VI. United Nations research and training institutions
132. Research and training are important dimensions of any modern organization. For the United Nations, facing numerous challenges on a broad canvas of issues, the ability to provide in-depth independent and balanced research findings, as well as appropriate training for its staff and for Member States, is indispensable. The various United Nations training and research institutions have evolved in an ad hoc manner. Over the past 45 years, the institutes have emerged with their own agendas and clients, and with various competing programmes. The institutes are at present rather scattered and de-linked from one another. Their impact on the system is thus fragmented and compartmentalized, the whole being much less than the sum of the parts.
133. Currently, the scope of United Nations research and training institutes ranges from economic and social development to disarmament and security matters to gender issues to crime prevention and criminal justice. The institutes involved in these areas are autonomous entities that have been established by mandates from, and report to, the General Assembly (United Nations University (UNU), United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), United Nations System Staff College ), by the Economic and Social Council (INSTRAW, United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute ), and by the Secretary-General (United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) ).
134. Priorities and activities of these institutes are directed by their respective governing bodies. An analysis of their mandates and activities reveals common problems, mainly related to deficiencies in coordination and cooperation efforts, lack of rationalization, ambiguity in the lines of accountability, and lack of the effective impact evaluation essential to establishing priorities in their work plans. In reviewing their mandates, it is important to examine whether full account has been taken of the work already done and the potential for making new contributions responsive to the needs of all Member States.
135. Coordination of the research and training institutes and cooperation between them and other United Nations entities should be improved in order to avoid duplication and to ensure the most efficient use of funds. Such strengthened coordination, as well as active involvement with the international academic community, would greatly increase the relevance and visibility of these institutions. The existing networking mechanism should be strengthened so as to build a solid knowledge network. Taking into account the geographic spread of United Nations entities and research and training institutions, coordination would be facilitated by effective Internet-based networks and electronic discussion forums.
136. An accountability system is needed, including a periodic review, through regular assessment processes and surveys, of the institutes' impact on and relevance to the requirements of Member States and the Organization as a whole. This would help to ensure that the research and training done is relevant to the work of policy makers. The establishment of a common policy on United Nations research and training institutes would help to streamline decision-making and oversight, increase efficiency, remove inconsistencies and ensure the independence of the institutes. Furthermore, in order to avoid overlaps and duplication of work, specific projects should be linked to a portfolio of agreed areas of research approved both by the principal organs and by the governing bodies. In presenting their proposed area of work these institutions should place before their governing bodies a detailed list of the projects carried out by all United Nations institutes so that an informed decision can be made and duplication of effort avoided.
137. To facilitate coherent oversight and evaluation of work, the reporting architecture could also be revised. Currently, the institutes' activities are discussed individually and within different organs. As a way to increase transparency and strengthen intergovernmental coordination, consideration of the reports of UNU, UNITAR and the Staff College could be centralized under one agenda item in the Economic and Social Council on a biennial basis. For my part, I will be reviewing the mandate of UNRISD, including its relevance and effectiveness.
138. It is time to consider the consolidation of these institutes into one United Nations educational research and training system that would facilitate the rationalization of their structures and operations and maximize their contribution to the United Nations system. A United Nations research and training system would permit a unifying vision and an overarching set of strategic directions for the various institutions. It would also be consistent with the broader thrust of management reform, and would produce operational and management gains.
139. The collective system of research and training institutes should aspire to be the intellectual engine for the United Nations policymaking and operational activities.
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