United Nations

A/52/115


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

10 April 1997

ORIGINAL:
ENGLISH


                                                     A/52/115
                                                     E/1997/47
                                                     


GENERAL ASSEMBLY                               ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL
Fifty-second session                           Substantive session of 1997
Items 101 and 120 of the                       Item 6 of the provisional
  preliminary list *                             agenda **
OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES FOR                     COORDINATION, PROGRAMME AND
  DEVELOPMENT                                    OTHER QUESTIONS
JOINT INSPECTION UNIT
                                                 ** E/1997/100.  
  * A/52/50.                                       


               Coordination of policy and programming frameworks
                  for more effective development cooperation

                         Note by the Secretary-General


     The Secretary-General has the honour to submit to the General
Assembly and the Economic and Social Council the comments of the
Administrative Committee on Coordination on the report of the Joint
Inspection Unit entitled "Coordination of policy and programming
frameworks for more effective development cooperation"
(A/51/636-E/1996/104, annex).


                                     ANNEX

             Comments of the Administrative Committee on Coordination
             on the report of the Joint Inspection Unit entitled
             "Coordination of policy and programming frameworks for
               more effective development cooperation"


                               I.  INTRODUCTION

1.   As indicated by the Inspector in the introduction to the study,
the main purpose of the report is to contribute to the ongoing efforts
by Member States to rationalize the operations of the complex network
of multilateral development cooperation institutions in order to
ensure optimum efficiency, integrated approaches and lower overhead
costs in their support of developing countries.  The Inspector has
based the report on the premise that one way of achieving that
objective is to integrate or harmonize to the extent possible the
numerous policy and programming institutional formats, mechanisms or
frames of reference, defined in the study as "frameworks", which are
used by organizations and the donor community to formulate, implement
and evaluate their development cooperation policies, strategies,
programmes and projects. 

2.   On the basis of his field investigations and information received
in the process of his contacts at the headquarters of a number of
organizations, agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations
system, as well as with government officials in developing countries,
and the review of current policy frameworks established by the General
Assembly, the Inspector supports the view that, against the background
of the contracting volume of official development assistance and the
resource crisis prevailing throughout the United Nations system, there
is an urgent need for more systematic coordination of the
organizations' development policies and programmes, and the integrated
channelling of catalytic resources towards high-priority needs of
recipient countries.  The author of the study has made a number of
recommendations addressed to the organizations of the United Nations
system.  Governments of donor and recipient countries and,
inter-governmental bodies that are aimed at enhancing coordination of
international development cooperation at the national, regional and
global levels.  Some specific recommendations relate to the
system-wide coordination and oversight functions of the Economic and
Social Council, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the
Charter of the United Nations, in the conduct of international
development cooperation.


                             II.  GENERAL COMMENTS

3.   The Administrative Committee on Coordination agrees with the
Inspector that in an environment of scarce financial resources, when
no one can afford to duplicate activities undertaken by different
parts of the system, the issue of better coordination is of great
importance.  Consequently, the United Nations has been engaged in far-
reaching reform to that effect for some time.  While the report's main
focus is on policy and programming frameworks, it also covers a number
of related aspects.  The substance of the report deals in particular
with funds and programmes of the United Nations development system,
such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United
Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund
(UNFPA) or the World Food Programme (WFP) that operate within specific
country or inter-country frameworks.

4.   Thus, while dealing with relevant issues relating to coordination
and harmonization of operational activities, the report could have
addressed the larger issue of aid coordination in greater depth. 
Moreover, since the assistance provided from other multilateral and
bilateral sources often exceeds by far the volume of the assistance
provided through the United Nations system, the report also needed to
address that question in greater depth as well.

5.   While the report provides an overview and some assessment of the
roles and responsibilities of the various development partners
involved and of the major instruments developed by the system, it
essentially covers familiar ground.  The suggestion that the linkage
between field realities and global actions can be tenuous and that the
implementation of policy directives requires persistent action at
various levels is a well-known fact that is being addressed through
extensive use of training workshops, seminars and other modalities to
link all levels of the system.

