13 July 2012
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6535

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council Begins Consideration of United Nations Operational


Activities, Under-Secretary-General Urges Enhanced Coordination, Coherence

 


Today’s Challenges Require United Nations Development System

To “Work as One”, Says Sha Zukang; Council Weighs Quadrennial Policy Review


While “significant” gains had been made in enhancing the coordination of the United Nations development system, the Organization’s ability to swiftly respond to Government requests for assistance must be improved by simplifying programming, decentralizing decision-making and achieving efficiency by providing predictable resources, the Economic and Social Council heard today, as it launched its operational activities segment.


During the segment, which runs through 17 July, the Council will focus on preparations for the General Assembly’s Quadrennial Review of United Nations Operational Activities for Development (QCPR), to be held this fall.  During that exercise, the Assembly will give new policy directions on improving United Nations support to developing countries.  Two reports by the Secretary-General — on operational activities and funding, respectively — provide the departure point for today’s Council discussions and will serve as a basis for Assembly negotiations.


In opening remarks, Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, shared findings of those surveys, saying that programme country Governments had ranked support provided by the United Nations development system higher than that from international financial institutions and bilateral donors.  Nonetheless, there was a broader need to reflect on the strategic positioning of the Organization in development cooperation.  Today’s challenges would increasingly require the United Nations development system to “work as one”, he declared.


First, he said, the Resident Coordinator system — which encompasses all United Nations bodies dealing with operational activities for development — was a key driver of coherence, but its performance, for a long time, had been uneven across programme countries.  Second, the United Nations Development Assistance Framework — the agreement between a Government and United Nations country team that outlines strategies to achieve national development — required more coherence at the implementation stage.  The report found “overwhelming” support for simplification and harmonization of programming. 


On the important issue of funding, he said the report showed that while long-term funding trends for operational activities had been positive, almost all growth had been in non-core resources.  The huge mismatch between core and non-core funding was a key challenge, as it posed risks for delivering on intergovernmental mandates and ensuring the United Nations’ neutrality.  He assured the Council that his Department was committed to “continued improvements” in that area.


In his remarks, General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said the resolution on the issue to be adopted this fall would shape strategic plans for the 30 plus entities that comprised the United Nations development system.  As Assembly President, he had designated “sustainable development and global prosperity” as one of the pillars of his vision for the Assembly’s work this session.  The United Nations operational activities for development played a central role in that regard.


In addition, he said he had organized — in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs — a seminar series on the Quadrennial Policy, during which three key points emerged.  First, new centres of economic dynamism in the global economy, coupled with technology advances, were transforming the development landscape.  Second, the changing nature of global challenges meant that solutions would require collective action and new partnerships.  Finally, the issue of core funding for United Nations operational activities required urgent attention and resolution.  The coming months presented the opportunity to shape the future of the United Nations development system.  “We must seize this moment,” he declared.


The day’s busy line-up in the Council featured three panel discussions on: perspectives from programme countries on working with the United Nations; measures to strengthen the United Nations Development Assistance Framework and Resident Coordinator system; and ways to exploit synergy in the area of administrative services.  In each, delegates explored ways to improve the quality of performance and outcomes.


Sharing his country’s experience during the first panel, Admasu Gedamu, Director in the United Nations Agencies and Regional Economic Cooperation Directorate in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development of Ethiopia, said Ethiopia had been a self-starter country in the “Delivering as One” programme since 2008.  Both sides had reflected on how to better work together.  One challenge was the use of non-core resources, which were earmarked, short-term, and focused on emergencies or geographic areas — not coordinated with planning cycles.  Another problem was that some United Nations agencies required permission from their Headquarters for “every nitty, gritty thing”.  Authority must urgently be given to those offices so they could better adapt to country needs.


In the first of two afternoon panels, Servacius Beda Likwelile, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, United Republic of Tanzania, a “Delivering as One” pilot country, described how that initiative was making a difference through improved governance, better use of resources and more efficient programme delivery.  His recommendations for the Development Assistance Framework included reform of the approval process by making decisions at a joint board meeting, rather than deferring to the board of each agency involved.  That would save time and costs. Country programmes also should involve both resident and non-resident agencies.  The authority of Resident Coordinator should be enhanced, which would ensure coherence in delivering development assistance.  


Framing debate in the final panel, moderator Jens Wandel, Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Management of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Co-Chair of the United Nations Development Group Joint Funding and Business Operations Network, said it was important to focus on the capacity to deliver, and to ask:  “how can we describe and present this capacity so that it is visible and accessible to Member States and United Nations entities?”  The discussion should shift away from monetary savings to reduction in transaction costs and increased efficiency gains — that was more realistic.


Council Vice-President Desra Percaya ( Indonesia) also delivered opening remarks.


The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 16 July, to continue its operational activities segment.


Background


The Economic and Social Council convened today to begin the operational activities segment of its 2012 substantive session.  It was expected to hold two panel discussions throughout the day.  The first was entitled Perspectives from programme countries:  Dialogue with representatives of programme countries on progress in enhancing relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of United Nations development system since the 2007 comprehensive policy review of the General Assembly”.  The second — which would comprise two separate sessions — was on “How to ensure that the sum total of the United Nations development system is larger than its constituent parts:  Role of coordination processes”.


