Helen Clark: Statement to the 95th Meeting of the Development Committee

Apr 19, 2017

More than twenty million people in North-East Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen are facing famine or the risk of famine. Photo: UNDP.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the agreement signed between the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank which recognized the World Bank as an “independent specialized agency” of the UN. Over the last seven decades the partnership between the two organizations has grown to cover the broad scope of development assistance. In the past two years, the UN system and the World Bank Group (WBG) have supported Member States as they agreed on global agendas, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, as well as the outcomes of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) and the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants. 

In order to be more effective in supporting countries to implement these global agendas and in preventing and responding to crises, it is important to expand and strengthen the partnership between the UN and the World Bank Group at all levels. The revised United Nations-World Bank Partnership Framework for Crisis-Affected Situations, to be signed by the UN Secretary-General and the World Bank President at these Spring Meetings, is an important step to that end. 

A range of shocks, including conflicts, weather-related and other disasters, economic crises, and epidemics, can reverse hard won development gains. Such shocks generally hit vulnerable and marginalized groups the hardest. It is critical to address the root causes of conflict and fragility, and not just the symptoms. As the 2030 Agenda makes clear: “there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development”. Ensuring that development progress is broadly shared is essential to building and sustaining the foundations for peaceful, just, and inclusive societies. The revised Partnership Framework reflects this understanding.

New Way of Working

The New Way of Working is the term used to describe commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit. The objective is to align humanitarian and development work to be more effective in reducing the need for relief – by reducing risk exposure and vulnerabilities, and thereby building resilience. 

The UN and the World Bank are now operationalizing the New Way of Working in order to work better together in fragile and conflict-affected situations. The commitment is to work for joint analysis and planning, joined-up programming, and empowered country-level leadership and co-ordination mechanisms which respond to needs on the ground.  The use of International Development Association (IDA) resources to finance joint emergency response programmes in Yemen implemented by UNDP, UNICEF, and WHO is an illustration of the New Way of Working in action.

The UN and the World Bank are also emphasizing peacebuilding as part of the New Way of Working, and as a critical contribution to advancing the 2030 Agenda. To this end, the UN-WBG Partnership has initiated a Humanitarian-Development-Peace Initiative (HDPI). It presents a structural and practical approach to reducing fragmentation and working towards collective outcomes. This initiative is currently being tested in four countries, with seed funding from the UN-World Bank Fragility and Conflict Partnership Trust Fund.  

The 2016 UN General Assembly (70/262) and Security Council (2282) resolutions on the review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture highlighted the need for the UN common system – including the World Bank – to work closely together for effective peacebuilding and to embrace the concept of “sustaining peace”. 

In line with these resolutions, the UN (through DPA, DPKO, UNDP, and PBSO) and the World Bank have initiated a joint study on how development policies and programmes are contributing to the prevention of violent conflict. The aim is to improve our understanding of how investments in development, along with actions to enhance security, political stability, and human rights, can work to prevent conflict. The findings will be presented in September and October 2017 during the High-Level Segment of the UN General Assembly and the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings. 

The UN, the World Bank, and the European Union work together on recovery and peacebuilding assessments and joint planning in support of governments in a number of countries recovering from crises, including from disasters. The goal is to ensure that peace dividends and recovery respectively are delivered, and the foundations for long-term stability are established. Strengthening the links between humanitarian, development, and peace building work is at the heart of these joint assessments and planning.

In 2016, this partnership supported the Government of Nigeria to finalize the North East Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment. As well, last year in the Central African Republic, the National Recovery and Peacebuilding Plan, supported by the partnership, was approved by the Parliament, and has now become the Government’s plan. Currently a similar exercise is ongoing in Cameroon, with the objective of consolidating peace in the far north of the country and combating violent extremism. 

The Urgency of Averting Famine

The world is facing one of the most severe food security crises of recent times. More than twenty million people in North-East Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen are facing famine or the risk of famine. This high number includes an estimated 1.4 million children who are at imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition.

