Increased Funding of Resident Coordinators Crucial to Aligning National Policies to Sustainable Development Goals, Speakers Tell Operational Activities Segment
As reform of the United Nations development system continues — aiming to reinvigorate and fund a stalled and even backsliding 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — the support of resident coordinator and country teams systems remains crucial in coordinating national policies and action on the ground, speakers today told the Economic and Social Council as it continued its annual operational activities for development session.
Albert Ranganai Chimbindi (Zimbabwe), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, opened the session, which aimed to discuss how the United Nations development system can best support countries in putting in place integrated and transformative policies to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals — learning from host Governments, resident coordinators and United Nations country teams what is needed to ensure a whole-of-system approach to rescue the Goals, and how global initiatives are helping to consolidate in-country work under the leadership of resident coordinators.
The Council then held four interactive panel discussions, the first focusing in-depth on a case study from the Republic of Moldova, addressing the issue that leap-frogging transformative action requires leaving behind a siloed approach. The discussions aimed to consider the value-added of the United Nations country teams and resident coordinator system, and how reforms are being harnessed towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
Alexei Buzu, Minister for Labour and Social Protection of the Republic of Moldova, noted the cost of living crisis put a lot of pressure on social protection systems, with his country going from spending 11 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in that domain in 2019 to 15 per cent in 2023. The country is dealing with multiple crises in attempting to prevent poverty and deal with issues including energy and refugee flows — more than ever requiring game-changing solutions with collaborative efforts. Coordination requires a shared vision, with resident coordinators willing to take risks and “break the rules in a good way”, he stressed. Facing an eight-fold energy price increase in six months, he noted the country helped 65 per cent of households, covering 50 per cent of their energy bills.
Daniela Gasparikova, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative to the Republic of Moldova, agreed that addressing energy poverty speedily required significant coordination across several sectors, both public and private. Coordination was also required to quickly advance the legal framework to build a sustainable mechanism — the Energy Vulnerability Reduction Fund, which became a national targeted mechanism for on-bill subsidy distribution. Initial results show significant reduction in energy poverty and income poverty between 40 to 70 per cent, she said — stressing that the Fund’s sustainability requires continued collaboration with other members of the United Nations country team.
Simon Edward Springett, Resident Coordinator in the Republic of Moldova, said that Member States’ investment to strengthen leadership and effectiveness of resident coordinators will yield clear returns in enhancing the United Nations development system offer — further underscoring the importance of well-configured country teams — in line with the Government’s ambitions — to provide the right support in the right time with the right speed. He cited the Government’s response to more than 800,000 Ukrainians, who crossed into the Republic of Moldova, and more than 100,000 who are seeking refuge — commending the Government for their leadership in coordinating the development emergency response.
During an ensuing interactive discussion, a Member State cited a challenging context for donor countries, noting that real-life case histories are important as they illustrate that the system is working. Echoing that sentiment, another delegate recognized the considerable strain the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine has imposed on the Republic of Moldova, voicing gratitude for its principled stance and assistance to over 800,000 Ukrainian refugees. In a similar vein, another representative noted the grassroots engagement and cooperation of the Resident Coordinator in that country can be a model for other parts of the world.
The second panel featured a case study from Viet Nam. Moderated by Ms. Rodrigues-Birkett (Guyana), it featured panellists Dang Hoang Giang (Viet Nam); Pauline Fatima Tamesis, Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam; and Ingrid Christensen, Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Viet Nam.
The first of the two afternoon panels took up the theme “Boosting tailored United Nations responses to diverse country contexts”. Moderated by Teburoro Tito (Kiribati), it featured panellists Rabab Fatima, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States; Ozonnia Ojielo, Resident Coordinator in Rwanda; and Inka Mattila, Resident Representative of UNDP in the Dominican Republic.
The Council then turned to the panel focused on the theme “Funding of the United Nations Development System: Implementation of the Funding Compact”. Moderated by Ulrika Modéer, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy of UNDP, it featured panellists Oscar Fernández-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Development Coordination Office; Anna-Karin Eneström (Sweden); and Stephen Jackson, Resident Coordinator of Kenya.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 25 May, to conclude its annual operational activities for development segment.
