Africa: As We Reboot the Global Economy, a Sustainable Pathway Is the Only Road Ahead

press release

Statement prepared for delivery at the 151st meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives.

H.E. Mr. Fernando Coimbra, Chair of the Committee of Permanent Representatives

Ambassadors, Excellencies and colleagues

Thank you for joining us at the 151st meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives. My continued sympathies with Member States as we mark a grim milestone - infection rates from COVID-19 hit 25 million this past month. As we tackle the global pandemic, environmental catastrophes are adding an unwanted humanitarian burden. Beirut. Brazil. China. India. Mauritius. Sudan. United States. Yemen. In January, the World Meteorological Organization predicted that we will expect extreme weather throughout 2020. The science unfortunately continues to hold true to its findings.

The complex and urgent challenge of zoonotic diseases

In April, I outlined UNEP's strategy to respond to COVID-19, a vital pillar of which is to deliver stronger science for informed policies. I am proud to update you that in July, UNEP along with the International Livestock Research Institute, and partners, released an update to previous work addressing the complex and urgent challenge of zoonotic diseases.

The Report is clear and unambiguous in its call for a "One Health" approach, one which integrates human, animal and environmental health. "One Health" is not new, but its uptake has been uneven, and institutional support limited. The good news is that investing in such an approach will cost only a fraction of the stimulus packages announced to reboot the global economy. Widely reported by the media, findings from this report were published in more than 400 outlets in 42 countries. You will hear more about other milestones on the programmatic side a little later on.

Update on the next Medium-Term Strategy

It is this approach, to connect the dots between human activity, planetary health and human health that is foundation of UNEP's next Medium-Term Strategy (MTS - 2022 to 2025). In my remarks at the Sub-Committee Meeting in July, I outlined the triple planetary crisis - climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution - and our actions to deliver deeper and broader impact. I am pleased that much of this thinking resonated with Member States and we found significant support for the direction outlined. We also listened closely to your feedback including on the need for a greater emphasis on nexus issues between the strategic pillars and the focus on UN Reform. I trust the revised draft tabled before you for discussion reflects these insights.

A coherent and focused MTS is not a destination but rather, an entry point to align our systems, operations, procedures and culture, to deliver with greater impact. Building on the excellent work that is being done in a number of areas to strengthen our organization, we will have to work together to ensure that by the end of 2021, UNEP is in a position to respond to the promise of an ambitious strategy. This means ensuring that the whole of UNEP is greater than the sum of its parts.

UNEP's accountability framework

UNEP is strengthening its accountability systems by embedding "lines of defence" to enhance effective risk management and control. These efforts, captured in our "back-to-basics model", are enshrined in UNEP's roadmap to strengthen foundational controls and principles for management and administration. While we will shortly share a written update on implementation progress, a key priority is to set the right tone at the top. We strive to achieve this through dialogues between and among managers and staff reinforcing appropriate behaviors.

Likewise, we are investing heavily in internal controls and on re-sensitizing and training staff on their role as gatekeepers and custodians of policies. Beyond internal controls, independent audits continue to be a critical and a much welcome element of UNEP's accountability framework. Since the last update to the CPR, three audits have been undertaken and implementation of recommendations of nine closed audits are underway. The audits have identified a need to strengthen grants management and our work with implementing partners. We have also revisited the benchmarking of best practices internally across UN agencies and concluded the need to prioritize UN efficiencies and UN reform as a non-resident agency. Three UN agencies have been identified for the benchmarking exercise and we are now looking for a suitable consultancy firm to undertake the exercise.

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