Realizing the Sustainable Development Agenda and the Role of the United Nations Development System
10 December, 2013, New York, U.S.A. - Timo Mahn, Research Coordinator at the German Development Institute opened the workshop entitled "Realizing the Sustainable Development Agenda and the Role of the United Nations Development System" together with Ms. Yvonne Lodico, Head of the UNITAR New York Office. Ms. Lodico explained UNITAR New York Office programmes for the Post 2015 Development Agenda, and highlighted the series in 2012.
H.E. Ms. Koki Muli Grignon, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kenya to the United Nations, provided participants with an elaborate overview of the current developments in regard to the UNDS. The Ambassador highlighted achievements which have been made so far and illustrated remaining challenges. She ended her presentation stating that the goals of the Post 2015 Agenda will exemplify the dedication and “love” in the broadest sense for bringing about a transformation of the development system.
Elliott Harris, Director of the UNEP New York Office and Secretary of the Environment Management Group addressed the topic from a more integrated perspective and shed light on the specific role of the UNDS. The pressing question remains how the development visions will be integrated through the UN system and what the “new development agenda” will be about. A truly universal agenda for sustainable development has to take the whole population of every Member State into account, since: “How relevant can a global institution claim to be when it is not addressing more than half of its population?”. Highlighting the importance of the adaptive character of the UN in regard to the post 2015 development agenda, Mr. Elliott closed his remarks.
Olav Kjorven, Special Advisor to the Administrator on the Post 2015 Development Agenda reminded participants that focused global development efforts and humanitarian interventions can make a difference. For the ambitious developing framework to take shape and unfold there is general agreement among the international community that a business-as-usual approach is neither desirable nor feasible. Mr. Kjorven highlighted the need for a paradigm shift to bring about radical change of course and action and welcomed the Paper of Mr. Mahn and Mr. Wennubst as well as the workshop as helpful for the process itself, fitting into the new thinking. Mr. Kjorven pointed out the importance of mindsets which decide the make or break of a given process and stressed his confidence that the UN system will be ‘fit for purpose’ to support the implementation of a post-2015 agenda.
The second panel elaborated the changing role of the UNDS. Timo Mahn and Pio Wennubst presented their paper on “Taking the UN Development System beyond Aid”; Navid Hanif added aspects from his experiences as director of the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination and Kristinn Helgason shed light on the importance of system-wide coherence.
Mr. Mahn stressed the fact that the UNDS must go “beyond aid” and take over an increasing role in the adoption of norms and regulations in line with requirements of sustainable development. The QCPR might serve as a possible tool to address these challenges since it contains fragments of the necessary structures, systems and processes which need to be systematized.
Pio Wennubst pointed out that in a more globalized world, a sense of vulnerability increases. To address this “sense of vulnerability”, the UN has to respond as a global institution. To be able to respond as a global institution, the mandates of the UN need to be universal to be able to tackle issues on the global level. Therefore a careful examination whether its mandates are really global is required. A full implementation of the QCPR in the system would already be a revolution: the High Level Forum could then spell out which issues the UNDS should address, while ECOSOC and the General Assembly could monitor the processes. Additionally, if an adaptive United Nations Development Assistant Framework (UNDAF) could be developed at the country level, partnerships with other actors could be better captured.
Navid Hanif, the Director of the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, UN DESA, elaborated on how to achieve an integrated agenda and which steps would be necessary to move the process forward. He pointed out the necessity of structural shifts, such as the creation of the High Level Forum. Further changes have to be made regarding the main themes of economic development, social justice and environmental sustainability.
Kristinn Helgason, the Deputy-Chief of the Development Cooperation Policy Branch at the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, UN DESA, turned to the importance of system-wide coherence, which has been on the agenda of the UN since the organization was created. Like Olav Kjorven, Kristinn Helgason pointed out that to some extent the MDG agenda has encouraged competition among entities, producing a proliferation of activities to attract resources. Also, in the area of humanitarian assistance, a significant number of entities have a role accounting for approximately a third of all UN-OAD. Effective coordination among these entities remains critical for the countries that need humanitarian assistance.
Molly Elgin-Cossart, Senior Fellow, Global Development at the Center on International Cooperation, New York University and former Chief of Staff to the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on the Post 2015 Development Agenda gave some closing remarks and summed the findings from the two earlier panels up. She reaffirmed the need for a drastic and radical shift of the UN system and underlined the importance of such a shift in regard to the development of a set of sustainable development goals.
The sustainable development agenda will be broader in comparison to the MDGs and so will be the number of actors who will take part in the agenda. Therefore, there is a need for the UN to improve its work in establishing partnerships with relevant actors such as representatives from civil society, academia or the private sector. The UN needs to seek advantage of the expertise from actors outside the UN to incorporate this expertise in the development of the sustainable development agenda.