UN Sustainable Development Goals: View from a Senior Advisor at the UNDP — Interview with Narue Shiki

Narue Shiki [square]On September 25th 2015, all 193 member countries of the United Nations (UN) agreed to adopt 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). Each goal was assigned targets and key performance indicators, to be achieved by 2030. In this article we speak to Narue Shiki, Senior Advisor to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), on the critical role it plays in helping developing nations integrate and attain the SDGs.

Narue Shiki is currently a Senior Advisor at the UNDP, headquartered in New York. Shiki holds a research background in International Relations, completing a Masters at the London School of Economics (LSE), prior to her Diploma from Harvard in Advanced Negotiation Skills. Her career, spanning two decades with the UN, has involved several international roles that include work in Mozambique, Austria and back in her native Brazil.

As the lead UN development agency, the UNDP has a unique remit to help governments worldwide to integrate the SDGs at a national policy level. It works in 170 countries and territories, running over 4000 projects, many helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion. Details of projects underway in 2017 are available here. UNDP has a critical role in forging key partnerships with governments, the private sector and society to ensure the targets set out in the SDGs are reached by 2030.

We spoke to Narue about her career path, current role at the UNDP and the key role played by the organisation in achieving the SDGs.

Can you describe your current role(s)?

I am a Senior Advisor in the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, which is responsible for UNDP’s external relations, advocacy and communications functions. The Bureau leads and supports the organization in cultivating, building and nurturing strategic relationships and alliances that are essential for advancing and achieving the mission of UNDP. This requires new ways of working, partnering, financing with public and private actors at global, regional and national levels. One of the key priorities in my work is to build innovative partnerships with the private sector by co-creating solutions for SDG implementation.


"...One of the key priorities in my work is to build innovative partnerships with the private sector by co-creating solutions for SDG implementation."


Can you briefly describe your career path and experience to date?

I started working at UNDP right after concluding my bachelor’s degree in International Relations in Brasilia. My initial work was in the Environment and Climate Change team and it provided me with an insight into the work of UNDP. I later joined the LSE and focused my Masters thesis on international development. Since then I have not followed the “traditional route” of specialising in a field. Despite working for many years in the environmental area, I’ve had diverse experiences working mostly in the UN system – from supporting poverty reduction projects in Mozambique to combating human trafficking as part of a UN Global Initiative (UN.GIFT). Central to all my roles - as they are to the UN - are partnerships with a wide array of stakeholders, including governments, other international organisations, civil society groups and the private sector.

What is the UNDP’s role in helping achieve the SDG’s?

UNDP is uniquely placed to help implement the Global Goals through our work in some 170 countries and territories. UNDP’s work focuses on key areas including poverty alleviation, democratic governance and peace-building, climate change and disaster risk, and economic inequality. It provides support to governments to integrate the SDGs into their national development plans and policies. This work is already underway, as we support many countries in accelerating progress already achieved under the Millennium Development Goals. Our track record working across multiple goals provides us with a valuable experience and proven policy expertise to ensure we all reach the targets set out in the SDGs by 2030. But we cannot do this alone! Achieving the SDGs requires partnerships with all sectors to make sure we leave a better planet for future generations.


"Achieving the SDGs requires partnerships with all sectors to make sure we leave a better planet for future generations."


How does your current work contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development goals?

A significant part of my work includes forging partnerships with the private sector for the achievement of the SDGs. One partnership I’ve recently been working towards is with GSMA — an association that represents nearly 800 mobile operators worldwide, headquartered in the UK. Together, we aim to harness the power of technology to accelerate implementation of the SDGs. As part of this partnership, we are exploring new business models and bringing together governments and mobile industry leaders to increase the social impact that mobile technologies can deliver. We are also exploring new approaches to financing sustainable development and that includes looking at impact investment, in which we can leverage additional resources – including from the private sector - for SDG implementation.

There will be a review of progress for the SDG’s this year. In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges the UNDP faces to meet the current targets for 2030?

UNDP supports countries in achieving the SDGs. As highlighted in the debates this month at the UN High Level Political Forum, in spite of the gains achieved, progress in poverty reduction has been uneven and inequalities remain. We need concerted efforts to lift remaining populations out of extreme poverty. Many of those who escaped poverty in the past 15 years, still live precariously near the poverty line, and are susceptible to shocks that could push them back into poverty. Another underlying challenge to the achievement of the SDGs is growing inequality. Many societies have witnessed growing disparities in wealth and income.


"Many of those who escaped poverty in the past 15 years, still live precariously near the poverty line, and are susceptible to shocks that could push them back into poverty."


What are the biggest challenges you face in your role day to day?

The biggest challenge is the wide gap between our mandate and the resources available to fulfil our role. The needs of countries and the tasks we face are enormous, yet there are still insufficient resources – be them financial or human – to help address them. There is of course abundance of wealth in the world, but the main challenge is that private capital is not necessarily aligned with the SDGs and we won’t achieve the goals unless we have the private sector on board. But it’s not just about financing, the private sector can play a huge role with its expertise, innovation and capability.

What are your aspirations for the future with your role at the UNDP?

My aspiration in my role is to see the private sector engage in the SDGs in a meaningful way and to scale - as active partners in sustainable development. Many businesses are already leading the way but much more needs to be done if the SDGs are to be achieved. I think the UN and UNDP have an important role to play, but this requires a culture change – both from the private sector and also UNDP. It also means engaging businesses in new ways, including co-creating solutions and bringing about innovation for the achievement of the Global Goals.

What are the challenges associated with achieving the UN Sustainable Development goals?

  • Resources available to achieve them is a persistent problem.
  • Even those who have escaped poverty often have a precarious existence.
  • Partnerships are required from all sectors.


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