For those discussions, the Council had before it advance summaries of the Secretary-General’s reports on follow-up to policy recommendations of the General Assembly and the Council.  The first of those, entitled Quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system, reviews efforts to enhance the coherence, effectiveness, efficiency and impact of the United Nations operational activities for development.


The report, to be issued later, also highlights a number of achievements and notes some areas where further progress was required.  It notes that there was a need to adapt to the changing development landscape and to reposition operational activities to better avail of partnership opportunities and put into action global development norms and frameworks.


The second of those reports, entitled, Analysis of funding of operational activities for development of the United Nations system for the year 2010, describes trends in funding for that year.  It notes that total contributions to operational activities for the United Nations development system amounted to about $22.9 billion that year, an increase of about 3 per cent in real terms over 2009.  About 68 per cent of those funds were directed at longer-term development-related activities, while 32 per cent was directed at activities with a humanitarian focus.


Contributions for development-related activities increased by some 5 per cent in real terms in 2010, while funding for humanitarian assistance increased by less than 1 per cent in real terms.  In addition, the report notes a growing imbalance between core and non-core funding for operational activities.  Core funding declined by 3 per cent in 2010 over 2009, while non-core funding — which accounted for 74 per cent of all funding for operational activities, and which was characterized by restrictions with regards to its use — increased by 6 per cent.


Also before the Council were the reports of the Executive Boards of several United Nations agencies and funds, namely the United Nations Development Programme/United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Office for Project Services, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and the World Food Programme.


The first of those reports, that of the Executive Boards of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) (document E/2011/35 Supplement 15), reviews the work of the Board during the year 2011, including its annual session and its two regular sessions.  It covers such elements as country programmes and related matters; financial, budgetary and administrative matters; recommendations of the Board of Auditors; and the implementation of the UNDP gender equality strategy.


The Report of the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and of the Executive Directors of the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services (document E/2012/5) notes that progress was achieved with respect to the focus on development results, the reduction of transaction costs and gains in efficiency.  The report also highlights the ongoing efforts of partnerorganizations to address remaining challenges.


The Annual Report of the United Nations Children ’s Fund (UNICEF) to the Economic and Social Council (document E/2012/6) provides an analysis of the achievements of UNICEF against its medium-term strategic plan for 2006-2013.  Another report (document E/2012/34 (Part I) Add.1) covers a joint meeting of the Executive Boards of UNICEF, UNDP/ United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)/UNOPS, UN-Women and The World Food Programme (WFP).  Also before the Council were the reports of the UNICEF Executive Board on the work of its first regular session (E/2012/34 (Part I)), its annual session (E/2012/34 (Part II)) and its second regular session (E/2012/34/Rev.1) of 2012.


An additional report — Extract from the report of the Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund on its 2012 annual session (5-8 June 2012) — (document E/2012/L.7) contains decisions adopted by the Board at that session.


Meanwhile, the Annual Report of the World Food Programme (WFP) (document E/2012/14) reviews the work of that agency for the year 2011, and was transmitted through a note by the Secretary-General.  A second WFP report (document E/2012/36) covers the Programme’s first and second annual sessions of 2011, as well as its annual session of that year.


Opening remarks


Economic and Social Council Vice-President DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) said this year’s operational activities segment assumed great significance for several reasons.  At the recently concluded United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the world had reaffirmed its commitment to a future based on such development, charging the Council with helping to ensure the realization of that vision through a balanced integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions.  “The Rio+20 outcome marks an important new departure for the future work of the United Nations development system in programme countries,” he said.


In addition, the segment would offer the primary venue for policy dialogue on the key issues likely to feature in upcoming deliberations on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR) of the General Assembly, he said.  The Secretary-General’s two reports for that review presented findings of major analytic preparations led by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  Both were “rich” in analysis to support the Council’s review deliberations.


Highlighting five main aspects of the operational activities segment, he pointed to a dialogue with policy makers from programme countries on their priorities for strengthening the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of the United Nations development system.  There also would be a discussion on the three coordination processes — the Resident Coordinator system, the United Nations Development Assistance Framework and the harmonization of business practices.  A dialogue with the Executive Heads of the Funds and Programmes also would be held, as would a review of findings from an independent evaluation of the “Delivering as One” approach.  Finally, the Council would conduct — for the first time — a dialogue with the Chairs of the Executive Boards of the Funds and Programmes.


Speaking next, General Assembly President NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER agreed that this year’s operational activities segment was of particular significance, as it would take stock of the progress and challenges in implementing the mandates established in General Assembly resolution 62/208 on the 2007 triennial comprehensive policy review of United Nations operational activities for development. 


“It is also a time to be forward-looking,” he said, adding that Member States were beginning a new cycle with the 2012 quadrennial comprehensive policy review, a cycle that would set the mandate and framework for the United Nations development system for the period 2013 to 2016 and beyond.  The Council’s deliberations would set the stage for the upcoming negotiations, which, he was confident, would re-invigorate the capacity of the United Nations development system to meet both current and emerging global challenges.


As President of the General Assembly, he had designated “sustainable development and global prosperity” as one of the four pillars of his vision for the Assembly’s work this session.  The United Nations operational activities for development played a central role in that regard, as they were, he said, “both a symbol and a concrete manifestation of a partnership for a better future.” 


