Lecture on Diplomacy and Sustainable Development By Dr. Pratibha Mehta UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Tajikistan

Nov 2, 2017

Dr. Pratibha Mehta UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Tajikistan


Distinguished Diplomates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very happy to have this opportunity to interact with Tajik diplomats on Sustainable Development and role of diplomacy. 

We are witnessing fundamental shifts globally that are re-defining the traditional approaches to development issues and the role of State in addressing them. The emerging challenges such as inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, diseases, water and energy security, migration to name just a few, have transcended the boundaries of States and demand international cooperation more than ever before. At the same time, there is change in the distribution of power between State, markets and citizens. Across many global issues, challenges can no longer be understood and tackled exclusively through inter-governmental action, these requires multi-stakeholder approach.  Humanity is more connected than ever before. Information and communication technology is creating fabulous opportunities for exchange, and facilitating new forms of dialogue and cooperation across all borders.

Widening inequalities is another global concern. Despite growing incomes, few countries have avoided rise in inequality, which has become the real scourge to human development and advancement of States. Disparities in incomes, asset holdings and unequal access to public services, such as education, health, credit and social protection, are observed not only within States but also across countries and regions. Inequalities are further exacerbated by challenges of environmental degradation, disasters and climate change that are not confined within sovereign borders. Terrorism, human trafficking, diseases like swine flu, Ebola, etc. are some other examples of global concerns that no country, however big and rich, can single-handedly resolve.

These trends present both opportunities and challenges for an increasingly inter-connected world. First, challenges such as management of climate change, use of global public goods, and regulation of trade, finance and migration have significant cross-border consequences requiring considerable multilateral coordination, multi-stakeholder cooperation and concerted efforts of all people and Nations within a multilateral cooperation framework that is inclusive of small and big, rich and poor countries.

Secondly, effective multilateral cooperation requires knowledge, skills and negotiation capacities within the countries. Engaging in the evolving regional and global agenda not only requires a well-educated and skilled workforce, including civil servants, but also a vibrant domestic private sector whose contributions to growth and development are ultimately crucial. Without investing in people and improving education and training, returns from potential benefits of globalization and global markets – or foreign direct investment – will remain limited. Reaping the benefits of international integration and confronting the challenges of a globalized world starts at home – with responsive institutions, empowered and skilled women and men, professional civil servants and an active domestic private sector collectively define a strong and resilient state that is able to prosper and effectively defend its interests in the regional and global arena.

In this context, one cannot overlook the issue of global governance. Many institutions and instruments of international governance and multilateral diplomacy were designed for a world very different from today’s. One consequence is that they under-represent the South. Inter-governmental processes could be invigorated by greater participation from the South, which can bring substantial financial, technological and human resources as well as valuable solutions to critical world problems.

As the world confronts new and ongoing challenges of globalization, international terrorism and an array of other global issues, the United Nations and its key attribute-multilateral diplomacy-are more important now than ever before. 

2015 was a water shed year for multilateral diplomacy which resulted in the adoption of the Agenda 2030 by the world leaders and reaching the historic climate agreement in COP21, to deal with Climate Change.  The negotiations on sustainable development goals (SDGs) was built on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with an aim to address three pillars -social, economic and environmental in an integrated manner and work towards a universally applicable agenda to hold both developing and developed countries accountable to.

Although adopted in 2015, the process of defining the 17 SDGs, began in 2012 and involved several rounds of negotiations between the UN Member States. These critical and complex multilateral agreements were reached for several reasons. Firstly, they were led forward in a process owned by all UN Member States; secondly, they were driven from the ground-up and not imposed from above and the negotiation were inclusive, reflecting emergence of new actor in global politics such as the civil society and private sector. For the first time UN engaged with the civil society, through a global survey to get their opinion on the world that they want to see and many people from Tajikistan also participated in this global survey, as well as UN heard the opinions of the world business community.

2015 show the relevance of multilateral diplomacy and the endorsement of Agenda 2030 and the Climate Agreement indicates the enduring and unparalleled ability of the United Nations to pull the world together around new goals and to set new norms of action. Clearly even after 72 years, the UN Charter continues to embody the aspirations of women and men across the world for greater solidarity, for justice, inclusion, gender equality, human rights and dignity which are embedded in the 17 SDGs.

These multi-lateral agreements embodies new forms of global partnership, combining States with civil society, the private sector, academia, and the scientific community. Multi-stakeholder engagement was essential to reach the agreements and will also be essential for successful implementation at the national level.   

Implementation of SDGs at the national level will also require localizing SDGs with commitment to allocate resources and addressing institutional bottlenecks that prevent progress. 

I am very glad to note that Tajikistan is the first country in Central Asia to mainstream SDGs in the NDS and also to present it’s Voluntary National Review report in the High Level Political Forum under the ECOSOC in New York together with 44 other developing and developed countries. Now, the Government has decided to produce its first National Report on SDGs by mid 2018.  The report will indicate country’s status on each SDGs and a road map to achieve SDGs by 2030 including formulating new policies, service delivery, institutional development and monitoring results.  

All SDGs except SDG 14 on Oceans is relevant for Tajikistan’s sustainable development and its commendable that the President of Tajikistan H.E Emomali Rahmon has been leading international diplomacy on Water for over a decade first under the Decade of Water for Life and now under the new UN General Assembly Resolution 71/222, declaring International Decade for Action on ‘Water for Sustainable Development’ (2018-2028). The new GA resolution was adopted based on the initiative of the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan. This initiative will underscore the importance of water and sanitation services for advancing human development, poverty reduction and reducing inequality, and is at the core of achieving SDGs. Its impressive that the Foreign Policy of the Republic of Tajikistan adopted in January 2015 gives special emphasis to Water Cooperation diplomacy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues to play an important role in implementing this initiative through diplomacy and dialogue

Another issue of particular important to ensure Tajikistan’s sustainable development is its geo-political location and land lockedness which limits its trade opportunities.

Mitigating national and regional security risks primarily stemming from instabilities in Afghanistan and the economic recession in Russia also requires multilateral cooperation. These external risks can have negative impact on the internal situation in the country and lead to   unemployment,  vulnerability, inequality and unrest.  In addition, violent extremism and terrorism are becoming an emerging trend globally, including in Central Asia.

New multilateral diplomacy needs to be inspired by a new humanism. Globalization, urbanization, and cultural diversity are creating multicultural societies. This diversity is forcing us to rethink development, dialogue, tolerance, social cohesion, and even peace. The borders of peace are shifting within societies. Making peace with others implies being at peace with ourselves.

Prevention of conflict and crisis is now a very high priority of the new UN Secretary General to prepare ground for long term human development. This means integrating humanitarian, peacebuilding, and development efforts which is the objective of SDG 16—to build inclusive institutions, good governance, accountability and justice for all—as foundations for lasting peace.  

Diplomacy, mediation, and dialogue are essential tools for international cooperation for prosperity and peace and several multilateral agreements provide the framework for collaboration and cooperation.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is much to discuss about these and many other interesting topics today. At this note, I would like to conclude by congratulating you all for the demonstrated commitment and dedication for the peaceful and sustainable world. I look forward to working with you not only in, but also outside Tajikistan in the future.

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