UN at 75: Reaffirming global commitment to multilateralism

Fodé Ndiaye, the UN Resident Coordinator for Rwanda. / Courtesy

The world will on September 21 mark the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations. The day will be marked with a one-day high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly among other activities to celebrate this milestone. The day will be marked under the theme: The Future we Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Commitment to Multilateralism.

Ahead of the celebrations, The New Times’ Sharon Kantengwa had an interview with Fodé Ndiaye, the UN Resident Coordinator for Rwanda who shared some milestones of the UN in Rwanda.


In line with this year’s anniversary theme, what is the UN doing to promote multilateralism?


This Covid-19 has shown us how important multilateralism is because we know that no one is safe unless all of us are safe. So, the UN is renewing multilateralism to make sure that we tackle important challenges of our planet, be it on poverty, hunger, inequalities, jobs, climate change, pandemics and other shocks, gender equality or youth engagement and peace and conflict prevention.


The problems of the world today are cross-country, cross-sector, cross-generation, cross-border and interlinked; the world is more networked and interconnected; therefore, solving issues requires more than ever cooperation to find the right, shared, fair, inclusive and sustainable solutions respecting the people, the planet and building peace and prosperity for all.

Partnership is key, for economic growth, trade, conflict prevention and building inclusive and peaceful societies for a better world for all, leaving no one behind. Multilateralism is also the way to uphold human rights and justice, to unleash the potential of the 4th industrial revolution, design a fairer globalization and improve digital cooperation.

So far, UN also has prevented the world from a world war since almost 75 years! The UN SG and UN in general have supported the Paris Agreement on climate change to protect our planet, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development, various strategies on gender, youth, on promoting and sustaining peace and preventing conflict, on reminding us the UN charter and the necessity to abide by international law and ensure justice and improve human rights, on enhancing digital cooperation and making UN fit-for-purpose.

The fight against COVID19 with the UN SG’s call for cease fire, engagement on macro-economic stability, debt relief and appropriate financing mechanisms, the leadership in the health fight and in finding a vaccine accessible to all and the UN reforms of the Development system, peace and security and the management, are good examples of initiatives taken by UN.

Of course, we all need to promote multilateralism and renew UN because “There is no other global organization with the legitimacy, convening power and normative impact as the United Nations” (UN75 Resolution).

What we are gathering in this debate through the UN75 survey will be framing the UN towards 2045, its 100th anniversary!

In January 2020, we launched this dialogue and reached out to various people through civil society organisations, youth and women, private sector, and development partners because our charter starts with “we the people” and citizens’ views need not only be heard but more importantly to be understood and considered in the UN rebirth!

We also plan to have a hybrid virtual and physical gathering on September, 21st to mark the anniversary which will feature Heads of State, community leaders and young people, women leaders to provide their voice on how they see the UN going forward. At local level, we plan also to have a commemoration event.

I think that our aim is to have a UN better fit for purpose as was said in the resolution 72/279 of 31st May 2018 on the reform of the UN development system, increasing its relevance, its coherence, its effectiveness, its efficiency and its leadership on global issues.

We also need to see the UN Member States enhancing cooperative engagement on important aspects, such as how we protect our planet, how we build shared prosperity, how we prevent conflict and sustain peace and enhance partnership and how we make sure that our common goal, the agenda 2030, the sustainable development goals, are achieved everywhere and for everybody, leaving no one behind. As multilateralism is under attack and we are seeing growing tensions between China and USA for example, it is everyone’s duty, everywhere to stand up for multilateralism and for our irreplaceable UN!

Since 2018, the One UN Rwanda has been supporting national priorities and Rwanda’s National Strategy for Transformation and is anchored in the Government’s Vision 2050 and UN Agenda 2030. As One UN, what have been your key achievements in Rwanda?

Overall, our work is grounded on a cooperation framework which is in Rwanda- the UN Development Assistance Plan II (2018-2023). This plan is grounded on the National Strategy for Transformation (2017-2024), based on vision 2050 articulated with UN agenda 2030 and the Sustainable development goals (SDGs) and AU agenda 2063. The UNDAP is also based on three strategies: gender; human rights and the nexus humanitarian-development and takes into account the lessons learnt from the UNDAP I (2013-2018). The UNDAP II has three priority areas mirroring the NST1: economic transformation, social transformation and transformational governance. 

