Integration meant bringing countries, regional actors and United Nations entities together to recognize that the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was one mandate for the benefit of all, the Economic and Social Council heard today as it concluded its integration segment.
The annual segment promotes integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The 2016 session aimed to develop policy recommendations that would guide implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Social and Economic Affairs, said that while 2015 was a year of landmark agreements, 2016 would be the year for implementation. The segment had provided an opportunity to bring together different competencies, experiences and challenges in coordinating the three pillars of sustainable development. Furthermore, the meetings served as a crucial tool for examining key policy questions and there would be many new and unique issues that would require continuous search for innovation solutions.
The United Nations would continue to support the design and implementation of the 2030 Agenda, he said. Several activities had already been undertaken by the Department to support those goals, including in strengthening and integrating analytical mechanisms in the areas of economic, social development and population, as well as data and financing. In working towards sustainable development, the Department involved participation by a wide range of stakeholders including academia, the scientific community, civil society and the private sector.
The Department had also collaborated with other United Nations entities to build a coordinated approach, which was necessary to deliver as one, he said. It was providing analysis and recommendations to guide discussions at the country level. Most recently, that had included the report of the Secretary-General on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review. The Department would continue to support intergovernmental deliberations as they were an integral part of mutual understanding and learning.
Also taking to the floor, Sven Jurgenson, Vice-President of the Council, said that integration, across all sectors and between stakeholders, while challenging was essential for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. Exchanging knowledge and information would generate a range of strategies for implementing the Goals and achieving the targets. The segment's debate had highlighted that successful integration lay in instilling ownerships at all levels. He highlighted several key messages that stood out during the three-day discussion, including that every country faced its own unique challenges and required specific policy solutions.
Moreover, innovation did not always need to be based on new technology but could be achieved by applying existing technologies in a new way. A process of building on past successes and learning from failures was essential as well. It was equally imperative that the appropriate use of innovation technologies and other tools be considered, especially given the scope and scale of the 2030 Agenda. The multilateral system would need to support, catalyse and complement national efforts. The Council would take the role of promoting and supporting coordination in the review of the Agenda on an annual basis. Going forward, the integration segment would continue to offer a unique opportunity to bring together key development actors to assess progress and build coherence.
Today's meeting included a panel discussion on "Policy innovation and integration - views from the multilateral system", during which five experts discussed how policy innovation at the national level could be bolstered by initiatives through international and regional platforms. They also touched on what integration would imply for the United Nations as it aimed to improve its response to emerging challenges.
Opening the panel, Christian Friis Bach, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, said implementing the 2030 Agenda required breaking down barriers at the national, regional and international levels. That included in the United Nations system as well. Major challenges remained in the area of project funding, and he called for new innovation funding mechanisms and a shift in seeing the 2030 Agenda as a single mandate.
Maged Abdelaziz, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa, said that nearly 390 million Africans still lived in extreme poverty. A paradigm shift would be needed to accomplish the policy of "leave no one behind". Africa's Agenda 2063, a development plan for the next several decades, focused on industrialization, agricultural growth and human development, as well as building resilience to climate change.
Michael O'Neill, Assistant Secretary-General and Assistant Administrator, and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that there had been a great deal of progress in the last 10 and 15 years, particularly with the "delivering as one" initiative. The new 2030 Agenda, however, had inspired the international community to pursue a "win-win" perspective, one with which it could pursue development, as well as be kind to nature. He highlighted the role of Governments in fostering business-friendly environments to allow enterprises to thrive under a sustainable model.
Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director, Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships Bureau, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), discussed implementation of the 2030 Agenda in a gender-responsive manner. Innovation offered a path for seizing opportunities, as gender equality was inherently about social, economic and political innovation. United Nations entities must empower gender equality institutions, as well as "engender" economic, social and other bodies.
Elliott Harris, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the New York Office, UNDP, said United Nations agencies should find ways to integrate policies upstream to understand how they affected other areas. In doing so, it would discover policies that considered "transmission channels" and "spillover effects" from some sectors into others.
Today's panel was moderated by Farooq Ullah, Executive Director of the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future.
Also participating in the discussion today were the representatives of Chile, Iraq and South Africa.
Representatives of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) also joined in on the panel discussion.
The Economic and Social Council began the day with a panel discussion on "Policy innovation and integration - Views from the multilateral system", moderated by Farooq Ullah, Executive Director of the Stakeholder Forum. It featured presentations by Christian Friis Bach, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe; Maged Abdelaziz, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa; Michael O'Neill, Assistant Secretary-General and Assistant Administrator, and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director, Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships Bureau, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women); and Elliott Harris, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the New York Office, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Mr. ULLAH described three reports published by the Forum, the first of which was on the meaning and implications of universality, particularly for developed countries. Three types of integration were a systemic, holistic systems-based approach to sustainable development frameworks; the balancing of the three dimensions of sustainable development; and the explicit interlinkages between themes.
