UN Secretary-General's Remarks to the 2023 ECOSOC Operational Activities for Development Segment
23 May 2023
Halfway through the timeline of the 2030 Agenda, we are leaving more than half the world behind.
Poverty and hunger are again growing.
The climate crisis is escalating.
Conflict and persecution have forced one hundred million people from their homes.
And the economic destruction and dislocation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic was prolonged and amplified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The cost of food, energy, and finance has risen sharply, with a devastating impact on vulnerable countries and communities. Inequalities and gender discrimination are on the rise.
The Sustainable Development Goals – our only comprehensive solution to these crises – are far off track.
We have gone into reverse on more than 30 per cent of SDG targets – including our most fundamental goals of reducing poverty and hunger.
Progress on another 50 per cent is weak and insufficient.
But it is not too late to turn the tide. And we are determined to do just that.
The SDG Stimulus, the proposed reforms of the global financial architecture, the Acceleration Agenda on climate, the Transforming Education Summit, Food Systems transformation, the Global Digital Compact, the Global Accelerator on Social Protection and Jobs, the Black Sea Initiative and the Memorandum of Understanding on promoting Russian food and fertilizers to global markets – all these initiatives are aimed at reducing poverty, inequality and hunger, and getting the 2030 Agenda back on course.
Around the world, United Nations country teams lead our efforts for sustainable, inclusive development.
They are our eyes, ears and hands, supporting governments, convening stakeholders, and striving to translate global and regional commitments on the SDGs into action.
When we started the reform process, no one foresaw that our country teams would be operating in such challenging conditions.
Despite that, four years on, the reforms have succeeded.
My report on the QCPR implementation demonstrates that.
The verdict is in: Resident Coordinators are bringing United Nations entities together in support of countries’ priorities for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
They are also working together to help address crises that cross borders.
The overwhelming majority of host governments agree.
Fully 88 per cent say that Resident Coordinators provide effective and strategic leadership in support of their national plans and priorities.
All Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries surveyed said the UN’s activities were closely aligned with their needs and priorities.
And all small island developing states said collaboration between UN entities has improved since the reforms.
The system is data-driven – which is delivering new levels of transparency and accountability.
In Egypt, the reinvigorated role of the RC was a catalyst to mobilize UN expertise and comprehensive action to support the Egyptian Presidency of COP-27 on the climate crisis.
In Pakistan, the newly-empowered RC system coordinated across the entire UN family with the government, in response to the devastating floods that affected 33 million people.
The Cooperation Framework was the blueprint for a long-term approach to support recovery, going beyond the immediate humanitarian response to involve international financial institutions.
In Small Island Developing States, the integrated support provided by our multi-country offices is helping to address issues ranging from climate adaptation to debt distress.
The transformative vision of the 2030 Agenda relies on a global partnership and unprecedented investment.
But that investment has not been forthcoming.
Many developing countries simply cannot afford to invest in the SDGs because they face a financing abyss.
The annual SDG funding gap stood at 2.5 trillion dollars before the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the OECD, it now stands at some 4.2 trillion.
Developed countries adopted expansionary fiscal and monetary policies and have now largely returned to their pre-pandemic trajectory of economic growth.
Developing countries have been hobbled by their inability to do the same. Vulnerable Middle Income countries are denied debt relief and concessional financing; and the Common Framework for Debt Treatment is not yet effectively working. If they go to the markets, developing countries may be charged interest rates up to eight times higher than their developed counterparts.
It is clear that something is seriously wrong with the rules and governance structures that produce these results.
I have therefore called for an SDG Stimulus – an emergency measure to scale up affordable long-term financing for all countries in need, by at least 500 billion dollars a year.
At the same time, we are working on long-term proposals to right the fundamental injustices and inequalities in global financial architecture which reflect the global realities of 78 years ago.
I count on your support for these proposals, and for all our efforts to accelerate the 2030 Agenda.
Meanwhile, we rely on our partnerships with the governments of developing countries to get the most out of every development dollar.
And to do that, we need adequate, predictable and flexible funding for the UN development system.
I thank those Members that have maintained or increased their financial support to the UN development system.
However, the Resident Coordinator system is still chronically under-funded.
We are far from reaching the targets we committed to four years ago.
The Resident Coordinator system is the anchor for all our efforts to support countries in achieving the 2030 Agenda.
Yet, in 2022, the RC system suffered from a funding gap of 85 million US dollars.
The Joint SDG Fund is far short of the Funding Compact target of 290 million US dollars per year.
Unless Member States step up, we are effectively starving the UN development system of the support it needs to deliver for Member States.
A recruitment freeze is reducing our ability to deliver. With every month that passes, further reductions will have to be made, affecting our ability to coordinate the UN system and convene beyond it.
We have responded to the concerns of Member States. We are now turning to Member States to meet their commitments.
Let us recall we are talking about 85 million dollars – a tiny investment for the returns we are already witnessing.
Development coordination saves lives by eradicating poverty and preventing humanitarian crises.
Countries are spending more than two trillion dollars a year on military budgets.
It is simply not credible to pledge support for peace, if they are not prepared to invest a tiny fraction of this amount in sustainable development – the greatest conflict prevention tool we have.
I therefore urge Member States to reconsider my recommendation for a hybrid 2.0 funding model for the UN development system.
The current funding model for the RC system is far too vulnerable to fluctuations in voluntary funding, making it unpredictable and unsustainable.
It has also failed to provide sufficient resources.
The most logical, principled solution is to fund the Resident Coordinator system with a greater share of assessed contributions under the Regular Budget of the United Nations.
Therefore, in the coming months, I intend to launch a transparent, inclusive consultation process with Member States so that all views are heard before a formal proposal is submitted to the General Assembly.
I ask you to approach these consultations with a sense of urgency, solidarity, and resolve.
We must address this unfinished business from the reforms as we head towards the SDG summit in September.
Creative new approaches have not worked.
A new funding model, with a greater share of assessed contributions through the Regular Budget, is the only sustainable, predictable, and realistic option.
Together, the United Nations and countries around the world are working towards a generational shift in global development – a shift towards fairness and justice in development financing, and a dynamic in-country support system that is aligned with the needs and priorities of Member States.
The SDG Summit in September must be a moment of unity to provide a renewed impetus and accelerated action for achieving the SDGs.
It must deliver concrete progress on the means of implementation and a clear commitment to overhaul the current international financial architecture.
The next weeks and months are an important opportunity to prepare the ground.
This will be the most important initiative of the 2023 calendar.
We have made significant progress, but we still have a way to go.
Member States are our partners on this journey. We count on your continued engagement and leadership at the highest levels.
A robust resolution from the ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment would be an important first step in this direction.
Together, we can create a more sustainable and equitable future for all people, everywhere.
Read the 2023 Report of the Chair of the UNSDG on the Development Coordination Office launched at the ECOSOC segment here.