Key UN joint programmes are tackling critical issues of the country’s development: youth, gender and rural women economic empowerment, data, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, climate resilient agriculture and natural resource management, smart cities, productive sectors. Of course, agency specific programmes reflected in the UNDAP supplement this joint action. The total budget of the plan is 630 M USD and we managed to increase the amount of available resources from 252 M at its signature at the end of 2018 to almost 280 M USD. Our delivery in 2018-2019 year was around 90 MUSD.

However, it is important to highlight that the UN is not a donor. What we bring includes our catalytic finance, our technical expertise, our experience and knowledge sharing through our 193 member networks, the facilitation of south-south and triangular cooperation, our work on norms and standards, and our advocacy.

Of course, we also support policies and strategies that are people-centered, we help to generate and analyze data, and develop research systems to inform priority policy and programme options; and we help to build resilient institutions that can deliver services to people. 

To give a few highlights, the UN supported the development of One health policy document (human, animal and environmental health), guiding the strengthening of the systems to prevent, prepare, detect, respond to and recover from primary infectious diseases. Our contribution also included our assistance to the National Nutrition Plan and Childhood Development Plan, the social protection strategy 2018-2024 which are very important in looking at fundamental elements of development: the human capital. In addition, we also contribute to access to health including reproductive health, education and agriculture knowledge and inputs. With four ministries (MIGEPROF, MINAGRI, MINSANTE, MINALOC0, we are engaged in the fight against stunting.

On data systems, UN assisted in the national data collection system, sectoral Management information system and administrative systems (e.g. refugee IDs), generation of SDG indicators, gender status. The National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR is playing an important role and we have a joint program on data supporting NISR. We need to continue to joint our efforts to make the national census 2022 a successful endeavor. All data are key in development.

Our technical cooperation in research and analysis such as the demographic dividend study, the production of citizen scorecards , the Joint assessment on the impact of COVID19, the development of the Spatial development framework (SDF) methodology (for urbanization), have contributed to the policy dialog and improvement of some policies/strategies.

With the National Gender Machinery, we partner to enhancing gender equality (area in which Rwanda is leading globally) and women empowerment. We can cite the examples of more gender-sensitive budgets, the fight against gender-based violence with the Isange One Stop Center, the movement of the gender seal and the private sector, as well as accelerating rural women economic productivity and job creation.

On human rights, UN cooperates with the government, the National human rights commission, the private sector and civil society organisations, other development partners in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process led by the Government by providing technical assistance to implement the accepted recommendations and by engaging other actors through its convening power.

Rwanda is due to report in 2020 and the last review showed an implementation of more than 82%. UN also submitted its report on UPR. Our human rights operations enhance the response of the Government and civil society organizations (CSOs) to address human trafficking.

In anticipation of the release of 12,000 convicts of the genocide against the Tutsis, in 2022-2023, with our partners: The National Unity and Reconciliation Commission and Prison Fellowship Rwanda, initiatives are under implementation to ensure a smooth reintegration and peaceful cohabitation between the perpetrators and the victims and families. This is aligned in the SDG 16 on “peaceful and inclusive societies” that Rwanda pioneered globally.

Our provision of finance and technical expertise supported establishing the award winning Integrated Electronic Case Management System (which is also supported by USAID), being used now in all justice sector, resulting in a faster, more accessible, and cheaper access to justice particularly for the poor.

While continuing our technical assistance for almost 150,000 refugees and host communities (food, education, energy…), UN cooperated with Rwanda and the African Union to bring in some migrants from Libya.

The UN facilitated the voluntary repatriation of 500 refugees to Burundi, in agreement with Burundi and Rwanda. The UN also partnered with the Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission for the voluntary repatriation of Rwandans from DR Congo. The decision taken by Rwanda (with our contribution to the advocacy) to adhere to Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, has triggered access to the World Bank IDA 18 resources to build sustainable livelihood for refugees.

In the area of awareness and advocacy, UN supported the Government in various important conferences not only to better position the country in the regional and global debates on important challenges, but also to talk about the country’s experience and increase the hospitality business.

For example, ICASA, the biggest conference on AIDS on the continent, YouthConnekt with10,000 participants. In preparation to the Nairobi International Conference on Population and Development+25, the very prominent panel discussion on issues related to teenage pregnancy and reproductive health at the Parliament contributed to the country’s resounding participation in 2019 and UN is providing assistance to implement the recommendations.

