As countries look inward, development cash falls short - UN deputy chief

The United Nations and other international agencies face growing scrutiny on their use of resources and how money is spent.

Funding for international efforts to build resilience to climate change and meet other development goals is faltering, warns United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed.

“It is a tough world right now out there. Everyone is backsliding,” she said in an interview.

Instead of thinking about common action, more world leaders are taking the approach of “let’s sort things out within our own borders”, she added.

“This is a completely wrong direction to go. Now is the time to pull things together,” Mohammed told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to cut off cash to the U.N.-backed Green Climate Fund - and his pledge to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement - have been widely criticized.

But the problem is wider and is affecting development aims, Mohammed said.

“Funding has always been an issue but we have never seen it as challenged as it is now,” said Nigeria’s former environment minister.

The United Nations and other international agencies also are facing tough questions about their use of resources, she said.

Funding has always been an issue but we have never seen it as challenged as it is now.

General Amina J. Mohammed, deputy secretary-general, United Nations

As funding comes from a broader range of sources, including private investors, they “are demanding the type of answers that the public sector, despite being there a long time, did not demand”, she said.

Bodies such as the international Green Climate Fund face growing scrutiny of how they are run and how money is spent.

The fund, established at U.N. climate talks in 2010, aims to channel a large part of the $100 billion per year that wealthy countries have pledged to raise by 2020 to help poorer nations adopt clean energy and weather the impacts of climate change.

But it has been riven by disputes about policies and governance, and its last board meeting in July failed to approve any new projects.

Mohammed said the fund must start operating effectively again in order to reassure poorer countries at U.N. climate negotiations that “we mean business in leveraging resources for doing the things that we need to do on climate change”.

“We have to do some work there to get that back on track. But it is a viable vehicle,” she said.

She said the U.N. Secretary-General’s climate summit in September 2019 would focus in part on sorting out broader funding to ensure climate goals - and wider development aims - are met.

“It is not difficult to know where investments have to be made and the sort of results they would get. What’s difficult is to have a new model that makes those results much more tangible for investors,” she added.

The United Nations is particularly pushing investment in women - in areas like agriculture and the workplace - to achieve broader social and climate goals, she said.

Most of the Sustainable Development Goals have targets designed to ensure women benefit from changes, but “we have to match the words with action”, Mohammed said.

The 17 goals to be achieved by 2030 include ending poverty and hunger, improving education, ensuring access to clean energy and spurring action on climate change.

Mohammed said spending on improvements around water had a big payoff due to links with many of the other goals on things like health, the environment and infrastructure improvements.

South Asia, in particular, had made strong progress on achieving goals related to water, she said.

As many as 75 percent of rural Indians now have access to toilets, for instance, up from 38 percent in 2014, when a push to end open defecation was launched, according to a national sanitation survey.

This story was published with permission from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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