we have actually done it together.  And together, we will continue to drive this historic transformation.  Let’s keep up this vital journey for the countless people around the world that have high expectations of us.  All on board.  Full steam ahead.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.