The United Nations (UN) in 2018 undertook a major reform to reposition the UN Development System (UNDS) to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. This reform required UNDP to play two critical roles: serve as an integrator and provide operational support to the UN system at the country level. UNDP defines the SDGs integration as a way of working that promotes continuous learning among stakeholders, to help countries discover solutions to complex development challenges.
The breadth of its expertise and presence in 170 countries makes UNDP unique within the UN system to provide the needed support. First, through SDG integration, UNDP is implementing innovative development programmes, and working closely with national partners and UN Country Teams (UNCT) to formulate strategies that are aligned to the SDGs. Second, UNDP is providing operational support for the UN Resident Coordinator Office (RCO) and other UN partners. The development reform also separated the UN coordination function from the UNDP Resident Representative role. The bar has been set high by the reform, and for UNDP, success in its new role, is the only option.
The Uganda Story
In Uganda, UNDP, is working closely with the Resident Coordinator and the UN Country Team in demonstrating this role in a visible and tangible way. Under the leadership of the Resident Representative, Ms. Elsie Attafuah, UNDP is supporting the preparation of the third National Development Plan (NDP III), which is a strategic opportunity for mainstreaming, prioritizing, targeting and integrating SDGs in the development processes of the country. UNDP, in conjunction with the UNCT, is engaging the National Planning Authority (NPA) and leading the UN's engagement on the NDP III process, to effectively reposition the UN system. In line with this, NPA in partnership with UNDP, organized breakfast policy series to inform the strategic direction of the national development plan.
Attended by distinguished participants from government, UN agencies, the academia, civil society and the private sector, these forums provoked in-depth dialogue on policy and sectoral issues pertaining to the national development blueprint and have been well received by stakeholders, creating a buzz in the development sectors and opening up opportunities for frank in-depth and unscripted debates, constructive criticism and cross-fertilization of ideas.
Prof. Pamela Mbabazi, the Chairperson of the NPA commended UNDP for the financial and technical support. She said: “NPA continues to count on your partnership to deliver on its mandate of producing comprehensive and integrated development plans for Uganda”.
The UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda, Ms. Rosa Malango, noted after the inaugural dialogue: “Extraordinary leadership by Elsie Attafuah, UNDP Uganda Resident Representative enabled a whole of society debate on the new national development plan in Uganda. This is an excellent demonstration of UNDP’s integrator role in support of the work of the UN system in Uganda”,
Getting the policy series started, involved discussions and partnership brokering with the UN agencies in Uganda, the National Planning Authority, line ministries, the academia, civil society organizations, members of parliament and the private sector. Five strategic thematic areas were identified to anchor the five national dialogue series. These are human capital development; enhancing value addition and inclusive growth; good governance; mainstreaming cross cutting issues (including youth, gender and climate change); and financing and development cooperation.
With one UN voice, through delivering as one (DoA) approach, the first three breakfast meetings featured top experts including over a dozen heads of UN agencies in Uganda. Mr. Alain Sibenaler (UNFPA Country Representative of Uganda) and Dr. Antonio Querido (FAO Representative) were among the expert panelists for the first and second series. The organizers decisively sourced out partners, drawn not only from UN agencies but also other Development Partners such as the World Bank, to help shape and support the strategic direction of the next national development plan. At the end of the first breakfast meeting, Alain, the UNFPA Representative had this to say to UNDP:
“Today, you demonstrated the UN’s strategic niches in our host country; delivering thinking, strengthening policies and tackling inequalities, in partnership with NPA and with multi-level stakeholders. You made us all proud and yes we can”.
Part of the Uganda strategy has been ensuring maximum visibility across communications platforms such as television, radio, newspapers and on social media both before, during and after the breakfast series. The dialogues were live streamed, with live updates on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, to showcase UNDP's digital approach to facilitate open discussions with all stakeholders. Another success factor has been evidence generation and identification of the compelling topics and expert speakers who have researched and articulated issues that resonate with the aspirations of most Ugandans.
The Uganda story is one of the many examples of how UNDP is supporting the UN system at the country level to collectively support national counterparts, playing its critical integrator role on the implementation of the SDGs. For the UNDP Assistant Secretary General and Regional Director for Africa, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, “the Uganda story validates the ‘just do it’ approach in applying UNDP’s integrator role within the UN system”.
With more commitments from country offices on joined-up approaches, the UN will certainly advance the implementation of the SDGs at the local level.