Sustainable Development Goal Implementation – the UN Development System and UNDP’s Roles

| January 18, 2016
Jan 18, 2016

1. Introduction

It is a pleasure to join you to discuss the role of UNDP and the broader UN Development System in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

2015 was a landmark year for development. UN Member States reached historic agreements and set global agendas which will guide development priorities for a generation. These include:

  • “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, and the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction;
  • the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development; and
  • the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Across these agendas, Member States have committed to eradicating poverty, fighting inequalities, building peaceful, inclusive, and resilient societies, and securing the future of the planet and the wellbeing of future generations.

2. Era of Implementation

In 2016 countries will begin implementation of the bold commitments they have made. The 2030 Agenda calls for transformational change in countries at all income levels. This will require:

  • whole-of-government approaches to sustainable development; and
  • commitment to addressing shared challenges, including those posed by climate change, violent conflicts and the security and refugee crises they generate, an unsettled global economy and the big jobs deficit, and the threat of contagious diseases.

3. UNDG Core Principles for Collaboration for Effective Implementation of the 2030 Agenda

Within the UN development system, we ourselves must work collaboratively to support implementation of Agenda 2030. Recognizing that, the UN Development Group, has agreed on a set of core principles to guide the support we give to achieving the SDGs.

First, we are following the imperative of national ownership, with our actions firmly determined by country needs and national capacities. Our reform efforts within the UN system must be flexible to adapt to country contexts, allowing UN Country Teams either to scale up efforts, or to change course quickly in light of lessons learned.

Second, we want to deliver integrated strategic analysis, policy advice, and, where possible, programme support which draws on the wide range of expertise from across the UN development system. Each entity will need to offer its unique expertise and commit to working collaboratively to achieve shared results.

Third, we will strive for innovation at the global, regional and country levels, including in the use of data, technologies, and public engagement techniques, to open up the agenda to the best evidence, expertise, and partnerships which countries wish to access.

Fourth, we will uphold internationally agreed norms and standards, focusing on serving the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized so that no one is left behind.

4. “Working Across The Charter”: Integration Across UN System Pillars

The UN Secretary-General has called for us all to “work across the Charter”. The breadth, complexity, and interlinked nature of Agenda 2030 calls for integrated approaches which bring together minds, capacities, and resources from across the development, human rights, humanitarian, and peace and security pillars of the UN system.

Within the UNDG, we are taking forward integrated planning frameworks across the UN pillars at country level, based on shared strategic objectives, root cause analysis, risk assessment and management, planning, and monitoring.

With its global presence, the UN development system can also feed into early warning systems, and share its analysis and recommendations with governments and with the humanitarian and peace building communities on building resilience in conflict-affected and disaster-prone countries and regions.

5. The ‘MAPS’ Approach

Within the UNDG we are moving quickly to put our agreed principles for action into practice. We have been receiving strong demand from governments: seventy UN Country Teams had been requested to provide support on SDG implementation before the UN Sustainable Development Summit last September.

Responding to Member States’ requests for coherent and integrated support for implementation of the SDGs from the UN, the UNDG developed the ‘MAPS’ approach. MAPS stands for Mainstreaming, Acceleration, and Policy Support.

“Mainstreaming” refers to the support we can give governments as they incorporate Agenda 2030 in their national and local strategies, plans, and budgets, and strengthen their data systems. This will require intensive outreach to national stakeholders about the new agenda, and, where appropriate, strengthening the capacities of stakeholders to contribute.

“Acceleration” entails supporting countries to identify and resolve obstacles and bottlenecks preventing the achievement of goals and targets. An acceleration approach to achieving MDG targets was used in some sixty countries from 2010-2015. Lessons learned have been codified through MDG Acceleration at the twice yearly meetings of the Chief Executives Board and can inform the way forward.

“Policy support” will make co-ordinated policy and technical support available from the UN system to countries on request, drawing on UNDG entities’ extensive expertise and programming experience.

MAPS is an approach which can be adjusted to each development context and set of challenges faced. Supporting partnerships, the availability of quality data and analysis, and accountability are themes which cut across all three components of our approach to implementation. UNDP is also co-leading a UNDG Task Team with the UN Statistics Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs to develop guidelines for SDG reporting by countries.

6. UNDP’s Contributions to SDG Implementation under the MAPS

Important work is already underway in many countries.


In many countries, support from the UN Development System has been instrumental in early mainstreaming efforts of Agenda 2030 in national development agendas.

Last year, in collaboration with other UNDG entities, UNDP, WFP, and UNICEF led the preparation of a reference guide for UNCTs on mainstreaming. The guide features a menu of approaches and tools to adapt the 2030 Agenda to national, sub-national, and local conditions.

Since October 2015, twenty countries, representing all regions and developing country typologies, have been piloting the use of this guide. UNDP is providing policy and programme support and seed funding for this. The catalytic funding has been used to support already on-going initiatives, or to jump-start new ones.

Examples of mainstreaming activities in these pilot countries include:

  • In Bhutan, Cabo Verde, Namibia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tonga, the UNDP-developed “Rapid Integrated Assessment Tool” has been used to assess alignment between national development plans and the SDG targets, and to determine country readiness for SDG implementation.
  • Colombia started integrating the SDGs into its national development plan in 2014, and monitors progress through a publicly accessible dashboard.
  • Honduras has linked the SDGs to its Country Vision and Government Strategy.
  • In El Salvador, an MoU between the Government and the UNCT specifies a role for the UN working as one in supporting the Government on planning, monitoring, and reporting, as well as on supporting implementation of SDG 16. Personnel across state institutions in El Salvador will receive training on the SDGs.
  • With the support of UNDP, Botswana is undertaking national dialogues and training workshops in all rural districts and urban centres to map potential shocks from climate change impacts to global economic trends, which might affect achievement of the SDGs.
  • In Somalia UNDP is supporting initial SDG mainstreaming efforts, including the establishment of a statistical database for key indicators, in line with Somalia’s national development plan. Tailoring support to SDG implementation in countries affected by conflict and fragility is critical in meeting the expectation of the Agenda 2030 that no-one should be left behind.

