Deputy Secretary-General Cites Strength of Newly Reformed Development System, Outlines Tailored Regional Approaches, at Final Repositioning Meeting

27 March 2020

Deputy Secretary-General Cites Strength of Newly Reformed Development System, Outlines Tailored Regional Approaches, at Final Repositioning Meeting

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the third plenary on the remaining mandates of the repositioning of the United Nations Development System, in New York today:

It is a pleasure to connect with you today through this new virtual format.  I hope you are well and remaining healthy, as well as your colleagues and families.  We are facing a human crisis of unprecedented proportion and we are in this together.

The United Nations system is working in full force to support your Governments’ efforts to suppress the transmission of COVID-19 as quickly as possible.  Our Resident Coordinators, the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations country teams are on the frontlines.  Ninety-three per cent of all United Nations country teams are already engaging with national authorities to develop and plan your countries’ preparedness and response plan.

The Development Coordination Office is holding weekly virtual meetings with all of our 129 Resident Coordinators — where [the latter] are sharing the experiences, approaches and solutions emerging from their respective country teams.  At the global level, the Secretary-General is leading the development of a comprehensive, all-of-United Nations strategy that will help countries to, simultaneously:

Suppress the transmission of the virus; mitigate its socioeconomic impacts so that the developing world can also respond effectively — with greater access to financing, policy support and other tools to strengthen social protection and coping mechanisms; and ensure that we build the mechanisms now to ensure a faster recovery.

In all of these areas, Resident Coordinators and United Nations country teams will ensure that our response is strong and coherent on the ground — working with WHO to combat the pandemic and with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other development entities to address its development aspects.

This is the first big test facing our reforms, and I trust that the benefits of more coherent and effective systems will be self-evident.  Let us just imagine how our response would be today if we had not implemented these reforms. 

How would we face such a complex global crisis if the Secretary-General’s reforms had not put development at the centre of all we do, empowering our United Nations country teams?

How would we manage the risk of fragmentation without an independent Resident Coordinator?

How would Resident Coordinators lead United Nations country teams as they face daunting challenges without the additional capacities in Resident Coordinator Offices?

How would we ensure coordination across the pillars without the Joint Steering Committee on Humanitarian-Development Collaboration?

This is why it is important not to stop for COVID-19.  While we step up to face this emergency, we must not lose sight of the important objectives set by the General Assembly for the world, including the mandates you have given us to deliver a stronger United Nations development system.

This is why I was determined to hold this briefing as initially planned.  And this is why we have made an effort to circulate a package of documents to provide you with written information.

I am aware that the package reached you late and that some of your requests during the informals are still to be addressed.  For example, there were calls for more visuals to show how the regional level is transforming as part of the reform process.  We will continue to work on this in the lead up to the Economic and Social Council’s operational activities segment.

Today, we did not want to miss an opportunity to engage with you informally, hear any further questions and guidance you may want to share, and reaffirm the Secretary-General’s determination to forge ahead.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation for your continued engagement and honest feedback over the last few months.  Every comment, question and concern raised through the consultation will inform and shape the report of the Secretary-General.  We hope you will also feel that you were listened to and that we are on the right track.  Once again, we stand by our promise that there will be no surprises in the Secretary-General’s report.

I am also thankful for your support in funding the Resident Coordinators system and the assurances we have received over the past week.  Despite the enormous strain placed on all of us by the COVID-19 crisis, I am pleased to report that pledges already made to the Special Purpose Trust Fund for 2020 are being maintained.

In some cases, we have received top-ups from existing donors.  These are encouraging signs of recognition of the added value of effective coordination on the ground.  We stress the importance of keeping the momentum and continuing to strengthen our funding base.

We remain on track to deliver the Secretary-General’s report to the Economic and Social Council in the first half of April, leaving ample time for Member States to forge their positions and to allow the United Nations development system to move full speed ahead.  Today is another opportunity to hear any further thoughts and questions you may have before we finalize the proposals and the upcoming report of the Secretary-General.

At this final informal plenary before the release of the report, I am pleased to be joined once again by the High Representative of our United Nations Office for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Fekita 'Utoikamanu; the Secretary-General’s Adviser on Reforms, Jens Wandel; and the Assistant Secretary-General for Development Coordination, Robert Piper.

Let me start with the review of our regional assets.

