NewsStrengthening Investments to Leave No One Behind

Kenya UNICEF Sobecki

Joint SDG Fund (JSDGF) and the Human Rights Mainstreaming Fund (HRM) Secretariats working together with the Development Coordination Office (DCO) to strengthen investments in leaving no one behind.

The 2030 Agenda and the pledge to leave no one behind (LNOB) are anchored in human rights. Under the UN development system repositioning, the human rights-based approach and the principle of leaving no one behind are complementary guiding principles of the Cooperation Framework, reflecting their critical importance of these principles for integrated policy support and transformational change in supporting countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Building on the model of the JSDGF to draw expertise from across the system, a strong collaboration was established early on with DCO and the HRM Fund Secretariat (hosted by DCO), to ensure that the human rights-based approach and the principle of LNOB were integrated into the JSDGF first call proposals that focused on Integrated Social Protection and LNOB.  This ongoing collaboration has generated a number of key innovations for stronger joint programming, including:

Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) and LNOB integrated into the project cycle – from proposals, to selection, implementation and reporting. 

  • The HRM Fund Secretariat and DCO developed a checklist for integrating the recommendations from human rights mechanisms into the design of the projects, which was integrated into the proposal templates and accompanied by a comprehensive list of global and regional human rights mechanisms. This was then shared with all RCs and became the basis for the human rights component in the calls for proposals and part of the proposal review. 
  • The collaboration ensured that the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG) Operational Guide for United Nations Country Teams (UNCTs) on LNOB – which was approved just when the call was launched – was referenced in the JP proposal templates where applicants were required to explain their approach to operationalize LNOB and mainstream human rights, gender, environment, disability and youth. This was the very first time the UNSDG’s new operational guidance on LNOB was applied in joint programmes. 
  • Technical advice and support was provided by the HRM Fund Secretariat and DCO in:
    •  The development of the monitoring and reporting tools, to facilitate the collection of quantitative and qualitative information on alignment with and contributions to human rights, a rights-based approach to LNOB and specifically also on disability inclusion.  This ensured that not only were the key elements of the HRBA and LNOB integrated into the selection process and design of projects, but that the JSDGF was able to track implementation and results.
    • The review and analysis of end-of-portfolio reporting, particularly on progress in supporting attention to human rights and groups left behind identified in the project documents as benefiting from the projects.  

HRM Fund-supported technical advisory capacities for UNCTs to strengthen the integration of human rights in joint programmes 

  • In-country advisory capacities for RCs and UNCTs funded by the HRM Fund contributed to stronger integration of HRBA in the joint programmes, thus leveraging the investments of the HRM Fund for expanded impact through coherent system-wide investments.  Through 2019, Human Rights Advisers (HRAs) were actively engaged by the RC and the respective UNCTs in developing concept notes for potential projects under the Joint SDG Fund call on Social Protection and Leaving No One Behind, helping to ensure a norms-based and transformative proposal that addressed inequalities and exclusion.  In a context of significant competition, several proposals that benefited from the leadership, technical and coordination support of HRAs were approved, including Argentina and Bangladesh.  One third of the 35 successful proposals were from UNCTs with HRAs. 

Human Rights mainstreamed across the JPs projects with solid results at completion:  

Through the strong attention to human rights and LNOB in the JSDGF processes achieved through this technical collaboration, the results reported by JPs reflected consistent attention to human rights across the cycle with strong final results. For example:

  • 94% of joint programs reported that their efforts contributed towards the implementation of specific recommendations from human rights mechanisms.  In most cases, the JPs elaborated the most relevant recommendations from the various human rights mechanisms, including the UPR, treaty bodies and special procedures as well as Labour conventions and standards.
  • 91% of joint programmes reported that they contributed to specific measures to address structural drivers of exclusion, inequalities or discrimination in the area of social protection, often drawing directly on recommendations from human rights mechanisms to guide these efforts.
  • 63% of joint programs, reported having included relevant National Human Rights institutions in the program implementation.

Continuing collaboration for greater impact of investments in the two Funds

As the COVID-19 pandemic starkly demonstrated, human rights and leaving no one behind continue to be fundamental to sustainable development.  In recent years, this has been further reinforced as a defining element of the UN’s vision and support to countries under the Secretary-Generals Call to Action for Human Rights and Our Common Agenda. Looking forward, we see several opportunities for continued collaboration between the JSDGF and the HRM Fund Secretariats, together with DCO, to further support mainstreaming of human rights and LNOB across all joint SDG Fund initiatives.   

The collaboration between the two Funds can continue to facilitate the timely engagement of human rights advisory capacities in the conceptualization and development of proposals under all future investment of the JSDGF – not only Human Rights Advisers, but also the Surge Team economists (which provided advice to Cabo Verde on the SIDS proposal) on forthcoming windows.

Through information-sharing and collaboration, the HRM Fund Secretariat and JSDGF Secretariat can continue to strengthen reporting and analytics to increase the evidence base on the contribution of human rights to effective and sustainable development solutions, and on the opportunities created by the UNDS reform for more collaborative and joint approaches that leverage the capacities from across the UN system including pooled funds.

Originally published on