18 September, 2020, New York, USA, Video Conference – The United Nations Institute for Training and Research New York office (UNITAR NYO), the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations, and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), hosted the final module of  the 2020 training series on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR), entitled  “Realizing the Future We Want” training series on 17 September 2020. As with the previous modules, the “finale” took place in an online format, attracting over 170 delegates that participated from all over the world.

Mr. Marco Suazo, Head of UNITAR New York office, opened the module with a warm welcome to participants and expressed his gratitude to the speakers for their participation. After a brief introduction of the course, he passed the floor to the moderator, Mr. Ronaldo Amaral, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations.


Mr. Amaral described the structure of the session, highlighting three distinct parts: a reflection on the key findings of the previous three modules and potential key elements for the 2020 quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR); a dialogue on key topics flagged as top priority by governments for UN development system (UNDS) support, including support to address climate change and maximizing impact of the UNDS through a whole-of-system approach; and, last but not least, a discussion on next steps for the 2020 QCPR consultations by different actors.


Mr. Amaral then passed the floor to Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs for the keynote remarks. Reflecting on current global challenges, Mr. Liu noted that COVID-19 is reversing hard-won development gains, and multilateralism is suffering at a time when cooperation is paramount. He encouraged delegates to keep the ambition for a strong UNDS high, as they prepare for the upcoming 2020 QCPR, which could take a more outward-looking approach than its predecessors, encourage the system to work better with partners, including the IFIs; and reinforce the linkages between policy and operations.  He also suggested that Member States may wish to consider providing strategic guidance in five areas, namely integrated policy advice; sharpening support on critical priorities for Member States (poverty eradication, universal health coverage, climate  change…); support to specific country groups, advancing gender equality and integration across the UN’s development humanitarian and peacebuilding response.  


H.E. Mr. Juan Sandoval Mendiolea, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Vice President followed with highlights of the Chair’s summary from the ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment, held in May 2020. In his remarks, Ambassador Sandoval emphasized that effective multilateralism is critical to achieving impact and development results at country level. He touched on five critical issues emanating from the ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment. First, COVID-19 is a stress test for the UNDS reform efforts and the 2020 QCPR must now move to implementation phase of these efforts. Second, the UNDS reforms have led to significant achievements but some challenges remain and leadership is required at all levels to catalyze the change process. Third, adequate financing of the UNDS is essential. Fourth, progress is needed to better join up the cross-cutting development, humanitarian and peacebuilding work of the UN. And fifth, Member States are seeking greater transparency and accountability from the UNDS.


Following Mr. Mendiolea’s remarks, Mr. Amaral welcomed three speakers to engage in a Davos-style dialogue on the overall direction and potential key elements of the 2020 QCPR, namely, Mr. Neil Pierre, the G77 Coordinator from the Permanent Mission of Guyana to the UN; Ms. Barbara Adams, the Senior Policy Analyst from the Global Policy Forum; and Mr. Chris Stokes, Senior Advisor to the Director, UN Development Coordination Office respectively. In addition to sharing their takeaways from the earlier modules, each elaborated on a specific subject. Mr. Pierre pointed to the gap and further strengthening needed between the normative and operational linkages of the UNDS. He also noted the need to mobilize technical expertise and prioritize knowledge transfer. Reflecting on funding the UNDS, Ms. Adams stressed the importance of quality. She also touched on new financing realities and the need to engage the private sector and civil society. Mr. Stokes provided an overview on progress achieved since the 2016 QCPR in implementing the UNDS reforms. He highlighted the importance of pooled funding to deliver jointly at country level and multi-stakeholder engagement in the development of cooperation frameworks. Pointing to the high stakes of delivering on the 2030 Agenda in the context of COVID-19, Mr Stokes called for Member States to take ownership of the UNDS in order to succeed in building a more integrated approach and deliver better results.