With that in mind, he had organized, in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, a three-part seminar series on the Quadrennial Policy, and he went on to highlight several of the issues that had taken centre stage during the discussions.  First, new centres of economic dynamism in the global economy, coupled with advances in technology, were transforming the global development landscape.  Second, the changing nature of global challenges meant that solutions would increasingly require collective action and new forms of partnership.  Third, the issue of the “critical mass” of core funding for United Nations operational activities for development required urgent attention and resolution, especially as the current imbalance in core/non-core funding risked undermining the capacity, independence, partnerships and delivery of United Nations operational activities for development.


Fourth, he said, there was a need to recognize the important progress made in achieving greater coherence and integration of United Nations operational activities for development through the Resident Coordinator system, the United Nations Development Assistance Framework process, the “Delivering as One” pilot initiative and the integrated mission concept, among many other initiatives.  Finally, the process of developing Sustainable Development Goals, building on the experience of the Millennium Development Goals framework, would mean a redoubling of efforts to integrate the core United Nations pillars of development, security and humanitarian assistance.


The quadrennial comprehensive policy review resolution that would be adopted this fall would directly impact the day-to-day work of the United Nations system, and would shape the strategic plans of the 30 plus entities that comprise the United Nations development system, he said.  Together, those entities currently account for nearly two thirds of all system-wide activities of the United Nations.  “In the coming months, we have the opportunity to shape the future of the United Nations development system, and to build a lasting legacy for the organization.  We must seize this moment,” he declared.


SHA ZUKANG, Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and Secretary-General of the Rio+20 Conference, said the coming days provided an important opportunity to take stock of progress in preparations for the quadrennial comprehensive policy review, conducted under the General Assembly.  His Department had been entrusted to support that process by providing evidence-based analysis, and the Secretary-General’s two reports on operational activities and funding, respectively, had benefitted from global surveys, stakeholder consultations and country missions.


The Secretary-General’s report on implementation of Quadrennial Policy review recommendations, he said, noted that “significant” progress had been made in enhancing the coherence of the United Nations development system since the last review in 2007.  Programme countries ranked support provided by the United Nations at the country level higher than that of the international financial institutions and bilateral donors.  “This generally favourable assessment, however, should not make us complacent,” he said, stressing the need to reflect on the strategic repositioning of the United Nations in development cooperation.  Today’s challenges would increasingly require the United Nations development system to “work as one”.


Turning to coordination, he said the Resident Coordinator system was a key driver of coherence at the country level, but its performance — for a long time — had been uneven across programme countries.  Survey results showed strong support from those countries for strengthening its coordination role, which was essential if States decided to enhance horizontal accountability across the development system.  Regarding the Development Assistance Framework, he said Governments considered it a key instrument to promote the Organization’s coherence, but they also had made clear that coherence should be carried through the implementation stage.  The report found there was “overwhelming” support among programme countries for major simplification and harmonization of programming.


As for the harmonization of business operations at the country level, he said that while some progress had been made, lasting efficiency gains and cost savings had yet to be more broadly demonstrated.  In the area of effectiveness, the report found that capacity development had often not met programme country expectations.  On the issue of funding — the lifeblood of the United Nations development system — the report showed that long-term funding trends for operational activities had been positive, but that almost all growth had been in non-core resources, which tended to be highly fragmented.  The share of core funding continued to drop and burden-sharing among donors was highly uneven.  Moreover, the predictability of resources had not improved since 2007.


That huge mismatch in the growth of core and non-core funding over the past 15 years was among the key challenges facing the United Nations development system, he said, as it posed risks for delivering on intergovernmental mandates and ensuring that they had sufficient capacity for core programming on the ground.  It also posed risks for the neutrality of the United Nations in development cooperation.  “I want to use this opportunity to assure you that the Department is committed to continued improvements in this area,” he said, as a contribution to informed intergovernmental dialogue on United Nations operational activities.


Panel Discussion I


The panel discussion, on “Perspectives from programme countries:  Dialogue with representatives of programme countries on progress in enhancing relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of United Nations development system since the 2007 comprehensive policy review of the General Assembly,” featured panellists:  Viviana Caro, Minister of Planning and Development, of Bolivia; Isa Tuwaijri, Minister of Planning, Libya; Julio Raudales, Minister of Planning and External Cooperation, Honduras; Somchit Inthamith, Vice-Minister of Planning and Investment, Lao People’s Democratic Republic; and Admasu Gedamu, Director, United Nations Agencies and Regional Economic Cooperation Directorate, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Ethiopia.


Moderator Astrid Helle Ajamay, Deputy Director-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, said how important and relevant it was to start the discussion with programme country perspectives.  Improvements could be made only through strengthening collective efforts and taking stock of lessens learned.  Sustainable development made it more important for the United Nations to “Deliver as One”, as such development required relevant, coherent and effective efforts.  Country programmes were the foundation of the United Nations activities. 


Taking the floor first, Ms. CARO said considerable work had been done in the past three years in development.  Last year, the Bolivian Government accelerated efforts to step up discussions and coordination not only with the United Nations and other partners.  One of the major changes that had occurred was an increase in net private investment.  Since the Busan Alliance on development cooperation, Bolivia had seen progress in the ownership of the development process.


Despite various efforts, however, Bolivia had not yet seen the expected results.  “Undoubtedly, we need a more decentralized approach,” she said.  The United Nations could help by offering a wealth of knowledge and experience.  Diversity was also a key element of the United Nations.  Bolivia had to do a better job of channelling the United Nations wealth of expertise into its own development strategies and processes.


