10 Jun 2015
Many thanks for inviting me to speak in this Golden Collection speaker series in this critical year for development. In my comments today I will speak on the emerging post-2015 agenda, and on the important contribution Russia can make. I will also comment on the strong partnership Russia and UNDP are developing.
The new global agenda – building on the MDGs:
In the coming months in New York, United Nations Member States are expected to agree on a new development agenda which will replace that of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is shaping up to be an ambitious and transformational development agenda, which would be universal in nature, cover all three dimensions of sustainable development, and aim to address the many interlinked challenges our world is facing. The agenda is relevant to countries at all stages of development.
The SDG agenda will be reinforced by the outcomes of other major global development-related processes this year. Implementation of the outcomes of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan three months ago, of next month’s Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, and of climate change COP21 in Paris in December will all have a major bearing on whether the SDGs can be achieved.
Without doubt, there has been tremendous development progress in the time span covered by the MDGs and their targets. Between 1990 and 2010, for example, extreme income poverty halved, and the likelihood of a child dying before their fifth birthday was nearly halved. Now most children in developing countries are enrolled in primary schooling for at least some time. Maternal death rates are down, although not nearly enough, and significant progress has been made on combatting HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. The goal set for access to improved water sources has been met.
Russia’s development co-operation has contributed to this progress, not least to its contributions in the areas of health, education, and food security. For example, between 2006 and 2010, a quarter of Russia’s aid was allocated to health, including to address infectious diseases and promote epidemic-preparedness in Central Asia.
Yet there is much unfinished business from the MDGs. Poverty and hunger are yet to be eradicated, and inequalities are increasing in many countries. As well, the global environmental challenges are mounting. That is particularly evident with climate change. Its impacts threaten development achievements in all countries, and especially in the poorest and most vulnerable.
The new global agenda must take on these challenges. The alternative is to face a world characterized by even more turmoil and instability. The time to act is now. Exclusion is fuelling the use of sectarianism and violence. The burden of complex humanitarian emergencies occasioned by conflict or by natural disasters is weighing heavily on peoples on the frontlines of these events, and on international relief budgets.
In the current set of proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) before UN member states, there are goals and targets which relate to economic growth, infrastructure, energy, and strengthening capacities to trade and attract investment. The agenda also tackles the MDGs’ unfinished business, and the challenges of environmental degradation and of rapid urbanisation. It prioritises tackling inequalities – indeed the importance of leaving no one behind is a defining feature of the new agenda.
As well, and for the first time explicitly, the proposed new global development agenda affirms that development requires peaceful and inclusive societies, justice for all, and effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.
The new development agenda will remain mere words on paper unless it can be implemented. A strong package on “means of implementation” will be critical. Capacities need to be strengthened. Renewed global partnerships for development are needed. And, while money isn’t everything, access to finance is vital.
Thus, the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa next month needs an outcome which is as bold and ambitious as the new sustainable development agenda promises to be.
It will be critical for the advanced economies to recommit to meeting the international target of 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income for Official Development Assistance (ODA).
ODA should be smart aid in supporting the building of national capacities for inclusive and sustainable growth, for domestic resource mobilization from that growth, and for the attraction of quality loans and investment. The Addis Ababa Conference is also an opportunity for concrete commitments to be made on combating the tax evasion and avoidance and illicit financial flows which constrain efforts to raise domestic resources.
Indeed, there is much more international policy coherence needed across areas like trade, taxation, and migration. Developing countries also need readier access to the technologies which will enable them to make breakthroughs on sustainability.
As well, the range of challenges the new global agenda seeks to tackle requires more international public finance beyond ODA. More resources are needed for investments in areas ranging from communicable disease control to climate change adaptation and mitigation, and science, innovation, and new technologies.
Implementing a bold global sustainable development agenda requires the engagement of the world’s private sector too. How business does business, and the regulatory framework within which it operates, have a huge bearing on whether development is sustainable. A commitment to inclusive business models, creating shared value, and corporate social responsibility helps a lot too.
Implicit in this new, universal, global agenda is the understanding that development is not just something which should happen for someone else somewhere else. The quest for attaining and sustaining high levels of human development is relevant to all countries. And the challenges of sustainability of our ecosystems are faced by countries at all levels of development.
Russia’s contribution to development co-operation and the new global agenda
Growing support from major emerging economies and donors like Russia for development co-operation will be of significant assistance in achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals and targets. The expansion of sources of support for developing countries is good for development.
Russia has long played a role in development co-operation. Its aid spending in recent years has seen remarkable growth again, from $100 million in 2004 to over $700 million in 2013 .
Over the past decade, Russia has provided humanitarian assistance to 110 countries, including by working through the well-staffed and quick responding EMERCOM agency. As well, Russia has contributed to the World Food Programme; to a World Bank Rapid Social Response Program launched in 2009 to provide crisis support to the poor and vulnerable focused through social interventions; to the UN Peacebuilding Fund; and to the response to the Ebola epidemic. At UNDP, we have also received valuable support for our early recovery work from Russia, including in our response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Then, as part of the G8’s Gleneagles commitments, Russia cancelled $11.3 billion worth of debts owed by African countries, including $2.2 billion through the HIPC initiative; cancelled $552 million under “Debt for Development SWAPs”; and, in September 2012, announced that it was cancelling $11 billion of North Korean debt, as well as nearly $500 million of debt owed by Kyrgyzstan . It is well established that sustainable levels of debt are important for development, making these debt cancellations of high significance.
