Deputy Secretary-General, Briefing Members States before Economic and Social Council Segment, Highlights Resident Coordinator System’s Key Role in Advancing 2030 Agenda
Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the informal briefing for Member States ahead of the Economic and Social Council Segment on Operational Activities for Development, today:
I am grateful, Mr. Vice-President, for the opportunity to engage informally with Member States on the upcoming Operational Activities Segment of the Economic and Social Council. We also thank you for your leadership efforts to ensure a successful Segment — your personal engagement in its preparations and the ambition you are imprinting are an inspiration to myself and my team. The Secretary-General and I are looking forward to the Segment.
Given the heavy burden of work, we hope delegations have had an opportunity to go through the reports we have shared ahead of the Segment: The Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the QCPR [quadrennial comprehensive policy review]; and my report — as Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group — on the Development Coordination Office and Resident Coordinator System.
As we approach the Segment, we must take a step back and look at the context in which we meet. These are no ordinary times. The world is at an inflection point. Challenges are mounting every day. Poverty and hunger are at an all-time high. Climate emergencies are knocking on all our doors. Conflicts and humanitarian needs are rising at a faster scale than anything we have seen before.
Yet, we know what the solution is: sustainable, inclusive development. It is the only way to eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities. To address mistrust and vulnerabilities. To prevent conflict and crises. Yet, we are far from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and sustainable development remains chronically under-funded.
It is, however, not too late to change course. The SDG Summit later this year provides a unique opportunity to pivot. We now have a clear picture of what is needed to get there. Moving from Goal-by-Goal efforts to focusing on key transitions will allow countries to accelerate — climate action, energy, food, education, jobs and social protection and digital connectivity. This approach underscores the importance of an integrated agenda for sustainable development. And by paying much more attention to means of implementation, these will be the pathways to success.
The repositioned United Nations system, now fit for purpose, is delivering results. In launching these reforms, the Secretary-General knew that achieving the SDGs would require a very different United Nations development system. And that is also why he has worked hand-in-hand with Member States to reposition development at the heart of the United Nations. He anticipated that the ability of the United Nations development system to translate global commitments on the ground would be more essential than ever. The system is also transforming, at an increasingly rapid pace, to respond with the skillsets and at the scale required to help implement the SDGs.
The reports you have in front of you are a testament to that. Multiple data sources and independent evaluations have come repeatedly to the same conclusion: Under the leadership of Resident Coordinators, United Nations country teams are delivering better support to countries’ needs and priorities.
Just to mention a few: 94 per cent of host Governments agreed that the United Nations Country Team activities adequately reflected the content of the Cooperation Framework (and therefore national priorities). Almost 80 per cent agreed that United Nations country teams were more focused on common results than before the reforms. Eighty-eight per cent have reported that Resident Coordinators provide effective and strategic leadership in support of national plans and priorities. Eighty-seven per cent agree that Resident Coordinators are now a more effective entry point to United Nations country support.
The Secretary-General and I were particularly humbled by the fact that countries in special situations reported very favourably on the progress made thanks to the reform process. All least developed countries and landlocked developing countries surveyed considered that United Nations activities were closely aligned with their needs and priorities.
All small island developing States agreed that United Nations entities were working more collaboratively than before the reforms — clearly the strengthening of multi-country offices has been key. And it was the input and the alignment of the Member States that ensured that we got the ambitions of those expectations.
To give a sense of progress: In 2019, when we transitioned to a new system, 70 per cent of the small island developing States were satisfied with the alignment of United Nations system support. This proportion has improved to 84 per cent in 2021 and to 95 per cent in 2022.
We hope the upcoming Economic and Social Council Segment will provide you with ample opportunities to see tangible and compelling results achieved by our principals in the United Nations Sustainable Development Group and country teams around the globe.
We see many developments that give us hope. At the country level, the United Nations development system is sharpening its ability to offer integrated policy advice and connect expertise across the system — including non-resident agencies — for specific country needs and priorities.
We have come a long way — from resolutions; to the implementation of the mechanics of the reforms (the Management and Accountability Frameworks, dual lines); to the emergence of a new generation of United Nations country teams. Increasingly, Resident Coordinators are becoming the centre of gravity of our ability to convene partners, to help countries mobilize the necessary means of implementation — including financing for the SDGs. Ninety-seven per cent of host Governments agreed that United Nations country teams engage meaningfully with international financial institutions, an increase from 90 per cent in 2021.
Another exciting trend is that the United Nations development system is visibly coalescing around the key transitions need for the SDGs. 117 countries have developed national pathways to sustainable food systems, as a follow-up to the 2021 Food System Summit. Energy Compacts grew from $400 billion to $600 billion to finance clean energy.
The United Nations country teams and Resident Coordinators provided crucial support ahead of the 2022 Transforming Education Summit and pursue their work with countries as they shape their response. Sustainable pipelines are also being developed, enabling investments to flow.
At the regional level, Regional Collaborative Platforms have gathered traction as a means to support United Nations country teams in delivering an integrated response and addressing cross-border development issues. Between February and April, as Chair of the five Regional Collaborative Platforms, I engaged with all United Nations regional directors across regions to continue to emphasize the importance of deploying our regional assets to better respond to country-level needs and strengthen vertical integration and alignments in key areas. This year will be a litmus test for the regional architecture.