The conflicts in these countries need to end, and the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law must be ensured. The UN has been mobilizing a rapid scale-up of support in order to save lives and livelihoods. Both humanitarian relief and emergency development support are needed to build resilience. 

In response to this on-going crisis, and in line with the New Way of Working, the UN Secretary-General has asked for a co-ordinated UN approach and strengthened co-operation between humanitarian and development agencies, including the World Bank. The Steering Committee on Famine Response and Prevention in North-East Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen brings together the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) for humanitarian assistance, the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), and the World Bank. This is a strategic mechanism which supports effective and coherent action at the country level.

The Importance of Strong UN-WBG Collaboration on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Supporting implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a top priority for the UN. To this end, and based on demand from Member States, the UN Development Group is supporting countries to mainstream the Agenda into their national plans, as well as providing policy advice, capacity building, and advocacy support. 

In these efforts, strong collaboration between the World Bank Group and the UN is essential. The UN welcomes current discussions on how to strengthen co-operation with the Bank and leverage comparative advantages further to advance SDG implementation. Already there are a number of initiatives through which we are working together towards that end:

•    Lessons learned from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) acceleration efforts are important as we combine our efforts to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The joint UNDP-World Bank report, “Transitioning from the MDGs to the SDGs”, pulls together the main lessons learned from reviews of collaboration on acceleration of MDG progress. Reports were done of progress in sixteen countries and the Pacific Island sub-region at the UN Common System’s Chief Executives Board (CEB). Since the SDGs also address unfinished business from the MDGs, many of the observations and solutions provided will be useful for implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

•    To support follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, the UN and the World Bank are working together on preparations for the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). For example, as a contribution to the in-depth review of SDG One, (on eradicating poverty) at this year’s HLPF in July, a number of UN agencies and the World Bank have prepared a joint analysis of SDG 1’s interlinkages with other SDGs. 

UN-DESA and UNDP are also partnering with the World Bank on a preparatory conference on SDG 1, scheduled for May 11-12 in Copenhagen. In the run-up to the HLPF, this conference is an opportunity to showcase progress on reducing extreme poverty, and to identify barriers to future progress and how to overcome them.

•    Recognizing that achieving the SDGs requires quality, accessible, and timely data, the WBG, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, and the UN’s Regional Economic Commissions have expressed their commitment to scale up collaboration in this area. Entry points include: 1) expanding the capacity to drive data innovation; 2) strengthening data exchange and communication capabilities; 3) creating and strengthening partnerships for co-ordination and capacity-building; and 4) promoting greater use of existing data sets.  

•    The UN, the World Bank, and other key partners recently released the 2017 Global Tracking Framework (GTF) to provide an overview of progress made on implementation of SDG 7 on sustainable energy.

In addition to the above, UNDP is also keen to collaborate with the World Bank to strengthen parliamentary oversight of SDG implementation and national budgets, especially in fragile contexts where oversight may be weak and the need for institution-building is pressing.

Parliaments are increasingly interested in finding new ways to engage the public. The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is uniquely positioned to create opportunities for dialogue on strengthening engagement between parliaments and civil society organizations, including in Chile, Georgia, and Ukraine.  Both the World Bank and UNDP have been supporting the OGP, and assistance in supporting parliamentary processes in OGP countries presents an excellent opportunity for enhancing this collaboration.

UNDP, UNHCR, and UNICEF are part of the Working Group which finalized the Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development: Towards the Digital Age which were launched last February. This process was shepherded by the World Bank’s ID4Development programme, and represents the first attempt by the international development community to set basic advisory standards on the rollout of digital identity management systems. The relevant UN agencies are committed to working with the World Bank in the area of SDG Target 16.9 (“legal identity for all”).

Financing for Sustainable Development

The UN welcomes the conclusion of the 18th replenishment round of the International Development Association (IDA) negotiations in December 2016, which approved a resource envelope of US$75 billion for the world’s poorest countries. 

