United Nations


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

22 December 1995


Fiftieth session
Agenda item 12


Review and assessment of efforts to restructure the
regional dimension of United Nations economic and 
social activities

Note by the Secretary-General

  The  Secretary-General has the  honour to  submit to  the General Assembly
his comments  on the report  of the Joint  Inspection Unit  entitled "Review
and assessment  of efforts to restructure  the regional  dimension of United
Nations economic and social activities" (A/49/423, annex-JIU/REP/94/6).

95-41552 (E)   040196/...

1.   The report  of the  Joint Inspection  Unit (JIU)  entitled "Review  and
assessment  of  efforts  to  restructure the  regional  dimension  of United
Nations economic and social  activities" is a further  study by JIU  related
to the implementation of General Assembly  resolution 32/197 of 20  December
1977,  on restructuring  of the  economic and social  sectors of  the United
Nations, as  well as of  a number of  subsequent resolutions  adopted by the
Assembly and  other legislative  bodies  on  this subject.   The  report  is
intended  as a  continuation of  the  ongoing  debates on  restructuring and
revitalization of the United Nations economic  and social sectors and should
be  considered in  conjunction with  parallel efforts for  strengthening the
position of  regional commissions as the  main centres at the regional level
for  economic  and  social  development,   and  the  restructuring   of  the
Secretariat undertaken by the Secretary-General in recent years.

2.  The Secretary-General welcomes this  initiative of JIU, which endeavours
both  to address the future  role and activities of the regional commissions
and  to  highlight the  desirable  division  of  responsibilities among  the
respective organizational entities  of the United Nations, current  problems
in carrying forward decentralization and coordination,  as well as issues of
programme and administrative  management.  He regards the Inspector's report
as a useful contribution  to gaining further insight  into the way  in which
the regional commissions are realizing their multidisciplinary potential  in
response   to  the  development   needs  of   Member  States,   and  to  the
consideration  of  measures for  action  by  Member  States  and the  United
Nations that could give further impetus to the restructuring process.

3.     The  present  comments   should  be  read  in  conjunction  with  the
SecretaryGeneral's  report  on  the  restructuring  of  the  United  Nations
Secretariat that  was submitted to the  General Assembly  at its forty-ninth
session (A/49/336, sect. III.B).

4.  Bearing the  above in mind, the Secretary-General wishes to provide  the
following comments  on the report  in general and on  the recommendations of
the JIU, in particular.


5.  The  Secretary-General regards the report  as a valuable contribution to
the discussions  on restructuring  the economic  and social  sectors of  the
United  Nations and  to making  the work  of  the regional  commissions more
effective and  efficient.   It  addresses  the  issue of  restructuring  the
Secretariat from the  perspective of decentralization of certain  activities
to the  regional level.   In  this regard, it  should be  recalled that  the
questions of decentralization and strengthening of the regional  commissions
have  been  discussed extensively  over  the  years,  as  recognized in  the
Inspector's  report.  Indeed, one of the contributions  of the present study
is to provide a synopsis of previous JIU reports on decentralization,  field
representation  and others and a  synopsis of various actions taken over the
years relevant to decentralization.
  6.  As was stressed by the Secretary-General  in his comments on  previous
JIU  reports on the  subject, the  purpose of  any decentralization measures
should be  to  increase efficiency  and  effectiveness  in the  delivery  of
programmes.  Decentralization  can  further  these  objectives  by  bringing
services  closer  to  their  beneficiaries,  thereby  ensuring  fast,  cost-
effective   and   knowledgeable    responses   to   problems.       However,
decentralization alone is not sufficient to  achieve improved delivery.   In
particular, the  danger of  dispersal of  activities and  of bringing  about
fragmentation of resources and  functions has to be avoided.  Therefore,  it
is important  to base decisions on  decentralizing specific  activities on a
careful  review  of the  specific needs  to  be  met and  the nature  of the
services  required,  the  volume  of  resources  available  or   potentially
available,  the capabilities  of the  organizational entities  to which  the
responsibilities  are to be  devolved, as  well as  considerations of global
consistency.   In  other  words, decentralization  of functions,  like other
management actions,  should be  carefully assessed  and designed.   In  that

regard,  the Secretary-General  shares the view of  the Inspector concerning
the need  to enhance the Secretariat's  capacity for  strategic analysis and
planning on the above issues.   Similarly, the Secretary-General agrees with
the  emphasis  placed  by  the  Inspector  on  the  concept  of  comparative
advantage  in  improving  the  division  of  labour  between  the   regional
commissions and other  Secretariat entities and on the need for the regional
commissions to  concentrate their resources  increasingly on priority  areas
where they could make a unique and significant contribution.


