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Closing Gap in Funding United Nations Development System Absolute Priority, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Economic and Social Council Operational Activities Segment

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the Economic and Social Council Operational Activities Segment, presentation of the report of the Chair of the UNSDG on the Development Coordination Office, in New York today:

The world is moving backwards on most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  The COVID-19 pandemic stalled or reversed decades of progress in most countries.  And now the ongoing war in Ukraine is exacerbating a three‑dimensional crisis in food, energy and finance — a crisis that is pummelling the most vulnerable people and economies in particular.

The SDGs represent humanity’s best investment in resilience, equitable, inclusive and sustainable economies, but also in preventing conflict and crises.  The Secretary-General's message to the Economic and Social Council earlier today was clear.  We have to rescue the SDGs now, and accelerate action to achieve the Goals by 2030.  And the now independent and empowered resident coordinator system is a critical part of this acceleration.

Three achievements, highlighted in the report on the Development Coordination Office that I am pleased to introduce today, are essential to our efforts.

First, we now have a new generation of resident coordinators at the helm of our repositioned United Nations country teams.  Ninety per cent of programme Governments agree that resident coordinators have the right profile and skill-sets to support their countries’ development needs, compared to 88 per cent in 2020.  Fifty-three per cent of them are women; and 50 per cent are from programme countries — up from 41 per cent in 2018.

They are supported by fully staffed resident coordinator and Development Coordination Office offices, with due regard to gender parity and geographical diversity.  We have also looked into ways to increase the representation of people living with disabilities, and we now have 21 colleagues in resident coordinator offices self-identified as living with disabilities. And surveyed for the first time this year, a majority of United Nations country teams found the support received from resident coordinator offices to be largely effective across their areas of expertise — data, communications, partnership, economy and strategic planning.

Second, the repositioned resident coordinator system is enabling more tailored, efficient support from our country teams.  Nearly all programme country Governments note that the Cooperation Framework is ensuring that United Nations activities are aligned to national priorities.  A total of 70 per cent choose the United Nations as one of their preferred development partners for evidence-based policy advice and 63 per cent for integrated policy advice.  Huge improvements, therefore, from where we started at the beginning of the reform.

And third, we have improved transparency and accountability of the system.  Through UN Info, for example, we can now track and report progress on Cooperation Frameworks’ objectives in an increasing number of countries, in real time.  Nearly all United Nations country teams produced annual results reports to inform Governments on progress in the implementation of their Cooperation Framework.  Our collective efforts are bearing fruit.  The resident coordinator system is enabling more effective convening of partners and stakeholders, and better United Nations action to support countries with the scale and ambition needed to achieve the SDGs.

Resident coordinators, supported by economists in their offices played a leadership role in expanding access to SDG financing.  To date, the Joint SDG Fund funded 151 joint programmes covering 118 countries and territories.  This work helped countries leverage SDG financing and invest in social protection, and supported small island developing States.  United Nations country teams, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), are also supporting Governments in 80 countries to design integrated national financing frameworks to finance their sustainable development priorities.

The collective results of the United Nations development system, highlighted in the report, give confidence that the United Nations development system can rise to the challenges ahead of us, especially as we take the final steps in consolidating these reforms.

With the UN’s collective support:  49 million people gained access to water and sanitation; over 76.5 million tons of CO2 emissions were averted through clean energy initiatives; 183 million children received distance learning; and 1.4 billion COVID-19 vaccines were delivered to 145 countries.

These results are encouraging.  But, we still have a long way to go.  This morning, the Secretary-General shared with us clear priorities for the United Nations development system to support the structural transformations needed to achieve the SDGs:  support key transitions in energy, food system, digital and other transitions and strengthen human capital investments critical to advance all the goals; and a complete overhaul of our global financial system to support countries access to SDG financing.

The resident coordinator system has an important role to play in enabling these transformative changes.  The draft Results Framework for the Resident Coordinator system, annexed to my report, will provide Member States with an additional tool to monitor our progress in that regard, and ensure the Economic and Social Council is fully equipped to exert its oversight of the resident coordinator system.  I thank you for your engagement and guidance throughout the drafting process.

In addition, I will soon present to the governing boards of the United Nations development system entities a checklist on the reform to help them and their boards ensure full implementation.  This is also a response to a key ask of Member States in the General Assembly resolution on the resident coordinator system.  Entities’ country programme plans must align with and tangibly contribute to achieving the outcomes within Cooperation Frameworks.  And United Nations development system entities’ business models must enable resident coordinators to play their convener and coordination roles to the fullest.

In 2021, at a time when a determined SDG push was needed, funding to the resident coordinator system continued to fall short of the required total annual budget of $281 million.  The many returns on investments in development coordination are clear — independent, authoritative leadership, strengthened convening and better coordination, and improved operational efficiency for more ambitious results.

I thank you, the Member States, for your continued leadership in the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, in governing bodies in capitals and in countries.  Together, we have come a long way.  We must continue the journey together over these next eight years, in earnest, with a sense of urgency, and at the scale needed to keep the promise of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

A continued shortfall in funding poses a real risk for the ambition of our reforms and the ultimate objective to advance the 2030 Agenda.  Reversing this trend, and closing the funding gap, must remain an absolute priority.  With my United Nations Sustainable Development Group colleagues, I look forward to hearing your views and feedback to better meet the needs and priorities of countries and their people.

For information media. Not an official record.