The collaboration between the World Bank Group and the UN has been growing in the Financing for Development (FfD) follow-up process, of which the WBG is one of the institutional stakeholders. The WBG is also a lead contributor to the Inter-agency Task Force on Financing for Development (IATF). The Task Force, which is co-ordinated by UN-DESA, brings together the WBG, the IMF, UNCTAD, UNDP, and WTO, together with over fifty other UN and non-UN agencies, to follow up on the FfD outcomes and the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda. 

The 2017 IATF report finds that efforts have begun at all levels to mobilize resources and align financing flows and policies with economic, social, and environmental priorities. Progress can be reported across the seven action areas of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. To achieve the SDGs, additional long-term investments (both public and private) in sustainable development are required, including in sustainable and resilient infrastructure. Such investments will also help stimulate global economic growth, thereby creating a virtuous cycle.

Many of these issues will be discussed at the Second Global Infrastructure Forum (GIF), taking place during these Spring Meetings. It is an important initiative aimed at removing impediments to greater infrastructure investments. As it did last year, the UN has been collaborating with the multilateral development banks to ensure a successful forum, and is organizing a plenary panel on the particular challenges faced by least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries, and other countries in special situations. The outcomes of the GIF will be presented at the FfD Forum.

Achieving the SDGs requires the active participation of and significant investments from long-term institutional investors, including the insurance sector. The Insurance Development Forum, a unique public-private partnership between the UN, the World Bank, and the insurance industry is an innovative effort aimed at making vulnerable populations more resilient to natural risks. The objective of the Forum is twofold: to promote the provision of affordable and accessible insurance coverage to vulnerable populations against climate and disaster risks; and to make resilience investments in their countries, reducing risks in the long term. The IDF’s Technical Assistance Facility, which will provide recipient countries with risk financing and risk management services, will be established this year.
The UN looks forward to active participation of the WBG at the second ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development follow-up (FfD Forum) to be held from 22 to 25 May 2017 in New York. The ministerial segment of the Forum will include the special high-level meeting of ECOSOC with the Bretton Woods institutions, the WTO, and UNCTAD. This is an important opportunity for the heads of the international trade and financial institutions as well as their intergovernmental bodies to interact with their UN counterparts on issues of common interest in the follow-up to the FfD outcomes. The participation of development and finance ministers will ensure that the FfD follow-up process contributes to the sharing of lessons learned from experiences at the national and regional levels.  

Addressing Climate Change 

Following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, which includes a dedicated goal on addressing climate change (SDG 13), the world achieved an historic milestone on climate change when the Paris Agreement entered into force on November 4th, 2016. This sent a clear political signal about the importance of global action on climate change. Countries, large and small, continue to ratify this historic agreement, and are already at work to fulfill their pledges. Looking ahead, it is imperative to maintain momentum to ensure that the ambitious goals of the agreement are met. 

Countries made further progress at COP22 in Marrakech, where they took steps to define the universal guidance needed for implementation of the Agreement. Critically, this includes support for countries to translate their national targets, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), into results on the ground. NDCs set out concrete climate change mitigation and adaptation commitments which deliver long-term sustainable development benefits. Scaling-up provision of the financial, technical, and capacity-building resources needed for NDC implementation is essential. 

The UN is working closely with countries to deliver their NDCs under the Paris Agreement, strengthen capacities to take ambitious action, and help countries ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for all. UN system agencies are also working with the World Bank and other institutions as part of the NDC Partnership, an initiative which aims to ensure countries receive the technical and financial support they need to achieve ambitious climate and sustainable development targets as fast and effectively as possible.

Now, the UN looks forward to COP23 with Fiji in the chair and with a focus on increasing ambition and supporting those who are most vulnerable to climate change, including LDCs and Small Island Developing States. 


The United Nations looks forward to scaling up and strengthening its partnership with the World Bank Group to support countries with implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, and to prevent and respond to crises.

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