62. Although the United Nations receives more public and media attention for its efforts in peace and security, its contributions to ideas, policy analysis and policymaking in the economic, social and environment arena stand out as among its more important achievements. The review of mandates in this broad area of activities should contribute to a more unified and coherent approach by the United Nations to the follow-up of the internationally agreed development goals, as they have emerged from the conferences and summits, including the Millennium Development Goals. While the High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence will look into how to enhance the effectiveness of the work of the United Nations in development, particularly on the ground, the review of mandates can provide tools for Member States to consider ways to further rationalize the consideration of issues within the principal organs, and improve the division of labour among them, so as to maximize policy relevance and impact.
Overlap among organs
63. The General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council have adopted a large number of resolutions on economic and social development. In recent years, to a lesser extent, the Security Council has adopted resolutions in addressing some of these issues in the context of peacekeeping and peacebuilding. In addition to the principal organs, subsidiary bodies such as the regional and functional commissions, and the governing boards of funds and programmes, all set priorities and issue mandates. Treaty bodies further contribute to the instructions received by the various departments and entities in these areas. Mandates stemming from those bodies are not pertinent to the scope of the review of mandates, as called for in the Summit Outcome. However, they significantly contribute to setting priorities and activities for development.
64. The United Nations has a record of moving boldly beyond conventional wisdom with alternative thinking and policy proposals. This reflects its multidisciplinary and multisectoral structure in economic and social intergovernmental bodies. Global conferences and treaties have had a significant influence on national and international action by setting goals and benchmarks that have influenced many national policies. As countries develop and implement national development strategies to follow up global intergovernmental agreements, there is a need to help galvanize the necessary support, encourage stronger cooperation, including South-South cooperation, monitor progress and provide policy advice. An improved division of labour among the relevant intergovernmental bodies appears increasingly necessary to effectively carry out these tasks.
65. The most appropriate intergovernmental forum for the consideration of different issues and the exercise of different functions in the economic and social area should be reviewed in this perspective, taking into account core competencies, comparative advantage, and responsibilities as designated in the Charter. The central role of the Economic and Social Council was reaffirmed at the 2005 World Summit, and it is my hope that through the ongoing reform process the Council will be successful in strengthening its role in coordination of economic and social development issues, including coordination of its subsidiary machinery.
66. A review of the work of the Economic and Social Council in substantively reviewing, guiding and monitoring the work of its functional machinery, as well as the operational funds and programmes, reveals a need for an enhanced role of the Council. For example, the Economic and Social Council was mandated by General Assembly resolution 48/162, inter alia, to review and evaluate the work of the development funds and programmes; to review the operationally relevant recommendations of the subsidiary bodies; and to monitor the division of labour and the cooperation within the bodies of the United Nations system. Resolutions 50/227 and 57/270 B have given additional coordination mandates to the Council. However, the Economic and Social Council currently does not have an effective overview of the specific mandates which are being created in the Executive Boards of the funds and programmes. Moreover, the Council has no effective overview of the work of the Secretariat and other United Nations entities, which is reviewed only partially and by sector in the commissions of the Council. In the absence of such overviews, the respective roles and work programmes of the various entities often result in some degree of overlap and blurring.
Institutional architecture for implementation
67. Despite institutional mechanisms in place both across entities and across departments to ensure unity of action, the wide array of mandates issued by various intergovernmental organs in this field has led to a very dispersed architecture and overlapping functions. While different perspectives are desirable, as for example those stemming from different regional realities, duplication should be eliminated to maximize the use of resources and their impact on the ground.
68. In the area of trade, for example, several United Nations entities perform a myriad of functions. While the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has the lead role in many of these areas, the regional commissions and other entities, including the International Trade Centre, make important contributions. There is significant room for an improved division of responsibility in the analytical work between the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UNCTAD, the regional commissions, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other funds and programmes, particularly in this area.
69. Likewise, in other macroeconomic areas and finance, there is a need to ensure synergies of work, both between United Nations entities and with the Bretton Woods institutions. While a good start has been made with the flagship publication World Economic Situation and Prospects, which brings together the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UNCTAD and the regional commissions, greater efforts need to be made for a unified view on the world economic outlook and macroeconomic policy implications. Rationalization of functions in the area of finance is therefore needed; the arrangements and work in this area need to be redefined, in particular between the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and UNCTAD, to ensure the most effective follow-up to the outcomes of the Monterrey Conference.
70. Other areas that may require attention to possible overlaps and redundancy are sustainable development and human settlements. The Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UN-Habitat, UNDP, as well as the regional commissions and the Convention secretariats are all involved in various activities in the area of sustainable development. In the environmental area in particular, world leaders at the Summit of September 2005 recognized the need for a more efficient architecture for activities and called for "a more coherent institutional framework to address this need" In this regard, a consultative process has been set up in the General Assembly. In the coming months, the General Assembly will explore the institutional architecture for the activities of the United Nations system in this field. The High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence will further look into the field of environmental activities to make complementary proposals on the interconnected areas of development, humanitarian affairs and the environment. The review overall in the area of sustainable development has to be a longer-term process which feeds into and builds on these processes.
