Walking Together Beyond Recovery Towards Sustainable Development was the theme of this year’s UN Country Team retreat held 18-20 in Mahe, Seychelles.
The UN Resident Coordinator for Mauritius and Seychelles was joined by UN regional directors, a deputy director, heads of agencies with their senior technical staff, and development partners. This first in-person retreat since 2020 (due to the pandemic) embodied the spirit of the UN reform strengthening cooperation and identifying opportunities for collaborative, coherent action to further the two government’s development agendas and achieve the sustainable development goals.
The main UNCT retreat was preceded by a two-day retreat for the PMT bringing together all programme managers across the agencies and RCO team. Mrs. Christine N. Umutoni, Resident Coordinator for Mauritius and Seychelles welcomed the participants with a speech reflecting that crisis brings challenges and opportunities. COVID-19 has opened everyone’s eyes to the value of collaboration, coherence, and cooperation. She emphasized that the PMT is vital in supporting this inter-agency cohesiveness, as we all strive to support governments to jointly implement CFs and toward achieving our common vision of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030. Over the course of the PMT retreat presentations around the annual results reports, CCA process, joint programming, and regional initiatives provided a springboard for breakout sessions, which encouraged sharing lessons learned and lively discussions producing an action plan.
Fostering Synergies for Sustainable Development was the focus of day 1 of the main UNCT retreat. The purpose of the retreat and the centrality of UN Coherence and Leaving No-One Behind to achieve the SDGs were examined, with remarks from both governments, and an opening from Seychelles’ Minister for Youth, Sports and Family. Development challenges and opportunities were discussed, including a review of UN achievements under the current SPF, key priorities, and opportunities for joint UN programmes, and looking forward to a new UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework.
A unique aspect of this year’s retreat was the opportunity for strategic engagement within the context of the retreat on day 2 with the most senior authorities in Seychelles, beginning with H.E the President of the Republic. The UN Family, led by the UN RC paid a courtesy call on President Wavel Ramkalawan at the State House. The RC presented to His Excellency her delegation of 10 Heads of Agencies. Discussions centered around the need to move away from a siloed approach to development, the devastating impact of COVID-19 in highlighting the vulnerability of small island developing states, and the importance of economic diversification. The capacity of the UN to mobilize knowledge and expertise at national, regional, and global levels was emphasized, as well as its ability to facilitate collaboration and exchange between countries in the region.
After the meeting with the President, the UN RC and heads of agencies joined UN technical staff for a rare opportunity to conduct a high-level policy dialogue with cabinet ministers and other senior government officials as well as heads of key institutions. Co-chaired by the UN RC and Mr. Sylvestre Radegonde, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism, the high-level dialogue was organized as an open and constructive exchange, in order to reflect on the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and to identify priority areas of support and cooperation for the next UN-Seychelles Strategic Partnership Framework (SPF 2024-2028) in parallel with the country’s National Development Strategy (NDS). Both sides also agreed to work in synergy as a way forward, for the benefit and improvement of the socio-economic development of the country, post COVID-19 pandemic.
Day Three focused on WHAT and HOW the UNCT needed to work together in providing Visionary Leadership that leads to results. The RC in her closing remarks shared how she was grateful for the joint efforts by participants for a successful retreat, as well as underlining the need to think outside of the box and perhaps remove the box totally.
The UNCT retreat ended on a high with a cultural evening hosted by Minister Radegonde. UNCT members, government ministers, and other key stakeholders enjoyed the evening in a recently restored creole house and were treated to a culinary feast of Seychellois cuisine. The guests were also entertained by performers playing and dancing the traditional Moutya, which is on UNESCOs Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The retreat highlighted the commitment and tireless work of the UN family in Mauritius and Seychelles. Collaboration both inter-agency and with development partners is key. When different parts of the UN system act together, they can deliver greater results!