UNF Alert 22

Dear Colleagues,

October has been an exciting month for the UN, with a number of marquee moments including, of course, the selection of the ninth UN Secretary-General, the Habitat III conference in Quito, the announcement of National Voluntary Review countries for the 2017 HLPF, and the entry into force of the Paris Climate Agreement. Implementation of the 2030 Agenda has continued to move forward in country capitals, including engagement on financing and data.

As we look ahead to the COP22 in Marrakech and the next meeting of the interagency expert group on SDGs indicators in Geneva, we expect to see this encouraging momentum to persist. See below for brief updates on each of these milestones, as well as our latest recommended must reads.

All the best,

The UNF  Policy Team

Monthly Monitor: A New Secretary General and Sustainable Development Milestones


Secretary General Designate

Drumroll, please. After a formal vote on October 6, the Security Council recommended António Guterres to the General Assembly. Then, on October 13, the General Assembly convened to enthusiastically appoint Guterres the ninth UN Secretary General by acclamation. Permanent Representatives of Niger, Kuwait, Georgia, Chile and the UK offered supportive remarks on behalf of their respective regional groups, welcoming Guterres and recognizing the challenges he will face during his term. Ambassador Samantha Power also spoke on behalf of the United States as host country; she noted, in response to observers who had expressed disappointment that a woman had not been appointed, that Guterres is a strong advocate for gender equality. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Guterres had kind words for each other and shared a warm hug during the ceremony.

This compilation of quotes from Guterres’ vision statement and recent interviews sheds light on his views about the UN, the role of the Secretary-General and the current issues that the UN faces. Following his appointment, Guterres announced the transition team that will help him prepare for the assumption of his duties on January 1, 2017.

On October 19, keeping with the more inclusive and transparent spirit of the selection process, PGA Peter Thomson hosted an informal “listening” meeting between the Secretary-General-designate and member states, in response to requests from member states who wished to begin a dialogue on critical priority and emerging issues. Guterres received a hearty welcome during the interaction, and a number of member states suggested that the increased transparency in the selection process can be a model for further reforms. The Secretary-General designate used the opportunity to take notes and affirm that he was hearing and absorbing member states’ remarks. Stakeholders have already begun to offer him written recommendations, such as the UN70 Initiative, A Feminist Agenda for the new SG and Notes for the Next SG on Atrocity Prevention.

Sustainable Development Milestones

National Voluntary Reviews

Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world will be the theme of the 2017 High-Level Political Forum. Already, the UN has accepted submissions from 30 countries who have volunteered to submit National Voluntary Reviews (NVRs) at the 2017 HLPF—Argentina, Belarus, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Monaco, Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, Thailand, Togo, Uruguay. In addition to compelling countries to get serious about implementation of the SDGs so that they have concrete results to report at the HLPF, NVRs allow countries to showcase progress and share best practices with peer countries.

Climate Change

The Paris Agreement is set to enter into force on November 4, after the two thresholds of at least 55 countries contributing at least 55% of global emissions ratifying the deal were reached. The historic agreement, adopted last December, brings all countries together under a common global framework to take action to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate impacts. Momentum continues to build in the lead up to the next UN Climate Conference in Marrakech (COP22), with major global deals recently reached to curb aviation emissions, which account for 1.3% of global greenhouse gas emissions today; and limit the use hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which has been hailed by the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development as the “largest temperature reduction ever achieved by a single agreement”.

SDG Indicators

From September 19-28, the IAEG-SDGs held an open consultation on possible refinements to the Global Indicator Framework. Compiled results from the open consultation are available here. The Global SDG Indicators Database provides access to data compiled through the UN System in preparation for the SG’s annual report on progress toward the SDGs, and will continue to be updated.

The fourth meeting of the Inter-Agency Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators, which was scheduled for mid-October in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has been postponed to November 17-18 and will be held in Geneva, Switzerland.


World Bank President Jim Kim and Chief Economist Paul Romer kicked off the IMF/World Bank Annual Fall meetings in Washington, DC with a discussion about the importance of investing in human capital to create future capacity, to prevent job loss due to technology and ultimately to achieve the global development agenda. Earlier in the week, Kim reminded attendees that the World Bank’s twin goals are (1) ending extreme poverty and (2) shared prosperity, two key elements of the 2030 Agenda.

At an event on Financial Solutions for the SDGs hosted by the UN Secretary-General with the Missions of Canada, France and Jamaica, the Secretary General announced the launch of the Financial Innovation Platform, a new initiative for identifying, piloting and scaling innovative finance solutions to support the achievement of the SDGs by 2030. The platform is intended to engage key development actors across sectors, including Governments, foundations, civil society, entrepreneurs, investors, banks and development finance institutions, to catalyze action.

Habitat III

Last week, mayors, national leaders and other stakeholders gathered in Quito, Ecuador to explore solutions to the challenges presented by urbanization and related issues, like poverty, unemployment, inequality and climate change at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, also known as the Habitat III Conference, on October 17-20.

A series of projects and initiatives have been submitted by various partners and compiled under the umbrella of the Quito Implementation Plan, which is intended to contribute to and reinforce the implementation of the outcomes of Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda. Each of the included initiatives are expected to be specific, replicable, action-oriented, funded and innovative, and they must be subject to regular reporting. Participants at the conference offered practical guidance on the need for more integrated urban planning, closer policy collaboration between local and central governments, and municipal finance reforms. Some critics expressed disappointment that there wasn’t stronger representation from the private sector at the conference.

Look Ahead

  • October 31, World Cities Day
  • November 7-18, UN Climate Change Talks, Marrakech, Morocco
  • November 14-15, Global Action Summit, Nashville, USA
  • November 17-18, Fourth meeting of the IAEG-SDGs, Geneva, Switzerland
  • November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Must reads

Megan Roberts of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations discusses how the UN decided on António Guterres to be the UN’s Ninth Secretary General and what the decision-making process may mean for the future.

Zubedah Nanfuka of the World Bank Group explains why multilateral cooperation is needed to solve the world’s biggest challenges.

Citiscope offers an explainer for the ongoing Habitat III Conference. Michele Acuto argues in Nature that cities are already catalyzing sustainability solutions and that they can become powerful engines of sustainable development, particularly when they collaborate with other cities.

2 Birds, 1 Stone: Achieving the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals Together by Eliza Northrop, Hana Biru and Mathilde Bouye – highlights the substantial alignment between the two agendas and notes that implementing them together has the potential to generate significant mutual benefits. Martin Chrisney of KPMG writes in the Diplomatic Courier that transparency, a focus on results, collaboration and innovation will be the keys to achieving the SDGs.

In an interview with Lyndal Rowlands, Jorge Chediek, Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, discussed alternative ways that developing countries are approaching development practices.

Karin Fernando and Krishan Siriwardhana of the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) in Sri Lanka share their views about the impacts of the data revolution on the SDGs and examine the quality of and ability to measure progress.

Refugee Compacts: An Initial Framework by Cindy Huang and Nazanin Ash – explain why a compact model for financing is well-suited to respond to the refugee crisis: it brings together a critical array of actors with different perspectives and mandates to collectively meet the needs of refugees and host communities.

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