Administrator of UN Development Programme (UNDP) Achim Steiner stressed the importance of Qatar’s role in peacekeeping, conflict resolution, mediation, and developing new co-operative relations, highlighting the state’s commitment to development and humanitarian responses to crises.
Speaking to Qatar News Agency (QNA), Steiner said His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani’s participation in the 78th session of the UN General Assembly is a very strong signal of the support that Qatar provides to the UN, its centrality in international relations and the rule of law, and its ability to also support countries through reaching agreements to address issues that perhaps in the past may have seemed secondary, but became very central today, especially responses to epidemics, emergencies, economic transformations, and reform of the international financial architecture.
He pointed out that the co-operation between the UNDP and Qatar is increasing, especially in aspects related to women, peacekeeping, and women in conflict situations. “We have developed partnerships with different ministries and we have initiated some very significant global partnerships, particularly the accelerator labs today present in almost 100 countries, and without the partnership between UNDP, Qatar and Germany as the third partner, that would not have happened.”
Steiner explained that Qatar and the UNDP’s partnership has been characterised by pro activity and objectivity with regards to development issues or specific initiatives, pointing out, “for instance, Qatar investing in the accelerator labs, which have become a very significant partnership between UNDP, the State of Qatar, Germany and others. But also UNDP has established a presence in Doha. We are collaborating both with government ministries, but also with some of the academic institutions that are now in Qatar, and that I think provides us with significant potential and opportunities for the future.”
Regarding the amount of annual support that Qatar provides to the Programme, Steiner said, this support “falls into different categories,” noting that Qatar became a core contributor to UNDP.
About the contribution of the UN House in Doha to promoting the Programme’s projects in Qatar and abroad, he said that “the opening of the UN House in Doha was actually officiated during the secretary-general’s last visit to Doha. I think everybody realised during that opening ceremony what a tremendous opportunity Qatar has created for the UN family. That UN House has become the platform for quite a number of agents.”
He added that for the UNDP, the UN House in Doha is “both a practical and a policy opportunity. Practical because it gives us the possibility of housing our staff and our experts in Doha in an optimal working environment, and it has allowed us to deepen the co-operation between different parts of Qatar and institutions that are also operating out of Doha. So very practical, but also very promising in terms of future co-operation.”
He added that Qatar is one of the first financiers and contributors to the ABADEI programme, noting that the Qatar Fund for Development provided a contribution of $5mn to the UN Trust Fund for Afghanistan to support the region-based approach to development emergency initiatives led by the UNDP in Afghanistan, with the aim of restoring access to basic and necessary services.
He expressed his hope that Qatar will continue to view this partnership as one that focuses on the needs of the Afghan people, as well as on the strength that Qatar can bring to actually facilitating UNDP’s engagement at this moment there.
Regarding the widening development gaps in the Arab region, Steiner said that despite some extraordinary development successes, improvements in living conditions, governance, health and education indicators, we have in certain parts of the region catastrophic setbacks, pointing out that over the last eight years of conflict, Yemen has lost according to UNDP’s reports and analysis 20-25 years of its development gains.
He added that there is a lot of suffering, so the ongoing conflict there has had a tremendous impact not only on people in terms of their ability to survive, but also in terms of the development gains that it had achieved.
He also noted that Libya is another country still caught in conflict, which is an ongoing challenge according to the UNDP’s definition of the region, stating that we see again conflict causing enormous harm. I think our ability, as the UN family of humanitarians, as well as UNDP in the development side, to help people cope with these enormously painful disruptions has been critical to avoiding even more harm, he said, stressing that peace is always a precondition for successful development, so, we must continue to focus on peacemaking, sustaining development and protecting assets.
In his interview with QNA, the Administrator of UN Development Programme spoke about the call made by the Secretary-General of the UN Antonio Guterres to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals, saying: “I think many today talk in terms of the failure to achieve the indicators and targets that the world agreed upon in 2015 when it adopted the SDGs. I think my point would always be when we adopted those SDGs, we did not expect a global pandemic to hit us. We did not expect to find ourselves in the year 2023 with more wars, civil wars and conflicts than we have seen for decades happening around the world. We have a major financial and debt crisis unfolding for many developing countries. Their ability to even pay the interest on their debt is now forcing them to cut their education and health budgets.”
He stressed the SDGs are in fact a common and shared agenda on how to move forward, explaining, “I think it is important that we remind ourselves the pandemic, the increase in poverty and inequality, the setbacks we have through conflicts. All of these are in fact what the SDG’s are meant to avoid in the future, so they are still as relevant as ever, even if the indicators and targets are not very good news right now.”
Regarding development financing, Steiner said that wealthier countries are able to recover from these shocks faster, while poorer countries are recovering much more slowly or not at all, noting a divergence in the economic pathways that ultimately will create more political tension.
He emphasised the need to de-escalate tensions and conflicts that set the world into a mode of competing with one another rather than co-operating with one another, adding that “part of what we see in the year 2023 is the inability of countries to come together to solve problems and as a result of that, every citizen on the planet is suffering more.”
He also explained that the implementation of the SDG is ultimately a responsibility of every country, pointing out that during the pandemic, countries did some miraculous things when it came to inclusion, from social safety nets to digitalisation, attributing the increase in investment in renewable energy and clean energy infrastructure to the fact that energy security has become a driver of investments. (QNA)