6.   Members of the Administrative Committee on Coordination agree with
the emphasis on the lead role of Governments, which have the main
responsibility for the coordination of all external inputs in support
of national development.  The report rightly indicates a number of
areas that are of common concern to the United Nations system.  In
particular, the multiplicity of programming procedures imposes a
considerable burden on Governments.  In that context, the report
correctly observes that countries having greater needs for assistance,
such as the least developed countries, are particularly affected,
because of their limited capacity, by the variety of programming
policies and procedures, which should, therefore, be streamlined.

7.   While the Committee agrees with the general thrust of the
conclusions and recommendations and with the Inspector's view that
more should be done to improve coordination of the development
activities of the United Nations system, it also mentions that the
report suffers from a number of shortcomings that diminish its value.

8.   In this connection, the Administrative Committee on Coordination
notes that the report covers issues in broad areas that have already
received considerable attention by the United Nations system, in
particular, through the triennial policy reviews by the General
Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.  Moreover, while the
subject of the report is important and relevant, its general thrust is
primarily to exhort concerned organizations to implement the known
provisions of General Assembly resolution 50/120 of 20 December 1995
and other legislation.   The findings and recommendations of the
report are thus hardly new and many could be found in earlier Joint
Inspection Unit reports, in reports of the Secretary-General to the
Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly and ensuing
resolutions, as well as in the numerous proposals submitted to working
groups of the Assembly on the reform of the United Nations.  They are
also being addressed at the inter-agency level, more particularly in
the Administrative Committee on Coordination and in the Consultative
Committee on Programme and Operational Questions, the Joint
Consultative Group on Policy and so on.  It would thus have been more
helpful to identify best practices and other practical elements to
facilitate implementation at the country level of those established
policies.

9.   Unfortunately, the report does not take sufficient account of
recent developments in the areas under consideration.  Moreover, by
moving in a general way between various levels - the country, the
region, the United Nations system, the intergovernmental process - the
report makes insufficient distinctions between operational activities
at those levels, and therefore sometimes offers an oversimplified
analysis that leads to conclusions and recommendations that, while
well intentioned, either have been firmly rejected by Governments
outside operational realities or are, in fact, already in the process
of being implemented.

10.  Consequently, the Administrative Committee on Coordination would
like to note that a number of proposals contained in the text of the
report, as well as in the recommendations, have been overtaken by
events and do not need further comment at the present time.

11.  Some members of the Administrative Committee expressed their
concern that their preliminary comments on section V of the draft
report had not been taken into consideration by the Inspector, which,
in their view, had weakened the usefulness of the recommendations
made.


                       III.  COMMENTS ON RECOMMENDATIONS

Recommendation 1.  Country strategy note (paras. 56 and 57)

         (a)   Host Governments should, with the assistance of resident
     coordinators as needed, ensure that the Country Strategy Note
     (CSN) process is used effectively and consistently by all external
     development partners for the integrated programming and
     implementation of their inputs in conformity with the programme
     approach guidelines;

         (b)   The CSN framework should be encouraged in all countries,
     with significant involvement of the United Nations system and
     other major donors, and it should replace or subsume other
     multisectoral programming frameworks at the country level in order
     to reduce the cost, frequency and workloads entailed in
     overlapping country programming exercises; more specific sectoral
     programmes may be prepared on the basis of the CSN;

         (c)   Subject to (a) and (b) above, countries with significant
     structural adjustment programmes financed by the multilateral
     financial institutions in the context of their policy framework
     papers (PFP), may either dispense with the CSN or design it to
     support the efficient implementation of such programmes to enhance
     the prospects of their success and impact.  In that event, the CSN
     could have the same time-frame as the PFP;

         (d)   The resident coordinators should fully implement relevant
     Consultative Committee on Programme and Operational Questions
     guidelines regarding agencies without country representation by
     ensuring their technical contributions to the CSN process;

         (e)   The Administrative Committee on Coordination should
     update the policy and operational parameters for the preparation,
     design and implementation of the CSN, incorporating, as
     appropriate, the observations and new elements outlined in
     paragraph 67 herein;

         (f)   The development cooperation report prepared by the
     resident coordinators could be used to monitor and report on
     annual progress in the implementation of the CSN where applicable.