The programme then moved to a dialogue on bolstering system-wide support during the Decade of Action. The moderator, Mr Amaral, highlighted that in DESA’s 2019 survey of programme country governments, addressing climate change was ranked as one of the top priorities that will require UN support in the coming four years. In this context, the intervention from Mr. Selwin Hart, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Climate Action and Assistant Secretary-General for the Climate Action team was timely. Mr Hart reminded participants of the urgency in addressing climate change, noting that the world is approaching global warming of 1.5 degrees much faster than anticipated. He underscored that addressing climate change is not only about lowering emissions and boosting resilience, but also about creating jobs, access to clean energy and food security. In order for the UNDS to sharpen its support on climate change action, Mr. Hart stressed the importance in connecting COVID-19 response efforts to environmental protection, noting that these efforts should not be a siloed approach. He also highlighted that Cooperation Frameworks should contain long-term strategies to realize the Paris Agreement.


The following speaker, Mr. Haoliang Xu, Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director of the Bureau of Policy and Program Support, covered the evolving offer of the UNDS to meet country needs. Drawing on the latest statistics, Mr Xu highlighted the complexities and interconnection of key policy areas, in particular social protection, and appealed to address the need to move beyond gross domestic product as a measure of development. He shared that COVID 19 has shown us the limitations of our current systems (of development and how we think about it) and created a political momentum for us to shift the development paradigm, challenge long standing assumptions, and raise our ambition in how we think about and address development complexities. Sustainable development in the next four years will require a renewed commitment to multilateralism and a strong affirmation of the UNDS’s place in it. He stressed that the  UNDS needs to make three big shifts: first, from magic unicorns to system approaches; second, from trying to predict the future to sensemaking in the present; and third, from financing individual projects to financing portfolios and system transformations:

Interventions on reinforcing a whole-of-system response were then delivered by Mr. Charles Katende, Chief, Policy, Strategic Information and Planning Branch, United Nations Population Fund and Ms. Jessica Faieta, the Resident Coordinator a.i. of Colombia.

Mr. Katende elaborated on the development of the common chapter within the strategic plans of New York based funds and programmes (UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN-Women). In reference to working better together, Mr Katende noted that the common chapter and UNDS reform efforts are driving closer cooperation among entities, particularly in thematic areas like advancing gender equality. Mr. Katende also mentioned the importance of joint funding and leveraging the comparative advantages of both the UN and its partners.

Ms. Faieta spoke to the changes at country level during the UNDS reform efforts and in response to COVID-19. Elaborating on the process of developing a new Cooperation Framework, Ms Faieta noted a shift mindset from prescribing the support that the UN can provide to acknowledging that the UN is present to support and complement the sustainable development ambitions and priorities of the government. Ms Faieta recognized that challenges remain, however, including the year-long negotiation period to agree on the Cooperation Framework and the need to work better across the development, humanitarian and peacebuilding work of the UN.

In the final part of the programme, different actors addressed next steps for the 2020 QCPR consultations. Mr. Pablo Soriano, Minister Counsellor from the Permanent Mission of El Salvador to the United Nations on behalf of the G77 and China, and Mr. Markus Reisle, Counsellor from the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations and designated facilitator of the QCPR resolution, provided information on the upcoming informal consultations on the QCPR. Four Second Committee experts, from the European Union, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Russia, provided some remarks on the key issues of interest for their delegations in the upcoming consultations.


To conclude the meeting, Ms. Christine Schneeberger, Minister, Head of the Sustainable Development and Humanitarian Affairs Team, from the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations delivered closing remarks. She expressed her gratitude to UNITAR and DESA for organizing the event, highlighting the useful opportunity to listen to diverse views on the upcoming QCPR. She encouraged delegates to keep a broad perspective in mind in order to find the right balance of priorities in the 2020 QCPR.

Mr. Suazo then closed by mentioning how technology has completely shifted the way that UNITAR works and how it has increased the impact of its trainings. He also expressed his sincere gratitude to the Government of Switzerland and DESA for their support to make this event possible.

Module 4 Video

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