ECOSOC Operational Activities for Development Segment: 16th Plenary

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22-May-2019 03:00:41
Economic and Social Council Operational activities for development segment: “Repositioning the United Nations development system to best support the 2030 Agenda: acting on our common vision”.

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Regional commissions contain a wealth of information, assets and expertise, but greater transparency and efficiency are required to boost their role in supporting sustainable development, panellists and Member States told the Economic and Social Council on the second day of its segment on operational activities for development.

Under the theme “Getting the regional architecture right: a round table on the way forward”, panellists in the first of two interactive dialogues with Member States held today noted the challenges represented by a wide distribution of 54 global regional hubs. Speakers stressed the importance of an approach better tailored to individual countries, and national ownership and leadership with host countries consulted.

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivered a presentation at the outset of the meeting on the Secretary-General’s proposals, including the creation of a unified regional collaborative platform to integrate expertise in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Secretary-General also wants to establish knowledge management hubs to help Member States and country teams access regional policy expertise, she said. “It is essential that we proceed with a tailored approach in each region,” she said, calling for “more results for people and more value for money”.

Masud Bin Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, sharing the perspective of a Member State, said that a new generation of United Nations country teams must become better at leveraging regional assets. He noted that engaging with multiple actors is difficult for many developing countries when there are many implementing agencies at the national level. National ownership is fundamental in the revamped architecture, with Member States being consulted at every step.

Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and Coordinator for the Regional Economic Commissions, said that when regional reform started, “it was like a wall fell”. Highlighting efforts to combat tax avoidance and addressing climate change adaptation and resilience, she said those initiatives recognize the nexus among development, humanitarian and migration challenges.

However, Mourad Wahba, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), countered the notion of a “wall falling”, saying change has been very patiently introduced at the regional level. Noting the need to integrate policy and operations in a search for coherence, he said a strong presence at the regional level aids humanitarian relief, development operations and political analysis.

Jens Wandel, Special Adviser to Secretary-General on Reforms, noted regional assets are spread over 145 offices globally, with different levels of concentration from capital to capital. That geography is very complex, making it difficult to concentrate United Nations activities. It is, therefore, important to build a transparent, effective system so that information within the United Nations is more available, to make the Organization more responsive.

In the afternoon, the Council held a session on a “Multi-country office review”. Noting that the review team visited 15 States and spoke with 500 individuals, including Heads of State and Government, Ms. Mohammed said the United Nations aims to strengthen these offices in order to ensure no one is left behind. Outlining plans to increase resources for the offices – a concern voiced by several delegations during the session – she cited a proposal to leverage more funds through such mechanisms as the Joint Fund for the 2030 Agenda. A first-ever office will be established in the North Pacific, and there may be additional presence in the Caribbean, she added.

Noting that 38 of the 41 countries served by those offices are small island developing States, Fekitamoeloa Katoa ′Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said they each face complex and unique challenges whereby climate change is, for many, a “make or break” situation requiring urgent attention.

Thilmeeza Hussain, Permanent Representative of the Maldives and Bureau member of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), called for tailored financing, capacity-building initiatives and regional coordination, as well as concrete proposals and a time frame with milestones to advance efforts towards realizing the 2030 Agenda.

The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 23 May, to conclude its work.

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