UN75 Political Declaration: Perspectives on the lynchpin role of UN financing

The year 2020 marks the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations as well as the beginning of the final 10 years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the wider 2030 Agenda. The Secretary-General, UN leadership and various Member States have been highlighting the importance of the 75th Anniversary as the opportunity to address challenges to global governance and reinvigorate the UN System with what is needed to deliver meaningful change to people’s lives worldwide.

The UN resolution on the “Commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations” (A/RES/73/299) notes that outcomes of the process will include a multi-stakeholder “Leaders Summit” on 21 September 2020. On this occasion, a pre-negotiated, “concise, substantive, forward-looking and unifying declaration that captures the collective commitment of Member States to multilateralism and to the United Nations and their shared vision for a common future” will be adopted by consensus.

Currently, a zero draft of this Political Declaration is being negotiated by Member States in a virtual meeting format. This draft outlines 12 commitments which include:

  • We will leave no one behind;
  • We will protect our planet;
  • We will work to ensure peace and security;
  • We will abide by international rules and norms;
  • We will place women and girls at the center;
  • We will build trust;
  • We will promote the use of new technologies for the benefit of all;
  • We will upgrade the United Nations;
  • We will ensure financing;
  • We will boost partnerships;
  • We will listen to and work with youth; and
  • We will be prepared.

While Member States continue to negotiate virtually in the coming weeks, the zero draft will see changes made by Member States, with an eventual final draft to be adopted under silence procedure. See UN Monitor: COVID-19 & UN Silence Procedure for more details on silence procedure decision-making.

Invited to comment on and present amendments to one section in the zero draft of the UN75 declaration – that on ensuring financing (see paragraph below), the author addressed the five sentences of the paragraph, each accompanied by a recommendation and amendments.

“We will ensure financing. None of our aspirations will be realized unless there is sustainable funding of the organization. We will pay our assessed contribution in full and on time. Measures to better ensure this should be explored. Implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development is key for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Joint public-private financing plays a central role in our efforts to make the United Nations deliver better on its purposes.”

In the comments below the language of the zero draft is in bold, and the suggested amendments are in italics. The remarks were offered in the context of recognizing the limited nature of this exercise and in that context, contained amendments for each of the five sentences in the paragraph titled: We will ensure financing.

1. None of our aspirations will be realized unless there is sustainable funding of the organization

Amendment –Add: and the UN system as a whole”.

The “organization” applies to a very limited albeit important part of what the UN does and doesn’t apply, as for example to response to the pandemic.

Sustainable funding is essential if the other propositions and system-wide reform proposals are to have any success. However, the current patterns of funding are insufficient both in quantity and in quality. Sustainable funding is crucial for the ability of the UN to do what it was set up to do, but more pertinently, it is necessary to disconnect and break the current patterns that are dominated by a few large donors and the way in which they are influencing decision-making, agenda setting and shaping priorities and skewing implementation across the system.

2. We will pay our assessed contributions in full and on time.

(How many times have we heard this.)

Assessed contributions apply at best to 30% of what the UN is called upon to do. 

Amendment: We will pay and scale up contributions to the UN system, assessed, quasi-assessed, core and core like and on an agreed and ambitious timetable.

3. Measures to better ensure this (delete “should be explored” and add)

Amendment: Measures to better ensure this include multi-year contributions, phasing out strictly earmarked and tied contributions and accelerating transition measures such as pooled and thematic funds, and strengthening the indicators to measure implementation.  

The UN lacks quality, consistent and applied rules and tools for how (or if/when) to receive non-Member State contributions. If included in the declaration, it needs to include something along these lines:

Explore the feasibility of a mechanism to ensure non-Member State contributions are not tied to a programme, project or entity, are fully transparent across the UN system and meet the highest standards of due diligence and conflict of interest principles.

4. Implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development is key for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda

Amendment: Add: “with a focus on the specifics of illicit financial flows, debt work-out and fiscal policy and space”.

While this sentence is about financing the 2030 Agenda, not the UN system per se, it is essential to include this focus in the Declaration. It builds on 2 June 2020 high-level event on FfD co-convened by the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica and the UN Secretary-General. This event, with the participation of many Heads of State and Government and agency heads, addressed at the highest political level the importance of addressing IFFs, the debt crisis and the importance of fiscal space. Its high-level participation offers potentially encouraging momentum for this declaration if it can move us forward rather than repeating existing language which is what this draft mainly does.

5. Joint public-private financing plays a central role in our efforts to make the United Nations deliver better on its purposes. DELETE

It is not clear what central role the drafters have in mind. How will private financing contribute to peace-keeping? We know that the provision of public goods is not funded by pro-cyclical funding, which is what characterizes private sector and most of philanthropic funding.

We know this could not possibly be a main source of the first proposition in this para for sustainable funding.

And if there’s one thing that comes through from the pandemic it is the leadership of government and the public sector. And the importance of fiscal space and the imbalance in the global economy which dictates which countries do and do not have this kind of space.

This is yesterday’s thinking and yesterday’s language and my amendment is to delete it.

By Barbara Adams

Source: Global Policy Watch (GPW).