RECOMMENDATION 1.  Member States may  wish (a) to reaffirm  their conviction
of the  urgent need to give  further impetus to  the slowed-down process  of
restructuring and revitalization of the economic  and social sectors of  the
United  Nations;  and  (b)  to  give  the  Secretary-General  more  specific
guidance   for  restructuring  the   economic  and   social  parts   of  its
Secretariat.  They may also wish to take  more coordinated positions in  the
legislative bodies of United Nations system  organizations on such issues as
roles  and programmes of the  respective economic and social  bodies as well
as on restructuring and decentralization.

RECOMMENDATION 2.  Member  States may wish to  give careful consideration to
establishing a  strategic analysis  and strategic  planning facility in  the
United  Nations  Secretariat  to  supply  the  Secretary-General  with   the
necessary substantive input into his strategic thinking and  decision-making
process.    This  facility should  not  replace  the  substantive  technical
thinking  and planning that other departments are providing, but concentrate
on general strategic  organizational and management aspects from the overall
perspective of the United Nations.

RECOMMENDATION 3.  In accordance with the demand of the General Assembly  to
establish  a  transparent   and  effective  system  of  accountability   and
responsibility  in  the United  Nations  Secretariat  and  in  the light  of
failures over  the last several years  to make substantial  progress in this
important  area,  the Inspector  believes  it  is  critical  to designate  a
competent  senior official with extensive managerial experience, who will be
a  focal  point and  held accountable  for  the firm  implementation of  the
current restructuring process.

RECOMMENDATION 4.  The Secretary-General is requested  to prepare as soon as
possible a specific report which, inter alia, should:   (a) clearly describe
functions  and  responsibilities of  the  various  United  Nations  entities
operating  in the  economic and  social  fields;  (b) contain  a substantive
analysis  as   to  their  complementarity;   (c)  describe  mechanisms   for
coordinating  their  activities;  and (d)  contain  the  Secretary-General's
ideas  concerning the restructuring  measures he  intends to  propose in the
short and medium terms.

RECOMMENDATION  5.     The  activities  of   the  commissions  in   regional
cooperation should  take into account  the importance  of the work  of other
United Nations  regional agencies as well  as that  of global organizations,
(e.g. multilateral  financial institutions), bilateral  donors, and of  non-
governmental organizations  active  in the  same  or  adjacent areas.    The
regional  commissions  should  make  an  inventory  of  these  organizations
together  with an analysis  of their  areas of competence  and programmes of
work in order (a) to determine the areas  where the regional commissions can
be most effective; (b)  to establish closer cooperation  with them; and  (c)
to ensure complementarity of action.

RECOMMENDATION 6.  Within the context  of implementation of General Assembly
resolution 46/235 and  Economic and Social  Council resolution  1992/43, the
Secretary-General is requested  to undertake discussions with the  executive
heads of the United  Nations funding agencies  on the most rational use  and
financing  of  the regional  commissions'  operational  capacity.    Greater
involvement of  the regional commissions  as executing  agencies of regional

and  subregional projects,  and  national projects  with  specific  regional
focus, financed by these agencies should be seriously considered.

RECOMMENDATION  7.   Member  States, through  their  representatives  in the
legislative bodies of organizations of the  United Nations system, may  wish
to  accord the  necessary  support to  the  Secretary-General's  initiatives
aimed at  strengthening the  coordinating and  team leadership  role of  the
regional commissions.

7.    It  should  be   noted  that  as  part  of  his  overall  efforts   at
revitalization  and restructuring  in  the economic  and social  fields, the
Secretary-General has taken  a number of  steps that  are in  line with  the
main  thrust  of the  recommendations  contained  in  the report.    In this
regard, the Secretary-General has been guided  by the provisions of  General
Assembly resolution  47/212 B, which stressed that the further restructuring
should  entail   the  decentralization   of  activities   to  the   regional
commissions and that such decentralization, in  its turn, should be  carried
out on the basis of clearly identified relative advantages.

8.   With respect  to closer  cooperation and  a better  division of  labour
between  the  regional commissions  and  the  Secretariat  departments,  the
related  issues  have  been taken  up at  the  meetings of  senior officials
instituted by the Secretary-General on a regular basis.

