25/10/2001
Press Release
GA/EF/2964



Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Second Committee

15th Meeting (PM)


SPEAKERS URGE COORDINATION OF UN OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES, NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT


STRATEGIES, AS SECOND COMMITTEE CONTINUES DEBATE


United Nations operational activities should be coordinated with and contribute to the national development strategies of recipient countries, the representative of the Philippines told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this afternoon as it continued its discussions on the triennial review of operational activities.


National plans and priorities constituted the only viable frame of reference for United Nations programming and operational activities, he added.  Programmes and projects should be prepared with greater attention to ways in which their content would contribute to overall national development priorities.


The representative of Brazil said the United Nations agencies, programmes and funds must have the ability, the resources and the flexibility to provide a rapid response to emergency situations resulting either from natural disasters or conflicts.


He welcomed the new focus placed by programmes and funds on a culture of performance and accountability.  That new focus was being built through result-oriented management and the result-oriented approach of the multi-year funding frameworks.  He was concerned, however, that despite progress made, the declining trend of core resources had not yet been significantly altered.


The Observer of Switzerland said that procedures involved in operational activities must be harmonized and simplified.  Such steps would substantially improve the effectiveness of development cooperation and make a real and practical difference in the field.  Progress in that matter, however, had been slow.  He hoped the General Assembly would be able to give very clear guidance on the issue in order to make the system move and to find common solutions in that area.


Also speaking this afternoon was a representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) who said that core funding for the programme had recently shown a slight upturn, ending the downward trend of the past eight years.  That showed increased support for UNDP’s work.  A strong UNDP would best be able to fulfil the goals of the Millennium Declaration, and would prove to be an essential element of the global architecture of development cooperation, providing a strong operational arm for the United Nations.


Statements were also made by the representatives of Norway, Indonesia, Algeria, Canada, Poland, Angola, Nigeria, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries), Burkina Faso, Ukraine, Mongolia, Mexico and the United States.


The representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) also spoke.


The Committee will meet again at 12 noon Friday, 26 October, following a panel discussion on capacity-building and poverty eradication, to continue its consideration of operational activities for development.


Background


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this afternoon to continue its consideration of operational activities for development, including the triennial policy review of those activities and economic and technical cooperation among developing countries.  For a summary of the reports before the Committee, see Press Release GA/EF/2964, issued this morning.


Statements


AGE B. GRUTLE, Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, said that the future relevance and impact of United Nations operational activities would to a large degree depend on how the United Nations fulfilled its unique role and mandate in supporting national poverty reduction and development strategies.  That was its main challenge, as well as its major opportunity for improving its impact on development processes.  The main purpose of operational activities was to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium development goals.  The neutrality and universality of the United Nations put it in a unique position for promoting and monitoring progress towards those goals, in the context of a rights-based approach to development.


The main role of the United Nations at the national level should be to serve as a trusted policy and technical adviser for the development and implementation of country-owned development strategies, he said.  Strengthening national institutions and improving governance should be the main focus of United Nations efforts.  At the regional level, the United Nations was essential in contributing to inter-State dialogue, trade and cooperation, and in promoting increased sharing of information and knowledge on effective development approaches.


At the international level, he added, the United Nations had an essential role in helping to create normative frameworks –- principles, goals, guidelines –- for the international community and Member States.  The United Nations must establish the “rules of the game” for the protection and promotion of global public goods, and ensure follow-up at the national, regional and international

levels.


ENRIQUE A. MANALO (Philippines) said that national plans and priorities constituted the only viable frame of reference for the United Nations system programming and operational activities.  The focus of operational activities for development should now shift from internal coordination of development assistance to integration into national efforts.  Programmes and projects should be prepared with greater attention to ways in which their content would contribute to the overall national development strategy.


The availability of adequate resources was an essential condition for sustaining the momentum of reforms and enhancing the efficiency and impact of United Nations operational activities, he said.  It was notable that the current triennial review coincided with preparations for the International Conference on Financing for Development.  Funding for operational activities should be sufficient, stable and carried out on a predictable and assured basis, and the Conference had the potential to provide the framework for that.


DARMANSJAH DJUMALA (Indonesia) said that while he welcomed the new Multi-Year Funding Framework (MYFF) initiative -– designed to increase resources and predictability –- it was too early to judge its successful implementation.  Therefore, he fully concurred with recommendation 4, in the report on the triennial policy review of operational activities for development, which re-emphasized the need for a substantial and sustained increase in the core or regular resources of operational activities.  He also hoped that the International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in March 2002, would go a long way towards productively addressing those issues.


