- Published on Monday, 09 July 2012 01:40
- Written by a Correspondent
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ENDINGS are all, in a sense, new beginnings. While it is certainly way too early to fully reflect on my tenure as Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, I can certainly say it has been a gratifying experience. I am thankful to the Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, for the opportunity and his confidence and support.
The privilege to serve for more than five consecutive years in the world body will remain a major milestone in my public life. Every single moment has pushed further the boundaries of knowledge. Knowledge of the organization, knowledge of the world, its diverse and amazing people, but also knowledge of the limitations and opportunities of our action.
It has been a real privilege and a genuinely humbling experience to help respond to some of the most daunting challenges of our time: extreme poverty, gender inequality, disease and violence against women and girls to name just a few; and to contribute to collective efforts to improve the management and stewardship of the United Nations in a complex international environment.
I am forever grateful to President JakayaMrishoKikwete, the Government and the people of Tanzania, and to my family for their invaluable support throughout my tenure at the United Nations. More than ever before, my work at the UN has brought me closer to global leaders and some of the most successful individuals on the planet; to appreciate their invaluable contribution to world peace and prosperity.
Yet my deepest gratification came from the unforgettable encounters with vulnerable people in need of help. I will carry with me for the rest of my life the smile of a mother of six children I met in one of the UN-sponsored dispensaries on the African continent, holding firmly her frail baby in her skinny hands, happy to have managed to gain access to free life-saving medicines for her child.
The position of Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) was created by the General Assembly in 1997 to improve the management of the Secretariat and to elevate the profile and leadership of the United Nations in the economic and social spheres. As the Organization grew in size and scope, the DSG’s role also evolved to include system-wide coordination and coherence. This proved very valuable in providing leadership on implementing the “Delivering as One” initiative, which promotes the conduct of the United Nations’ operational activities for development.
Though it might just be a happy coincidence, I am leaving the organization when recent authoritative statistics indicate that global efforts to halve the number of poor in the world are yielding results; and the fact that this is happening in spite of the negative impact of one of the most severe financial and economic crisis in our lifetime is cause for optimism in our work on development.
Advancing the achievement of the MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals at the global, regional and national levels has been an essential aspect of my work. I drew a lot of inspiration from the remarkable global commitment and support shown by all development partners: governments, civil society organizations, academia and businesses alike. They collectively embraced the MDGs as the premier framework in the fight against extreme poverty.
I take special pride in the work I led in realizing the Secretary-General’s pledge to establish the MDG Integrated Implementation Framework (IIF) which was launched in June this year (2012). The IIF will serve as the first-ever “one-stop-shop” web-based tool to monitor policy and funding commitments to development, hence making all stakeholders more accountable and focused in delivering measurable progress.
MDGs in Africa
It was in that same spirit that the Secretary-General launched, in September 2007, the MDG Africa Steering Group, which brings together the leading institutions supporting Africa’s development. After five years of dedicated deliberations, the Working Group, which I had the privilege of leading, has produced concrete recommendations and outlined an implementation plan which I strongly recommend to decision-makers in Africa and elsewhere. If properly applied, this plan could serve as a practical tool-box for the design of effective national development strategy plans.
As the time for taking stock of the achievement of the MDGs in September next year is fast approaching, it is fair to say that the Goals have provided an effective framework to improve the lives of ordinary people everywhere and, without any doubt, in Africa. We know today that beyond simple empathy, societies are more resilient and successful when there is greater equity among all citizens.
It is encouraging that equity and social inclusion were among the main concerns of the Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development and that they will also feature heavily in the projected post-2015 development framework. I am pleased to note the strong commitment shown by the entire United Nations system in the preparations for the Rio+20 Conference; and I have taken great comfort in overseeing system-wide efforts to foster greater coherence in outlining a common strategy and promoting concrete deliverables at the Conference. I commend Member States for reaching agreement on wide-ranging issues at a time of global economic uncertainty. I am pleased that the Conference’s recommendations will help ensure a more inclusive growth, and more resilient societies which exist in harmony with the planet’s boundaries; and where the future, in particular of women and girls around the world, will be brighter.
Women’s empowerment and gender equality
Beyond the Rio+20 Conference, we must continue our engagement in the fight for the universal empowerment of women and gender equality. Over the past few years, we have dedicated considerable energy to this cause. We have used the space and influence of our office to help increase the voice and enhance the fair participation of women in society. We did it in campaigning to end violence against women and girls. We also worked to promote women's leadership and in calling for gender-responsive laws and policies at the country and global levels, and by urging governments to fulfil their commitments in these critical areas, especially regarding the role of women in peace and security. This is why we spared no effort until the establishment of UN Women became a reality. The Organization has now a stronger institution to lead its work on women’s issues in a coherent and effective manner. We did this because there is not a single inch of the wide scope of our work where women’s issues are not in need of urgent and decisive action.
Delivering as One
I pay special tribute to the women and men of the United Nations family who have dedicated their professional lives to development, above all those deployed in the field. They demonstrate in tangible ways the relevance of the Organization in support of national and regional development strategies. The role of Resident Coordinators participating in the “Delivering as One” (DaO) initiative has been particularly crucial.