She also stressed the importance of South-South and triangular cooperation, but warned against duplication of work.  There was the need for the involvement of new and different actors, as well as the use of new approaches.  Operational activities were vital because results came at the operational phase.  Fragmented approaches could not be accepted.  Not all policies were properly prioritized and focused, she added. 


Mr. TUWAIJRI next made a brief presentation, saying that he had taken the current post only eight months ago.  His country, Libya, was appreciative of the United Nations support during the “difficult time” of the nation’s conflict, in which democratic forces ended dictatorship under the Qadhafi regime.  “We are trying to find our way to a democratic country,” he said.  During the transitional period, the United Nations helped Libya hold an election and establish a national Congress that would appoint a Government. 


Yet challenges remained, including reconciliation, as well as addressing the peoples’ basic needs, such as in the areas of health, education and poverty.  In the long run, his State must move from a State-controlled to a freer market economy.  The United Nations could be instrumental in assisting Libya both in the short and long term.  “Instead of waiting for clients to learn lessons the hard way,” the United Nations could teach them from the outset.  United Nations agencies must be aligned and must avoid duplication.  “Our main problem was the lack of capacity to deliver,” he said.


Mr. RAUDALES said there were three types of countries in Latin America:  high-growth (Brazil, Chile and Mexico); moderate-growth (Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Guatemala) and countries with governance challenges which affected their development — such as Haiti and Honduras.  Specifically, Honduras had experienced a political crisis three years ago, which meant that socio-economic progress there had “fallen off”.  Turning to the use of “differentiated platforms” he said that in Honduras, good governance could be one such platform for the United Nation to help improve socio-economic development.  He raised the possibility of more interagency coordination in that regard, based on discussions in Busan, Republic of Korea.


He also wondered if South-South cooperation, for example, could become the foundation for the Organization’s work.  He raised the possibility for the United Nations to become a model of leadership.  In Honduras, for example, there were 14 United Nations agencies.  “We have a good model of coordination among [them],” he said, which could set the tone for coordination among partners that provided international financial and technical assistance.  Those cooperating partners, in turn, could then call on the United Nations for guidance on improving dialogue with the Government.


Next, Mr. INTHAMITH said the Development Assistance Framework process showed the strong partnership between the United Nations and partners in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.  By way of example, he said a 4 July agreement between his country and the United Nations was related to the Millennium Development Goals acceleration framework and efforts to graduate from the list of least developed countries by 2020.  The United Nations Development Assistance Framework would be a “significant” tool to ensure United Nations support was transparent and coherent.  In addition, the United Nations had provided financial and technical support for the national round table process, with 2006 marking an outcome that reflected joint efforts to increase national ownership of the development process and mutual accountability.


He went on to say that sectoral working groups provided a platform to bring diverse stakeholders together to align work with national socio-economic plans.  On the “Delivering as One” agenda, he said his country was committed to being a “self starter country”, reiterating that it strongly supported common country programming for that agenda.  He reaffirmed that that cohesive and efficient United Nations country teams would help the Lao People’s Democratic Republic speed development activities.


The challenges included implementing the harmonization process for aid effectiveness, he said, noting that capacities were critical requirements, especially in the Resident Coordinators system.  The joint assessment between the United Nations country team and the Government found that strengthening the Resident Coordinators system must address the issue of funding, which had been unpredictable.  It also had decreased by 80 per cent over the last five years.  The move to non-core funding had made it more difficult for agencies to allocate funds.  Further, country-level commitment to the reform agenda had not been matched at Headquarters.  The Development Assistance Framework planning process was time-consuming and countries needed flexibility to ensure it was fit-for-purpose.


Mr. GEDAMU discussed how the United Nations was performing in Ethiopia, saying “we are working in a complex aid environment”.  As such, the United Nations must change.  The Government and the Organization had both agreed on that point, in order for aid to be relevant.  The Ethiopian Government also had reflected upon what must change in terms of working together, and in alignment with country priorities, to be cost-effective.  By way of background, he said Ethiopia had been self-starter country in the “Delivering as One” programme since 2008.  It had progressed well, especially in consolidating the United Nations’ intervention.  Previously, work had been spread around the country.  Four thematic areas were chosen and aligned with areas in which the United Nations had a comparative advantage.


In addition, Ethiopia and the United Nations had aligned their work with the country’s five-year country programme, he said, and agreed to have only one Development Assistance Framework action plan.  Those were major achievements.  But there were also challenges.  “We have not fully realized coherence efficiency,” he said.  The challenges could be organized into two main areas:  overall fragmentation and the United Nations governance structure.  One source of fragmentation centred on funding instruments and the use of non-core resources, which were earmarked, short-term, and focused on emergencies or geographic areas — not coordinated with planning cycles.  They came with donor-priorities attached, which impeded planning and predictability.  Aid should be reflected in the budget, but non-core resources could not.


In addition, the quality of non-core resources could be better aligned with country interests, he said.  They could be earmarked for the health sector, for example, but not targeted on specific interventions such as malaria.  Most non-core resources were normally not coordinated with annual work plans; they arrived mid-year, meaning that “we are working on an ad-hoc basis”.  Other sources of fragmentation centred on the harmonization of rules and regulations related to different financial procedures and procurement formats.  Competition among United Nations agencies was also an issue.