He said that in the area of capacity building for development, South-South cooperation was increasingly seen as an effective instrument for optimizing development by sharing the resources and expertise of developing countries.  He supported requesting the General Assembly to reiterate its call to integrate and mainstream technical cooperation among developing countries (TCDC) in the framework of United Nations development cooperation, and to identify the necessary mechanisms for that purpose.  That could best be done through such steps as the revision of TCDC guidelines, the establishment of TCDC focal points, the dissemination of best practices and the promotion of indigenous knowledge and experience.


BALKACEM SMAILI (Algeria) said the conduct of operational activities called for ongoing reform and change to keep up with the state of world affairs. The current economic slowdown posed further new challenges to development.  The process of globalization also posed challenges to developing countries and their need to be integrated into the world economy.  The New African Initiative adopted last July in Lusaka made development the primary responsibility of individual countries.  However, its success relied on assistance and contributions from the international community.


The reforms and reorganizations that had taken place over the last few years were reassuring, he said.  However, some of the changes had made the programmes and activities more complex and might require greater administrative costs.  That would be difficult, considering the decline in resources available for those programmes.  It was also important to point out that the private sector must play a more active role in the development of developing countries.  However, the private sector should not be involved in changing the nature of operational activities.


GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said that country ownership would necessitate not only the full participation of the recipient government in the development of programming instruments, but also the involvement of national structures, institutions and representatives of the civil society.  He would encourage increased dialogue and coordination with all relevant external development partners, including bilateral donors and multilateral institutions.  In that regard, there should be an increased role for the United Nations in building the quality of national and local participatory processes and in improving their coordination of external assistance.


He added that regular or core funding for operational activities of the United Nations remained short of the critical mass necessary for an effective and well-coordinated programme delivery.  The multi-year funding frameworks might have raised expectations too high with regard to the rapidity of the recovery and the level of resumed funding increases.  But the decline was now arrested.  A large majority of donors had increased their contributions to core resources, particularly to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), over the last two years. All Member States must do their best both to maintain and to increase those resources both as a percentage of total resources and in absolute terms.


EWA ANZORGE (Poland) said that United Nations development cooperation could increasingly be used by those involved to share opportunities and solve new challenges.  While that should apply in the first instance to countries in the most disadvantageous position -- and therefore enjoying larger United Nations support -- the countries at a relatively more advanced stage of development should continue to benefit from United Nations development assistance in selected areas.  She was thinking particularly of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe with economies in transition.  In the preparation of the new report and review, more attention should be given to the assessment of United Nations operational activities in countries with smaller programmes.


In that regard, she underlined the importance of regional cooperation in constituting a two-way bridge between global and national operational activities for development.  Many interesting approaches and ideas were contained in a draft UNDP Regional Cooperation Framework for Europe and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) for the period 2002-2005.  The draft, which was currently under consultation, highlighted democratic, economic and environmental governance.  It was a practical example of United Nations development cooperation, involving advocacy and policy dialogue under the leadership of governments and engaging civil society and other external partners.


SADIG RASHEED, Director, Programme Division, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that it was impossible to address the issue of United Nations operational activities, or Millennium Summit follow-up, without noting the critical need for adequate resources.  The mobilization of resources, domestic and international, was a shared responsibility of all governments and a sine que non for success in meeting the Millennium Declaration objectives.


Regular resources were the foundation of continued and sustained country programming, he added.  While other resources were indispensable for expanding the reach of country programmes, it was the regular resources that would enable the continued implementation of all areas of the triennial policy review.  Such resources were also needed for supporting sector-wide approaches, and for improving management and operational structures.  While UNICEF benefited from the increasingly generous contributions of non-government donors through its National Committees, the fact that core resources were now less than other resources was affecting both programmatic and institutional development.  It was crucial to find a balance that would safeguard the essence of multilateralism.  Since the amounts of resources involved were relatively small compared to official development assistance (ODA) budgets, it was therefore essentially a question of political will.


MARGARIDA ROSA DA SILVA IZATA (Angola) said operational activities should meet the specific needs of developing countries.  However, reduced resources had a negative impact on the effectiveness of such activities.  It was important for donor countries to increase their support for operational activities that were so crucial for recipient countries.


She said the General Assembly should give further consideration to the interconnections between peace and development, as well as greater attention to measures related to development cooperation that could help in the prevention of armed conflicts and peace-building.  Above all, the United Nations system needed to strengthen appropriate tools for assistance in such conflict situations.  After more than 30 years of continuous conflict, Angola faced a critical situation in addressing the peace process, humanitarian issues and the problems of economic and social recovery.  Her Government believed that the first priority was to strengthen and build on the peace process to ensure better stability.  She thanked donor countries for their valuable support during this period. 


