UN Secretary-General Details SDG Mainstreaming in UN System
UNESCAP. 2018. Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2017 (Figure 1.3).
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A UN Secretary-General report provides examples of actions taken by the UN system to make progress on the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs.

The report discusses: transforming institutions to achieve the SDGs; changing programme budgets in line with the 2030 Agenda; leaving no one behind; and integrating sustainable development into UN operations and facilities management.

27 March 2019: In his 2019 report on mainstreaming the three dimensions of sustainable development throughout the UN system, the UN Secretary-General notes that positive trends in implementing the 2030 Agenda “remain robust,” with renewed efforts to transform institutions and align budgetary resources with the SDGs. The report also finds that an increasing number of UN entities are operationalizing the principle of leaving no one behind.

The Secretary-General’s 2018 edition of the report found that “a new institutional mindset was gradually taking shape.” It also noted a growing emphasis on moving away from silos in favor of interlinkages, working in partnership and seeking synergies across the UN system.

Later that year, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) encouraged the UN system to continue to exchange experiences and lessons learned and to step up efforts to ensure effective support to Member States in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the achievement of the SDGs. By that resolution, the UNGA further: called upon the “relevant organizations” of the UN system, within their respective mandates and resources, to ensure that no country and no one is left behind with respect to sustainable development; and invited the Secretary-General to continue to report to the UNGA, through the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), on progress made on mainstreaming sustainable development, including for the consideration of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The report calls on UN system organizations to “sustain the momentum” by embedding the 2030 Agenda and SDGs into every part of their programmes and budgets.

Responding to this mandate, the 2019 issue of the report (A/74/72–E/2019/13) provides examples of action taken by the UN system, including to transform institutions to achieve the SDGs, change programme budgets in line with the 2030 Agenda, fulfil the principle of leaving no one behind, and integrate sustainable development into UN operations and facilities management. The report highlights the challenge of scaling up efforts, and calls on UN system organizations to “sustain the momentum” by embedding the vision and principles of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs into every part of their programmes and budgets. It also stresses the importance of identifying a dedicated platform for exchanging knowledge, experiences and lessons learned on how to mainstream the three dimensions of sustainable development.

On institutional arrangements, the report states that UN entities have established institutional structures dedicated to the 2030 Agenda, and some have initiated institutional reforms. It also outlines partnership activities, such as the UN-World Bank Group Strategic Partnership Framework for the 2030 Agenda, which focuses on four key areas of cooperation: finance and implementation support to help countries reach the SDGs; decisive global action on climate change; joint work in post-crisis and humanitarian settings; and harnessing data to improve development outcomes.

At the regional level, the report notes that: the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has established “interdivisional working groups” on the 2030 Agenda and on SDG indicators; the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) has adapted the work programmes of its substantive divisions to the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, and has set up a dedicated unit on the 2030 Agenda; and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has aligned its programme activities with the SDGs and is creating cross-divisional teams as flexible arrangements to strengthen synergies and complementarities among its “sub-programmes.”

On budget alignment with the 2030 Agenda, the report indicates that:

  • More than 50% of the 75 result areas of the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) programme budget are aligned with Goals 12 (responsible consumption and production), 13 (climate action) and 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions);
  • The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) programme and budget for the 2018-2019 period is fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda; and
  • The UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has aligned its biennial budget and its management framework with the SDGs.

On leaving no one behind, the Secretary-General reports that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been exploring ways to deploy fiscal policy to reduce inequality, through spending on health, education and social protection, and by ensuring the progressivity of tax systems. The report also indicates that: ESCWA has started a project to support disability-related policymaking and reporting; the UN Statistics Division accords priority attention to vulnerable groups in places where statistical production needs to be further developed, including for women, people living with disabilities, and migrants; and the World Bank Group’s environmental and social safeguard policies support the principle of leaving no one behind by addressing the needs of vulnerable groups such as indigenous communities.

Also on leaving no one behind, the report says UNESCO focuses on reaching the most disadvantaged and excluded groups, countries and segments of societies, as reflected in its medium-term strategy for 2014-2021 and its programme and budget for the 2018-2019 period. It adds that UN-Women has set up impact and outcome indicators aligned with the 2030 Agenda and with the principle of leaving no one behind, and strives to provide data disaggregated by relevant categories.

On interagency efforts to strengthen mainstreaming of environmental and social sustainability in the internal work of the UN system, the report notes that in 2018 the Environment Management Group released a draft model approach to environmental and social standards in UN programming. The standards offer a set of harmonized benchmarks and processes that can be used by UN entities when adopting or revising their individual sustainability policies or frameworks, the report says.

On environmental sustainability within the UN Secretariat, the report indicates that a governance and coordination mechanism and a senior-level steering group on environmental sustainability management have been established to mainstream environmental sustainability at all levels of the Secretariat. The steering group has endorsed elements of an overarching environmental policy. The report also notes that field missions continue to implement a six-year environmental strategy launched in 2016.

According to the report, UN Headquarters in New York reached climate neutrality in 2018, joining the UN Office at Geneva, the UN Office at Nairobi, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), ESCWA and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), as part of a commitment to compensate for the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of their respective operations.

Also in line with the UNGA mandate, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) invited UN system entities to add to the UN System SDGs Action Database, the report says. The database is a searchable repository of UN actions, initiatives and plans on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. [Publication: Mainstreaming of the three dimensions of sustainable development throughout the United Nations system: Report of the Secretary-General]

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