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UN, PH take major step to craft first-of-its-kind development framework for next 5 years

Gustavo Gonzalez
UN Philippines Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez leads the milestone event towards crafting a first-of-its-kind UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework

MANILA, 24 February 2023 – The United Nations (UN) Philippines took a major step towards crafting the UN’s Cooperation Framework with the Philippines for the period 2024 to 2028. In a meeting of over 500 participants from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and members of the UN Country Team (UNCT), the UN Philippines facilitated the process of identifying the priorities of the new cooperation framework.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) is a core instrument for providing a coherent, strategic direction for UN development activities by all UN entities at country level. The current UNSDCF is ending at the end of 2023.

This new UNSDCF is the first of its kind that is being developed in the context of the UN Development System Reform.

The reform of the UN System aims to make the UN nimbler, less bureaucratic, more transparent and accountable, and more decentralized and effective. It places sustainable development “at the heart” of the UN.

Compared to past cooperation frameworks where agencies first produced their plans and the cooperation framework ended up as a compilation of agency plans, the UN Reform requires the UNCT to agree as one-UN—not as individual agencies—on key priorities. Only then will agencies develop their own country programmes.

UN Philippines Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez said, “My vision of the new cooperation framework is not that of a fragmented collection of activities conducted by 23 UN entities and compiled in a nice catalogue, but a powerful and dynamic partnership instrument that brings the collective energy of a committed UN team in support of sustainable development in the country.”

Today’s consultation will be followed by similar consultations with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and with civil society organizations (CSOs).

The message of Gonzalez, as prepared, follows:

I am glad to reach this day and I am extremely happy for this massive participation of colleagues from the UN and the Government. I believe this is a wonderful starting point.

Why are we here?

Very simple. We are here because the current framework of cooperation between the Philippine Government and the UN ends in December of this year and we need a new cooperation framework for the next 5 years.

In very practical terms, we are here to identify, to negotiate and to agree on what the UN –as a single team—is going to do between 2024 and 2028.

Of course we are not starting this dialogue from scratch. Most of the UN agencies present in this room have already started this discussion with their respective national counterparts.

My office, together with the NEDA, and the DFA—the two main Government entry points of the UN—established a “core group” that has been exchanging information on the various areas of work, preparing relevant documentation, and agreeing on the way forward.

Even more important, the UN conducted a Country Common Assessment last year that is the latest understanding of the main development challenges in the Philippines. This document represents a sort of broad baseline that is guiding our engagement with the Government.

So we are here to engage on important matters but we are not starting from scratch. And this brings me to the second question.

Is it important to be here?

For the UN it is extremely important to be here, with you, with our government counterparts. In fact this is one of the most important collective meetings of the UN in the definition of the priorities of the framework of cooperation.

And in some way, this is an important moment in the life of the UN in the Philippines as we will be deciding on the first cooperation framework formulated within the context of the UN reform.

So you are also deciding on what each UN agency will do in the country for the upcoming five years because UN agencies are expected as part of the UN reform to derive their plan, to extract their priorities, from what we will be deciding today.

This is a fundamental change, compared to past cooperation frameworks where agencies produced first their plans and the cooperation framework was a compilation of them. Here, we first agree with you as a UN—not as individual agencies—on key priorities and after that agencies will be developing their own country programmes.

That’s one of the most important changes brought by the UN reform, which by the way has been strongly supported by the Philippines in the search for an integrated, coherent and responsive country tea, built around a common sense of purpose.

And let me quote what the President of the Republic said a few months ago at the UN General Assembly. “As host to 17 UN agencies, programmes and funds, the Philippines strongly supports reforms to ensure that the UN Development System delivers as one through its UN Country Team.”

It is important to be here as the UN is not expected to be an observer of problems but a partner for solutions. We are the largest multilateral knowledge organization worldwide and our public goods and services should be at the disposal of the host country.

Jointly with your permanent missions in the various locations of the planet, the UN is the organization that negotiates, formulates, adopts, and disseminates, every day, the norms, principles, strategies and programs on the most fundamental practices of a society; about the food we produce and consume; on the pests and diseases threatening our lives, on reproductive helth, on the protection of our oceans, of our planet, on how to protect the rights of workers, journalists and indigenous people; on policies about how to combat organized crime, corruption and violent extremism, most recently, on outer space and digitalization. That’s the added value of the UN in a world that needs—more than ever—a collective leadership.

In many forums the President of the Republic shared his strong desire to bring the Philippines to the upper middle country status. He also shared the desire to position the Philippines as a member of the Security Council.

Definitely, the UN can assist in achieving these noble targets which will have an important impact on the lives of Filipino people and on the global and well-deserved leadership of the Philippines.

This Cooperation Framework can contribute to the improvement of indicators in the reduction of food insecurity, in the resolution of socioeconomic inequalities, in the recovery of learning losses, in filling the gender gap, in bridging the digital divide, in setting the most suitable policies and frameworks for climate justice, and also in the improvement of indicators that are systematically lowering the global aspirations of the Philippines, such as poverty, exclusion and insecurity in BARMM.

This Cooperation Framework can consolidate the ongoing agenda on human rights and make sure the country remains compliant with a key number of conventions and treaties related to environment and biodiversity protection, child protection, women’s rights among others.

The added value of the UN—besides knowledge generation and normative work—is its global convening role, expressed in the dozens of governance mechanisms, from the Convention on Climate Change and the Human Rights Council to the various platforms that are expected—every year—to keep us on the right SDGs track, expand partnership, better integrate the Philippines in a highly competitive context and bring more investment and financial resources to the country. That’s also the role of this UNCT.

My vision of the new cooperation framework is not that of a fragmented collection of activities conducted by 23 UN entities and compiled in a nice catalogue, but a powerful and dynamic partnership instrument that brings the collective energy of a committed UN team in support of sustainable development in the country.

Obtaining such UN consistency, UN coherence, UN focus on what really matters and avoiding a fragmented and disconnected support is in fact the main goal of this meeting and obtaining such goal is a shared responsibility: UN and the Government.

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