As governments grapple with cascading crises involving food, finance, energy, climate and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, UN staff on the ground have been stepping up to help them address these threats to sustainable development for all.
Ambassadors and UN leaders recently reaffirmed their support for the Organization’s Resident Coordinators, who lead teams servicing more than 160 countries and territories.
These 130 senior officials are the Secretary-General’s designated representatives in the field and coordinate UN operational activities for development.
They are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed by the UN’s 193 Member States seven years ago, which promise a more just, equitable and “green” world by 2030.
A force for solutions
Resident Coordinators were at UN Headquarters this month for a series of interactive sessions with the Secretary-General, the Deputy Secretary-General, UN Sustainable Development Group principals and Member State representatives, to review progress and challenges, four years into UN development system reforms.
This marked their first in-person gathering since the onset of the pandemic.
During his meeting with them, Secretary-General António Guterres called on Resident Coordinators to keep ambitions high, as they are the “UN development system’s biggest convening force to forge solutions” in countries at a time of myriad challenges.
He also warned of yet another difficult year ahead, and the need for UN support with greater scale than ever before.
‘Long road ahead’
That message echoed throughout the interactive dialogue between the Resident Coordinators and Member States, hosted by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed.
She said the reforms of the UN development system are delivering results, noting that 95 per cent of host Governments confirm that the reinvigorated Resident Coordinator system and the new generation of UN country teams are more integrated and more collaborative.
“At the same time, we are aware that there is still a long road ahead of us and that the global crisis we face has raised the bar even higher,” she added.
Ms. Mohammed highlighted key priorities for the coming year, which the Secretary-General had outlined in his meeting with the Resident Coordinators.
They are mitigating the impact of the global cost-of-living crisis, advancing climate action, and accelerating just economic transitions across energy, digital and food systems that both empower people and protect the planet.
Accelerate the transition
The UN deputy chief also listed the actions required to support these priorities, such as financing.
“Transformative change and a just transition cannot happen without financial investments at speed and at scale — and without significant reforms to our global financing architecture,” she said.
Ms. Mohammed stressed that 2023 must be the year countries accelerate the transitions that will reshape and power economies to deliver the SDGs.
“Together, we must raise the ambition and urgency needed to leapfrog from the multiple crises we face and, together, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Praise for reform
Several Member State representatives at the meeting commended Resident Coordinators for their role in ensuring the implementation of crucial action plans that support sustainable development in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries.
The Ambassador of Barbados, François Jackman, also said the reform is “unqualifiedly a success”, adding that Small Island Developing States are benefitting, including through integrated responses to natural disasters.
Munir Akram, Pakistan’s Ambassador and chair of the Group of 77 and China developing country coalition, said his government sees that the UN development system reform “has been a successful exercise.”
While in New York, Resident Coordinators from different regions also told UN News how country teams are making a difference at a critical time for the international community.
The view from Brazil
Silvia Rucks arrived in Brazil roughly a year-and-a-half ago, at the height of the pandemic. The situation was difficult, but she was impressed with how well the 25 UN agencies, funds and programmes in the country were uniting in the face of the crisis.
“When we think about UN reform, Brazil is a good example of how these agencies work together,” she said.
Teams mobilized resources, supplies, and medicines, particularly to support the most affected populations, such as indigenous communities.
Ms. Rucks added that the UN system in Brazil works in other key areas, such as humanitarian assistance and human rights, in addition to promoting sustainable development.
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