UNF Alert 23

Dear Colleagues,


At the UN, 2015 was the year for adopting ambitious goals, and 2016 has been a year of transition and beginning implementation. This year, we witnessed changes to the process to select the Secretary-General and are looking forward to Mr. Guterres’ energy and commitment to the UN and to improving the lives of the most vulnerable. We also witnessed the first High-Level Political Forum to assess progress on SDG implementation, and we see increasing engagement as public and private stakeholders take action to meet the goals. We witnessed courageous leadership on addressing climate change and look forward to the Oceans Conference in the New Year.

We salute Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and his team as they pass the torch to their successors, and we join all of you in carrying our respective torches into the New Year. We celebrate the bright moments of 2016, and we acknowledge that there is much more work to be done.


Best wishes to you and yours,

Minh-Thu Pham and the UN Foundation Policy Team


Monthly Monitor: 2016 Year in Review 

UN Leadership

Over the course of this past year, the process to select the ninth Secretary-General and other UN leaders was successfully reformed, setting a precedent for increased transparency and inclusiveness in UN processes across the board. In January, champions expressed hope that the reforms would spur the international community to appoint a courageous and visionary leader. They got what they hoped for in Secretary-General-Designate António Guterres, a dedicated individual with a wealth of experience.

On December 12, Mr. Guterres was officially sworn in by President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson (Fiji). He will begin his term on January 1, 2017.

During the swearing in ceremony, Mr. Guterres said, “The UN needs to be nimble efficient and effective. It must focus more on delivery and less on process; more on people and less on bureaucracy.” He highlighted peace, sustainable development, and management reform as his three strategic priorities. Mr. Guterres also pledged to seek gender parity in his appointments to the Senior Management Group and the Chief Executive Board, which he has already demonstrated in the early appointments of Amina Mohammed (Nigeria) as Deputy Secretary General, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti (Brazil) as Chef de Cabinet, and Kyung-wha Kang (Republic of Korea) as Senior Adviser on Policy. For those focused on the SDGs and climate change, the return of Ms. Mohammed has been a much welcomed announcement.

Amid several farewell receptions for Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as he nears the end of his term, leaders from civil society gathered at the UN to celebrate Ban Ki-moon’s legacy of promoting and defending human rights.

Climate Action

Following the monumental adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015, climate advocates kept up momentum and urged countries to formally join the agreement. By October 4, 2016, more than 55 countries representing at least 55% of the world’s emissions had joined, enabling the agreement to enter into force on November 4, 2016. At the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) in Marrakesh, Morocco, countries called for urgently raising ambition and strengthening cooperation to close the gap between current emissions trajectories and the pathway needed to meet the long-term temperature goals set in the Paris Agreement.

Looking ahead, the first UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development will take place in New York, from June 5-9 2017, coinciding with World Oceans Day. The Conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Fiji and Sweden, presents an opportunity for all governments and stakeholders to build and scale strategic partnerships to save the oceans and seas, a crucial resource for the health of the planet. The President of the General Assembly will convene a two-day preparatory meeting on February 15-16 2017 in New York. For information on participation and special accreditation, please visit: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics/oceans/SDG14Conference.

Sustainable Development

High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development

As the first year of SDG implementation, 2016 was a year of coordination and planning for many countries. The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July was the first annual SDG’s review conference where countries came together to compare experiences on early implementation efforts. Participating countries shared substantive and innovative content, setting a strong foundation upon which countries can build in subsequent years. We’ve heard that this has been a positive process for many countries, creating the impetus for governments to localize and align national plans with the SDGs, build coordination mechanisms, assign responsibilities to different parts of government, and identify good practices and growth areas.

Data for Development

In March, the UN Statistical Commission agreed on indicators for measuring progress on the SDGs, noting that the set of 230 is a practical starting point and will be subject to future technical refinement. The Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG indicators met periodically throughout the year, most recently from November 15-18 in Geneva, where experts discussed indicators that still require conceptual clarification, which agencies should manage data collection for which indicators, and the respective roles of national governments and UN agencies in processing data for reporting on progress. The IAEG-SDGs has submitted a report to the UN Statistical Commission ahead of the March 2017 meeting of the UNSC.

