A sneak peek at UN progress on post-2015

Written by Elena L. Pasquini, freelance journalist in an exclusive interview with Helen Clark, United Nations Development Program administrator on the Devex blog

How will the United Nations implement the post-2015 agenda in practice?

That was the key question on the table at a behind-closed-doors meeting of 29 U.N. specialized organizations chaired by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The first session of the 2014Chief Executives Board for Coordination, held a week ago at the International Fund for Agricultural Development‘s headquarters in Rome, was veiled in secrecy, with some meetings deemed inaccessible even to the U.N. staffers or “sherpas” who conducted the preparatory work for the CEB session.

So what was discussed?

Despite details of the program being scarce, Devex learned that discussions revolved around how the U.N. system should support its member states in practice to accelerate progress on the Millennium Development Goals while transitioning to a new development agenda. In particular, participants delved in detail into the so-called “five critical elements” of the post-2015 framework — universality, integration, equality, human rights and the data revolution — and their impact on the agenda’s country-level implementation.

At the Hotel Excelsior in Rome, Devex sat down with Helen Clark, head of the U.N. Development Program and chair of the U.N. Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all U.N. funds, programs and departments working on development issues.

In an exclusive interview, the former New Zealand prime minister —  and among the frontrunners to succeed Ban Ki-moon upon his retirement in 2016 — shared her vision for an effective post-2015 framework, the challenges faced by U.N. agencies to strengthen coordination mechanisms and the emergence of new development partners.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation with Clark:

What is the key operational difference between the post-2015 agenda as compared with the approach taken by the MDGs?

First, a sustainable development agenda is much more joined-up, recognizing that you have economic, social and environmental policies working together and not against each other … One of the key aspects is what we can do about human-induced climate change and how we can transition to a green economy — a more inclusive and equitable economy that sustains ecosystems. Secondly, it is designed to be a universal agenda …Thirdly, [sustainable development goals] would probably encourage a sort of local innovation in targets and goal-setting. You might have areas where you set a global objective, but then countries might design more aspirations within that and so there’ll be more country engagement in the formulation.

What does this mean for development implementers and organizations working on the ground? What needs to change?

It has to be more collaborative. At the beginning of this year we started a new strategic plan at the UNDP and one of its main pillars is partnerships. UNDP on its own can’t do so much, but working with others it can achieve a lot more…

We have had a lot of experience in partnerships within the U.N. family. One of the initiatives in the past couple of years since Jim Kim came to the World Bank is a much closer partnership between the U.N. and the bank.

One the things we have been discussing today — as we do now at every CEB meeting — is the progress we are making on the acceleration of the MDGs. We have a particular approach — a multi-stakeholder approach — with governments identifying the MDGs — and hopefully in future the SDGs — they really want to tackle. We help convene the range of stakeholders, look at what the problem is stopping the achievement of a goal and then look at what the practical solutions are. It’s not about having a new strategies; it’s about how to make the existing strategies work.

This partnership with the bank has become very useful because the U.N. system tends to be about norms, standards, capacity building and so on, but the bank also brings money to the table. It’s a good partnership and you’ll see more of these joined-up approaches [in future] …

At the CEB you’ve discussed the five critical elements of the post-2015 agenda. What are the main challenges posed?

When you move to a sustainable development agenda, it’s a transformational agenda. It is clear that sustainable development raises many cross-cutting issues. It requires the U.N. system to work in a more joined-up and collaborative way than ever before, recognizing that no single issue can really be tackled effectively by one agency, ministry or government in isolation. Moving to a transformational, sustainable development agenda, we’ll really reinforce messages like the one coming out of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review a couple of years ago [and] keep the U.N. development system moving on a more joined-up and collaborative track.   ”

Click here to read the entire interview report.

1 Comment on "A sneak peek at UN progress on post-2015"

  1. Very good questions about implementing the post-2015 agenda. However, we must act now in global health to change how we work and accelerate achieving the health targets of the MDGs. The job is not done and millions of preventable deaths can be averted. We have the knowledge and the technology to do it. Let’s get it done! Here is how in seven simple, not too easy but doable steps:
    1. Develop an accelerator health system development (AHSD) plan and include, coordinate and account for the contribution of every national and regional government, donor, stakeholder, and private provider and local civil society organizations.
    2. Set up a human rights-based approach to implement the AHSD that ensures your country’s health system delivers programs and services to all and everyone’s right to health is fulfilled.
    3. Ask donor-funded projects and initiatives to ensure they plan their work so that they contribute to improve the national public health programs and the quality and coverage of the health care delivery system.
    4. Recognize compliance in quarterly donor meetings that report progress on MDG health targets.
    5. Set the target to improve at least 10% of the country’s public health facilities every quarter for the next 12 month and ensure they meet international quality healthcare delivery standards.
    6. Health the country’s Ministry of Health to improve your health management and information and health surveillance systems to achieve small high impact improved performance targets every month to track accelerated improvement towards achieving the health MDGs.
    7. Promote a service attitude among all local authorities, leaders and health professionals working in the country by recognizing achievements of health professionals that work together and play a unique role in the history of the country and end preventable deaths in each community every month.
    Please help me and let’s work together to get it done and make history in our lifetime

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