By Santo D. Banerjee
NEW YORK (IDN) – UN Secretary‑General António Guterres has commended India’s “very important role in shaping the Sustainable Development Goals“. He was speaking at an event marking the first anniversary of the India‑United Nations Development Partnership Fund in New York.
The Fund aims at supporting sustainable development for low-income nations with 22 projects having already been approved in 25 partner countries ranging from hurricane rehabilitation and climate early warning system to government accountability and agriculture.
“The Fund’s focus on supporting people in least developed countries [LDCs], small island developing States [SIDs] and landlocked developing States [LLDCs], reflects our ambition to reach those that are left furthest behind and to reach them first,” said Guterres.
Managed by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, the Fund seeks to assist projects for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in partner countries. South-South cooperation in the UN context refers to the exchange of resources, technology, and knowledge between developing countries.
Guterres said: “Even before the Goals were crystallized, India’s own development efforts and vision reflected many of the same priorities and aspirations.” He added: “India is, for all of us, a very important inspiration.”
In the third year of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN chief thanked India for its “strong commitment to multilateralism and to partnership with the United Nations.”
The partnership, he said, is expressed in many ways across the global agenda “and which we see again through the activities of this important Fund.” The Fund, he added, shows “the further deepening of South‑South cooperation,” which is “an increasingly valuable dimension of our work for development.”
But this is also the moment to remind that South‑South cooperation is not an instrument aiming at replacing North‑South cooperation, said Guterres. “South‑South cooperation is not an instrument for the commitments that were made by developed countries now to be put aside,” he warned.
“South‑South cooperation must be a stimulus for an intensified North‑South cooperation, for the Addis Ababa [Action] Agenda to be fully implemented and for everybody to assume their responsibilities in the context of a world in which we want a fair globalization, in which justice prevails in international relations,” the UN Chief declared.
And the Fund’s support for Southern‑owned and Southern‑led projects throughout the developing world rightly emphasizes solidarity, mutual benefits, as well as national ownership.
“These are values that are also central when we recently approved in the General Assembly a resolution on the United Nations development system. And the Fund’s focus on supporting people in least developed countries, small island developing States and landlocked developing States reflects our ambition to reach those that are left furthest behind and to reach them first,” Guterres stressed.
The Fund’s first anniversary celebrations heard testimonies from officials, diplomats and UN Development Programme (UNDP) representatives from the field, who connected via video links, to the uniqueness of the Fund’s responsiveness and its effectiveness by not earmarking the contributions and letting the recipients decide what their most pressing needs are.
India has committed $100 million over the next decade for the Fund and an additional $50 million during the next five years for Commonwealth countries under a separate window under the fund, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin said.
Akbaruddin called for speeding up the implementation of the projects done through the UN agencies under what he called a “1-2-3 process”. India has cut down the time it takes to assess and accept a project in under one month and hopes the projects will be completed in two years and none should go beyond three years.
The Fund is in addition to the various other aid programmes that India has bilaterally with countries and multilaterally with organisations, he added. It adheres to the principles of South-South cooperation, and places a priority on national ownership and leadership, equality, sustainability, development of local capacity, and mutual benefit.
For example, a Climate Early Warning System is being implemented in 7 Pacific Island Countries to increase resilience to natural disasters; a governance project in Swaziland will engage citizens in the collection of data on poverty in order to inform sound public policies; a climate-response project in Chad will help restore degraded lands and enhance agricultural production systems; and a governance project in Uruguay will enhance the government’s public service delivery through digital processing and monitoring tools.
“The India-UN Development Partnership Fund exemplifies South-South cooperation at work,” said Adonia Ayebare, Permanent Representative of Uganda and President of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation. “India is putting into practice what we have been discussing for so long.”
“The speed at which projects have been implemented through the Fund is impressive,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner. “The best ideas, from wherever they are sourced, should be made accessible to everyone on the planet.”
“UNOPS is honoured to be called to the table by India and UNOSSC,” said Grete Faremo, Executive Director, United Nations Office for Project Services. “We stand ready to work closely with you to implement projects of the Fund.”
Antigua and Barbuda Permanent Representative to the UN, Walton Alfonso Webson, conveyed the appreciation of LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, for India’s “timing and response to countries requests”. “India’s climate leadership is exemplary,” he stressed. “We cannot achieve the SDGs without international support.”
“We do not have the luxury to waste time,” said Fekitamoeloa Katoa Utoikamanu, High Representative for the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS. “The Fund’s focus on unlocking the potential of the people in the most vulnerable countries could not be more timely.”
Palau’s Permanent Representative Ngedikes Olai Uludong gave an example of how the Fund takes up the priorities of the recipients and not restrict them to match the donor’s. None of the major donors were willing to finance the small community health programmes vital to the small Pacific island nation as they only wanted to underwrite big hospitals, he said.
When he proposed a modest $50,000 community health project, he said India offered to provide even more money to extend the programme that was more important than hospitals to ensure its people’s well-being.
India’s leadership in technology could be harnessed to help the countries deal with their problems, many speakers said.
Uruguay’s Permanent Representative Elbio Rosselli said that in his country the Fund has put a special emphasis on technology with a system for government accountability and dialogue.
Jorge Chediek, UNOSSC Director, and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation, moderated the event, which was attended by United Nations officials and over 45 Permanent Representatives. [IDN-InDepthNews – 10 June 2018]
Photo: First Anniversary Commemoration of the India-UN Development Partnership Fund. Credit: UNOSSC
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