The upcoming UN World Data Forum, to be held January 15-18 in Cape Town, will be an opportunity for governments, businesses, civil society and the scientific and academic communities to explore innovative ways to apply data and statistics to measuring global progress on the SDGs. The Forum will touch on capacity development, synergies across various data ecosystems, and using data to ensure that no one is left behind.

Financing for Development

In April 2016, the inaugural Financing for Development (FfD) Forum gave finance ministers and UN officials an opportunity to discuss global economic challenges, options for development financing, and needs for implementing the 2030 Agenda. Preparations are well underway for the next FfD Forum (May 22-26 2017), with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development (IATF) drafting its second Report to follow up on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda. As part of the report process, the IATF is conducting in-depth work on specific work streams, including social protection, illicit financial flows, Total Official Support for Sustainable Development (TOSSD), and capital markets.

In October, the Secretary-General launched a new platform for scaling up innovative finance solutions to support the SDGs. The platform will engage Governments, civil society, philanthropic organizations, entrepreneurs, institutional investors, banks, project developers and development finance institutions to help identify and pilot innovative finance instruments that can drive investment and support SDG interventions.


In response to the ongoing humanitarian crises around the world and governments’ commitments to leave no one behind, migration and refugee issues were a core component of work at the UN this year. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s report “One Humanity, Shared Responsibility” set a tone of cross-sector cooperation ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. Then, at the Summit for Refugees and Migrants in September, member states adopted the New York Declaration, calling for twin Global Compacts on safe, orderly and regular migration (Migration), and responsibility sharing for refugees (Refugees) to be adopted at an international migration conference in 2018.

The Special Adviser ad interim on Follow-up to the Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants is supporting a member-state negotiation process of the Global Migration Compact as well as a UNHCR-led Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRFF), which will pilot in Uganda, Tanzania and Somalia and will ultimately inform the Global Compact on Refugees.

Must reads

The co-founders of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, Noubar Afeyan, Vartan Gregorian and Ruben Vardanyan, echoed the gratitude many have expressed for Ban Ki-Moon’s legacy on human rights in an open letter to the Secretary General.

Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya and Andrea Ordóñez Llanos have compiled research about development realities and policy experiences in Southern countries, focusing on sustainability and growth, inclusion and social policies, governance and capacities and financing in their new book Southern Perspectives on the Post-2015 International Development Agenda.

Dr. Helal Uddin Ahmed, former editor of Bangladesh Quarterly, discusses the widespread challenges to achieving Sustainable Development Goals in Bangladesh, noting that the public, private and non-government sectors should all play major roles in achieving the targets included in this agenda.

UN Global Pulse and UN Development Programme offer a practitioner guide for data innovation, particularly for the purpose of implementing the SDGs.

Hernán Muñoz, of the Statistical Planning and Coordination Office at the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Argentina, discusses coordination challenges within and between national statistical systems of developing countries. Javier Carranzo Torres, founder of the GeoCensos Civic Tech Community, makes the case for why official statisticians must give serious consideration to the qualitative initiatives coming from civil society to support data production efforts.

In National Geographic, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry explains why the world must focus on oceans.

Alvin K. Leong, a fellow at the Global Center for Environmental Legal Studies in New York, frames the intergovernmental call for action to support the implementation of SDG 14: Oceans as a knowledge-centric approach that should be informed by science, multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary research, sound data, and innovation.

Amadou Sy and Mariama Sow of The Brookings Institution examine the relationship between financing for development and good governance, noting that improving governance at home often leads to increased tax revenue, which the Addis Ababa Action Agenda identifies as central to achieving the SDGs, and also that improving governance tends to attract higher levels of official development assistance.

Scott Morris and Beth Schwanke of the Center for Global Development, use the occasion of a new US Administration to underline the importance and benefits of U.S. foreign assistance.

Look Ahead

  • January 1, Secretary General Designate Antonio Guterres becomes 9th UN Secretary General
  • January 16-18, World Data Forum, Cape Town, South Africa
  • January 17-20, World Economic Forum, Davos-Klosters, Switzerland
  • January 22, 71st Anniversary of ECOSOC, New York, USA
  • January 22, Deadline for registration of external stakeholders to the Oceans Conference
  • January 23-31, African Union Summit, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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