12.  Members of the Administrative Committee on Coordination support
the proposal contained in recommendation 1 that Governments should
make effective and consistent use of the instruments developed by the
United Nations system, such as the country strategy note (CSN), to
facilitate integrated programming and implementation of development
activities and of the services available through the United Nations
system.  These should include the inputs made by the United Nations
agencies at all levels:  country, regional, subregional and
headquarters.

13.  The Administrative Committee on Coordination notes with regret
that this recommendation blurs the distinction between the CSN and
programming.  Thus, the report suggests (para. 61), that the CSN may
replace other major programming exercises, while the CSN is not a
programming exercise:  although it identifies strategic lines and
orientations, it does not involve operational programming.  On the
other hand, the report suggests that recipient Governments may decide
to use the CSN instead of other programming frameworks.  This idea
would need to be very carefully reviewed against existing mandates and
operational requirements.

14.  Specifically with regard to recommendation 1 (b), on improving the
CSN process, the Inspector appears to miss the point of the CSN,
viewing it as something that can replace or subsume other programming
frameworks.  It should be noted, that as a voluntary initiative of
recipient countries (General Assembly resolution 50/120, para. 17),
the CSN was never intended to replace programming frameworks, but to
provide a conceptual and strategic framework for all operational
activities of the United Nations system.  Since not all countries have
agreed to CSNs, and governing bodies of individual funds require
separate detailed frameworks, the CSN would not be able to take their
place.

15.  Members of the Administrative Committee on Coordination accept
that the framework for United Nations system inputs is the national
development plan or similar national priority-setting document. 
Therefore, the CSN, where adopted by the Government, is based on the
national development plan, which includes programmes to be supported
from all sources of funds, domestic and external.

16.  The report amplifies and supplements the principles and guidance
elements for preparation of the CSN as the principal instrument of
achieving coherence in, and coordination of development cooperation
initiatives.  The CSN, drawing upon the participation of all concerned
partners in development, should facilitate efficient programming and
delivery of assistance, including that for capacity-building.  The
Administrative Committee agrees that the approach to country-level
coordination of development cooperation should be collegial.

17.  It is the view of the Administrative Committee that the
recommendation contained in subparagraph 1 (e), on updating the CSN
parameters, is well taken by the author.  The question is being
reviewed at inter-agency level through the  Consultative Committee on
Programme and Operational Questions and the triennial policy review.

18.  The Administrative Committee on Coordination notes that some
improvements in the preparatory process of the CSN are being
considered, inter alia, to enable regional commissions to provide a
regional dimension to the efforts exerted by the resident
coordinators, which should also lead to strengthened linkages between
the activities at the regional and national levels.  


Recommendation 2.  Periodic evaluation of policy and programming frameworks
                   (paras. 11-22)

         Each organization should periodically evaluate its technical
     assistance policy and programming framework(s) to establish their
     cost-benefits for the host countries and for the organizations
     themselves, as well as their consistency with the CSN process,
     programme approach and resource mobilization potential.

19.  The Administrative Committee on Coordination in general welcomes
the proposal contained in recommendation 2 that each organization
should  periodically evaluate its technical assistance policy and
programming framework(s) to ascertain their costs and benefits.  The
modality of doing this should be left to the concerned organizations. 
Moreover, it is important that such evaluations help strengthen the
CSN process over time and also help make the development interventions
synergistic, cost-effective and more focused.