Session 4: Policies to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals
ALBERT RANGANAI CHIMBINDI (Zimbabwe), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, opened the session, which aimed to discuss how the United Nations development system can best support countries in putting in place integrated and transformative policies to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals — learning from host Governments, resident coordinators and United Nations country teams what is needed to ensure a whole-of-system approach to rescue the Goals, and how global initiatives are helping to consolidate work on the ground under the leadership of resident coordinators.
The first of two panels focused on a case study from the Republic of Moldova. Moderated by Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett (Guyana), it featured panellists Alexei Buzu, Minister for Labour and Social Protection of the Republic of Moldova; Simon Edward Springett, Resident Coordinator in the Republic of Moldova; and Daniela Gasparikova, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative to the Republic of Moldova.
Ms. RODRIGUES-BIRKETT noted that leap-frogging transformative action requires leaving behind a siloed approach. The discussions aim to consider the value-added of the United Nations country teams and resident coordinator system and how reforms are being harnessed towards the Sustainable Development Goals. She asked how United Nations reform has facilitated catalytic support from United Nations country teams to deliver on Government priorities.
Mr. BUZU noted the cost of living crisis put a lot of pressure on social protection systems, with the Republic of Moldova going from spending 11 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in that domain in 2019 to 15 per cent in 2023. The country is dealing with multiple crises in attempting to prevent poverty and deal with issues including energy and refugee flows — more than ever requiring game-changing solutions with collaborative efforts. Coordination requires a shared vision and bringing added value to the table, with Governments and ministers calling on resident coordinators to take risks and go beyond comfort zones. “You have to be willing to break the rules in a good way,” he stressed, noting efforts to face an eight-fold energy price increase with targeted efforts to support low-income households. In six months, the country helped 65 per cent of households, covering 50 per cent of their energy bills. Without the support of UNDP and resident coordinators, the Republic of Moldova could not fundraise or obtain support from external partners, and it is now working to integrate other parts of the social protection system beyond short-term solutions.
Ms. GASPARIKOVA said addressing energy poverty speedily in the Republic of Moldova required significant coordination across several sectors, both public and private, to build and harness data that was in official statistics, but also other databases, for example those owned by public utility operators. Coordination was also required to quickly advance the legal framework to build a sustainable mechanism — the Energy Vulnerability Reduction Fund, which became a national targeted mechanism for on-bill subsidy distribution. The Fund was inspired by comparable initiatives in a number of European countries, she said, citing those in the United Kingdom, France and Germany. It aims to alleviate financial strain on energy vulnerable households and foster a sustainable transition in the energy sector by directly addressing energy affordability challenges, she said, adding that the on-bill subsidy mechanism provides eligible households with financial support through direct deductions in their utility bill. Initial results of the ongoing impact evaluation show significant reduction in energy poverty and income poverty — somewhere between 40 to 70 per cent, she said, noting that the Government’s integrated support to improve energy efficiency measures with continued diversification of energy sources is a vital element for its long-term success. UNDP’s intervention has been part and parcel of the larger United Nations development emergency response offer, she said, stressing that the Fund’s sustainability requires continued collaboration with other members of the United Nations country team.
Mr. SPRINGETT said that Member States’ investment to strengthen leadership and effectiveness of resident coordinators will yield clear returns in enhancing the United Nations development system offer. He underscored the importance of well-configured country teams — in line with the Government’s ambitions — to provide the right support in the right time with the right speed, adding that a well-resourced resident coordinator office is crucial. He further mentioned the Government’s response to more than 800,000 Ukrainians who crossed into the Republic of Moldova, and more than 100,000 who are seeking refuge. From day one, Chisinau applied a collective approach to support refugees, while also further developing and strengthening national systems. To this end, he commended the Government for their leadership in coordinating the development emergency response, while outlining the support by the Sustainable Development Goals Trust Fund, launched in 2022. The social protection and labour reforms, highlighted by the Minister, are supported by 10 United Nations entities, he added, while commending mutual reinforcing programmes delivered under the Minister’s leadership.
The representative of Australia cited a challenging context for donor countries, noting that real-life case histories are important as they illustrate that the system is working. Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals has suffered, but it is inspiring to hear updates on Moldovan reforms and that country’s hosting of Ukrainian refugees, which is greatly appreciated by the international community.