As for the United Nations governance structure, he said each agency was accountable to their respective Executive Board, which often put forward new rules during the country-level work process.  Communication must be consistent vertically and horizontally.  Further, some agencies enjoyed a good level of decision-making in their Country Offices, but others required permission for “every nitty, gritty thing”.  Authority must urgently be given to those offices as the current set-up impeded their ability to adapt to country needs.  Other priorities should focus on enhancing the role of the Resident Coordinator system.


In the interactive dialogue that followed, delegations raised the issues of country-level coordination, coordination at the United Nations Headquarters level, and the importance of the planning stage in the delivery of development programmes, among other topics.


“If you spent 10 years planning, you build a tree, but if you plan for 100 years, you build capacity,” said the representative of Bangladesh, quoting from an Eastern proverb, asking panellists to comment.  He also said most of the United Nations country teams he met believed that a silo approach should be avoided at the United Nations Headquarters.


The delegate of Mexico concurred with panellists about the complex nature of operational activities and said the Busan experience should be incorporated into the quadrennial comprehensive policy review process.  She also said the middle-income countries needed development assistant from the United Nations.


The delegate of the Russian Federation highlighted the complexity of coordination among programme countries, United Nations teams on the ground, and United Nations Headquarters.  Priorities set by programme countries should form the basis of United Nations development policy.  Various lessens were learned from the “Delivering as One” initiative.  “Programme countries should have the final words,” he said.


Cuba’s representative said those involved in development projects should not rush into decisions because circumstances differ from country to country, and stressed the need not to forget about the intergovernmental negotiations, which should be “strengthened, not replaced”.


The delegate of Indonesia said total contributions to his country grew over the past 15 years, but many had come in the form of non-core funding, which had limitations in the application.  The challenge existed in converting non-core funding to core funding.  One way to address this situation was for donor countries to fulfil their 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GDP) target for official development assistance (ODA). 


In response, Ms. CANO said “not one instrument fits all” in regards to the issue of planning.  There were various instruments, including the Development Assistance Framework and Delivering as One.  Mr. TUWAIJRI explained what the relationship between local actors and the United Nations should be, using an analogy of a doctor telling a patient to go home and study what medicine would work for him.  It would take time for a “patient” to find what medicines worked best.  Likewise, it would take a long time for local actors to find solutions that fit them.  The United Nations could help in that process.  However, security issues in Libya required an immediate solution, and a general approach could be useful, given the urgency.


Mr. RAUDALES said the United Nations could exercise leadership, particularly in coordinating with donor countries and financial institutions.  Addressing the dilemma of budgeting funds between infrastructure projects and capacity-building, Mr. INTHAMITH argued that capacity building was essential to sustainable development because infrastructure required better quality.  Mr. GEDAMU said the United Nations supported Ethiopia in many ways, including knowledge sharing and South-South cooperation and facilitated the country’s cooperation with its partners.


Albania’s representative shared conclusions from the Fifth Intergovernmental Conference on “Delivering as One”, held in his country on 27-29 June, saying that participants reiterated that the approach served the best interests of the programme countries by aligning development assistance with their national plans.  “This is what Governments look for,” he said.  “This is what the United Nations is meant to do.”  It placed United Nations activities into a coherent development framework, improving the United Nations ability to respond swiftly to Government requests.


Joint monitoring had led to more effective delivery of assistance on the ground, he said.  Improved coordination among agencies had been enhanced by communications through Resident Coordinators.  Transaction costs for country teams had not reduced because there was still an undefined framework for those teams, he said, which must be immediately tackled.  “Delivering as One” must be properly embraced at the United Nations agency headquarters level.  “This is not a wish,” he said, “It is a call.”


Other speakers said the panellists had conveyed an important set of messages to the Council.  Today’s substantive exchange was badly needed.  Some wondered how exactly to strengthen the role of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework for beneficiary countries.  Others stressed that the majority of funds were strictly earmarked, non-core contributions.  To fund the United Nations in that way was not sustainable.  How could donors be incentivised to improve non-core funding for operational activities?


In response, Ms. CARO highlighted the information system in efforts to move away from earmarked donations.  Guidelines had been given to countries, which should go hand in hand with operational instruments.  That was difficult to achieve in any given agency.  On the usefulness of the Development Assistance Framework, she said when planning was not a political issue in a country, results were also positive.  An assessment of the Framework would allow for reviewing what progress had been made.


MR. RAUDALES said the information system was a key element, and Honduras was attempting to implement that platform with United Nations assistance.  He hoped that would improve coordination among various stakeholders, especially in developing national strategies.  The complementarity between planning and budgeting must also be tackled.


Mr. INTHAMITH said improving UNDAF required cooperation from both sides.  Most important was to improve the role of the Resident Coordinators and the Resident Coordinators Office.


Mr. GEDAMU said improving the quality of earmarked funds was relatively easy.  Funds dedicated to health should not be focused on specific interventions.   Ethiopia and the United Nations had well-established sectoral programmes that had been developed over five years.  In funding decisions, the comparative advantage of United Nations agencies and the gap to be covered by the resources should be considered in order to advance the sector as a whole.


Panel Discussion II


The Council this afternoon held two panel discussion sessions under the theme “How to ensure that the sum total of the United Nations development system is larger than its constituent parts:  Role of coordination processes.”