20.  While endorsing the recommendation, members of the Administrative
Committee attach particular importance to the efforts of Governments
to increase their capacity to coordinate development activities.  It
would seem, therefore, necessary to link evaluations of United Nations
technical assistance to the absorptive capacity of the host Government
and to its ability to manage and deliver that assistance on an ongoing
basis, considering that national execution is the norm for
implementation of United Nations technical assistance.  In other
words, the question of national ownership must be seen as the
corollary of the evaluation of the technical assistance policy and
programming frameworks.

21.  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has stated that the
recommendation concerning the evaluation of the country programme
frameworks was found not to be useful for the Agency and it has issued
a separate report on the matter. 1/ 


Recommendation 3.  System-wide standard formats for development cooperation
                   (para. 67)

         (a)   Recognizing the limited implementation to date of
     existing General Assembly directives in this area, the
     Administrative Committee on Coordination should intensify its
     efforts to achieve system-wide standard formats for field data
     collection, situation analysis or development needs assessments,
     reporting cycles, evaluation and accountability requirements in
     order to facilitate joint programming and implementation in
     furtherance of the programme approach and the CSN process;

         (b)   Considering the very general character of existing
     Consultative Committee on Programme and Operational Questions
     guidelines on the resident coordinator system, the Administrative
     Committee on Coordination should formulate and agree upon a
     standard set of more specific and binding administrative
     instructions to be issued by each executive head to his/her field
     representatives requiring their active and consistent support for
     the resident coordinator system, as an integral part of their job
     descriptions.


Recommendation 4.  Inter-agency development information facility (data
                   bank) in the resident coordinator's office
                   (paras. 54 and 55)

         In the perspective of recommendation 3 above, and in order to
     integrate efficiently the existing separate information systems of
     the organizations at the country level, an inter-agency
     development information facility (data bank) for each developing
     country should be established in the resident coordinator's office
     using a part of the resources earmarked by the United Nations
     Development Programme (UNDP) Executive Board for strengthening the
     resident coordinator system.  The proposed information facility
     (data bank) should be fed and maintained by all the organizations
     in their respective areas of competence and should be accessible,
     through electronic media, especially the Internet where possible,
     to the international development community, locally and
     externally.

22.  As can be seen from the context of both recommendations, they make
reference to common data banks and data collection at the field level,
although the two sets of recommendations do not seem to be related to
each other, and, in the view of the Administrative Committee on
Coordination, the links between the two should have been clarified in
order to establish their operational relevance.

23.  With regard to recommendation 3, members of the Administrative
Committee agree in principle with the general idea of the proposal
contained therein.  They agree that the system-wide standardization of
data collection, situation analysis and needs assessment is a good
idea, provided that any standard formats result from an inventory of
best practice within the field of development cooperation and are
actively and universally adopted and implemented.  Some initial steps
were taken to test how best to implement the concept with a particular
focus at the present stage on cooperation among the funds and
programmes of the United Nations.

24.  Members of the Committee note that recommendation 4 does not
contain any new ideas, since it has been widely recognized that the
programme approach requires inter-agency collaboration in the field at
various stages of programme development and implementation.  This is
the essence of the current Administrative Committee on Coordination
guidelines on the programme approach.  To the extent that the Joint
Inspection Unit's report encourages collaborative programming and
implementation based on the programme approach concept and the
framework provided by the CSN, this is consistent with relevant
intergovernmental directives and Administrative Committee on
Coordination agreements.  An essential basis for collaborative
programming and implementation is a common data bank.

25.  With regard to paragraph 54 of the report, which has served as a
basis for recommendation 4, some members of the Administrative
Committee point out that the establishment of a common database is
being implemented and guidelines are under preparation in the subgroup
on harmonization of policies and procedures of the Joint Consultative
Group on Policy.  To date, over 80 countries have expressed interest
in proceeding with the development of common data banks.  The specific
objective is to achieve a common country assessment by the members of
the Joint Consultative Group of which a common database is a
centrepiece.  Efforts are being initiated to include other parts of
the system in the exercise.  In that connection, it is necessary to
ensure that the limited resources that are available for development
cooperation activities are not dissipated through the establishment of
new systems, which may duplicate the important work that is already
being carried out by the organizations of the United Nations
development system.   There is therefore a need to assess
realistically the technical, cost and other resource implications for
establishing and maintaining the databases.  Thought should also be
given further to assist interested Governments in establishing such a
database that would directly enhance their capacity to exercise their
coordination role.