The representative of Latvia, a long-standing development partner of the Republic of Moldova, commended Chisinau’s reform and European integration process. He recognized the considerable strain the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine has imposed on the Republic of Moldova, voicing gratitude for its principled stance and assistance to over 800,000 Ukrainian refugees. He welcomed United Nations efforts, in cooperation with donors including the European Union, during the crisis, asking for more detail on ensuring that measures developed for emergency situations also promote lasting transformations in the energy sector and beyond.
The representative of the United States said his country’s embassy in Chisinau has an excellent working relationship with the Resident Coordinator, adding that its grassroots engagement and cooperation should be a model for other parts of the world in terms of how the resident coordinator system can work. There are opportunities to learn and best practices should be shared among resident coordinators on how to coordinate with embassies in the capitals.
The representative of Japan said his country has been supporting the Republic of Moldova’s efforts in socioeconomic development in the face of crisis and its accession to the European Union. In February, Japan Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa in a phone conversation with Republic of Moldova Foreign Minister Nicolae Popescu conveyed his country’s intention to provide the equivalent of $100 million in Japanese yen loans, he said, detailing its other support to Chisinau, including through the World Bank’s Global Concessional Financing Facility.
The representative of Switzerland said that the availability of funding from the Sustainable Development Goals Fund proved instrumental in enabling a joint response. She then asked how the United Nations country team and the Resident Coordinator in the Republic of Moldova benefit from regional support and how they engage at the regional level to contribute to knowledge-management and transnational responses.
The representative of Germany said that his country is providing multi-year funding to the Special Purpose Trust Fund and committing to high shares of co-funding. He also expressed support for the reforms in the Republic of Moldova and the Government’s efforts to address the refugee crisis, while adding that Germany has been contributing to these reform ambitions, including as the initial contributor to the Energy Vulnerability Reduction Fund.
Mr. SPRINGETT noted the development community and Government of the Republic of Moldova are working hard to ensure that reforms are coordinated. When one Member State comes forward, it offers comfort to others and makes the coordination process easier. He noted that the country has a United Nations multi-partner trust fund but has also benefited from the Peacebuilding Fund among others, which are foundational in giving the resident coordinators and country teams the room to push boundaries and go beyond the traditional comfort zone.
Mr. BUZU underscored the importance of working together, especially in trying times. He thanked Member States for their support of his country, noting that it is fully committed to reform, including anti-corruption and justice reform, together with European Union integration.
Ms. GASPARIKOVA said the Energy Vulnerability Reduction Fund is not a silver bullet but a mitigation emergency response, which now has triggered medium- to long-term energy efficiency reforms. They include the introduction of energy standardization using technology and SMART meters to reduce energy consumption and energy intensity.
She commended the Government’s leadership in regional collaboration and knowledge sharing, noting that at the end of June an international conference will be held to share experiences and lessons learned from the Fund and to introduce the next generation of reforms in the social protection sector.
The second panel featured a case study from Viet Nam. Also moderated by Ms. RODRIGUES-BIRKETT, it featured panelists Dang Hoang Giang, Permanent Representative of Viet Nam; Pauline Fatima Tamesis, Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam; and Ingrid Christensen, Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Viet Nam.
Opening the floor, Ms. RODRIGUES-BIRKETT asked Mr. DANG how the United Nations development system reform has enabled the country teams in Viet Nam to provide integrated support to the Government’s social policy protection priorities to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals’ achievement. She also asked about Viet Nam’s key challenges and lessons from the United Nations system reform, including on improving the development support coordination.
Mr. DANG, responding, said that since 2012 the Government has implemented many policy reforms, enabling citizens to benefit from multi-tier social protection and other basic services. In this process, the country has received support from United Nations agencies and the Resident Coordinator in policy coordination, resource mobilization and cooperation with relevant stakeholders. The Government has benefited from the combined expertise of the agencies on the ground, including ILO, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), UNDP and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), he added, while spotlighting the coordinating role of the Resident Coordinator since 2016. The number of social assistance beneficiaries has increased by 22 per cent between 2013 and 2020, while health insurance coverage has reached 90 per cent, including the number of workers registered going up by 60 per cent between 2012 and 2012.
Pointing out that the Government has a primary responsibility to implement development strategies, including the Sustainable Development Goals, by designing a legal framework and policies and mobilizing domestic and international resources, he encouraged feedback on policies, as well as on their review and implementation. As a pioneer of the “Deliver as One” policy, he outlined the central role of international cooperation. Recalling that Viet Nam aims at becoming an industrialized country by 2025 and reaching net zero emissions by 2050, he said coordination among relevant national agencies and ministries needs further improvement. To this end, he recommended putting people at the centre of social protection policies.
