The strategy for the Joint SDG Fund’s portfolio represents a key instrument for UNDS reform, and is rooted in the 2030 Agenda’s integrated nature and imperative towards unlocking systemic policy shifts. By focusing on ‘leverage points’ – utilising data and analysis carried out by national and international partners – policy or institutional changes can catalyse rapid progress across goals and targets.
As such, the fund operates through a series of calls for concept notes, which in turn lead to the preparation and implementation of transformative joint programmes under the leadership of UN Resident Coordinators. Given the centrality of the leaving no one behind (LNOB) promise, the first call in mid-2019 placed particular emphasis on the most vulnerable and marginalised, and channelled US$ 70 million to 35 transformative national social-protection programmes. Similarly, given the critical importance of the Secretary-General’s Strategy and Road Map for Financing the 2030 Agenda, the second call – launched at the end of 2019 – aims to direct US$ 100 million towards supporting RCs and UN Country Teams in two component areas: 1) reinforcing the country-level SDG financing architecture through development of national financing strategies and enabling frameworks for SDG investment; and 2) catalysing strategic investments in key initiatives that would in turn leverage public and private financing to advance the SDGs. Such initiatives are to provide demonstrations of concept, and be scalable both in-country and elsewhere.
While the full results of the first call will not be available until the end of 2022, early analysis shows over a hundred integrated policy solutions are being tested through ‘whole-of-society’ approaches mindful of the multiplicity of factors causing vulnerability and poverty. This integrated policy approach highlights that solid design, financing and implementation foundations are required in order to build dynamic national social-protection systems capable of accelerating progress across multiple SDGs. It also reflects both the transformative potential of the SDGs, and the risk that this will not be realised unless interactions between them – whether synergies or tradeoffs – are better grasped and acted upon.4
This focus on LNOB, and the importance of flexibility, agility and responsiveness, has acquired even greater relevance since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Importantly, the LNOB social-protection programmes supported by the Joint SDG Fund have been repurposed, with up to 20% of budgets reallocated and approaches modified. While some development programming has stalled as a result of the pandemic, the situation has highlighted a number of potential areas of immediate impact, as well as SDG acceleration – such as better healthcare data analytics and low-cost, informal social protection interventions – which Joint SDG Fund supported programmes will address in concert with other COVID-19 recovery funds.5
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This article was first published in Financing the UN Development System, a report by the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office.