26.  On a related point, the Inspector seems not to be aware that the
funds allocated by UNDP to the resident coordinator function would be
insufficient to cover the basic assignment of the resident
coordinator, let alone leave some over for other activities, as
suggested by the report.


Recommendation 5.  Field-level coordination committees (paras. 48-51)

         In addition to the meetings of all external development
     partners, country-level coordination committees, sectoral
     subcommittees and thematic working groups and task forces should
     be used more systematically, with the necessary technical inputs
     of headquarters, regional and/or subregional offices, as
     mechanisms for policy dialogue and for the integrated development
     of country and sectoral programmes.

27.  It should be noted that this recommendation is essentially a
repetition of paragraphs 36 and 41 of General Assembly resolution
50/120 regarding field-level coordination committees, which are in the
process of being implemented in accordance with the management process
on the subject submitted to the substantive session of 1996 of the
Economic and Social Council.  Moreover, such cooperation at the field
level is already operational in several countries, notably in the
preparation of donors' round-table conferences, and in responding to
thematic issues.


Recommendation 6.  Regional and subregional coordination (paras. 68-75)

         (a)   Cooperation between the regional commissions and other
     organizations of the system should continue to include the mutual
     review of draft regional strategies and programmes of cooperation;

         (b)   In order to enhance the national ownership of inter-
     country programmes, the organizations should establish strong
     linkages between country and inter-country programmes, inter alia,
     by supporting institutional networks within each economic
     cooperation grouping in the different regions, and by promoting
     the implementation of the decisions of such groupings at the
     country level in the context of the CSN and country programming
     processes;

         (c)   All the organizations should endeavour to harmonize their
     regional programme cycles in consultation and coordination with
     the regional commissions.

28.  In supporting recommendation 6, members of the Administrative
Committee on Coordination underline that they maintain close working
relationships with international, regional/subregional and national
organizations and research institutions for consultation and
coordination of development activities.  At the same time, they would
like to note that recommendation 6 refers to strategies and programmes
of cooperation at regional and subregional levels that do not seem to
exist or still have a very limited diffusion.  In fact, the reason for
including a regional dimension in General Assembly resolution 50/120
was specifically aimed at expanding such a dimension.  This provision
of the resolution is in the process of being implemented for review by
the Economic and Social Council in July 1997.

29.  The provisions of subparagraph (a) are being effected through such
mechanisms as the Regional Inter-agency Committee for Asia and the
Pacific under the chairmanship of the Executive Secretary of the
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and
its subsidiary committees, which discuss specific programme
cooperation and coordination issues to follow-up on regional
strategies and plans or programmes of action.

30.  As for subparagraph (b), annual consultations are carried out
between the Executive Secretary of ESCAP and the heads of subregional
intergovernmental bodies, namely, the Association of South-East Asian
Nations, the Economic Cooperation Organization, the South Pacific
Commission and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation,
to discuss measures for cooperation in identified areas such as trade
and investment, transport and communications, human resource
development and energy.

31.  With regard to subparagraph (c), it is important to recall that
not all organizations operate at a regional level and that those which
do are already addressing the points raised by the recommendation. 
UNDP, for example, has established a bilateral working group with the
regional commissions, chaired by the Associate Administrator.