Ms. TAMESIS noted that the United Nations response to the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated that what was once unimaginable was possible. Viet Nam repurposed an existing United Nations joint programme on inclusive social protection, providing technical and policy advice to the Government to mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable from 2020 to 2022. Her office supported the Government in using the pandemic response to address different shocks, as well as to act as a stabilizer to prevent people from falling into poverty and issue a set of decrees to meet targets of 60 per cent population coverage for income security by 2030, as well as digital transformation. With the flexibility provided by the joint Sustainable Development Goal Fund, the country team is well-positioned to advance inclusive social protection and employment policies. The Government has asked the United Nations for technical support for a new resolution on social policies.
Ms. CHRISTENSEN, noting that social protection is one of ILO’s mandates, said the agency works closely with the Government, as well as employers and workers’ organizations. In the case of the joint programme, the Resident Coordinator and the office provided invaluable support to ILO and other United Nations agencies during its implementation, particularly to address the urgent need to repurpose the fund in the wake of the pandemic. The Resident Coordinator Office’s support ensured smooth delivery and coordination, allowing agencies, like ILO, to focus more on the technical side of the support. Moreover, the joint work provides for a broader and more holistic perspective of the work that agencies are doing at the country level, which can help identify scope and synergies for collaboration. The Resident Coordinator can also facilitate opening doors as one agency could not normally approach the country’s top leadership, she said, adding that this helps in obtaining a higher-level commitment across ministries and establishing partnerships with international financial institutions.
During the ensuing interactive discussion, a Member State asked about the country teams’ strategies to enhance partnerships with financial institutions to address the financial gap and the social protection supporting package the United Nations system has been providing during the post-pandemic period, while another posed a question related to long-term perspectives of the Organization’s partnership with the country teams. While one delegate also asked Viet Nam about its best practices in drafting the common framework and the use of the common country analysis, including the future use perspectives of the integrated national financing frameworks, another posed a question on View Nam’s integrated support, asking about the competition of United Nations agencies and to what extent the country team’s joint resource mobilization is possible. A question about challenges in strengthening coordination between the regional coordinator’s office and other United Nations entities in development operations in Viet Nam was also posed.
Mr. DANG, responding to questions about coordination between Viet Nam agencies and country teams, noted the United Nations was present in the country before it was a Member State — the only international partner present during post-war reconstruction, making Viet Nam the pioneer partner in collaborating with the United Nations on its road to industrialization. On financing challenges, he cited the contradiction between large ambitions and limited resources, requiring assistance from external partners — with the United Nations playing a crucial role in identifying partners and targeting its national priorities, working as a mediator and helping to implement commitments on climate action.
Ms. TAMESIS, addressing the question of financing, said close collaboration with the Government is needed to ensure a good understanding of the larger development financing landscape. Also needed are best practices from other countries who have undergone a similar transition from middle-income to high-income country status. Conversations within the Government and with development partners are focused on how to maximize the impact of monetary policy, as well as expand fiscal space through additional fiscal policies. Other options include private financing as well as other types of financial instruments, she added.
Turning to the question on the social protection package post-pandemic, she said the United Nations is now in a position to provide joint technical support to the policy and party resolution on social policies. Such support includes high-level seminars and dialogues, as well as additional research and joint reports to provide various policy options. The United Nations recently curated a technical working group across various entities on social assistance at the Ministry of Labour’s direct request to support the country’s social assistance agenda for the next four years.
Regarding achievements and challenges in delivering as one, she said a blog post on its Development Coordination Office website speaks about the Viet Nam office’s pioneering experience in the efficiency agenda. Currently, all 15 United Nations agencies in the green One UN House now benefit from shared and upgraded information and communications technology services. The number of servers has gone from 30 to 3, thus reducing the carbon footprint and saving more than $1 million in the process, she said, detailing other efficiency gains.
Regarding the question on collaboration and healthy competition, she underscored the need to strengthen the agency-based teams to ensure a strong One UN team. They are evolving and exercising flexibility to adapt to the needs on the ground. Building trust across agencies, with Governments and other partners, as well as showcasing the agencies’ value-added contribution, is a process, she stressed. As a pioneer, they must model the behaviour and systems which they would like to see and be able to experiment and take risks to enable further innovation.