M. K. IBRAHIM, Assistant Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, said that the United Nations, through its operational activities, played a critical role in facilitating the emergence of development-centred economies.  It was a major contributor to global and national development, especially in the areas of aid coordination and advice.  However, the new global challenges and changing environment had made readjustment of the system imperative.  With the right policy mix, appropriate institutional capacity and adequate international assistance, poverty could be significantly reduced.  The United Nations system could and should play a crucial role in that process. 


The MYFF, launched three years ago, was indeed one of the answers to the unpredictable and declining core resources necessary to carry out the operational activities of the United Nations system, he said.  The objective was to develop a sustainable funding strategy, with the aim of increasing core funding on a predictable, continuous and assured basis.  Unfortunately, those laudable objectives were yet to be realized.  It was therefore necessary to sustain and strengthen the mode and momentum of the multi-year contributions, to facilitate the achievement of the desired goal of a substantial increase and predictability of funding.


ALOUNKEO KITTIKHOUN (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), speaking on behalf of the landlocked developing countries, said that South-South cooperation should not be viewed as a replacement for North-South cooperation but rather a complement to it.  Many developing countries had broad experiences in economic development and were enriched with technical expertise, which could be widely shared with other developing countries.  Moreover, it had become more evident that the triangular modality of cooperation could provide ways to promote the principle of ownership of the development process by developing countries.


The successful experience of the TCDC modality should be applied in addressing the special problems and needs of landlocked developing countries, he said.  In particular, triangular cooperation was relevant in addressing the specific needs of those countries.  It involved close cooperation between the landlocked and transit developing countries as well as donor countries to find a solution to the problem of transit transport systems.  The International Ministerial Meeting on transit transportation cooperation, to be held in Kazakhstan in 2003, would address a range of issues relating to the special needs and problems of landlocked developing countries, and triangular cooperation would play an important role in that.


MOURAD WAHBA ,UNDP, said the past year had seen a number of reforms and improvements at UNDP.  Among them, there had been continuing progress in the management of the Resident Coordinator system.  UNDP had been working to ensure that the group of coordinators represented the system in all its diversity and its substantive strengths.  Today some 16 per cent of coordinators were from agencies other than UNDP.  There were also efforts to increase gender balance among coordinators, and today 24 per cent of active coordinators were women.


Along with better alignment of the United Nations system at the country level, he said, there must be a simplification of procedures for programming and reporting.  That must be done so that other development bodies were not overburdened with a succession of demands for reports and reviews.  In that regard there had been progress:  to date, in 98 per cent of applicable countries, UNDP, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UNICEF, and the World Food Programme (WFP) programme cycles had been harmonized.


He added that the downward trend in regular resources, a characteristic of UNDP core funding for the past eight years, had been stabilized and was even showing a slight upward movement.  Total resources now stood at $2.39 billion, of which regular resources represented some 28 per cent, or $634 million.  That growth in contributions, especially from programme countries, not only allowed UNDP to continue its services, but it was a vote of confidence in the programme itself. 


“In order to achieve the results which you mandate us to achieve,” he said, “we need a strong organization, we need to bolster our country presence and our policy support role.”  He added that a strong UNDP would best be able to fulfil the goals of the Millennium Declaration, and would prove to be an essential element of the global architecture of development cooperation, providing a strong operational arm for the United Nations.


DER KOGDA (Burkina Faso) said that the United Nations system had a role to play in reducing poverty and mobilizing all actors to achieve development goals.  Burkina Faso’s experience with the Common Country Assessments (CCA) and United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) was seen as part of a participatory process.  With regard to UNDAF, its preparation made it possible to draw lessons on recent experiences.  Among those lessons was the need to consolidate a sustainable development approach, and to implement a new approach with regard to conditionality and the need to promote good governance.  The establishment of follow-up mechanisms was envisaged in that regard.  He supported the evaluation process to analyze the global performance of the United Nations, and welcomed the recommendations of the Secretary-General in his report.


SERHII YAMPOLSKY (Ukraine) said that while much had already been achieved in enhancing the capacity of the United Nations development system to respond to a rapidly changing global environment, much more remained to be done.  The international community should undertake efforts to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of the United Nations system of operational activities, maintaining its dynamic institutional structure and improving partnerships with all players of the development process at the national level.  In that context, he stressed the importance of enhancing the capacity of the United Nations development system to respond adequately and with the necessary flexibility to the needs of programme countries. 


He said that one area which deserved the interest of the funds and programmes involved in operational activities was mitigation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, the worst man-made technological disaster.  He welcomed the increasing involvement of the United Nations system in the activities aimed at eliminating the long-term consequences of that catastrophe.  The report of the multidisciplinary inter-agency mission, which this summer studied the human consequences of Chernobyl 15 years after the accident, clearly indicated the growing need for transition from the emergency response stage to the implementation of long- and medium-term programmes aimed at social and economic rehabilitation and development of the affected regions.