32.  In the view of the members of the Administrative Committee on
Coordination, it would be useful if the regional programme cycles of
all organizations of the United Nations development system, including
the regional commissions, could be harmonized.  What is important is
to ensure that the scarce resources that are available to the system
are not thinly spread.  In that regard, the view contained in
paragraph 75 of the report, namely, that the regional commissions
serve as the main development forum for reviewing and interconnecting
the different sectoral and cross-sectoral regional programmes of the
organizations, in draft form, prior to approval by the governing
bodies, deserves further consideration.  The current situation in
which individual governing bodies determine their own sets of
priorities for the same region, have resulted in inconsistencies and
caused confusion; it also hampers positive action by the United
Nations development system as a whole.  A consistent set of priorities
in development cooperation on the part of Member States, coupled with
enhanced coordination and genuine cooperation among the organizations
of the United Nations development system, would enhance efficiency and
the cost-effectiveness of development cooperation and would contribute
to achieving results that truly benefit the developing countries.

33.  Thus, for instance, the Economic and Social Commission for Western
Asia (ESCWA), pursuant to recent calls by the Secretary-General for
coordination of activities of the United Nations system at the
regional level, initiated consultations with regional offices of the
United Nations entities based in and outside Jordan, which has led to
the establishment of a regional inter-agency coordination group.


Recommendation 7.  Role of the Economic and Social Council (paras.76-83)

         (a)   The Economic and Social Council should further strengthen
     its coordination and oversight functions under the Charter, by
     exploring, as a first step, the practical feasibility of
     instituting/expanding joint sessions, together with a common
     agenda, of the executive boards of the United Nations programmes
     and funds for the consideration of specific coordination issues,
     including, inter alia, CSNs and country programmes, and the
     specialized agencies may be invited to participate in such
     sessions as they may deem appropriate;

         (b)   The next step could be the creation of a unified or
     single executive board as a committee of the Council while
     preserving the identities and mandates of the programmes and funds
     concerned;

         (c)   In connection with (a) and (b) above, the Council may
     request the relevant United Nations programmes and funds to
     intensify efforts to achieve a standard format for the formulation
     and presentation of their development cooperation programmes and
     related budgets, in order to strengthen cross-organizational
     linkages and coherence;

         (d)   Furthermore, the Council should assign priority to
     seeking system-wide conformity with General Assembly resolutions
     relating to coordination issues in the economic, social and
     related sectors through specific recommendations thereon to the
     governing bodies of the specialized agencies.

34.  The Administrative Committee on Coordination would like to point
out that the provisions of recommendation 7 enter into political areas
that are the domain of Member States, which recently agreed to General
Assembly resolution 50/227 of 24 May 1996, as a first step in reforms
at this level.

35.  Members of the Administrative Committee note that the funds and
programmes of the United Nations system have made considerable
progress, in particular, on joint sessions of their governing bodies
and also on common reporting formats to the Economic and Social
Council, as suggested in recommendation 7.  Moreover, the proposals
contained in subparagraphs (b) and (c) refer to actions that have
already been taken by the Council.

36.  While recommendation 7 is addressed primarily to the Economic and
Social Council and United Nations programmes and funds, there are
specific suggestions in the text of the report that relate to the
specialized agencies.  Certain Committee members therefore point out
that they have a broad mandate in technical and normative fields
beyond the scope of the operational activities that are of direct
interest to the Council.

37.  Some members of the Committee have strong reservations as to the
feasibility of joint meetings and, as the next step, a move towards a
single executive board under the Council to govern the United Nations
programmes and funds, and the proposal concerning joint reporting by
the executive boards, since, in their view, such recommendations have
considerable implications for the funds and programmes and their
governing bodies.  The specific questions raised in that regard are,
for instance, whether all the 36 members of the WFP Board should come
to New York to participate in a joint session of the UNDP/United
Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF Boards, or whether missions
of 72 members of the boards of the New York-based funds and programmes
to WFP headquarters in Rome would be required.  Serious doubts
concerning joint reporting are based on the need to clear those
reports by all the boards of the funds and programmes, which would
need four separate sessions of the respective governing bodies.

38.  The Administrative Committee on Coordination looks forward to
further guidance from the General Assembly and the Economic and Social
Council in the future concerning all the proposals contained in
recommendation 7 of the Joint Inspection Unit report.


                                     Notes

     1/ IAEA/SER/96/01.


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