Magdy Martinez-Soliman: Remarks at Strategic Dialogue between the Government of Norway and UNDP- Learning from Our Engagements in Fragile Contexts and Fragile Settings

Madam, State Secretary, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here with you this morning and to mark UNDP's 50th year alongside one of our staunchest supporters, the Government and people of Norway. It would seem in the nature of a generous nation that has enjoyed peace, excellent governance, a pristine environment and the highest human development for many decades, to wish the same for others, and support those of us who work to achieve precisely that against the most trying circumstances.

The topic for our discussion could not be more pertinent. More than 1.4 billion people now live in areas affected by conflict, violence and fragility - 2 billion by 2030. Today, half of the world's extreme poor live in fragile settings. Countries that endure major violent conflict have, as would not be a surprise, a 21 per cent higher poverty rate than peaceful ones, with the erosion of hard-won development gains exacting a huge toll on the lives of individuals and nations. And the global financial cost of conflict, cautiously estimated at $817 billion per year, is draining the pool of resources we could have otherwise invested in achieving and maintaining development gains and peace, or even extending them.

In a globalized and interconnected world, development challenges do not only affect developing countries, where conflicts are taking place and, fragility is no longer only a problem in countries we used to label as "fragile". Our highly interdependent economies and lives are profoundly threatened by the spill-over effects by the contagion of fragility and instability. And while countries emerging from conflict may be more vulnerable to interconnected social, political and security risks, middle and high-income countries may be vulnerable to economic volatility exacerbated by inequality and climate change. Indeed, inequality, a critical driver of fragility, is more pronounced in fast developing middle-income countries more than the poorest of the poor. It is a major contributor to organized crime and interpersonal violence that create pockets of instability, as we see in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Our experience in implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has taught us that we cannot achieve development without addressing fragility, and that we cannot address fragility without tackling the root causes of conflict. We know that conflict weakens social systems, disrupts public service delivery, creates political polarisation, threatens livelihoods, and does displace entire communities. This relationship between development and peace has now been affirmed by Member States in the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and in the UN Resolutions on Sustaining Peace.

While the need to address the root causes of conflict and fragility may seem obvious to all of us here, challenges remain on how to work this out in practice. That is what the State Secretary is challenging us to look into deeper and that we are discussing here today.

UNDP has a core mandate to work on the economic, social and political dimensions of development, strengthening livelihoods and social protection, rule of law, security and human rights, addressing exclusion by means of reintegration and the promotion of inclusive, democratic governance. We have somehow always been at crossroad of peace, humanitarian action, Human Rights and our own mandate proper: Sustainable Human Development. We are present in some 170 countries and territories and work before, during and after conflict. We never disengage. Core funding is the pillar of UNDP's support to the world's poorest countries. In 2014-2015, we allocated close to 90 per cent of core programme resources to LICs, 70 per cent to LDCs and 65 per cent to fragile states. This means that 90 per cent of core programme funds provided by Norway helped the poorest countries.

We are also the coordinators of the UN Development System - and bring those working on women, on children, on health, on agriculture or on ,education together into coherent action on the ground.

To address the complexities of fragility, we draw on our broad mandate and extensive global presence, our access to the wider UN Development System and our lead of the UN Development Group and hosting of the Resident Coordinators. We also rely on our strong capacity and development expertise at country level. Our approach is to address fragility through prevention-focused work and strengthening the resilience of local actors to effectively address the drivers of conflict.

In extreme circumstances, when international security is at risk, the international community can try to impose peace. The UN can always contribute to peace. But it cannot build peace, let alone sustain it by itself. That is why national ownership and leadership are critical. The responsibility for sustaining peace needs to be shared by the Government and many other stakeholders.

We see, too often responses that are fragmented; that is why it is so critical to ensure coherence across the United Nation's three foundational pillars of peace and security, development, and human rights. The Agenda 2030, the sustaining peace resolutions and the World Humanitarian Summit recommendations and commitments cannot be implemented in silos and business as usual will not achieve the results we all hope for.

We have also learned that our responses have too often been short-term oriented or way too slow. The agreements made at the World Humanitarian Summit include the Commitment to Action, through which humanitarian and development actors will work jointly towards collective outcomes over multi-year timeframes, within the overall framework of Agenda 2030. They also include the "Grand Bargain", our collective commitments to greater transparency, multi-year planning and programming, greater investment in addressing displacement and protracted crisis contexts, and getting more funding and capacity channelled directly to local actors.

Following-up on these commitments we will address not only how we RESPOND but we will also place PREVENTION up-front, affecting the way in which we approach PREPAREDNESS. We will ensure a much more inclusive process, including a more systematic engagement with governments and other authorities. The Secretary-General elect has already identified preventive action as a much needed priority for the UN in coming years.

We have finally also learned that strengthening the rule of law in fragile countries is crucial for peace and development, as enshrined by SDG 16. UNDP supports national partners to strengthen the rule of law and respect for human rights - including in the most difficult development contexts where people's need for safety, security, and justice are most urgent. For example, in Tunisia, UNDP supported the Ministry of the Interior to introduce a new policing model based on public service and respect for citizens' rights. We have also supported the creation of local security committees to bring together civil society, local authorities, and national police representatives to discuss security issues.

Rule of Law and Human Rights must also be at the core of the development solutions to prevent violent extremism, tackle its drivers and root causes.

We have also learned that the exclusion of women from peacebuilding processes undermines the prospects for achieving peace and sustainable development - and the consequences of this have been well documented in a recent UNWOMEN study, fifteen years after the passage of Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. UNDP mainstreams gender perspectives across its programming, and addresses various forms of discrimination and disempowerment affecting women. In Somalia, for example, we support women to engage in political processes, by training, by participating and by other means. In the Democratic Republic Congo and Sierra Leone, we continue to support investigations and prosecutions of sexual and gender-based violence.

Ensuring youth participation in development and peacebuilding is also a UN and UNDP priority, encapsulated in the 2015 adoption of Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security. In Colombia, UNDP facilitated young people's participation in the Havana peace process, enabling over 10,000 university students from across the country to converse directly with the government office charged with leading the peace talks.

In closing, let me note, that UNDP's work on SDG implementation in fragile situations represents our commitment to support the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in fragile contexts where it matters most. It is also a commitment with future generations to do more and, to do better, and to break the vicious cycle of conflict and under-development that continues to hamper the aspirations of millions of people around the world.

UNDP never disengages, no matter the hardship. We are in countries for the long haul, staying throughout crises, and being part of the recovery journeys. We bring fifty years of experience of peace and development practice around the world and, alongside our partners and counterparts in government and civil society, we have learnt lessons on how to work more effectively. No partner has been better than Norway, through thick and thin, over five decades, to making this happen.

Thank you.

Source: United Nations Development Programme.

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