The BRICS New Development Bank of which Russia is a founding partner, is a prime example of the new generation of development finance coming on stream which can help achieve the SDGs and national development agendas. It can become a significant driver of development in the BRICS countries themselves and in the developing world more broadly.
Russia also conveyed its strong commitment to disaster risk reduction at the Third UN World Conference on DRR in Japan in March. Last September, at the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Conference in Samoa, Russia announced that it would explore launching a long-term project to increase the disaster resilience of Pacific SIDS, working in partnership with UNDP,
Russian Co-operation Agency: tasks ahead
With the adoption of the “Concept of the Russian Federation’s State Policy in International Development Assistance” approved by His Excellency, President Putin, in 2014, the policy for Russia’s development assistance is well-articulated. I understand that the role of the Russian Co-operation Agency has been strengthened, with a broader mandate and with increased staffing capacity. A strong, dedicated aid agency with a strategic programme will ensure that Russia can make a significant contribution to achieving the new SDGs.
At UNDP, we have long experience in working with aid agencies around the world. Common challenges for them all are how to make the best use of the funding at their disposal so that it is used in smart and measurable ways; and to ensure that what they fund is grounded in knowledge and expertise, and is well co-ordinated with other players. This is particularly true in the early years of such agencies, and as funding is growing.
Russia has a very wide range of knowledge and expertise from which its partners in the CIS and beyond already benefit. For example, earlier this year, in the process of Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the Customs Union, Russia’s State Customs Committee and other relevant agencies provided invaluable capacity-building support and expertise on customs regulation and procedures to their Kyrgyz colleagues.
Aid can support regional integration and co-operation, by ensuring that trade, migration, and other policies are conducive to inclusive and sustainable growth. Russia has already spearheaded the establishment of trade alliances in the region, including through the Eurasian Economic Union. Supporting trade and more open labor markets in Central Asia and beyond, possibly in co-operation with Shanghai Co-operation Organization countries, could also be a powerful development driver for these and other countries in the region.
In all these efforts, Russia has shown its preparedness to partner with multilateral organizations, including the United Nations’ agencies, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank, and others. As a founding member of the United Nations, Russia’s commitment to multilateralism and multilateral agendas is longstanding. I am confident that Russia will be a very important partner in supporting implementation of the new global development agenda.
Co-operation with UNDP
Since 2010 when UNDP’s Country Office closed in Russia, marking an important transition in our relationship, Russia has contributed over $22 million dollars to UNDP programs and projects around the world.
With Russian funding, UNDP has been able to respond to immediate recovery needs in the south of Kyrgyzstan after the tragic events of 2010; to offer training and equipment to rural farmers in Tajikistan’s remote areas bordering with Afghanistan; to provide jobs for thousands of villagers affected by the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines; and to support Belarus in its quest for WTO accession. Most recently, we have launched a programme aimed at generating jobs in one of Armenia’s most disadvantaged regions, while simultaneously tackling persistent energy efficiency challenges there.
Building on our important partnership with Russia to date, we have now moved to a new and strategic stage of our relationship. In January, I signed with First Deputy Prime Minister Shuvalov a new Framework Partnership Agreement between Russia and UNDP. This agreement foresees a multi-year partnership focused on poverty reduction; disaster risk reduction and preparedness for emergencies; as well as on energy and environment – working in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and beyond. It will also pay special attention to supporting economic growth which benefits human development in the context of the ongoing process of Eurasian integration. As well, we are exploring opportunities to place young Russians within the UN as part of our Junior Professional Officers programme, to give them exposure to our work.
For UNDP our strategic partnership with Russia is part of our overall effort to transform our relationships with emerging economies which are playing a growing role in development co-operation. We enjoy such partnerships with almost all the G20 emerging economies.
Our partnership with Russia will be underpinned by a new Russia-UNDP Trust Fund for Development which I am due to sign with the Minister of Foreign Affairs tomorrow.
It is significant that the Russia-UNDP partnership is being stepped up this year as the new global development agenda is being agreed. UNDP looks forward to working with Russian counterparts to ensure that Russian aid channeled through UNDP is well used. UNDP was ranked as the most transparent development co-operation agency in the world last year by the independent International Aid Transparency Initiative.
To implement the new global development agenda, very big partnerships are needed. I am confident that Russia’s growing contributions to development co-operation will see it playing a very significant role. At UNDP, we are fully committed to supporting countries to achieve the SDGs, and look forward to working closely with Russia to that end.
If we all work together, we have a chance of meeting citizens’ aspirations for peace, prosperity, and wellbeing, and for the preservation of our planet. In 2015, a once in a generation year for development with major new agendas being defined, the opportunity exists to put our world on an inclusive and sustainable course. At UNDP, we count on Russia as a partner in this endeavor.