UNF Alert 24

Dear Colleagues,

 

Barely more than one month into 2017, we have already seen significant movements afoot. The year has begun with important transitions in the UN, with the new UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres beginning his term, and in the U.S. with the start of a new administration, as well as with two high-profile conferences, the UN World Data Forum in Cape Town and the World Economic Forum in Davos. The transitions happening at the UN and around the world, coinciding with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, seem to mark a new era – one of change and of the impact that citizens can have on the world. Both Secretary-General Guterres and President Trump came into office because people were engaged and wanted their voices heard – as we have pointed out in previous monitors, the selection of this Secretary-General was the most transparent the UN has ever had, and there’s no doubt that allowing SG candidates to have a forum with all member states, civil society, and citizens made a significant difference. These outcomes also signal to me that the SDGs’ aims of tackling inequality and ensuring that no one is left behind are even more critical. We must be able to understand, connect with, and address the challenges faced by people all over if we are to have the world we want in 2030.

 

Much activity is underway at the UN – the new Secretary-General has undertaken efforts to reform the institution so that it can more effectively prevent conflict and improve people’s lives. On the SDGs, he has appointed our dear friend Amina Mohammed, former UN Special Advisor on SDGs, to be his Deputy Secretary-General, tasked with helping to implement the SDGs and to ensure the UN is fit for purpose to support its development aims. The UN High Level Political Forum will continue to be the annual moment to review SDGs progress, and to help that event to be as impactful as possible, we’ve developed a survey, in consultation with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, to assess how the HLPF can be even better. In the spirit of participation, we would be grateful if you’d take a few minutes to share your thoughts as well.

As we begin 2017, we take a look at the significant global moments ahead, below, as well as some recent must reads. We look forward to engaging with you all this year, and please don’t hesitate to let us know how we can be helpful.

 

All best,

Minh-Thu Pham and the UN Foundation Policy Team

Monthly Monitor: Transitions at the UN

 

Highlights from January

World Data Forum

The first ever World Data Forum held in mid-January was by all accounts a resounding success, culminating with the launch of a collective commitment to continue efforts to improve data and data systems, the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data. The Action Plan acknowledged that quality and timely data are vital for enabling effective planning, follow-up, and review for SDG implementation, and it called on leaders to recognize that national statistical systems must be modernized to meet the growing needs of data users.

Several development actors used the Forum as a platform to announce additional tools and initiatives that would further the SDGs. The United Kingdom Department for International Development shared its plan to better measure vulnerable groups using disaggregated data so that fewer people would be left behind. UN Global Pulse shared a webpage that enables disaster management authorities to respond quickly and effectively to fires and other types of events. For its part, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data launched a beta version of API Highways, which aims to make better use of existing data to empower developers to make smart infrastructure decisions.

World Economic Forum

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, also in mid-January, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke about the inherent connections between the 2030 Agenda and conflict prevention. Guterres promised to position the UN to be able to act early and effectively in the face of conflict, identifying youth unemployment as a recurrent warning sign of future conflict.

The Edelman Trust Barometer shared findings that trust in multilateral institutions is currently very low and, as a result, people are looking to business to play an increased role in solving the problems that we collectively face. Since the 2030 Agenda was adopted, the UN has made a concerted effort to create more space for partnerships with the private sector, and companies have shown an increased interest in supporting SDG implementation. The recent findings indicate that people recognize the need for nontraditional actors to contribute to implementation efforts, since countries cannot go it alone.

This year also marked the first time that a Chinese leader attended the WEF, and a speech by President Xi Jinping captured much attention. In it, he signaled a desire for China to play a larger global leadership role and to step up in a world of greater volatility and uncertainty.

Building Sustainable Peace

On January 24, President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson held a High-Level Dialogue on Building Sustainable Peace For All, which addressed the enormous contributions that sustainable development initiatives make to sustaining peace. The dialogue featured the Secretary General, the President of the ECOSOC Council, and the President of the Security Council, demonstrating a coherence across various elements of the UN.

While sustaining peace is not a new topic, we are living in a new era and need to address conflicts differently, particularly looking at necessary changes to our culture, strategy, structure, and operations. During a mid-day panel, participants noted that peace is fundamental to achieving the SDGs, that inclusion is critical to preventing conflicts, and that many factors that contribute to conflict, like demographic trends and climate change, are beyond our control.

United States Transitions

On January 24, the U.S. Senate confirmed Nikki Haley (96-4) as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She has presented her credentials to the Secretary-General and has begun taking meetings in New York. We hear that she has been warmly welcomed by her colleagues in diplomatic missions and has had meetings with the Secretary-General. On February 1, the U.S. Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson (56-43) as U.S. Secretary of State.