 9.    An  interdepartmental  task  force  was  established  by  the  senior
officials'    meeting   in   February   1995,    which   reviewed   possible
decentralization  measures   to  strengthen  the  regional  commissions  and
identified  the areas  for decentralization,  which related, inter  alia, to
the  programmes  on  energy  and  natural  resources,  including  water  and
minerals,  social  development,  population,  poverty alleviation,  economic
cooperation among  developing countries,  statistics, economic  analysis and
marine affairs.  The Secretary-General is  keeping the question of improving
the division  of labour  within the  Organization in these  and other  areas
under  consideration,  and  the  results  will  be  reflected in  subsequent
programme budgets.

10.    Furthermore, steps  have  also  been  taken  to improve  inter-agency
cooperation and  coordination at  the regional level.   In his  letter of  4
March  1994  addressed  to  members   of  the  Administrative  Committee  on
Coordination (ACC), the Secretary-General,  in his capacity  as Chairman  of
the  Administrative   Committee  on  Coordination,  proposed  modalities  to
initiate  a  dialogue  on  the  requirements  and  conditions  for  improved
coordination at  the regional  level.   The aim  of this  initiative was  to
exploit  the  collective  capacity  of  the   system  to  mobilize  regional
resources in support  of global development, and the existing  opportunities
for  regional approaches and solutions to the development problems addressed
by the United Nations system.

11.  This initiative of the  Secretary-General elicited a positive  response
from the  heads of agencies, as  well as from  the executive secretaries  of
the  regional commissions.    Since  March  1994, a  number  of meetings  or
"regional ACCs"  have been  convened by  the regional  commissions with  the
participation  of organizations and  agencies of  the United  Nations system
active in the respective  regions.  These meetings  provide a forum  for the
harmonization  of approaches and  the exchange of information and experience
on  regional level programmes  and activities,  with a  view to facilitating
cooperative actions and rationalizing the use of resources.

12.   The executive secretaries  have proposed comprehensive,  all-embracing
arrangements for consultations and cooperation at  the regional level, to be
backed  by appropriate  institutional  structures.   They  also  recommended
that,  in line  with General  Assembly  resolution  47/199 on  the triennial
policy review  of operational activities for  development within the  United
Nations system,  the resident  coordinators should  maintain close  contacts
with the regional  commissions and regional coordination arrangements in the
process  of formulating  and  implementing  country  strategy notes.    With

regard  to the division  of labour  and access to resources  relating to the
regional  dimensions   of  development,  the   executive  secretaries   have
suggested that these aspects should be  discussed within ACC with particular
focus  on the  questions  of  (a)  interrelationship  between  the  regional
dimensions  of  development and  national  development  activities;  (b)  an
assessment of the  impact of the Resident Coordinator system on the regional
dimension of development, including  an appraisal of  national execution and
the successor arrangements for agency support  costs within the framework of
regional development activities; and (c) access  to resources for funding of
regional  development  activities,  including  a  review  of  criteria   for
regional indicative planning  figures and their distribution by  substantive
and geographical priorities.

 13.   Another proposal concerns  the convening of  a general  discussion on
the  regional  approach,  which  is  promoted  by  the  regional  offices of
participating  agencies,  as  well  as  by  other  regional and  subregional
groupings.  Such  a discussion  could focus on  the following three  themes:
(a) the distinction between the  issues and activities that require a global
approach   and   those  which   require   a   regional  approach   and   the
interrelationships between  the two  levels; (b)  the specific  role of  the
regional  offices  of  the  United  Nations  agencies  and  of  the regional
commissions in the preparation for and  the follow-up to global conferences;
and (c)  the forms  of cooperation  between the  regional offices of  United
Nations  organizations  and  agencies  and  other  regional  or  subregional
groupings.   In the view of the executive  secretaries, the main conclusions
of such  debates, followed  by some  kind of  interregional meetings,  could
feed into  the  ongoing reflection  on  fostering  and streamlining  of  the
regional approach within the United Nations system.

14.  The  Secretary-General believes  that these  and other  recommendations
deserve attention and need  further study and  appropriate consideration  by
ACC and its subsidiary bodies.

15.    As  a follow-up  to  the  decision taken  at  the  meeting of  senior
officials  held  on 21  and  22  February  1995 to  enhance  cooperation and
coordination  of activities  between  the regional  commissions  and  global
programmes, a  number of  consultations have  been held  and specific  steps
have been agreed upon.

