Seton Hall Graduate Degree in International Affairs
Seton Hall Graduate Degree in International Affairs

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An SDG Fund: Supporting the 2030 UN Development Agenda


In the Himalayas of Nepal, the UN Development Program’s climate-change adaptation work features a project helping communities reduce potential losses from glacial flooding and “lake outburst” natural disasters. Here, residents in one such district. UNDP 

There is an ongoing process of change in the United Nations development system, albeit a slow one given the size of the challenges. At the country level, more UN country teams (UNCTs) are endorsing the principles of Delivering as One, which have spread from the original eight pilot countries. There is evidence of more joint programming. Across the system, newly agreed standard operating procedures seek to foster greater program harmonization. UN organizations continue to plead for more core resources, but they are resigned to the continuing — and seemingly ever-growing–preference by donors for earmarking.

The organizations of the UN Development System (UNDS) have begun to apply themselves to the task of supporting member states in meeting the SDGs. At the country level, UNCTs are consulting with governments on their needs and convening stakeholders — including from civil society and the private sector — to mobilize local support, thus far without a common funding base. The role of the UNDS must be distinctive and play to the specific advantages of the world body.

A slowly reforming UN development system is occurring against the backdrop of a rapidly changing development landscape and aid realities.

The ongoing UN reform processes and the changing development realities together constitute the practical boundaries that circumscribe proposals for future mechanisms of funding to sustain the post-2015 development agenda. Such proposals can best be framed around six key considerations:

• Country ownership, including emphasis on national plans to establish cross-sectoral priorities and sequencing of individual country SDGs;
• Governance, including the shape of structures from central steering committees to country teams in order to reflect priorities;
• Partnerships, including the involvement of the for-profit private sector and civil society;
• Country eligibility, including the need to emphasize the needs of the least developed and fragile or conflict-prone countries;
• Next phase of Delivering as One (DaO), including joint programming and multisectoral projects with reduced transaction costs; and
• Resources, including management of resources at the country level through joint funding and with oversight by agency headquarters.

To continue reading this briefing from the Future United Nations Development System (FUNDS), click here.

We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts?

Stephen Browne spent more than 30 years working in the UN system and now lectures on the UN. This essay is adapted from his latest book, “Aid and Influence: Patronage, Power and Politics,” published by Routledge in 2022.


Thomas G. Weiss is Presidential Professor of Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center; co-chair of the Cultural Heritage at Risk Project, J. Paul Getty Trust; Distinguished Fellow of Global Governance at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs; and Global Eminence Scholar, Kyung Hee University, Korea. His recent books include “The ‘Third’ United Nations,” (with Tatiana Carayannis).

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An SDG Fund: Supporting the 2030 UN Development Agenda
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