India supported a landmark decision of the UN General Assembly for a comprehensive reform of the UN development system that Secretary General Antonio Guterres said will pave the way for a new era of “national ownership” of development. The General Assembly yesterday gave the green light to a bold new plan to make sustainable development a reality, described by Guterres as “the most ambitious and comprehensive transformation of the UN development system in decades”.
The UN Secretary-General said the reform package paved the way for a new era of “national ownership” of development, supported by the whole UN system, in a tailored fashion, allowing countries to pursue sustainable economic and social development. The UN Secretariat said that the reform implementation will require some USD 255 million annually.
“It sets the foundations to reposition sustainable development at the heart of the United Nations,” he said, after the 193-member intergovernmental body adopted the reform resolution by consensus.
“And it gives practical meaning to our collective promise to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for everyone, everywhere – with poverty eradication as its first goal, leaving no one behind,” he said. “In the end, reform is about putting in place the mechanisms to make a real difference in the lives of people”.India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Tanmaya Lal, in his explanation of position, said India had, from the start, extended “strong support” to the Secretary General’s proposals to reform the UN Development System.
The reform proposals flow from the collective desire to strengthen the system’s capability to improve its delivery, especially in the context of the much more comprehensive understanding of the global challenges, as reflected in the 2030 Agenda, he said. Lal, however, pointed out that the proposals have come at a time when the UN is staring at a scenario of severe resource constraints. “This stark contradiction in the requirement of resources vis-a-vis the potential availability of resources has been a major fault-line in the debate leading up to today,” he said.
Lal added that the draft resolution had to be modified substantially despite enjoying strong support from an overwhelming majority of the membership of this Assembly.
“The modalities of funding envisaged in the current text are very different in their nature to the SG’s original proposal. We are also conscious that the volume of funding and the time of its availability remain uncertain at this stage,” he said. Lal pointed out that the proposed enhancement of cost sharing by various agencies; levies on earmarked funding; and voluntary contribution are all likely to involve considerable uncertainty and possible shortfalls.
The reform process will mean significant changes to the setup, leadership, accountability mechanisms and capacities of the whole UN development system; ensuring it meets national needs not only for implementing the SDGs, but also in meeting the climate change commitments made through the 2015 Paris Agreement. More specifically, the reform gives Resident Coordinators – the most senior UN development officials at the country level – a dedicated, independent role in coordinating the activities of all the various UN entities working locally, which make up UN Country Teams.
Guterres noted that being a Resident Coordinator is “one of the most challenging jobs” at the UN, and the 129 Resident Coordinators covering 165 countries are working hard “in some cases against all odds”. Currently, successful coordination depends too much on individual personalities and the goodwill of those involved, he said, highlighting that this reform will help resolve “a historic deficit in our coordination function” and accentuate strategies that work and are effective.
With the reform, the functions of the resident coordinator are now separated from those of the resident representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). “You will be able to count on impartial and empowered Resident Coordinators – fully devoted to the needs that you require to fulfil the 2030 Agenda, drawing on experience, skills and knowledge across the system,” Guterres said.
“Our teams on the ground will now be better able to tailor their presence, capacities, skillsets and overall response to your priorities,” he added.