16.    Thus, for  instance,  the  Secretary-General  of  the United  Nations
Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the executive  secretaries,
following discussions, have agreed to pursue  joint programming in areas  of
common concern,  achieve a better division  of labour  and avoid duplication
in  their programmes of  work.   More specifically,  the Economic Commission
for  Europe (ECE) has  signed a  memorandum of understanding  with UNCTAD in
the field of science and technology.

17.    Likewise,  the  Administrator   of  the  United  Nations  Development
Programme  (UNDP) and the executive secretaries of  the regional commissions
have  agreed on  a number  of areas  for cooperation  between UNDP  and  the
commissions.  The agreement covered four areas:   (a) the preparation of the
UNDP sixth  programming cycle;  (b) the  establishment of  a modus  operandi
with  non-United  Nations system  partners,  including regional  development
banks;  (c)  the mobilization  of  resources  to  increase  the delivery  of
regional  programmes and projects;  and (d) collaboration on specific issues
on  a non-project basis.   Follow-up action on  each of  these areas of work
was considered  at the meeting of  the UNDP/Regional  Commissions Task Force
in May 1995.

18.  The Executive  Director of the United  Nations Population Fund  and the
executive  secretaries of the  regional commissions  have discussed the ways
and  means  of bringing  about  the  widest  possible  collaboration in  the
follow-up to  the International  Conference on  Population and  Development.
Arrangements have been worked out for the commissions to  participate in the
coordinating mechanisms, whereby one regional commission represents all  the
commissions in the coordinating mechanism set  up for the implementation  of

the Programme of Action of the Conference.

 19.  Another  example of  cooperation between  United Nations  Headquarters
and the  regional commissions is the  establishment of  the Management Board
for  Natural Resources  and Energy  within  the Department  for  Development
Support and  Management Services  (DDSMS), chaired  by the  Under-Secretary-
General,  to review progress  in the  implementation of the decentralization
measures in  the field of  natural resources and energy.   The Board, at its
meeting held  in February 1995 and attended by the  executive secretaries of
the regional  commissions, discussed the  joint projects already  elaborated
between certain commissions  and the Department  for Development Support and
Management Services which could be  launched once technical support services
(TSS-1 or TSS-2) allocations become available.

20.   At a meeting  of the executive  secretaries with the  Under-Secretary-
General,  Department  for   Economic  and  Social  Information  and   Policy
Analysis, discussions  have  taken place  on  the  Department's proposal  to
establish  centres of  excellence  in  the various  regions  comprising  the
Department and the commissions in order  to determine a better  distribution
of labour between their respective programmes.

21.    In the  context of  their  active  participation in  the work  of the
Commission  on  Sustainable  Development,  the  regional  commissions   also
closely cooperate  with the  Task Managers  established by the  Inter-agency
Committee  on Sustainable  Development  notably the  Department  for  Policy
Coordination  and  Sustainable Development  in  their  respective  areas  of
competence.   The Commission on Sustainable  Development has recognized  the
importance of  the  regional approach  to  the  effective follow-up  to  the
United  Nations Conference  on Environment  and Development  and called upon
the regional  commissions to  increase their  efforts in  support of  recent
national,  subregional,   regional   and   interregional   initiatives   for
sustainable development.

22.   These are  just some  of the  examples of  enhanced collaboration  and
restructuring   and  decentralization   of   activities  to   the   regional
commissions indicating  the progress being made  in line  with the proposals
contained in the JIU report.

23.    As  regards the  need  for  a  transparent  and  effective system  of
accountability and  responsibility in  the United  Nations Secretariat,  the
Secretary-General,  in his annual  report on  the work  of the Organization,
has  referred  to his  "management  plan", which  is  designed  to  create a
mission-driven  result-oriented   Organization,  with   specific  goals   of
enhanced performance, better productivity and increased  cost-effectiveness.
The foundation of the  management plan is  the new system of  accountability
and  responsibility  established   to  create  a  new  management   culture,
assisting  and supporting  programme  managers in  achieving  the  strategic
objectives of  the organization and in  executing legislative  mandates.  In
effect  the  new  system  of  accountability  and  responsibility   empowers
managers with a freedom to manage:  streamlining administrative  procedures,
introducing considerable  decentralization and  delegation, allowing greater
flexibility  in  the   management  of  resources  and  encouraging   greater
innovation and initiative.



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