The United Nations Development System: at the vanguard of global sustainable development?

The 2030 Agenda for global sustainable development poses new challenges for the United Nations. The research project analyses political and institutional aspects of UN development cooperation, in particular regardings its governance, funding, and administrative structures. On this basis it develops recommendations for a revitalized, multilateral UN development cooperation.

Project Lead:
Silke Weinlich

Project Team:
Max Baumann

Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung

Time frame:
2018 - 2020 / completed

Project description

Over the last years, a number of important global agreements – the 2030 Agenda for global sustainable development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, the Paris Climate Agreement – have led to new goals and stirred political movement in the international development cooperation. The United Nations is playing an important role in that field as a center of multilateralism in which agendas and norms are negotiated and as the largest multilateral development actor (accounting for USD 18,4 billion of multilateral aid in 2015). However, the UN’s development system is insufficiently prepared to support member states in their efforts towards global sustainable development due to path-dependencies, systemic ills, and political differences among member states. New challenges of the 2030 Agenda – in particular the principle of universality, the complex interdependencies of its 17 sustainable development goals, the need for more cooperation across borders – have not yet been adequately incoporated into its mode of operation.

It is against this backdrop that the UN-project analyses both the external political and the internal institutional aspects of UN development cooperation, and how these two aspects interlock. The project focuses specifically on the governance, funding, and administrative structures of the UN development system, including those for coordinating the UN’s manifold development activities. Our research receives its normative direction from the question how multilateral development cooperation can be preserved and strengthened in an era of growing nationalism, a redistribution of global power, and ever more pressing global challenges. We specifically seek to take into consideration perspectives of the global south in order to contribute to a revitalized UN development cooperation that is politically sustainable and serves the global common good.