Mr. BACH said that to break down silos, lessons could be learned from the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals, when Governments, civil society, academia and others had taken part in a multi-stakeholder discussion, which had led to the creation of the most ambitious Goals ever set. To turn the Goals into action, all actors must again be involved in finding solutions. Lessons could be learned from the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative, which was about delivering electricity to the poorest women in Africa and investing in energy efficiency - aspirational issues that had brought the private sector into the room, which made recent climate discussions more productive. Important questions were around creating new funding and management mechanisms, and ensuring that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was seen as one mandate for the United Nations and other international organizations. "There is a strong drive now to break down barriers," he said, noting that Governments were taking part in cross-sectoral and interministerial efforts to achieve the Goals. For their part, regional commissions were breaking down traditional silos, he said, citing the pan-European strategy on greening the economy in that context.
Mr. ABDELAZIZ said that from an African perspective, policy integration was not an option but a requirement. It was crucial that progress across the Sustainable Development Goals be monitored. Inclusive institutions and access to justice were critical for economic growth. Promoting policy innovation also required supporting relevant efforts at the regional and subregional levels. In Africa, 390 million people still lived in extreme poverty. To address that, a paradigm shift would have to focus on accomplishing the policy of "leave no one behind". The African development plan of Agenda 2063 focused on industrialization, agricultural expansion, human development to boost productivity, and building resilience against climate change. Agenda 2063 required the support of a multilateral system that kept in mind the connection between Africa's development plan and the global 2030 Agenda. Developing a single monitoring evaluation review and reporting framework at the national, regional and international level would produce accurate data and assist in implementing the Goals. In the same vein, fulfilling official development assistance (ODA) commitments, curbing illicit cash flows and finding new methods of funding would be crucial in supporting sustainable development on the continent. African youth - more than 200 million aged 15 to 24 - remained the continent's most valuable asset. Women's participation would also be crucial in promoting policy integration.
Mr. O'NEILL said that the opportunities and challenges of the 2030 Agenda could be used to leverage growth in other areas as well. Integration was a key element to ensure the implementation of sustainable development. There had been a great deal of development and progress in the last 10 and 15 years, particularly with the "delivering as one" initiative which namely promoted one budget and one communications plan. That was now being implemented in 53 countries and had proven to be an efficient model. On transparency, he said it had been a priority for UNDP. More could be done in the area of reform and required continued impetus from Member States in the most specific way. The 2030 Agenda and its interlinked nature posed a further challenge to pursue it as an indivisible programme to achieve greater impacts. The Agenda had also inspired the international community to pursue a "win-win" perspective, one that could pursue development, as well as be kind to nature. Hence, progress made in the sustainable agenda could be used as leverage in other areas as well. He also mentioned innovation facilities recently established at United Nations agencies to organize big data. On the private sector, he said it must be included in the development process and called on Governments to establish business-friendly environments for enterprises that wished to work under a sustainable model.
Ms. PURI discussed implementation of Agenda 2030 in a gender-responsive manner, examining how the United Nations could deliver on the gender compact, seen not only in the new Agenda, but also in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development, the new climate change agreement and the women, peace and security review. The compact recognized the centrality of gender equality to achieving sustainable development. Integration required a systematic mainstreaming of gender equality perspectives across all policies in the new Agenda. Innovation offered a path for seizing opportunities, as gender equality was inherently about social, economic and political innovation. The United Nations must take inspiration from global norms. The indivisibility of both horizontal and vertical policy integration was also important. United Nations entities must empower gender equality institutions, as well as "engender" economic, social and other bodies. Investment from all sources at all levels was needed for bridging the gender-resource gaps, while the United Nations must support production of gender responsive statistics at the global, regional and national level to ensure that policies yielded results. Inclusion of women's groups, youth, women's human rights defenders and others was needed to ensure gender-responsive implementation. Implementation was about laws, policies, measures and the "downloading" and transforming of global norms at the local level.
Mr. HARRIS said that if everyone was doing the same thing, there would be no need for policy integration. What distinguished the United Nations was that it gathered under one roof specialists from around the world. Its expertise was derived from a certain degree of specialization. Losing that would mean losing its ability to advise and support Member States. "We have to learn how to communicate across the silos - but not destroy the silos per se," he said. It was perhaps late to coordinate policy at the country level. Rather, United Nations agencies should find ways to integrate policies upstream - at Headquarters - to understand how they affected other areas. In doing so, it would discover policies that considered "transmission channels" and "spillover effects" from some sectors into others. It was important to map out how issues were related. For example, deforestation affected soil, which led to a decline in agricultural productivity, migration of people into cities, exacerbating urbanization challenges and other adverse effects that no one policy could address. That link of transmission channels offered various access points for solutions. Transport and other policies could help solve a problem that had started in the agricultural sector. Elements of that approach were ongoing, including awareness of the need to support a whole-of-Government approach. While it raised challenges for the United Nations, which had different funding and governance arrangements, the real challenges for societies were about attacking problems from different perspectives at the same time. If the Organization was to be a trusted partner, it must equip itself to provide the necessary support. "This is still a work in process", he said.