The first, on “What measures are required to strengthen the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) process and the United Nations Resident Coordinator system in order to best exploit synergy among United Nations entities?” featured panellists:  Servacius Beda Likwelile, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, United Republic of Tanzania; Anouparb Vongnorkeo, Deputy Director-General, Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lao People’s Democratic Republic; and Walubita Imakando, Director, Development Cooperation and International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zambia.  The session was moderated by Werner Puschra, Executive Director, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), New York Office.


Taking the floor first, Mr. LIKWELILE described how the “Delivering as One” initiative was making a difference in the United Republic of Tanzania and highlighted ways to improve the United Nations Development Assistance Framework and the Resident Coordinator system.  There was ample evidence that “Delivering as One” had been successful in his country, such as improved governance, better use of resources and more efficient delivery of programmes.  Most importantly, “there was a steady increase in Government leadership and ownership,” he said.  As for the Resident Coordinator system, he called for improved accountability and a single format for monitoring and evaluation, and he also requested the United Nations to strengthen coordination at the country level.


Key recommendations for the Development Assistance Framework included reform of approval process by making decisions at a joint board meeting, rather than deferring to the board of each agency involved.  This would save time and costs.  Country programmes should involve both resident and non-resident agencies.  The Development Assistance Framework was useful in addressing common issues such as gender equality, human rights and other cross cutting issues.  Monitoring initial targets was important.  The authority of Resident Coordinator should be enhanced because a strengthened official could ensure coherence in delivering development assistance at the country level.  Single budgetary framework was necessary.  To help a Resident Coordinator adjust to new roles, his Government offered orientation programs.


Mr. VONGNORKEO said that prior to his participation at this important Economic and Social Council segment, a joint assessment exercise between the Lao People’s Democratic Republic Government and United Nations country team had been held.  His Government closely engaged in the current United Nations Development Assistance Framework formulation both at the national and sectoral level.  The Development Assistance Framework Action Plan was a significant tool to ensure that the United Nations support was relevant, coordinated, coherent and transparent.  It also provided one entry point for the Government to guide and shape the support of the United Nations, thereby strengthening its ownership over the development agenda.


He went on to highlight some challenges facing the Development Assistance Framework.  First, the planning process was time consuming and heavy.  Countries needed to be afforded the flexibility to ensure the planning process and final plan was practical and fit for purpose.  The Development Assistance Framework was intended to reduce transaction costs, but had, in many ways, increased those costs because the Framework’s introduction had not been followed by a reduction in agency-specific programming processes, tools and documents.  Agency-specific requirements from the Headquarters limited the usefulness of the Development Assistance Framework.  In some countries, the Framework had increased the workload of agencies and become an add-on task.  The Development Assistance Framework was intended for the Government to have to deal with only one programming, review and reporting process, but countries still had to interact with different processes.


United Nations agencies should, at the Headquarters level, commit to formulate agreed policy directives to ensure the development of a single format for work plans and progress reports and guidance on and commitment to joint management and evaluation processes.  It was crucial for the Government to ensure that all sectors were brought into the dialogue and consultations with the United Nations system.


In Lao People’s Democratic Republic, a self-starter in the “Delivering as One” initiative, that project was Government-driven, not donor-driven.  A strong and well-functioning Resident Coordinator’s Office was of paramount importance to ensure efficient and appropriate coordination.  In Lao People’s Democratic Republic, however, a number of factors had led to a substantial decrease in the capacity of this office.  Funding from the United Nations Development Operations Coordination Office had remained unpredictable from one year to the other and over the last five years had decreased from more than $170,000 to little more than $30,000 — an 80 per cent drop.  A larger focus should be on supporting the “Delivering as One” self-starter countries.  “So far the focus has exclusively been on the pilot countries,” he added.  


Mr. IMAKANDO said the general principles behind the establishment of the United Nations Resident Coordinator system were valid because they touched on effectiveness and efficiency of the United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies in delivering development support to developing countries.


But the Resident Coordinator system was not as effective as would be desired largely due to lack of comprehensive reforms both at the country and Headquarters levels, he continued.  The system needed to be given more institutional authority to ensure greater effectiveness.  Formal strengthening of the cooperation function of the Resident Coordinator Office was imperative, shifting from simply coordinating to providing effective management of the United Nations responses to national development challenges.


He said that the Development Assistance Framework does have the potential to be used as a common country programming document, encompassing more joint programmes.  However, joint programmes still left a heavy procedural and administrative burden.  Common monitoring and evaluation, audits, results management systems, reviews and reporting arrangement would make the Development Assistance Framework an even more effective tool.  In Zambia, the Framework was aligned to the current national development plan.  The Framework helped to bring various United Nations agencies together around common results.  Extensive consultations between the Government and the United Nations system during the design process led to a framework that was familiar and agreed to by all.  However, this came at the cost of being time consuming and labour intensive.


The potential for “Delivering as One” was high, but United Nations Headquarters must give Resident Coordinators the delegated authority and autonomy and the pace of reforms to harmonize policies and procedures across the Organization’s agencies needed to be accelerated. 


In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Brazil pointed out that the panel should have consisted of not only “Delivering as One” pilot and self-starter countries, but also other countries so that he could hear different perspectives.  There were also questions about the process of selecting Resident Coordinators, including the representative of China, who said more Resident Coordinators should be chosen from developing countries.  