The spread of COVID-19 reminds us of the many possible issues that transcend national borders and require concerted action and collaboration across regions and at the global level.  Since our last briefing, Under-Secretary-General Jens Wandel has continued to convene informal consultations with all regional groups, accompanied by representatives from UNDP and the Regional Commissions.  CEPEI, the independent think tank supporting this process, was also present to address queries.

Discussions also proceeded at the regional level, where I continued to interact — albeit virtually — with all regional directors.  Throughout the consultations, we have heard you loud and clear on a number of issues.  I trust that the background note circulated ahead of this meeting answered many of these questions, but allow me to detail a few points.

First, the Regional Collaboration Platforms will become a platform for inter-agency collaboration across the United Nations development system entities at the regional level.  They will not become an intergovernmental forum, nor a new oversight mechanism for specific agency programmes and mandates.

The Development Coordination Office will provide Secretariat support to the Chair of the Platforms, who will set the yearly agenda in consultation with all their members.  But the Development Coordination Office will not do it alone.  The Secretariat will also be supported — logistically and substantively — by the Platforms Vice-Chairs, the Regional Economic Commissions and UNDP.

The Platforms will be tailored to each region.  In Africa, for example, joint meetings between the Platform and the African Union will be organized to reflect the special relationship and effective implementation of our joint framework with the African Union for sustainable development.

Existing mechanisms in regions will be realigned and streamlined through the establishment of time-bound Issue Based Coalitions.  The latter will bring together the regional entities of the United Nations development system to foster policy and operational collaboration around regional, cross-border and transboundary issues.

The Issue Based Coalitions will reinforce and enable national efforts in areas that go beyond a country-by-country basis, and where Resident Coordinators and United Nations country teams need support from the regional level.  The focus of the Coalitions will be different per region based on regional and country needs.  Our paper has now listed the priorities in each region.

Second, knowledge management hubs will bring together the policy expertise of the United Nations at the regional level.  They will allow us to finally know what expertise sits in what region.  Some are going further.  In the Arab States, the MANARA hub is well advanced and will provide learning and policy tools, rosters, and easily accessible expertise.  It will use artificial intelligence to analyse millions of documents prepared by different agencies to provide tailored reports to countries, Resident Coordinators and United Nations country teams.

Third, Sustainable Development Goals Gateways will act as a one-stop-shop for data, consistent across global and regional levels.  The Gateways will consolidate existing capacities around data and statistics.  This is a huge step forward as data for the Sustainable Development Goals remains a significant challenge for many.

Fourth, annual regional results reports — which do not exist today — will highlight the impact of regional level initiatives and contributions to the country level, ensuring greater transparency.  They will allow you to measure the impact and assess the value for money of investments made through the regional level.

Fifth, the regional review has brought the efficiency agenda to the regions, without the need to develop new planning or service delivery structures.  The development of regional level business operations strategies in the five regions will generate efficiency gains and contribute to meeting our joint ambitions in this regard.

Let me now focus on the multi-country office review.

Following my last briefing, the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States touched base with regional groups of the countries concerned.  These consultations confirmed that most groups were satisfied with the substantive offer and new coordination arrangements put forward by the United Nations Sustainable Development Group and the Development Coordination Office.  Several are urging us to proceed with implementation as soon as possible.

Some questions remain, however, and we hope to hear from you today.  We are convinced that the offer on the table is robust and would represent an important step forward in addressing the historic deficits in our service to small island developing States and other multi-country office countries.  But this is now in your hands.

We count on the membership to find a consensual position that would allow us to move forward in this important exercise, given the urgent exigencies of the COVID-19 response.

In closing, I also wish to reaffirm that the upcoming Secretary-General’s report will provide updates on all ongoing mandates of the quadrennial comprehensive periodic review and the resolution on the repositioning of the United Nations development system.  The Secretary-General will provide detailed information on how he is taking forward his commitment to strengthen system-wide evaluations, partnerships and other critical tools that underpin our reformed United Nations development system.

Your inputs today will inform our work as we finalize the recommendations which we will present to you.  I met with the principals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group this morning to agree on proposals for the multi-country office and regional review, keep the ambition high and ensure that each entity steps up its support — individually and collectively.

I am very grateful for their constructive engagement and commitment to help find solutions that allow us to move forward.  We are ready to begin implementation with no delay, following your decision — which we still hope can happen during the Economic and Social Council segment on operational activities for development, so we can complete our work in response to the landmark mandates of the General Assembly.

More than ever, we are committed to delivering stronger, tailored and more coordinated support to your Governments and responding to your priorities.  I look forward to our interaction and welcome your feedback.

For information media. Not an official record.