Ms. CHRISTENSEN, responding to questions, said that a number of agencies receive financing from the private sector and big, multinational companies. ILO has a joint partnership project on social protection with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), operating in 11 countries. Also, ILO’s new 2023-2027 strategy integrates social protection in the “Better Work” programme. A part of this work is funded by companies that joined this programme, she added. She also spotlighted a partnership with the Central Economic Committee, which addresses issues raised at Viet Nam’s Economic and Social-Economic Forums and the National Assembly. Turning to challenges, she pointed out that 75 per cent of ILO’s staff are external, while underscoring the importance of inter-organizational coordination. Moreover, a sustainable development cooperation network is used to design specific agency programmes, she said.
Delivering closing remarks, Mr. CHIMBINDI noted that targeted social protection is meant to ensure that no one — and no place — is left behind. There must be a shared understanding between Governments, donors and United Nations country teams on what needs to be done and funding issues, as well as coordination within Government so that it works as a whole. There are times when every donor approaches a Government with its own way of doing business — which is where the resident coordinator system adds much value. Citing Mr. Dang’s example of ambition exceeding resources, he stressed it is important for the other side to understand what needs to be done so there is no mismatch between goals and financing. The two case studies clearly demonstrate that when political will exists between all stakeholders, it is possible to put the Sustainable Development Goals back on course. It is further critical to have leadership in Government, within the donor community and at the resident coordinator level.
Session 5: Tailored United Nations Responses to Diverse Country Contexts
Mr. CHIMBINDI opened the session, noting it will consider how repositioning the United Nations development system is leading to more targeted support to least developed, landlocked developing, small island developing and middle-income countries, considering their varying development needs and priorities. Panelists would report on how it is adjusting its assistance to implement the Doha Programme of Action, as well as how it can best support preparations ahead of the Third United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries and the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States.
The first of the two afternoon panels took up the theme “Boosting tailored United Nations responses to diverse country contexts”. Moderated by Teburoro Tito (Kiribati), it featured panellists: Rabab Fatima, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States; Ozonnia Ojielo, Resident Coordinator in Rwanda; and Inka Mattila, Resident Representative of UNDP in the Dominican Republic.
Ms. FATIMA, addressing the question on the support of the United Nations development system to the least developed countries for the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action, said the fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, held in March in Qatar, provided an opportunity to accelerate the Programme’s implementation. To this end, she spotlighted enhanced financial pledges from development partners; strengthening cooperation and agreements; creating new partnerships; and concrete investment pledges from the private sector. The attendance by 20 Under-Secretary-Generals, 10 Assistant Secretary-Generals and many other heads of offices and entities was a testament to the importance the United Nations development system attaches to the countries that face challenges, she noted. At a dedicated event, convened by the Secretary-General, United Nations principals announced concrete commitments for the Doha Programme of Action’s implementation. At the event, regional coordinators were able to engage with the least developed countries’ national focal points to bridge the gap between global and national levels of implementation.
In this context, the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries will convene a meeting for the United Nations principals in June to follow up on their commitments in support of the Secretary-General’s high-level event in Doha. Noting that least developed countries must reflect the Programme in their national plans, she underscored the need for the country teams’ and resident coordinators’ support. The Executive Boards and Governing Bodies of the United Nations entities should mainstream the Doha Program of Action into the United Nations development system’s work programmes, she observed, adding that Regional Economic Commissions and other regional organizations will be an integral part of the process. To this end, the Office will launch a road map delineating responsibilities for all relevant entities.
Turning to the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States, she said the Programme implementation assessments will be carried out through the respective reports. More so, regional review meetings — in partnership with Regional Commissions — will be conducted to identify priorities for the new Programmes of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. At the global level, thematic assessments on Programme of Action implementation will be held.