Through YouthConnekt, UN agencies are capacitating young people to have access to greater social, and economic opportunities including jobs (10,000 jobs created by 647 young entrepreneurs trained in bootcamps and 276 receiving grants). This also includes information and innovations on youth-friendly on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Millions of young people have been involved in community engagement through hangouts. The example of Rwanda is now followed by more than 20 countries in Africa. Rwanda is hosting the Africa hub to enhance the movement in partnership with UN and AU.

The resounding launch of the Generation Unlimited Rwanda last week adds another powerful tool to enhance UN capability in education, skills and employability to better prepare the young generation. With the UN Secretary-general, the President of the Republic is the co-chair of this important initiative. Our principle is nothing for the youth without the youth.

 With the UN financial and technical contribution, Rwanda, for the first time last year, developed a voluntary national review (VNR) report on the SDGs, presented to the high level political forum in New York, in 2019. The process was inclusive and helped assess the level of achievement of the SDGs and the gaps to be filled, including on data and financing.

We partnered with Rwanda in being among the first 15 countries globally to embrace the integrated national financing framework (INFF), aligned with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the NST1 financing. The resources received from the global UN SDG fund will support the country in better analyzing the financial flows, strengthening the development effectiveness through integrated and innovative approaches in partnership with European Union and the International Financial Institutions (IFIs).

Other areas of critical support include the preparedness and contingency plan regarding the Ebola threat; the COVID19 and other shocks; enhancing climate resilience and integrated agriculture in disaster prone areas and developing agriculture productivity; enhancing regional integration; and access to services: education, health, HIV-AIDS support. In environment we supported the government in the first African green growth week held in 2019. Rwanda has a clear green growth strategy and low carbon emission.

In innovation also, we have a partnership with the government in the accelerator and technology innovation lab in getting robots in Rwanda for the COVID-19 for increased service timeliness and reduce health workers exposure to COVID-19. Our assistance to regional integration encompasses the trade competitiveness including promotion of sustainable tourism and e-commerce in agriculture. This will contribute to better position Rwanda in benefitting from the African continental free trade area (AfCFTA).

In addition, through our action we support cross-border trade with DRC focusing on women promoting social cohesion. We also support Rwanda’s development cooperation initiative that we partnered with to enhance south-to-south cooperation by sharing what Rwanda is doing best with other countries but also benefiting from what other countries are doing best in order to improve development.

Overall, our achievements are anchored in the framework of people-centered activities, leaving no one behind, the national development priorities, building resilient institutions, supporting improvement in policy strategy, promoting innovations, looking at partnership, scale and sustainability. 

UN remains focused on the real problems of real people, bearing in mind their complexity and the paramount and imperative ways of partnership, diversity, inclusion and innovations. Peace, Climate change, human rights, gender equality, inequalities, wealth creation and poverty require that we act now, better, in a more innovative and inclusive with decisive financial means. With collective efforts, we hope to optimize what we deliver to the people of Rwanda and contribute towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), leaving no one behind.

Overall, UN is very proud to be a trusted partner of the Government and the people of Rwanda in the remarkable trajectory of transformation in all areas: in governance, in economic transformation, in social transformation and in the improvement to the well-being for the people of Rwanda. Of course, we want to emphasize the fact that the results are first and foremost the work of Rwandan people under the leadership of the Government and national actors.

Of course, we also commend Rwanda’s global leadership in the UN arena, being one of the top contributors to peace keeping operations, championing important initiatives such as HeforShe, GenU as mentioned, or the broad band…

All these could not have been achieved without the trust from the Government, strong partnership with all national authorities, implementing partners, the CSOs, NGOs, the private sector and with the strong support from our donors. We thank them all.

Above all, I want to thank all the Heads of agency of our collective leadership but more importantly all our colleagues, whatever position they hold in UN. You are our pride because of your commitment, your hard work, including in the context of COVID19, sometimes at the expense of your family lives. You live up to the UN standards and deliver for the people.

The UNDAP II is also executed in the broader context of the UN Reforms of the Sustainable development system to enhance the coordination, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and relevance of the UN Country Team to better service the implementation of the SDGs in Rwanda for the benefit of the people. A reinvigorated, empowered through a strong team, impartial RC system (function separated from the UNDP Resident representative), a UN Cooperation framework as the single most important planning and implementing tool of UN operations and accountability mechanisms are some elements. Our Business operations strategy considered as a global good example has helped UN Rwanda rationalize its operations and have an efficiency of around 7 million USD during the last cycle.

