As the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis continues to wreak havoc across the world – with the most vulnerable suffering the most – the UN chief said on Tuesday that the task of eradicating poverty and achieving the development goals “has never been more challenging, more urgent and more necessary”.
“Our objective remains clear: to help countries navigate and accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), fully respecting the principle of national ownership”, Secretary-General António Guterres said, opening the first-ever virtual session of the Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) Operational Activities for Development Segment.
While a “renewed spirit of collaboration” and UN reforms have “put us on the right footing”, he flagged that the coronavirus pandemic has “raised the bar even higher”.
“We now have a triple imperative”, the UN chief maintained, namely responding urgently to help stem the transmission and impact of the pandemic; to help people safeguard development gains and protect lives, working with partners to ensure that all recovery efforts follow the 2030 Agenda, and advance the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
In 2018, the Organization reformed its development system, including by making UN Country Teams – under the independent leadership of Resident Coordinators, or RCs – better adapted to local needs.
In confronting this triple challenge, Mr. Guterres outlined that RCs are working with the World Health Organization (WHO) as they lead the health response; the UN Development Programme (UNDP) on socio-economic support involving all Country Team members; and Regional Economic Commissions on debt, trade and other macroeconomic dimensions.
Noting the achievement of gender parity along with a significant improvement in geographic diversity, he maintained that they are being recognized as “the empowered and impartial leader of the UN development system at country level”
“Step by step, we are building an even stronger and more diverse cadre of Resident Coordinators”, the UN chief asserted.
The Secretary-General shared tailored proposals for a better organized, more collaborative UN development system at regional levels, “one that is more able to tackle cross-border challenges and leverage regional policy expertise for SDG results”.
He set out a detailed plan to boost UN efforts across the SDG’s social, economic and environmental dimensions and underscored the need to “continue to step up cooperation in core areas” that have strong links and the greatest impact, such as rooting out poverty and leaving no one behind, as well as climate change, gender equality, economic transformation and employment and partnerships — including south-south cooperation.
The UN development system relies on “a strong coordination backbone”, stressed Mr. Guterres.
“Working together – with our foot on the pedal and our eyes on the 2030 Agenda – we will get through this crisis and reach our destination — protecting hard-won development progress and accelerating our joint efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in this Decade of Action”, concluded the UN chief. “Thank you for your commitment”.
ECOSOC President Mona Juul stressed that this time of rapid re-prioritization, “is not about making a choice between COVID-19 response or the 2030 Agenda”.
“On the contrary”, she stated. “Our commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has not changed, but the urgency to act, has”.
With the most vulnerable people and countries being hit the hardest, Ms. Juul called COVID-19 “a harsh reminder” of structural inequalites, arguing that the UN’s response to the crisis must be guided by the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development; “in short: leaving no one behind”.
And on the ground, the UN provides resilience to “make a real difference in the lives of people” towards dignity and equality, she emphasized
“Together, we will deepen our efforts during this Decade of Action – to recover better, and build a healthier, greener, fairer and a more resilient world. A world of solidarity”, concluded Ms. Juul.
Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), underscored that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed failures of economic structures, social protection systems and welfare schemes.
“Hence”, she said, “a ‘new normality’ is not the way forward; we must rethink the development model and consolidate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, leaving no one behind, sustained”.