Mr. OJIELO said the Doha Programme of Action is an agenda for the structural socioeconomic transformation of least developed countries as it speaks to their specific context and needs. It thus offers a framework for the United Nations system to engage development partners and donors in country to mobilize international assistance to their particular needs. Through the two main instruments of the United Nations development system — the common country analysis and the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework — United Nations country teams are now able to more effectively engage development partners, private sector and other interlocutors on the specific needs of least developed countries. Furthermore, they are to support the host Government in realizing the Doha Programme of Action, which goes beyond the Sustainable Development Goals and integrates many new or emerging issues. As financing is a key issue, the United Nations system at the country level brings new approaches around financing the national development agenda, he said, noting that the United Nations uses the integrated national financing framework at the country level. As Resident Coordinator, he is empowered to lead the Organization’s efforts to convene and broker strategic discussions together with the institutions of the host Government to leverage the brain trusts available in the country and offer the most compelling analysis, diagnostics and comparative experience and expertise to the national authorities on available opportunities.
Ms. MATTILA noted that in 2021, the Dominican Republic was among the 10 fastest-growing economies worldwide, and one of the six countries in the region that recovered pre-pandemic GDP levels. And yet, the pandemic did not affect all equally, as the country continues to face persistent inequalities and complex development challenges such as gender violence and teenage pregnancy. As a small island developing State, the country is vulnerable to disasters compounded by climate change and shares the island with Haiti, bringing additional challenges and opportunities and adding the need for strong cross-border dialogue and coordination. During the pandemic, the United Nations system provided instrumental support to the Government — a good example being the COVID-19 Recovery Needs Assessment undertaken under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator and the technical lead of UNDP, in partnership with the World Bank, Interamerican Development Bank and the European Union.
Further, in response to Hurricane Fiona in 2022, the United Nations system supported national disaster response capacities and fostered the holistic resilience of vulnerable communities to build forward better. Prioritizing resources to fund the Sustainable Development Goals aligned to national development priorities is essential, while financing for development is an opportunity to engage the private sector and other non-traditional partners. For this reason, the United Nations has launched a participatory process with the technical support of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and UNDP to support the Government in the design and operationalization of an integrated national financing framework, tailoring the financing for small island developing States initiative to address the Dominican Republic’s challenges.
In the ensuing interactive discussion, some countries highlighted the need for ensuring the integration of the Doha Programme of Action into national development strategies, while spotlighting the instrumental role of the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, resident coordinators and country teams, among others, to this end. While some countries detailed their national experiences of the Programme’s implementation, others spotlighted relevant challenges. One delegate also asked how the United Nations development system is integrating the guidance provided by the Doha Programme of Action into its strategic work to stimulate economic transformation.
Ms. FATIMA, responding, called for concerted actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. She noted that the 2024 Conference of the Least Developed States will be held in Africa — in Rwanda — for the first time, while the International Conference on Small Island Development States will take place in Antigua and Barbuda. Underscoring the importance of implementing the Programmes of Action at the national level, she said they should be aligned with national priorities and development plans. Recalling that the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries brought regional coordinators, stationed in the least developed States, to Doha to engage with national partners, she said this practice will be replicated for the two upcoming conferences in 2024 to ensure multi-stakeholder engagement.
Mr. OJIELO shared that the first step for States beginning new cooperation frameworks is a common country analysis which identifies existing and protracted development issues that have defined solutions. In spotlighting his experience and those of many least developed and landlocked developing countries which have small and diverse populations, he underlined the role of regional integration. There is a challenge in terms of the Organization’s added value at the country level, especially since the system needs to talk about partnerships in a different way in which the United Nations is not as a vehicle of delivery but rather as a convening and brokering space to bring partners to the table, he underscored. To that end, resources should move through national systems within a common frame of understanding of what needs to be done.
Ms. MATTILA stressed the importance of the strategic cooperation framework in the context of the Dominican Republic, noting that it allows the United Nations to identify comparative advantages of resident and non-resident agencies and strategically leverage United Nations system partnerships, at the country, regional and global levels. This is a cost-effective approach with the potential of higher impact, she added. The Organization has a tremendous responsibility to help countries see where key exclusions in society lie and to tackle and experiment on new types of cooperation. Pointing to success in exploring options, she underscored the importance of a holistic view of resilience, which includes economic diversification and initiating and expanding blue economies.
Session 6: Implementation of Funding Compact
PAULA NARVÁEZ OJEDA (Chile), Vice President of the Economic and Social Council, noted that, with the adoption of the funding compact four years ago, United Nations entities and Member States recognize that consolidating and implementing development system reform and transformative, collaborative action requires a fundamental shift in way that the system is funded. The funding compact has given the United Nations development system and Member States a clear set of ambitious targets to strive for. While good progress has been made on some commitments, “we are behind schedule in terms of fully implementing the Compact”, she stated.