We owe to them the momentum gained in improving the delivery of operational activities. It is noteworthy that greater national leadership and ownership is increasingly matched by enhanced interagency coherence and collaboration, as well as a more sustained dialogue with donors and other partners. While a more formal decision is still pending at the intergovernmental level, I am fervently convinced that DaO is moving in the right direction. In my own country Tanzania, all UN agencies have worked closely together since 2011 to implement a ONE UN Programme entitled UNDAP (United Nations Development Assistance Plan) which is based on the Government’s own planning cycle and fiscal year, that is, 1st July to 30th June. The UNDAP responds directly to national priorities.
The UN has also put in place a Monitoring and Evaluation Plan which allows the continuous assessment of its own performance and, if needed, to take corrective measures. This system can be accessed by anyone through the internet. On the operations front, this new way of working together has enabled the UN to do more with less and to realize savings for the benefit of development activities. The question is no longer whether DaO is an initiative worth pursuing, but rather what needs to be done to further harmonize business practices and to ensure more effective and coherent leadership at Headquarters, as well as securing adequate funding for sustained results.
In global health, where women and children are most affected, heroic work is being carried out to protect every woman and every child from killer diseases, in particular to prevent paediatric HIV transmission. Secretary-General Ban, UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibe, and I myself witnessed this first hand in Nairobi last year, when we celebrated a proud HIV positive mother, standing joyfully with her healthy triplets. As a Member of the Commission on Information and Accountability on Women's and Children's Health, which was so ably co-chaired by President Kikwete of Tanzania and Prime Minister Harper of Canada, I feel confident that the international community now has a strong and tangible framework for global reporting, oversight and accountability on these issues; I look forward to seeing that process evolve to its operational stage.
The outstanding work undertaken by UNFPA Executive Director BabatundeOsotimehin and WHO Director-General Margaret Chan in the pursuit of better mother and child health in many parts of the world has been a source of inspiration. Such actions fill my heart with joy and a sense of purpose in the relevance of the United Nations; and in our modest contribution to the achievement of its noble goals.
I also felt the same in many other places: in Uruguay where, together with Michelle Bachelet, Helen Clark and Alicia Barcena, we helped boost the national campaign "No" to violence against women; in Haiti where I came across people of extraordinary resilience in the face of the direst circumstances following the devastating earthquake which struck this country in 2010; or in Laos, where the Organization, working closely with the Government, local authorities and a vibrant civil society, is providing critical development support, including in helping the country to eliminate the scourge of cluster munitions.
These are but a few examples which represent flawless answers to UN critics. To them, I say the most vulnerable people of the world are our best advocates. For these girls, boys, women and men in need, the UN is invaluable and serves as a beacon of hope in their daily quest for a life of dignity.
Management reform and change management
That is not to say that the Organization is above criticism. As Deputy Secretary-General, I spent a significant amount of my time to help improve the way we do business. The Organization has evolved from a conference-service provider to become a global actor with significant field operations responsibilities. With the full support of dedicated colleagues, I have spent countless hours to promote change management in the Organization and to help instill a culture of responsibility and result.
While we know there is no quick fix, we have diligently worked in pursuit of internal reform, cognizant of the fact that there will be no alternative to modernizing the ways and means by which the Organization performs its mandates. We must indeed constantly adjust to the new and fast-changing realities of the times we live in, and we must do this within even tighter budgetary constraints and diverging positions within the membership.
As we strive to modernize the Organization, I am convinced that there is no substitute to investing in our staff, by providing them state-of-the art training opportunities and a solid path to real career development. It is a fact of life that the environment in which we are called to serve is not only in constant transition, it is also growing riskier by the day.
We know too painfully today that the UN blue flag does not offer us any longer a safe haven and far too many of our best staff have been the victims of horrendous terrorist acts. I witnessed this in Abuja, Nigeria, where on August 26, 2011, many of our colleagues died…victims of a cowardly act of terror. And, too often, when these dear colleagues are gone, their loved ones are left behind to face hardship and deprivation. I am therefore pleased that one of the last pieces of management policy I have overseen was dedicated to identifying effective measures to provide support to staff affected in the line of duty and to their families.
Rule of law
Promoting policies aiming at protecting people’s rights is part of the broader mandate of the Organization to advance the rule of law at national and international levels. Today, strengthening the rule of law has become a priority for Member States, in view of its centrality to the peace-building and sustainable development agendas. It has therefore been a great source of satisfaction for me to have led, over the past few years, the development of system-wide policy and guidance on rule of law activities in support of Member States. This coming September, on the margins of the UN General Assembly, Member States will hold a high-level meeting to bring this critical task forward in furtherance of the dignity of all the people and peaceful relations among nations.
Though my time in office at the United Nations has come to a close, I believe there is no end in the pursuit of the goals and values which the United Nations stands for. In fact, as long as there will be poverty, hunger for food, quest for dignity and peace in this world, I will remain engaged, in any capacity I may have in the future, in support of the work and objectives of the United Nations.
Indeed, an effective response to the daunting challenges before us will continue to require the committed and collective dedication of all: governments, civil society, business, philanthropic organizations, academic institutions, and individuals alike.
It is also my genuine hope that young generations, who yearn for a more inclusive, just and peaceful world, will see and find in the United Nations a trusted partner to build a better tomorrow.