The United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) represents the United Nations cooperation framework with the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia for the period 2020-2025. It replaces the previous United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for Ethiopia (2016-2020). The UNSDCF presents the key shared objectives of the United Nations system, the areas in which it intends to support the Government of Ethiopia and its people, and the expected outcomes of its cooperation.

Ethiopia is at a critical juncture, undergoing political, economic and demographic transitions that are structural in nature. These transitions pose major challenges but also permit a leap forward in inclusion, shared prosperity, sustainability and peace and security. This moment, therefore, is a historic one. What happens over the next several years will profoundly alter the development trajectory of Ethiopia and its chances of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Looking to the past as well as what lies ahead, Ethiopia is building on an impressive development record. There has been a high level of economic growth, sustained over a generation, that has lifted 15 million people out of poverty and was accompanied by significant improvements in social indicators. Despite the progress made, however, the country is facing important development challenges: a slow pace of structural economic transformation; rapid population growth; high levels of multidimensional poverty; significant un- and underemployment; ethnic tensions and social unrest; gender inequalities and violence against women and children rooted in systemic factors; inadequate law enforcement; and growing environmental pressure exacerbated by the impact of climate change. All of these challenges are being compounded by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, adding to the ranks of those left behind. Additional complexity is generated by adverse global conditions and geopolitical competition in the Horn of Africa. Given these factors, the United Nations expects that uncertainty and volatility, marked by heightened risks, are here to stay. Ethiopia is transforming to meet its changing development aspirations and the demands of the future. In April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed embarked on a profound political transformation aimed at opening up political and civic space, accompanied by a major reorientation of development policy embodied most recently in the Home-Grown Economic Reform (HGER) and the Ten-Year Perspective Development Plan (2020- 2030). These changes make it more likely that Ethiopia will be able to achieve the SDGs, especially if it can navigate successfully through a cluster of six factors tied closely to the structural transitions underway in the country: 1. A successful – and peaceful – transition to democracy. 2. Successful economic reforms that yield transformational results. 3. Faster progress in ensuring gender equality and empowering women and girls. 4. Coping structurally with climate change. 5. Exiting a vicious cycle of recurring humanitarian crises. 6. Achieving a step change in transboundary cooperation. What can the UN do to assist Ethiopia in manner that is strategic, relevant and effective under these dynamic circumstances? To begin with, the UN development system (UNDS) in Ethiopia can count on exceptional capacity: it is the largest UN Country Team (UNCT) in the world with strong links to regional bodies. This team has some clear comparative advantages: (i) a long-standing relationship of trust with the Government; (ii) impartiality, representing common global values and principles; (iii) a widely recognized normative role; (iv) ability to engage on sensitive issues; (v) capacity to address complex, multidimensional and structural issues; (vi) a track record of convening diverse partners; (vii) the largest and deepest field presence of any development partner working in Ethiopia, working on humanitarian, development and peace issues; and (viii) membership in unparalleled national, regional and global network of agencies/entities, country offices and policy, operations and logistics hubs. Based on the country and subregional context, national policy and the UN’s comparative advantage – as well as expectations set out in General Assembly resolution 72/279 on the reform of the UNDS – the UN in Ethiopia has identified four interconnected outcomes that will guide its development cooperation over the next five years: 

All people in Ethiopia enjoy the rights and capabilities to realize their potential in equality and with dignity. All people in Ethiopia live in a cohesive, just, inclusive and democratic society. All people in Ethiopia benefit from an inclusive, resilient and sustainable economy. All people in Ethiopia live in a society resilient to environmental risks and adapted to climate change. To help achieve these outcomes, the UN will rely on three guiding principles: inclusion of those left behind, resilience and sustainability. It will be future-focused, addressing long-term trends rather than simply the ‘here and now’, emphasizing transformational rather than incremental change that deals with structural factors. The UN will aim for results at scale through efforts that are much more ‘joined-up’, with lower transaction costs, making full use of the system as a platform for strategic partnerships. A less process-heavy approach, focused on results, is designed to make the UN in Ethiopia more agile and flexible. All of these elements mark a major departure from the previous UNDAF. The overall responsibility for the UNSDCF will lie with the Minister of Finance, on behalf of the Government of Ethiopia, and the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC), on behalf of the United Nations Country Team. A joint Policy and Oversight Board will be established, co-chaired by the Minister of Finance and the RC/ HC, to provide strategic guidance and oversight to implementation. UN agencies and entities will work through a coordination arrangement actively engaging heads of agencies/entities and other senior staff. This will include a Programme Planning and Performance Group, issues groups organized around selected areas of system-wide action, an Operations Group and a Partnerships and Communications Group. These groups will be responsible for ensuring that the strategic intent of the UNSDCF is being followed up, performance is meeting expectations, actions are coordinated or undertaken jointly and any significant policy, programmatic or operational bottlenecks are identified and addressed swiftly. The UNSDCF will be implemented through joint, multi-year workplans in a limited number of areas representing strategic, multidimensional issues that the UN will pursue collectively under the UNSDCF. Other actions will be implemented through the country or biennial programmes of specific UN agencies, funds, programmes and other entities. Progress made against commitments in the UNSDCF will be monitored jointly by the Government of Ethiopia and the United Nations on an annual basis, applying the principle of mutual accountability, and evaluated in the penultimate year of the planning cycle. 

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