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UN Reform: Is IFAD prepared?

The bold 2030 Agenda for humanity will require equally bold changes in the UN development system. How is IFAD preparing to meet the challenge of reform?

04 September 2017

The 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an ambitious plan to end hunger and extreme poverty by the year 2030. The United Nations has recognized that to achieve this bold agenda for humanity will require equally bold changes in the UN development system.

Therefore in December 2016, the UN General Assembly requested a sweeping review of the system, with the goal of reducing overlap and improving inter-agency coordination to better deliver on the SDGs.

As a UN specialized agency and an international financial institution, IFAD has taken an active part in this process, signalling its commitment to becoming an even more relevant, agile, effective and efficient player within the UN system.

But how is IFAD preparing to meet the challenge of reform?

IFAD and the 2030 Agenda

In 2015, countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In 2016, the Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force, addressing the need to limit the rise of global temperatures. Graphic: United Nations

The Fund played an active part in the development of the 2030 Agenda, advocating for the recognition of the role of smallholder farmers and other rural people, in both publications and high-level forums. It also promoted these issues at two other landmark events in 2015, the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa and the Paris COP that led to the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.Even before the timeframe of the Millenium Development Goals (MDG) ended, and while the new “post-2015 agenda” was under discussion, IFAD realized it would need new ways of doing business to take on new challenges.

In fact, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda recognized IFAD’s efforts “in mobilizing investment to enable rural people living in poverty to improve their food security and nutrition, raise their incomes, and strengthen their resilience”. In addition, it affirmed that rural development could achieve “rich payoffs across the SDGs”.

Now it’s time for us to deliver those payoffs.

IFAD created a roadmap to do just that in the form of its Strategic Framework 2016-2025 which was designed to link IFAD's operations to the achievement of the SDGs – especially SDGs 1 and 2, as well as 5, 8, 10, 13 and 15. The Strategic Framework was presented to IFAD’s Executive Board in December 2015, as the 2030 Agenda was about to begin.

IFAD continues to shape its operations toward furthering the SDGs. Attention is being devoted to mainstreaming nutrition-sensitive agriculture, gender equality, rural youth employment, and climate change in all operations. SSTC is also being used as a key instrument of a holistic approach and business model to further the sustainable and inclusive development of rural areas.

The proposed directions outlined in the Secretary General’s July 2017 report, "Repositioning the UN development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda – Ensuring a better Future for All" are now informing the current consultations with IFAD’s Member States on the Eleventh Replenishment of its resources. They are also being considered within the framework of IFAD’s comprehensive Operational Excellence initiative, which is already underway and is meant to ensure that IFAD remains “fit for purpose” amid a fast-changing world.

Accountability, efficiency and transparency

Secretary-General António Guterres has stressed the need for reforming the United Nations to tackle the main challenges the world is facing. Guterres has said greater collaboration is needed across the pillars of the UN's work – including peace and security, development and human rights -- so that resources can be reoriented to build capacity to prevent crises. UN Photo/Mark Garten

IFAD management is in discussions with the Executive Board on ways to ensure transparency and accountability, and to identify future steps to improve them.IFAD is committed to empowering staff and promoting accountability to maximize its results on the ground. Corporate business processes are being streamlined,  to achieve both efficiency gains and better institutional performance. A coherent, corporate-wide development effectiveness framework for managing for results and improve reporting is being put in place.

IFAD’s organizational decentralization is also a major priority moving forward, to promote better coordination, cooperation and development results.

The Secretary-General’s report recognizes the need for a much stronger focus on financing for development to help countries “unlock the trillions” needed to achieve the SDGs. At the same time, fragmentation and competition within the system needs to be reduced. Partnerships need to work better if they are also going to deliver on a bigger scale.

IFAD was founded as a partnership of governments of both developed and developing countries, and collaboration is central to its work, not only with other parts of the UN system but also international financial institutions, research and academic institutions, NGOs and civil society, and the private sector.

Rural people themselves are partners as well. IFAD’s innovative public-private-producer partnerships (or “4Ps”) model helps provide financial and non-financial incentives to private-sector companies to invest in smallholder farmers, enabling them to improve productivity and market access.

Strengthening UN coordination

IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo speaks at a conference organized by the three Rome-based Agencies (RBA) to accelerate the achievement of Zero Hunger. ©IFAD/Flavio Ianniello

As a specialized agency, IFAD is systematically engaging with the rest of the UN system, including through the UN Chief Executives Board. In terms of delivering on the SDGs, the Fund is actively participating in regional forums on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, as well as in the annual ECOSOC High-Level Political Forum, the foremost global forum for follow-up and review on the 2030 Agenda.

Through such forums IFAD contributes the perspective of smallholders and other rural people to discussions of development priorities, fosters policy coherence, and supports the UN reform process, to ensure the United Nations is best positioned to deliver the necessary actions and results to meet the SDGs.

Under the leadership of President Gilbert F. Houngbo, who took office in April 2017, IFAD has been looking at “doing development differently.” That means assembling development finance for greater impact, focusing on the poorest people and the poorest countries, and embracing a culture of results and innovation.

The Secretary-General’s reform initiative is a welcome framework for ensuring that individually and collectively, all the parts of the UN system take the right steps to maximize their use of resources and impact on hunger, poverty and the other development challenges facing the world today.