In addition to the mainstreaming pilots, UNDP worked with five Member States – Albania, Indonesia, Rwanda, Tunisia and the United Kingdom – to explore approaches to implementing and monitoring governance-related national goals and targets for SDG16. Beyond enhancing the readiness of participating countries to integrate the Goal into their national planning processes, the objective also was to generate and exchange knowledge which could inform other countries’ efforts.

In the first phase in 2014, the five participating countries identified key priorities for action on governance in the context of the SDGs, and preliminary indicators for tracking the actions taken. Now in its second phase, countries are field testing the specific governance-related targets and indicators chosen during the initial phase.

For mainstreaming the SDGs, public engagement and national SDG advocacy will be important. UNDP has launched the successor to the former UN Millennium Campaign, the UN SDG Action Campaign. It concentrates on providing simple entry points for citizens and organizations not only to become aware of the SDGs, but also to play an active role in implementation and ensuring accountability. The three–year transparent and participatory consultations on the design of the post-2015 agenda were unprecedented in scope and scale. That process has enabled us to have large global outreach to citizens, civil society organisations, and businesses ready and willing to engage on the SDGs.


On Acceleration: UNDP and UNICEF on behalf of the UNDG are developing a toolkit to support governments and other stakeholders to accelerate SDG progress. Acceleration should promote actions which will consciously support progress across a range of targets. The SDG agenda itself integrates the economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainability. Acceleration on sustainable energy for all, for example, will be positive for inclusive growth, social development, and the environment.

Policy Support for SDG Implementation:

UNDG agencies are formulating topic-specific policy support offerings in line with their respective expertise. UNOG is currently conducting a mapping of the expertise of Geneva-based organisations for policy support to the SDGs.

UNDP’s own Strategic Plan addresses key characteristics and components of the SDGs in three areas:

1. Promoting an integrated approach to sustainable development.

We aim to tackle the connected issues of poverty, inequality, and exclusion by transforming productive capacities and improving prospects for employment and livelihoods, while avoiding the irreversible depletion of social and natural capital. This requires integrating environmental considerations into development strategies and planning, including through sustainably managing natural resources.

Since 2010, UNDP has supported more than one hundred countries to integrate ecosystem management priorities into development planning. With more than two decades of experience of climate change work in more than 140 countries, UNDP is well placed to support ambitious climate action, which is so essential for implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change and Agenda 2030.

2. Inclusive and effective democratic governance.

UNDP supports building the capacity of governance institutions to respond to and engage with citizens. We contribute to building inclusive societies by promoting social cohesion, the rule of law, and citizen participation, and by facilitating stakeholder engagement in development. UNDP supports national and sub-national governments to develop and apply analytical tools, policy frameworks, financing methods, knowledge management systems, and integrated strategic planning. This in turn contributes to the development of policies which reduce marginalization, improve well-being, and target specific needs.

3. Building resilience

In addition to strengthening resilience through more sustainable development and more inclusive and responsive governance, UNDP focuses on a risk informed approach to development, supporting rapid and effective recovery from disasters, and on addressing the drivers of conflict and recovery from it.

As a minimum global package, UNDP will provide strong offerings in support of achieving SDG 1 (end poverty in all its forms everywhere); SDG 10 (reduce inequality within and among countries); and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). Depending on the regional and country context, we also expect to be active across a number of other SDGs, including those related to the environment and climate change, women’s empowerment, and health – the latter based on our large Global Fund and UNAIDS partnerships.

Allow me to outline UNDP’s work on a support package for Goal 16 specifically. Our work to pilot approaches to this goal suggests that we could help in the following ways:

  • tailoring Goal 16 to national, sub-national, and local contexts. We can help mainstream Goal 16 into national development processes and support capacity development for institutions to address the complexity of the Goal.
  • building inclusive mechanisms for monitoring, reporting, and accountability for Goal 16. We will work with Member States and in close collaboration with the UN Statistical Commission to develop national indicator frameworks and country-specific dashboards. Provision of disaggregated data will allow the impact across societies to be monitored.
  • knowledge sharing on Goal 16, capturing lessons learned, and sharing them across regions and countries. Our aim is to work with other UN agencies and partners to provide a “solutions portal” for advice on Goal 16 demand, drawing on what we know works, and linking it to work with parliamentarians, and society, and other stakeholders on advocacy and oversight of progress.
  • forging inclusive partnerships for Goal 16 at the global, regional, and national levels. UNDP is uniquely well placed to co-host with interested Member States a global partnership and regular fora to maintain momentum on Goal 16, and to ensure a strong focus on building peaceful and inclusive societies as the long-term answer to addressing a number of the challenges our world is facing.


UNDP, together with its sister agencies in the UNDG is committed to support Member States at their request on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. This has a huge priority in our work. Our current strategic plan for 2014-2017 was written with the impending sustainable development agenda in mind. We were closely involved with the development of Agenda 2030 and we will use all means at our disposal to ensure its success.

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