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Regional Coordination Mechanism for Arab States, 23rd meeting

20 November 2017
Beirut, lebanon
Opening statement by Mr. Mohamed Ali Alhakim,
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCWA,
at the twenty-third meeting of the Regional Coordination
Mechanism for Arab States

Beirut, 20 November 2017

Mr. Ahmad Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States,

Mr. Mourad Wahba, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Assistant Administrator of UNDP and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour to welcome you at the United Nations House to open the twenty-third meeting of the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Arab States, my first RCM since being appointed Executive Secretary of ESCWA.
I would like to start by taking a moment to remember our esteemed WHO colleague, Dr. Mahmoud Fikri, who passed away too soon. I would like to extend my sympathies to his family and friends. Dr. Fikri should have been among us today, and we will surely miss his experience and insight.
Before we begin our deliberations, I would like to welcome Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary General of the League of Arab States. The United Nations and the League have a long and distinguished history of cooperation, not only in political and humanitarian affairs, but also across all development sectors. We are continually strengthening this relationship to effectively respond to increased regional challenges, and to ultimately improve our services to member States and the people of this region.
I would also like to welcome the Chair of the Regional United Nations Development Group, Mr. Mourad Wahba. Together with the Regional UNDG, we are forging a new chapter that responds to a call by member States and our Secretary-General for closer collaboration, deeper integration and enhanced policy coherence. We are very pleased that this year, the Regional UNDG meeting is being held back-to-back with the RCM meeting.
Lastly, I want to express my appreciation to each of you for making the time and effort to join us today.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The twenty-third RCM meeting comes two years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, at a time when Arab countries are facing complex and pressing domestic and transboundary regional challenges—such as peace and security, unemployment, environmental stability, youth, water and international migration. Those challenges could, but should not, affect the United Nation’s ability to act as “one” to ensure that the basic human rights, economic and social justice of citizens are protected, a priority for all countries in the region.

 It is therefore more important than ever that we find ways to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
We now have consensus that a more holistic approach is required to address the integrated and cross-cutting nature of the 17 SDGs and their interlinked targets. Our objective is to ensure positive trade-offs across sectors and achieve universal outcomes and gains.
How, then, should we proceed to accelerate the pace of implementation in a positive and effective way? I believe our approach demands a greater level of collaboration and cooperation between all RCM members, around the following:
First, we must look at concrete ways to operationalize the integrated approach to the SDGs at the national and regional levels.  A common understanding of what this means would greatly assist countries in the Arab region in adapting and implementing the 2030 Agenda.
Second, we must identify the transboundary dimensions of the SDGs that can be addressed through regional cooperation interventions.
Third, the RCM, as a regional meeting of UN agency directors and LAS representatives, offers the ideal forum to discuss those issues and focus efforts on what needs to be achieved to accelerate the pace of our work.
Friends and colleagues,
Last June, the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, issued his report on repositioning the UN Development System, which incorporates the mandates of the 2016 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review. It aims to position the UN system in a new direction to deliver on our national, regional and global promises.
Of particular relevance to us are the Secretary-General’s findings and recommendations on the UN Development System’s regional functions, policy and data management capacities; a clearer division of the roles and responsibilities of UN entities at the regional and subregional levels, and for a united policy voice to meet the critical demands of the 2030 Agenda.
There has been a great deal of discussion on how the proposed reform agenda will affect our work and should provide us an opportunity to discuss some of the practical implications of the proposed reform as it affects the region, while collaborating to adapt and implement the 2030 Agenda.
I look forward to discussing those issues and more with you at this meeting, establishing closer ties between all United Nations agencies and identifying solid area of development to serve the Arab region.

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