The delegate of the Russian Federation said that when consolidating United Nations work on the ground, it was essential for each agency not to lose its mandate and comparative advantages, while Indonesia ’s representative argued that a Resident Coordinator should have the ability to establish a good network and have the knowledge of local culture.  The representative of Germany stressed the importance of horizontal accountability as well as the need to strengthen vertical accountability. 


The delegate of Cuba said success of country programmes depended on the capacity and commitment of individual Resident Coordinators while the representative of France noted that the majority of Governments said the Development Assistance Framework was helpful.  The representative of Norway sought comments on the involvement of civil society.


In response, Mr. LIKEWELILE said that when he discussed empowering Resident Coordinators, he was not suggesting de-linking the post from United Nations Headquarters.  “A country will be better served with a stronger Resident Coordinator Office,” he said.  Mr. VONGNORKEO said the selection of a Resident Coordinator started here at the Headquarters, and a limited number of applicants had been introduced to his Government.  Even though a highly qualified candidate was selected, he or she would not be able to perform without adequate staffing support and funding.  Some agencies were still reluctant to participate in the “Delivering as One” initiative because their headquarters offices did not give them clear mandates.  Lao People’s Democratic Republic had a third generation of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework in place.  Compared with the previous two, the third one was a “living” document.


Mr. IMAKANDO said Resident Coordinator Offices were led by individual capacity now and there was a need for institutional reform.  He concurred with China’s delegate about the need to appoint more such officials from developing nations, but stressed the importance of not losing sight of basic requirements and qualifications for the selection.  All panellists said in their countries, civil society was involved in the process.


Panel Discussion III


The second session of the afternoon panel discussion was on, “How can United Nations entities best exploit synergy in the area of administrative services at country-level:  challenges and opportunities”.  It was moderated by Jens Wandel, Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Management of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Co-Chair of the United Nations Development Group Joint Funding and Business Operations Network.  The session’s panellists were:  Antonio Pedro Monteiro Lima, Permanent Representative of Cape Verde to the United Nations; Albéric Kacou, United Nations Resident Coordinator for the United Republic of Tanzania; and Christian Schornich, United Nations Business Practices Expert.


Mr. WANDEL said that the issue of administrative coherence was not new.  In that regard, he added, there was continued support for making United Nations operations more efficient and “cheaper to run”.  It was important to focus on the capacity to deliver, and to ask, “how can we describe and present this capacity so that it is visible and accessible to Member States and United Nations entities?”  There should be a shift in the discussion, he said, from monetary savings to the reduction in transaction costs and efficiency gains, which represented more realistic goals.


“We may want to rethink the approach to harmonization,” he added in that respect, with a focus on harmonizing principles and work processes, and on accepting the integrity of each agency’s work.  The fact that the United Nations system did not have one enterprise resource plan was not a hindrance, but the system needed to get its components to “talk to one another” and to utilize each other’s processes more effectively.  Further, post-Rio, it was important to “look broader” to see if harmonization could include issues related to sustainable development.


Recalling that his archipelagic country had been one of the first pilot countries for the “Delivering as One” programme, Mr. LIMA said that, in 2006, several United Nations agencies had begun to work together in Cape Verde with one plan of action, one budget, and one representative, working together in one building.  “The process put everybody on the same plane,” he said, referring to the Government, civil society and the United Nations system.  It allowed more ministry-to-ministry dialogue, as well as more discussion between other stakeholders.  Cape Verde was also currently working to establish a “green United Nations building”, with an eye towards achieving 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020.  “It might look very daring, but we believe in it,” he said of that goal, adding that the country had made an appeal to its partners to help finance it.


The green United Nations building was part of a larger plan for Cape Verde.  “It is very important to keep in mind that ownership is the basis of everything,” he said in that respect, stressing that the involvement of all stakeholders was critical.  He also noted the alignment of the country’s national strategy with the United Nations Development Assistance Framework.  Turning to the harmonization of United Nations agencies in general, he said that diverse regulations among the agencies posed a constraint to the advancement of effectiveness.  Most United Nations country teams had established operations management teams, which were responsible for business process simplification and harmonization, and the United Nations Development Group had supported change management programmes through consultancy teams and inter-agency working groups.


All pilot countries had made strenuous efforts to achieve cost savings, however, those cuts had been modest.  Many reforms had proven impossible because of varying agency regulations, business practices and cultures.  Moreover, he said, while “no one size fits all” in the “Delivering as One” approach, common follow-up strategies should be established.  He called on the United Nations system to better evaluate the capacity of each country; for its part, Cape Verde had recently graduated to middle-income status, but that did not mean that its challenges were over.  He called, therefore, for special measures for countries in transition, as well as continued support for graduated middle-income countries.


Mr. KACOU, addressing the question of how to better highlight administrative capacity, agreed that national ownership was the first and most important recommendation around which all United Nations work must be channelled.  But there was no “central point” from which to do so.  The United Republic of Tanzania had undertaken a capacity study in 2008, and had created a database to support development planning under the “Developing as One” framework.  Management, finance, human resource, information technologies, logistics and general administration, among other areas, were represented in the database.  Describing several methods which could be used to improve management under “Delivering as One”, he said that, in one approach, a “lead agency” would be charged with delivering results.  Alternatively, another option would be the “business centres” method, in which the United Nations system would pay a fee to have its administration managed in one unit.