At the global level, our United Nations Sustainable Development Group has stepped up to treat development as an emergency — as we advanced the Secretary-General’s proposals to revamp the international financing architecture; or as we responded, through the Secretary-Generals Global Crises Response Group, to the food and energy crisis resulting from the conflict in Ukraine.
We continued to make strides in efficiencies. In 2022, United Nations entities generated $405 million in efficiency gains — an increase of 47 per cent from 2021. This is a landmark in our repositioning journey. We are also delivering on our commitment to strengthen transparency and accountability. For the first time, results achieved in 2022 through the RC system are also reported through the revised multi-annual Resident Coordinator system results framework.
Early this year, I shared with the governing bodies a reform checklist as an oversight tool to help ensure a harmonized approach across all United Nations development system entities and adherence to the reforms. I encourage governing bodies and Heads of Entities to make full use of the checklist and to provide regular updates at the Operational Activities Segment.
I am aware some of you may be concerned whether the reports are showing an overly “rosy” picture. My response is that, overall, they are — because the progress is real. In these reports, we let the data speak. We encourage each and every one of you to also forge your own assessment — consult your capitals or embassies who work closer to the collaboration at the country level.
Our goal is to have access to as much data and feedback as feasible. It helps us adjust, improve and maximize the impacts of the reforms to your expectations. But our reports are also very clear on the areas where performance is below expectation, which require more attention.
Many issues remain, as we should expect in any large-scale reform process — from uneven behavioural change across the system, through a mixed picture in the derivation of Cooperation Frameworks into country programmes of United Nations entities, to insufficient progress in the Funding Compact. You can count on the Secretary-General and me to continue to work with United Nations Principals — relentlessly — to address all issues as they surface.
We count on your leadership to identify opportunities in intergovernmental processes or beyond that can continue to send the right incentives to accelerate our transformation even further.
Funding remains a make-or-break. Member States and United Nations entities have made progress towards achieving important commitments in the Funding Compact. But progress has been mixed and unable to reach the demands. For the first time, core funding exceeded the target of 30 per cent.
But looking closer, the increase is largely linked to specific investments — for example in the World Health Organization (WHO) during the pandemic. Meanwhile, while overall pooled funding has increased and even surpassed our target of 10 per cent. Concerningly, the Joint SDG Fund — our flagship instrument for SDG transformation — falls well short of the Funding Compact target of $290 million per year.
Despite significant efforts by the Secretary-General, entities across the United Nations system and many Member States — who went above and beyond — the Resident Coordinator System remains chronically under-funded. In 2022, the funding gap of voluntary contributions was $85 million.
We all know this is not viable. It jeopardizes hard-won gains and our ability to help countries in this critical mid-point of the SDGs, seven years before the 2030 deadline. The report highlights key areas where the Development Coordination Office had to begin scaling back in 2022 with implications for our activities. Continuing into 2023, a persisting funding gap would increasingly affect our ability to deliver on the ground.
The time has come for a definite solution. If we agree that achieving the 2030 Agenda matters and that development coordination is essential, then we must respond with resolve. All indicators show that the reforms are working. Many thought we would fail. But working in partnership, we have succeeded. The new Resident Coordinator system is a reality and it is delivering on its promises. De-investing at this point in time would be a disaster.
As he announced in his report, the Secretary-General intends to request the General Assembly in a dedicated report, in the second half of the year, to re-consider the option for a hybrid 2.0 funding model for the Resident Coordinator system. The exact format and timing of this report will depend on the transparent and inclusive consultations that we will hold with Member States and reactions by the Economic and Social Council in the upcoming Segment.
I know some of you had expected “more creativity” in the funding model. But we need to be fair. The Resident Coordinator system funding model is already the most “creative” across all entities of the United Nations.
We now rely on complex and highly innovative funding components, and we remain vulnerable to fluctuations in voluntary funding. This is a core function for development. It is the foundation on which all the rest relies on billions of investments in development entities to deliver coherently on the SDGs.
The reinvigorated Resident Coordinator system allows for a minimum core capacity, universally, to address basic coordination needs to enable wider United Nations country team action at greater scale to help countries implement the SDGs. Yet, it is flexible enough to ensure each Resident Coordinator Office is able to adapt to specific country issues via other sources (agency secondees; humanitarian staffers via the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; peace advisors, inter alia).
There is no one size fits all. We hope we can hear your insights and reactions we head to the Economic and Social Council Segment. We have only one ask. Please protect the same sense of partnership and ambition that has fuelled these reforms from day one.
I see many experts in this room. I know how hard your job can be. Balancing capital considerations and big-picture geopolitical issues with the realities of these basements. It is only with your leadership, experience and support that we can move ahead.
While complex, the process ahead is also full of opportunities, and we trust we can count on constructive and active engagement by all. My team and I will always have our doors open for you to bring the latest feedback from the field to inform your decision-making.
But the current situation requires a sense of urgency — we can no longer afford to move from review to review without a solution. It is time for an agreement — ultimately, we will live, albeit on life support, with whatever decision you make, in your collective wisdom.
Let us look ahead. Towards 2030 and the world we want. The Secretary-General and I stand ready to work with you to offer the best possible support to countries. Together, we can achieve the 2030 Agenda. This is what is at stake. Let us bear it in mind.