Remarks at the 2018 High-Level Political Forum

Jason Lawrence
Adviser for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
July 19, 2018


Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention today. We are here at the High-Level Political Forum to discuss and collaborate on addressing the world’s most pressing development challenges. We’re also at a pivotal moment when business as usual can no longer be the accepted way forward. The development landscape is changing, and we must collectively adjust our approaches. The United Nations system too must change to demonstrate its added value to sustainable development and to best support the vision of the 2030 Agenda.

Today we are seeing an expansion of technology in the developing world which is altering the reality of what is possible. Traditional official development assistance is increasingly reinforced by private sector engagement, domestic resource mobilization, financial flows and enhanced commerce and investment, all of which promise to increase developing countries’ self-reliance. Perhaps the most monumental change is the enhanced relationship between the private and public sector.

We have many examples in the United States of the private sector’s pivotal role as a catalyst for growth and resilience. We have initiatives across the U.S. to support cities and communities in empowering residents; public-private partnerships are key to advancing many of the challenges facing our communities. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit program for example is the U.S. Federal Government’s primary program for encouraging the investment of private equity in the development of affordable rental housing for low-income households.

We also think it pays to invest in technology. Through the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, the U.S. supports small businesses in developing next-generation technologies. These programs provide funding for early-stage research and development (R&D), from health to agriculture to energy, thus commercializing federal investments in R&D. And we’re utilizing these new technologies across the board in our development work. As one example, we’ve been deploying technology to predict droughts and manage land more sustainably as a means to ensure food security and avoid conflicts.

We will continue to leverage these new approaches to development across our programs, from global cooperation efforts to expand access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation, to combating the scourge of illegal wildlife trafficking, to our work here at home to protect our wetlands and forests in order to leverage their benefits and enjoy their conservation.

As part of its broader reform efforts, the UN system needs to fully recognize and embrace these changes as well, including leveraging domestic resources and private flows, welcoming private sector inputs, adapting, and streamlining its internal operational approaches and management, and thinking about the most efficient and effective ways to generate positive change and development progress. The Secretary-General has gone a long way in laying the foundations for UN reform. It is now essential that this reform be implemented and that the UN system and Member States be inclusive and welcome views, inputs, and leadership from all stakeholders.

These changes won’t all happen overnight. They are going to require some in-depth, difficult conversations and the right technical expertise. Moving forward, UN Agencies will need to focus on their core mandates and comparative advantages, and move away from low-priority, less value-add activities. We, as Member States, have a major role to play in making sure this reform stays on track and in ensuring that the system is fit for purpose in addressing the challenges we’ve discussed at this forum, and in the end to best serve those most in need.