UN Rwanda and other Development Partners have worked very closely with the Government in the preparation and towards the support of the Covid-19 economic recovery plan. What has been the progress of this process so far?

First of all, let me commend the Government for its strong leadership, the right policies, strategies and measures taken on time grounded sciences and clear analysis, a solid health system to effectively and efficiently tackle the health crisis and also the economic crisis. The example of Rwanda is globally recognized as an excellent one and UN is very proud to be engaged in that process with other development partners. We also thank all the national actors, the health and other frontline workers, the communities and all actors for their fight to keep us all safe.

At the country level, UN extended its technical assistance to the government in designing the preparedness and response plan and revising it. We provided capacities and equipment in testing, surveillance, patient monitoring and case management, contact tracing and raising awareness elements and community engagement, personal protective equipment, sharing global and Africa knowledge, assisting the emergency team and the scientific advisory on this matter.

We also partnered with the government in discussing the economic recovery plan which looks beyond the health aspect. In that domain also, UN conducted an assessment on the social economic impact of COVID-19 that we shared with the government focusing on the vulnerable people, informal sector and building social protection systems, making sure that we have a continued and safe education system, water, sanitation, hygiene and other services, and fight against gender-based violence.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we worked with other development partners and created subgroups to look at all the key elements in this fight against the pandemic: health; food security and agriculture; social protection and vulnerable people; socio-economic impact. UN co-chaired all the sub-groups and contributed to their work with the Government.

In addition to technical assistance and the provision of guidelines, we provided some financial resources with a total amount of over US$ 8.5 million and even as staff we mobilized around $12,000 in the fight against COVID-19. These efforts are complemented by other UN specific programmes.

The support at country level echoes the work done by UN at global level: call on cease-fire, support to initiatives to mobilize more than 8 bn USD in Research and development for a vaccine for all, to define debt relief, providing a framework on immediate socio-economic response to build back better, holding various for a to discuss the best solutions to the health and economic crisis, mobilizing additional resources, setting hubs and mechanisms to facilitate travels, in addition to the coordination and strategic advice, technical expertise provided by WHO at global level and prevention as well as provision of equipment at regional level.

 Beyond the current response to Covid-19, what are some of the other roles of the UN Rwanda in the future?

The pandemic is unfolding. Therefore, the UN role will continue to be anchored on the Government priorities to make sure that we go out of the COVID19 and speed up the process of development.

That is why UN will keep on providing policy briefs and recommendations based on solid science knowledge and experience, reliable data and health and socio-economic analysis. This will be critical to ground the decisions to be taken to mitigate the socio-economic impact, adjust some measures and enhance the capacity to respond to the pandemic.

Of course, we also have designed a Joint Programme that will supplement the implementation of the National Economic Recovery Plan (ERP). The Joint Programme with a total amount of 20 Million USD (8 Million already available) will provide policy advice, technical and financial support to accelerate the achievement of the objectives of the ERP and leverage new avenues for UN partnership and collaboration, including the involvement of the private sector, civil society and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to reach the most vulnerable groups affected by COVID-19.

The JP will contribute to: (1) Stronger national health system capable of responding to COVID-19 and future health emergencies whilst providing continued essential services to most at risk population groups including women, pregnant women, children under five (boys and girls), adolescents (boys and girls), elderly and peri-urban/rural areas; (2) Enhanced service continuity in education and child friendly Water sanitation and Hygiene; (3)Expanded access to social protection to households and communities most impacted by COVID-19 whilst protecting women and girls from gender-based violence, sexual abuse and exploitation; (4) Increased capacity of Government institutions, oversight bodies (including gender accountability bodies) and communities to ensure social cohesion, public safety and participation, the rule of law and compliance to rights-based approaches to service delivery in the ERP; (5) Increased capacity of Government institutions, oversight bodies (including gender accountability bodies) and communities to ensure social cohesion, public safety and participation, the rule of law and compliance to rights-based approaches to service delivery in the ERP; (6) Increased productivity, competitiveness, export-readiness, and technological innovation in selected public services, the private and informal sector, targeting male and female operators; (7) Risk-based and gender-responsive COVID-19 related financing framework for NST1 and SDG implementation to accelerate innovative development financing to build back better and support socio-economic recovery.

