Deputy Secretary-General, at Effective Development Cooperation Summit, Says Radical Shift Key to Keep Promise of Dignity, Peace on Healthy Planet Alive for All

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the 2022 Effective Development Cooperation Summit, in Geneva today:

I thank President Ignazio Cassis for hosting this important Summit.  Addressing world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in September, the Secretary-General issued an “SOS” for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Emerging from the twenty-seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27), and on the heels of the African Union-United Nations Partnership, it is also clear that while some progress is being made — including the historic agreement to establish a fund for loss and damage — we are far from being on track.

Development cooperation must be able to support countries moving forward on transitions to a sustainable and prosperous future, especially on green energy and access, creating resilient food systems and leveraging digital advances for the benefit of all.

Surging conflicts, rising geopolitical tensions, disruption to supply chains, a devastating food crisis, narrowing fiscal space, declining public trust and the fall-out from the climate emergency have combined to create a “superstorm”, with disastrous consequences for millions of people across the world.  For the first time since it was established in 1990, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index has declined for two years in a row.

At the mid-point of the SDGs, it is clear that a radical shift is needed if we are to keep the promise of 2015:  a promise of dignity, opportunity and peace for all on a healthy planet.  This calls for greater urgency, greater solidarity and greater ambition.

Above all, it calls for transformation.  Transformation of what we do – protecting the most vulnerable, pursing urgent economic transitions, investing in people and reforming the international financial system.  And transformation in how we do it. The mindset that we bring to the table.

The role of development cooperation — and its quality — will be critical.  The old, traditional North-South aid models are simply not enough.  And bilateral aid alone will not deliver the type of impact at scale to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Especially, when bilateral programmes remain loosely coordinated or not anchored in national priorities.

Concerningly, despite efforts to fulfilling official development assistance (ODA) obligations — that saved millions of lives and livelihoods — many countries are increasingly diverting funding away from long‑term development goals, towards immediate crisis related needs, including within donor countries themselves.  At a time of surging and mutually reinforcing crises, we need additionality and the alignment of financing with the SDGs — not creative re-purposing.

While we expect developing countries to embark on integrated, inclusive, multi-stakeholder development processes.  They are doing so in a shifting, fragmented landscape, across donors, civil society, the private sector, philanthropies and more.

It is time for development actors to rethink the way they work in order to lift the burden of achieving the SDGs by 2030 and enable an inclusive and fair international system that can withstand and deliver on peace and security.  We need to look at ODA with a new mindset, where developed countries invest in development outcomes, with a focus of enabling transformation through domestic budgets.  Catalysing other sources of funding, and investing together, to achieve the goals.  Small, fragmented projects are simply not going to make the cut.

And we need greater transparency across all ODA sectors to ensure we are “measuring” what we want to “manage”.  And, in doing so, moving away from narrow GDP-centric measurements, to truly capture vulnerabilities across nations.  As stressed by the Secretary-General in his call for an SDG Stimulus this requires reforming our broken global financial architecture — while addressing immediate needs of countries.

In the near-term, development actors must work together to create the additional fiscal space needed for countries to invest in recovery — including by better leveraging lending from multilateral development banks and public development banks, reinstating and improving upon the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, re-channelling all unused Special Drawing Rights.

We must also work to enhance affordable credit, and significantly lower the cost of borrowing, especially as developing countries who routinely pay upwards of 7 to 8 per cent on their loans, compared to around 1 to 4 per cent for much of the Western world.

In the long-term, these efforts must be aimed at preparing the world for future shocks and facilitating just transitions, including by aligning all forms of finance with the SDGs, and utilizing innovative tools such as Country Cooperation Frameworks and Integrated National Financing Frameworks to ensure they are aligned with country-specific priorities.

Today’s challenges require collective action that is country-led, result-oriented, inclusive and transparent.  Put it simply, we need multilateralism that delivers for all people.  Initiatives such as the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation are critical.  We recognize and appreciate the leadership of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee in driving the ongoing reform of this partnership.  To shift focus to the country level including through greater collaboration with the United Nations resident coordinators and United Nations country teams, is essential.

As you take this forward in the coming days and months, allow me to highlight three issues for your reflections.

First, the commitment of the United Nations development system.  Over the past five years, we have worked with Member States and development partners to make the United Nations development system fit to respond to the complex demands of the 2030 Agenda.

Under the leadership of empowered Resident Coordinators, united around United Nations Cooperation Frameworks, the new generation of United Nations country teams, all positioned to support the drive for effective development cooperation.   Resident Coordinators and United Nations Country Teams are bringing all stakeholders to the table to forge transformative partnerships around countries’ national development needs and priorities.

This was particularly apparent as countries grappled with the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, and as the United Nations development system re-doubled efforts to support an attainable recovery.  It is increasingly visible on the critical transitions that are underway on energy, food systems, education and digitalization.

Second, I urge you to focus on the effectiveness of development spending.  It is clear that development assistance and other sources of international financing are currently failing to meet the needs of developing countries today.  It is essential that development resources are aligned with national needs and priorities in the most efficient manner possible.

We are working hand in hand with partners such as the European Union to ensure that our collective expertise is better pooled — and used — to support our common ambition.  And at the same time, contributes to greater coherence, efficiency and effectiveness of development assistance.  Key pillars of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.

Third, supporting national leadership.  People — particularly the most vulnerable — must be at the centre of our development approaches.  In his report Our Common Agenda, the Secretary-General noted that to deliver on the promise of the 2030 Agenda, partnerships need to be grounded in a renewed social contract and to fully engage all parts of society, especially women and girls.

The SDG Summit next year will be an opportunity for a turning point in SDG implementation.  We must create a new sense of urgency and momentum so that we can ensure development cooperation not only delivers; but that it delivers at scale with a sense of urgency.

I wish you the very best in your discussions this week.  You can count on the support of the United Nations development system.  We are excited with the transformative journey that lies ahead.

For information media. Not an official record.