In a third option — “co-location” — several agencies would be located in the same premises, such as in the case of Cape Verde.  Yet another method was to manage administrative services at the regional level.  In the United Republic of Tanzania, the use of a key “operations adviser” had helped ensure positive joint outcomes, he added.  Asking what impact recent reform initiatives had had on transaction costs between agencies, as well as what could be done to reduce those costs, he said that a recent report had concluded that it was difficult, overall, to calculate savings.  There was no baseline from which to work.


He noted several approaches that would cut costs, including the adoption of all agencies of one enterprise resource plan, or the implementation of a “business centre” approach.  Long-term agreements in such areas as travel and procurement had been effective at cutting transaction costs, he said.  Most “Delivering as One” countries had developed long-term agreements which had led to cost savings.  “I think we are going to make a big leap,” he said of that approach.


A study had been carried out by the United Nations Development Group on “costs”, but there was a need for harmonization on the definition of that term.  With regard to skill-mapping the capacity of a country team, he said that the United Republic of Tanzania was implementing a recommendation in the area of incentives and motivation of staff.  Common information and communications technology systems would be adopted, which would further harmonize the efforts of the agencies.


He went on to suggest other options, such as the establishment of a common procurement team and better inter-agency mobility.  Addressing the “rethinking” of the common approach towards harmonization, he agreed that the United Nations system should focus more on the principle of harmonization and on accepting the integrity of each internal agency process.  Different regulations and rules were the main challenge to harmonization, he said in that regard, adding that agencies needed to “talk to each other” more effectively.


Mr. SCHORNICH said that the United Nations capacity to deliver was directly related to its business operations.  All programme-relevant activities — including procurement, financial transactions and others — at the country level included business operations functions.  Country teams were facing significant challenges in the harmonization of business operations, he said, noting that there was a perceived lack of commitment by senior leadership on that front.


Asking the Council to consider whether those leaders had sufficiently prioritized that issue, he wondered if, instead, country teams had simply reached the limit of their capacity to do so.  In his opinion, both were the case.  A lack of staff capacity, among other problems, was largely to blame.  There were significant barriers to applying the skills acquired in staff training, which showed that “the investment in training should not be a stand-alone measure”, but an integrated part with institutional reform at the country level.


With regard to the reduction of transaction and overhead costs, he said that it was important to note that such savings would not translate into higher programme budget.  The implementation of long-term agreements at the country level led to a reduction in staff time, but that efficiency gain was not easily expressed in dollars.  The single indicator of the quantification of avoided costs would not correctly reflect the harmonization of practices in that area, he said.


Moreover, it was important to shift from a consideration of monetary savings alone to one of efficiency and productivity. “The harmonization of business practices is not an end in itself”, he said; a lead agency or a business centre could lead the harmonization of agencies at the country level, he added, agreeing with other panellists.  However, that required more cooperation of agencies at the headquarters level.  “Headquarters-level framework agreements” were therefore a prerequisite to success of efforts at the country level.  To accelerate the progress of harmonizing business operation support, the United Nations system should not shy away from changing the structure of business operations at the country level, he concluded.


As the floor was opened for comments and questions, many representatives expressed their support for the “Delivering as One” initiative, and agreed that the data in the Secretary-General’s reports confirmed the usefulness of measures aimed at harmonizing administration and related processes.  However, some said, the level of coherence of business practices remained “unsatisfactory”.  Other speakers raised concerns about the development by some agencies of incompatible practices, which contradicted existing recommendations.


In that vein, the representative of the United States, echoing concerns raised by other speakers, asked for the “unvarnished” opinions of the panellists with regards to harmonization efforts at headquarters level.  “What needs to happen at the headquarters level and why isn’t it happening?” she asked.


To that question, Mr. KACOU responded agreed that the country offices were stretched to their limits.  “If we want to further the reform, we need to tackle Headquarters,” he said, adding, “that’s why we are here.”  They needed strong political will at the Headquarters level, which was sometimes challenging.


Mr. LIMA said the comments showed a consensus agreement on the need for better system harmonization.  The ideal would be to confront then remove obstacles to harmonization — not to simply “go around them”.  If all Member States were able to stress the need for those changes, including in the relationship between headquarters and country teams, the process of “Delivering as One” would improve, he said.


Mr. SCHORNICH also agreed that “Delivering as One” countries had reached their limit as to what could be done at the country level.  Headquarters needed to give country teams the freedom to implement — and harmonize — a number of services at the country level, he said in that respect.  It seemed logical that agencies should be able to outsource their business services to a common centre “at cost”.  An effective monitoring system was needed on the implementation of what had been recommended in the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review, he said.


In brief concluding remarks, Mr. LIMA said that he was glad that the current session had allowed for a genuine exchange of experiences with “Delivering as One”.  He hoped that all present would take to heart the need to follow-up on the session’s discussions.  Mr. KACOU added that the experiences of pilot countries should not be in vain; efforts towards harmonization must become systemic in order to deliver for the good of countries and peoples.  Meanwhile, Mr. SCHORNICH said that efficiency gains had been remarkable, and that it would be important to continue to support change management process.  Effective funding must be allocated to that process, he said.


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For information media • not an official record