For UN Rwanda, our role will always be anchored on what the government sees in the future, our normative role, our comparative advantages and the synergies to be enhanced with other actors.

UN will keep on focusing on some approaches: institutions convergence supporting resilient institutions that have a leverage effect; thematic convergence focusing on key elements and categories of development and geographic convergence having a coordinated package of service delivery with the objective of demonstration effect, scalability and sustainability.

All those elements are driving inclusive and sustainable development. Of course, with its role as co-chairperson of all the coordinating mechanisms of Development partners and the Government and its convening power, UN will continue to play its support to coherence and synergistic action. This is in line with the Development Cooperation Policy newly developed with UN assistance.

We continue to focus on climate change and environment, data, youth, gender, technology and innovations, access to services and enhanced capacity of resilient institutions in health, education, agriculture, unleash the potential of entrepreneurship and engaging the private sector for jobs and wealth creation, sharing knowledge, building human capital, fostering inclusion, promoting human rights and regional integration and resilience to sustain and increase the development gains. They are jeopardized by the pandemic, but we need to build back better and greener and speed up the implementation of the SDGs.

As said in the UN document “ SHARED RESPONSIBILITY, GLOBAL SOLIDARITY: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19” (March 2020), “ The United Nations family – and our global network of regional, sub-regional and country offices working for peace, human rights, sustainable development and humanitarian action, will support all governments, working with our partners, to ensure first and foremost that lives are saved, livelihoods are restored, and that the global economy and the people we serve emerge stronger from this crisis.

That is the logic of the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs. More than ever before, we need solidarity, hope and the political will and cooperation to see this crisis through together.”         

The Decade of Action (2020 – 2030) for the SDGs aims at accelerating implementation of the SDGs. What are the UN priorities in this regard?

In September 2019, the UN Secretary General called on all sectors and government institutions in three ways; one is the global action where we are looking at greater leadership, smarter solutions and more resources to implement the SDGs.

With local action, we are calling on governments and countries to build institutions that are better budget oriented, and policies that enhance the transformative agenda of development.

Most importantly is the call on people, the academia, youth, women and civil society to create and strengthen the movement for the achievement of these SDGs. We need to focus on threats that are coming like climate even amidst COVID-19. This pandemic has shown the importance of focusing on fighting poverty and inequality because vulnerable people are really hit by this pandemic and beyond health on the economic side.

We also need to focus on how to tap into technology in the fourth industrial revolution, so we leapfrog and increase the pace of development. Covid-19 has shown that we need to push for technology and connectivity that were used for accessing education, fighting Covid-19, implementing social protection and increasing economic opportunities and financial inclusion.

We also need to ensure that we have evidence based data because without them you cannot plan, you cannot measure the outcomes, the impact and the transformation; you cannot report back through the accountability mechanisms and make the required adjustments in policies and strategies to always provide the required and relevant support to the citizens for the improvement of their lives and their engagement in decision making processes.

All countries are going through a difficult time, but we need to mobilize more domestic resources building and enhancing fiscal space, innovative finance, and green and climate finance, building inclusive financial sectors to create more financial inclusion, mobilising local savings and the diaspora remittances. This is the only way that all sectors continue to tap on opportunities, to innovate, create jobs and build wealth for a shared prosperity, reducing inequalities and achieving the SDGs and beyond.

We need to also focus on demographic dividend, improve human capital and how we bring in young people. The UN 2030 Youth Strategy is providing an excellent framework.

We have the youngest generation in history, so we need to improve their civic engagement, prepare them better in education, skills, principles, values and leadership in order to push the boundaries of development. The feature of each country depends on the quality, the preparation, the leadership role and the space created for its youth. Rwanda is well placed in that respect.

But above all, we cannot achieve anything without peace. The first element in the charter that the UN Secretary-General pushed for, in the fight against COVID-19, was to call for a ceasefire in all areas of the world as well as respect for human rights.

Let me end by saying that we do have a conducive environment in Rwanda: a strong leadership; clear vision; well-functioning institutions and accountability mechanisms and committed people and excellent partnerships between Development partners and with the Government. So let us continue to act together to get out of this pandemic and build a better country for all! We are convinced that we will make it!


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