At the end of January, there were reports that the U.S. Administration may be considering an Executive Order calling for at least a 40% overall decrease in the amount of annual funding for international organizations and changing the UN funding system from assessed to voluntary contributions. Recent reports suggest that the Executive Order is currently under review by the U.S. Department of State and other agencies. A second draft Executive Order called for a process to review whether the U.S. should annul its participation in some multilateral treaties. Neither of these have been enacted.

In response to questions about potential funding cuts, Secretary-General Guterres said, “of course this is a matter of concern, but I am determined to engage, and I already had a constructive meeting with the new ambassador of the U.S. to the United Nations.” He reminded the press that President Trump said the UN has enormous potential and expressed hope that they will be able to build a trusting relationship that will allow the UN to continue its work without dramatic changes.

Global Moments Coming Up in 2017

G7, G20 and BRICS Summits: The G7 Summit will be May 26-27 in Sicily, Italy and will address stability in North Africa and the Middle East as well as migration flows. The G20 Summit will be held July 7-8 in Hamburg, Germany and will focus its agenda on resilience, sustainability, and responsibility. The German government has set up seven streams for civil society to input (business, labor, women, youth, NGOs, think-tanks and science). Chancellor Merkel has indicated a particular interest in addressing the role of women and health risks, like antimicrobial resistance. The BRICS Summit will be held in Xiamen, China in September, and will aim to strengthen the New Development Bank as well as finalize plans to establish an independent ratings agency for developing countries. These meetings will be the first for several new leaders and will likely provide signals about new and emerging geopolitical relationships and dynamics.

World Health Assembly: The next Director General of the World Health Organization is expected to be named at the 70th World Health Assembly, which will be held May 22-26 in Geneva, Switzerland. On January 25, 2017, the list of candidates was narrowed to three: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 51, of Ethiopia; Dr. Sania Nishtar, 53, of Pakistan; and Dr. David Nabarro, 67, of the United Kingdom.

Forum on Financing for Development: The second Forum on Financing for Development, which will be held May 22-25 in New York, is the dedicated annual moment for reviewing implementation of the FfD outcomes and means of implementation for the 2030 Agenda. To support the FfD Forum and HLPF, the Report of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development , currently under drafting, is expected to lay out progress, implementation gaps, as well as recommendations for corrective action to ensure that we are on track. Conclusions and recommendations from the FfD Forum will also feed into the HLPF in July.

The Ocean Conference: The Ocean Conference, which will be held June 5-9 in New York, is an opportunity for all nations and stakeholders to amplify work on broader collaborate efforts to reverse the decline in the health of our ocean. Coinciding with World Oceans Day on June 8, the Conference aims to be solutions-focused with engagement from all. Fiji and Sweden are co-presidents of the conference.

High-Level Political Forum (HLPF): The second High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development since the 2030 Agenda was adopted will be held July 10-19 in New York to review progress on SDG implementation, focusing on SDGs 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, and 14. The ministerial segment will be held on July 17-19. As a sign of interest, forty-three countries have put themselves up for Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), to share successes, challenges, and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating SDG implementation.

United Nations General Assembly Week: The 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly will begin on Tuesday, September 12 in New York. The General Debate of Heads of State and Government will span September 19-25.

Must reads

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Homi Kharas and John McArthur suggested that we need a global operating system reset to make the SDGs work.

Also in Davos, Adva Saldinger of Devex Impact noticed that business and civil society leaders are calling for business models to embrace the SDGs and to become more socially focused.

Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the UN Statistics Division reflected on the World Data Forum and offered thoughts on where the community should focus its energy on in the near term.

Maam Suwadu Sakho-Jimbira explains in Global Daily why she believes that data gaps in governance are a major vulnerability for SDG implementation.

In coordination with Save the Children Bangladesh, Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya, Towfiqul Islam Khan, and Mostafa Amir Sabbih have written a book, Delivering on the Promise: Ensuring the Successful Implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Bangladesh, that explores implementation challenges in Bangladesh and trends that affect Bangladesh’s ability to ultimately achieve the SDGs.

Rajesh Mirchandi, and several colleagues from the Center for Global Development, discusses how President Trump’s Executive Orders may affect development.

Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow and Director for the Program on International Institutions and Global Governance, Stewart Patrick, shares expectations for ten global summits that will happen in 2017.

Look Ahead

  • February 12-14: World Government Summit, Dubai
  • February 15-16: Preparatory meeting for the High-level UN Conference to support the implementation of SDG 14, New York
  • February 16-17: Meeting of G20 Foreign Ministers, Bonn
  • February 22-24: World Ocean Summit, Bali
  • February 28-March 2: SDG Action Campaign, Brussels
  • March 1: Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed takes office, New York
  • March 7-10: 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, New York

 

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