The second afternoon panel focused on the theme “Funding of the United Nations Development System: Implementation of the Funding Compact”. Moderated by Ulrika Modéer, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy of UNDP, it featured panellists: Oscar Fernández-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Development Coordination Office; Anna Karin Eneström (Sweden); and Stephen Jackson, Resident Coordinator of Kenya.
Mr. FERNÁNDEZ-TARANCO stated that adjusting the quantity and quality of funding has a multiplier effect on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Citing the reach and breadth of the Joint Sustainable Development Goals Fund, despite limited funding, he said results require funding for adequate expertise and country teams. The United Nations Sustainable Development Group has made progress, but the promise at its core that predictable, sustainable funding from Member States would be unlocked has not fully been delivered. Also spotlighting an important change in system-wide reporting, he observed that for the very first time, there is 100 per cent compliance with something Member States have been requesting for years: the basic results report about what United Nations country teams are doing in any given country. For the first time, actions can be compared between Chile, Cameroon and Brazil in real time — which is what reform is delivering.
Noting the need of improvement on the gender scorecard, and on at least 15 per cent of development related expenditures on joint programmes, he said that the target was met for 30.7 per cent of core funding for development-related activities and that total contributions for development related activities now account for 12.3 per cent of all non-core funding. However, United Nations core and flexible pooled funding remain heavily dependent on the five largest contributors — Germany, Sweden, United States, Norway and the United Kingdom, accounting for 50 per cent. He expressed concern that two thirds of net contributing countries surveyed by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs have no plans to increase core funding next year, and that country-level development pooled funds decreased by 5 per cent in 2020 and 2021 — meaning some trends are going in the wrong direction.
Ms. ENESTRÖM said that Sweden’s commitment to the United Nations development system is decades-long. Noting that her country has met and overshot the 0.7 per cent target of official development assistance (ODA) during many years, she pointed out that in 2023 it will allocate about 0.9 per cent of its gross national income to ODA. She recalled that Sweden was the second largest core donor to the United Nations development system in 2018-2021 — not per capita, but in absolute figures. As well, her country has multi-annual agreements for core funding with 10 United Nations agencies. Voicing concern about the lack of balance, she expressed hope that other countries will also fulfil their joint obligations. The core funding is also allocated to the Resident Coordinators Fund — $5 million per year — and the Joint Sustainable Development Goal’s Fund — $9 million per year, she said.
In addition, Sweden has provided strategic support to the Resident Coordinator’s Office in Kenya, while also contributing $6 million to the Multi-Partner Trust Fund. Calling for more enhanced United Nations leadership; full transparency and accountability; a culture geared towards joint results; and full ownership of reforms’ implementation; she said the road map is enshrined in the 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Underscoring the need for critical shifts to tackling climate change, she said the United Nations development system remains at the center of reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.
Mr. JACKSON said the United Nations in Kenya aims to come together around joint programmes like never before and engender innovative partnerships beyond the Organization. It has set a target of delivering 50 per cent of its development portfolio through joint programming, he said, underscoring the importance of the Funding Compact in that regard. The first national funding compact dialogue was held in Kenya in 2022 with the participation of 12 international donor partners, he said, adding that one important finding was the lack of awareness among heads of mission and heads of corporations at the national level. It was also noted that some Funding Compact commitments ran counter to aid flow decisions being taken at country level.
The United Nations in Kenya is working hard on getting the United Nations Information Portal up to date and in real time, organizing individual dialogues with each of its main partners and working with the new Government to strengthen its leading role in partnership coordination, he continued. He highlighted the importance of global level pooled or joint funds, which can drive development and delivery of joint programming for scale, speed and impact. The decline in core funding is driving a very unhealthy competition among United Nations entities — antithetical to the aims of development system reforms. In that regard, the Funding Compact is still more of an aspiration than a reality at the country level in Kenya. Nonetheless, it is a vital precondition for the United Nations support to the country so it can deliver on the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he stressed.
