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H.E. Dr. Thomas Gass

PANEL 4: The Way Forward
 Panel-4-1-Thomas-Gass H.E. Dr. Thomas Gass
Assistant Secretary-General, Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Mr. Gass was appointed as an ASG by the Secretary-General in 2013. From 2009 to 2013, he served as Head of the Mission of Switzerland to Nepal. He also chaired the Donors of the Nepal Peace Trust Fund, the main instrument for international support to Nepal’s peace process. Before his posting to Nepal from 2004 to 2009, Mr. Gass was Head of the Economic and Development Section at the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN in New York, where he represented Switzerland’s interests, in particular in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), its subsidiary Commissions, the General Assembly and the Executive Boards of the major UN Funds and Programmes. During this time, Mr. Gass was the Chair of the Donor Group of the UN Global Compact. He also served as Policy and Programme Officer for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, as Deputy Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Guyana, and as Regional Director for Europe with the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute in Rome.

H.E. DR. THOMAS GASS, the Assistant-Secretary General, Inter-Agency Affairs of UN DESA, started his remarks by asking the audience “Can you imagine, one day after adopting these agenda and everyone is talking about how to implement it, and everyone is really looking at himself or herself seriously to see what can be done?” From my perspective, what are the next steps? We had a real paradigm shift, and everybody uses this word, but this time I think it is used appropriately. We moved from a conception of development, which was a very North-South kind of concept.

We have to understand the message that is there, that it underpins this new vision of humanity. Firstly, we need to strengthen the relationship between the leaders and the people.

We have to strengthen the relationship between duty bearers and rights holders. We have to make sure that service providers, governments know how to respond to the needs of people, and that the people know how to demand, know how to request, know how to understand how the services are being provided. That is the first strategic operational consequence of this new agenda. The second one, which is just as important and in a way is the other side of a balance, is who is left behind. Asking ourselves who is left behind, because there is a very strong commitment here, that in this next 15 years, we will start reaching the furthest. We will leave no one behind, what does that mean for us operationally? What does that mean for our strategies? It means that we have to start by identifying the most vulnerable. I mean that we have to start by understanding why they’re vulnerable. Those are the two, in my perspective, the two most immediate operational consequences of his agenda; strengthening the relationship between duty bearers and rights holders and making sure that we really leave no one behind.

The MDGs were about reducing poverty by half. We could choose which half, and we chose the easy half. Now we have to start by identifying the most vulnerable first. So we need to realize this is also about how everyone gets involved, and my job within the UN would be very much to look at the review process of the SDGs. Now I know there are discussions about the goals, whether they are too reductive, or whether the way to communicate them is too reductive, or whether if the people do not understand that we have a complex set of goals and targets. My opinion on this is we have to probably use both of these strategies, we need to make sure that everyone understand that there was a really important deal that struck here last weekend, and that this goal encompassed all the most important issues of life and of this planet and of economy, and there are 17 goals. But then we also need to make sure that people realize this is a new social contract between the governments and the people. Whoever speaks about a contract better read this small script and the small script here are the 169 targets. So let’s speak within countries, within organizations. Let’s look at those 169 targets and see what our contribution can be, what value we can add for any those. Some people regret that in this whole process there wasn’t more work on the definition of poverty, on extreme poverty. But let’s remember that he first time in history, we have 169 elements that define how not to leave anyone behind.