JARGALSAIKHANY ENKHSAIKHAN (Mongolia) said that a major challenge currently facing the developing world was to overcome factors that limited its participation in and benefits from technological and scientific innovation.  In that connection, three areas were particularly important.  First, the collaborative efforts of the developing countries should enhance their capacity to generate technological and scientific innovations, adopt and adapt them to their needs.  Secondly, those efforts should also focus on capacity building in scientific education.  Thirdly, regional and subregional cooperative mechanisms involving governments, business and research circles should be further encouraged.  In that regard, the Web of Information for Development (WIDE) had great potential in advancing those goals. 


He commended the efforts of the Special Unit for TCDC to address the problems faced by landlocked developing countries.  In recent years, cooperation between the landlocked and transit developing countries on facilitation of transit transportation had been steadily developing.  It was important for the Unit to continue to provide technical and financial assistance to those efforts.  In that context, the continued support by the Special Unit of trilateral negotiations on transit traffic facilitation between Mongolia, China and Russia was vital in bringing them to a successful conclusion. 


CARLOS VALERA (Mexico) said that operational activities for development should have as their reference point the Millennium Declaration and the outcomes of world conferences held over the past few years.  They should preserve their neutrality and multilateralism while fully respecting national priorities.  Any effective cooperation for development should be based on sufficient and secure resources, dynamic institutional structures and appropriate methods of planning and execution.


He saluted the determination of the European Union to meet the ODA target of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) before the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in September 2002.  In addition, he thanked those four European Union countries, as well as those industrial countries not part of the Union, which had already achieved that target.  It was necessary to continue forging new partnerships between the United Nations, the international financial institutions, regional bodies, governments, local authorities, non-governmental organizations and civil society.  He renewed Mexico’s commitment to ensuring that operational activities became an effective instrument in achieving the goals of the Millennium Declaration.  


International economic and technical cooperation should become even more dynamic considering the new global context, he said.  It was imperative that North-South and South-South cooperation be strengthened.  The challenge was to enhance and maximize such cooperation in the context of sustainable development, and to identify innovative methods to enhance cooperation.


LUIZ TUPY CALDAS DE MOURA (Brazil) said the United Nations agencies, programmes and funds must have the ability, the resources and the flexibility to provide a rapid response to emergency situations resulting either from natural disaster or conflict.  Further attention should also be paid to action that could have a long-term structural impact on development.  He welcomed the new focus of United Nations programmes and funds on a culture of performance and accountability.  That new focus was being built through results-oriented management and the results-oriented approach of the multi-year funding frameworks and other mechanisms.  He was concerned, however, that despite progress made, the declining trend of core resources had not yet been significantly altered.


For development cooperation to be effective, it required sufficient, predictable and stable financial sources, he said.  He therefore called upon donor countries to express their commitment to the international development goals through the increase of their voluntary contributions to the United Nations programmes and funds.  He welcomed also the attraction of new sources of financing, as long as those sources did not subordinate technical cooperation to principles and processes used by the financial sector.  Nor should those new sources hinder the neutral and universal scope of United Nations operational activities for development.


SIMONE WHITTEMORE (United States) said that the reforms undertaken by the United Nations system organizations were needed and had been impressive.  Internal coordination had improved, and the vision of what the United Nations operational agencies could contribute to the development of programme countries had become better defined.  In the process, the United Nations system was developing an impressive in-house expertise in the many areas that must come together to guarantee a positive outcome for achieving the Organization’s ambitious international goals.


That expertise not only provided the foundation for effective development assistance, but more important, it was universal and neutral, she continued.  That was a most valuable asset to programme countries.  Although she concurred with the principle of country ownership of its own development process, she urged programme countries to take full advantage of that asset and exploit it to the fullest extent when formulating development strategies.  The analytically sound CCAs and UNDAFs were necessary if any development process was to succeed, she added.


DINO BETI, Observer of Switzerland, said that procedures really must be harmonized and simplified.  Nobody denied that such steps would reduce transaction costs, thus substantially improving the effectiveness of development cooperation.  It was undeniable that harmonized and simplified United Nations procedures would make a real and practical difference in the field, especially for partner governments.  He could therefore not understand why progress in that matter had been so slow, and why completion of that process had not yet been reached.  He hoped the General Assembly would be able to give very clear guidance on the issue in order to make the system move and to find common solutions in that area.


He added that sluggishness due to lack of determination and multi-year commitment had been characterizing the core funding of United Nations activities for development over the last few years.  That meant that international ODA had also been decreasing.  Steps taken in recent years had not contributed to reversing the negative trends in core funding.  Under the current circumstances, an effective and durable solution to that problem was unfortunately very difficult

to find.  The future funding of the United Nations operational activities must therefore remain a major topic on the agenda in the coming years.


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