In the ensuing interactive discussion, many speakers voiced their concern over the state of development funding, with some also spotlighting their experiences with development funding — be it as a contributor or as a recipient. The United Nations development system must have predictable, adequate and sustainable financial resources as well as a funding model based on the regular budget, one Member State advocated. Another warned that the funding compact runs the risk of becoming a “dead ladder” while stressing that due regard must be paid to the potential negative financial implications for developing countries. Since the overall scarcity of ODA does not allow for the sufficient use of funds, the compact’s implementation must be improved.
One speaker suggested assessing if and whether earmarked funding is distorting the implementation of strategic plans by diverting focus and resources; she also asked if it would be possible to develop reporting mechanisms on core contributions and inquired about creating flexible funding models that cater to the political needs of donors as well as the programmatic needs of agencies and recipients. Another speaker asked about strategies and alternatives for mobilizing resources on the ground before requesting information on partnerships with international financial institutions within the context of technology transfers and experience sharing.
Ms. ENESTRÖM said that Member States should secure parliamentary support for ODA, including strong public support. Recognizing that the United Nations is delivering on its funding part, she encouraged the Organization to continue its good work, while further strengthening results and achievements from the ground. She noted that ODA is not enough, while calling for leveraging and developing partnerships with other donors to get additional funding into the development system.
Mr. TARANCO, addressing the question of how to deliver coherence and avoid duplication, highlighted the need for an inclusive discussion on how to fund the United Nations development system and regional coordinators. Drawing attention to funding mechanisms, he underlined the importance of joint programmes, while emphasizing the need for instruments that would enable regional coordinators to deliver. He also outlined the key role of building trust and accountability through indicators that need to be measured.
Mr. JACKSON noted that in Kenya, the United Nations is working with both international financial institutions and the private sector — but neither of those pools of development financing will flow through the United Nations. Rather, the Organization will try to influence where that financing goes within the country. Ironically, to do so, his office needs its own financing, however small, in order to convene, cajole, catalyse and connect to that end. He further observed that international financial institutions can apply their funds in parallel to the United Nations. Pointing to the pandemic as an example of globally flexible response, he stressed that every country in the world is facing “COVIDs” at any given moment and that some flexibility is required at the country level and not just the global level. It is further important to meet in the middle with partners for some form of soft strategic earmarking, as in the Multi-Partner Trust Fund in Kenya. He said he agreed that current patterns scatter and projectize the United Nations, “which is killing us and killing countries like Kenya”. It is urgent to move towards programmes, impact, scale and speed.
A speaker voiced concern about the issues facing the Sustainable Development Goals Fund, stressing its significance as a model and the importance of achieving better efficiencies and catalytic impact. One speaker also underscored the importance of pooled funding, noting with concern that only 55 per cent of interagency pooled funds have posted evaluation reports on the website. From a donor perspective, regular reporting on financing and results is needed. Also needed are models for the public sector to engage more significantly in development efforts, she added.
Another speaker then pointed out that donor incentive structures should be examined during the review and update of the Funding Compact, noting that Sustainable Development Goals entities do not always ask in a way that give donors the right incentives to provide core or flexible funding. One speaker, noting that lack of country-level pooled funding opportunities limits options for donors to provide more quality funding for integrated programming, urged the United Nations development system to accelerate the establishment of such pooled funds.
A speaker, noting the success of the United Nations in Kenya in joint programming, asked how such an approach can serve as the default going forward, while another encouraged further reform and innovation around the United Nations development system and funding for the resident coordinator system. One speaker, detailing his country’s financial contributions to the development system and resident coordinator system, underscored the importance of delivery of results, impact, accountability and efficiency. Commending progress in transparent reporting, he said he looked forward to further improvements in reporting.
Ms. ENESTRÖM, responding to the questions and comments, reiterated that Member States must increase their joint efforts to enable the United Nations to deliver better and help countries on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. For its part, the Organization should continue its good work on efficiency, transparency, accountability and reporting. She also underlined the importance of pooled funding and stressed the need for incentives for core funding.
Mr. TARANCO, building on that point regarding incentives, stressed that rewards must be a two-way street. The earmarking discussion, in many instances, has much more to do with conditionality and priorities that do not meet the needs of Member States, he pointed out, also noting that the pooled funding mechanism is not a new construct. The guarantees of incentives, relevance and strategic intent is the pooled funding mechanism because no one in the United Nations can deliver integrated policy advice single-handedly, he underscored.