The representative of Chile, in the ensuing discussion, said that there was significant resistance in the United Nations system to breaking down silos. A number of the Organization's agencies were afraid of losing power and posts. Clearly, everyone wanted coordination but everyone also wanted to be a coordinator but no one wanted to be coordinated. Continuing, the delegate asked about what problems, gaps and resistance United Nations agencies faced.
Mr. BACH, in response, said that the Sustainable Development Goals provided a platform to create issue-based coalitions among agencies to support Member States. There were, however, obstacles in the system. To build stronger cooperation, it was necessary for Member States to give strategic leadership instead of micromanaging. Member States should push agencies to do better at the national levels in translating agency norms and standards into policy.
Mr. ABDELAZIZ said that he could not say what organizations were implementing what mandates. That was exactly why the Secretary-General had called for a mandate review so that the distinction of responsibilities could be clearer. There were inherent issues related to strategic frameworks and budgets.
Mr. BACH, responding to a question posed by the representative of Iraq about making all countries engaged in one way towards the goal of integrating policy, said that regional commissions could do more in that area. Reaching out to existing regional organizations could bridge differences at the national level. Countries were "turning regional" in their responses in areas of trade, migration, and access to water. All Member States, private sector and civil society could meet at the regional level and make an impact.
Mr. ABDELZIZ, responding to a question posed by the representative of Iraq about best policy practices that would include Africa's young people in a development agenda, said his office was mandated to support that continent's development plan. Recently, the mandate had become much broader and included supporting the 2030 Agenda. However, Africa's 2063 Agenda was far more ahead on youth issues than the 2030 Agenda, he said, calling the latter a compromise. Africa's plan aimed to reduce youth unemployment by 25 per cent by 2023 and it was the role of the United Nations to support that.
The representative of South Africa said his country was in the fortunate position to have adopted its own development agenda which was in line with the 2030 Agenda. South Africa had a head start in addressing inequality and unemployment. The integration of women in policy work and closing the gender gap in employment was a top priority for his country as well.
Mr. HARRIS, in response to the question from Chile's representative, said the United Nations faced constraints to full integration, due to the way it was governed. To a question from Iraq's delegate, he agreed that specialization should not be abandoned, but rather, that new channels must be found. UNEP, for example, would work differently in China than it would in Vanuatu, because "nexus" issues would translate in different ways. Unlike in the past, the 2030 Agenda was truly universal.
Ms. PURI said integration did not mean a conflation of mandates, but rather, implementation support to States by United Nations agencies from the perspective of each agency's area of expertise. The mandate of UN-Women was to lead, coordinate and promote United Nations accountability. It was working to align its efforts to the Goals. The big challenges were to develop harmonized "scorecards" and mainstream gender throughout the work of all United Nations agencies.
Mr. O'NEILL, discussing work being done across agencies, highlighted the interactive data platform created by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to address food security in Yemen. To the point about approaches of Member States, there were many features of the United Nations system that reflected decisions made by Member States and different bodies. In discussing ways to improve management of the system, and recognize States' need for diverse services, the United Nations should keep in mind the need for more reform and ensuring that States understood work being done "across the board".
A representative of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said the body collaborated with all the agencies represented on the podium, highlighting examples of its policy integration work. At the national level, she discussed the "trade and productive capacity" cluster, which provided tailored policy advice for States in the areas of trade and poverty reduction, among others. An enabling environment was important in that regard.
A representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the agency supported efforts to implement internationally agreed policies, citing the Committee on World Food Security, a multi-stakeholder forum that addressed food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture. It supported a multi-stakeholder dialogue that had led to the approval of various innovative instruments, efforts led by Governments and involved civil society, the private sector, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the WFP. A similar approach had been taken in devising the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries.
A representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) agreed that specialization should not be destroyed. In today's discussion, he had noticed a difference between "be one" and "act as one". The latter would preserve the United Nations major strength - its diversity - which was important at the country-level because the Organization had to be flexible to tap into different resources and networks. Norms were a common denominator that reflected what States had agreed on how the United Nations should carry out its work. The ILO had long supported the linking of normative operations, he said, citing the "Decent Jobs for Youth" initiative, which aligned 20 United Nations agencies to promote youth employment.
SOURCE: United Nations