71. Similarly, a variety of arms of the United Nations have been mandated to carry out activities in the area related to population issues. From the Summit Outcome and other mandates stemming from the General Assembly, as well as the Economic and Social Council and the Commission on Population and Development, areas of priority for the years ahead have been identified in migration issues, HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and population ageing. Where overlap exists in the work of the Secretariat, funds and programmes, a sharper division of labour, consolidation of capacities and a strategic reprioritization of work should be sought.
72. Each discrete issue area has a specific set of concerns and a unique legislative history. For example, the level at which the different kinds of mandates are implemented is one consideration that deserves attention. In reviewing mandates, Member States should see whether a mandate deserves continued consideration and, if so, whether the main focus should appropriately be at the global, regional or subregional level. In my report on implementing the decisions of the 2005 World Summit, I requested that, in order to address the range of important recommendations related to economic and social development, all relevant United Nations entities, including the regional commissions, review their priorities and programmes in the light of the Summit Outcome. The Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs and the United Nations Development Group have been coordinating this exercise using, within the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs, an analytical framework based on 11 thematic clusters. Member States may see some merit in using this framework when considering the different mandates of the various issue areas.
73. Networks of relevant departments and entities have already been established within the context of the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs to carry out the review of programmes and priorities. I will request the heads of relevant departments and entities to also help analyse mandates and provide options for possible programmatic shifts in different areas and, where appropriate, for consideration by the High-Level Panel on System-wide Coherence. In the long run, Member States may wish to request a broader analysis of mandates, building on the current mandate review exercise, by incorporating mandates originating from the subsidiary machinery, as this will be necessary to look into the work of the various funds and programmes.
74. An improved architecture for the overall reporting on the follow-up to the Millennium Declaration is needed to strengthen the policy relevance of the General Assembly and avoid redundancies, and for a major reduction in the number of reports and volume of documentation requested every year. The Economic and Social Council should draw more efficiently from the reporting work of its functional commissions. The General Assembly should build on the work of the Economic and Social Council, given the overlap between issues considered by the Second and Third Committees and, for example, the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Social Development. While reporting requirements on gender issues are addressed in section V of this report, it is worthwhile noting here that preliminary steps could be taken to streamline reporting requirements in the area of social development. These could include the immediate consolidation or transfer of various reports.
75. Reporting requirements under the three Third Committee agenda items on social development could be met through a consolidated report on social development. That report could incorporate relevant policy issues arising from the Commission on Social Development and the Economic and Social Council, including issues relating to the follow-up to the Social Summit. To obviate the need for additional separate reporting on social groups such as youth and the elderly, the Third Committee could be referred to the separate reports that are prepared for the Commission. The proposed integrated report on social development could be submitted to the Assembly every other year, as a main basis for the Assembly's consideration of social development, with the biennial flagship publication Report on the World Social Situation. For a more specific geographical scope, reference could be made to the social assessments currently prepared by regional commissions and presented to their own intergovernmental regional bodies. This new type of reporting would enable the General Assembly to take a more integrated view of social development.
76. Other examples of reports that could be consolidated or transferred to optimize the quality and impact of reporting include the report on solar energy, which could be merged with the report on the review of policy options on energy for sustainable development. Reporting on the United Nations Public-Private Alliance for Rural Development could be entrusted directly to the United Nations country team in the pilot countries and submitted to the Economic and Social Council through the relevant regional commissions. The report on unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries prepared by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs could be consolidated with the report prepared by the Department of Political Affairs on the elimination of unilateral extraterritorial coercive measures as a means of political and economic compulsion. The responsibility for issuing the Consolidated List of Products Whose Consumption and/or Sale Have Been Banned, Withdrawn, Severely Restricted or Not Approved by Governments, and the report on products harmful to health and the environment, currently with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, could be transferred to UNEP and the World Health Organization, which possess substantive expertise on chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
77. Further, information and communication technology, such as interactive websites or web-based forums, could be used to respond to specific public dissemination and knowledge-sharing mandates, thus allowing the replacement of certain reports, documents or other activities - like expert group meetings - that could therefore be discontinued.
Mandates and resources
78. Over the decades, the priorities in development have had pendulum swings in approaches, with certain viewpoints dominating the policymaking establishment. The prevailing trends have governed the direction of approaches. The entities have oriented their work in responding to these imperatives with decisions often based on the promise of funding. When examining mandates in the area of development across the United Nations system, Member States should give serious consideration to the fact that duplication and overlaps can occur because of the nature of funding and the increasing role of special-purpose grants and non-core funding.
79. In order to improve the allocation of resources within the United Nations and to ensure a more cohesive management of funding, consideration could be given, for example, to the regular programme of technical cooperation. The programme provides funds in each biennium budget for technical assistance activities and complements assistance to developing countries from other sources of funding. The General Assembly authorized the inclusion of these funds in 1946 and since then, funds for this assistance have been allocated to several departments and agencies, including the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNCTAD, UN-Habitat, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and each of the regional commissions. The programme also provides advisory services, field programmes, and training in a decentralized way, for example to regional commissions, which ensures ownership by Member States and a close relationship among the technical cooperation provided, the country requirements and the exchange of best practices. Member States may wish to see whether the regular programme of technical cooperation might benefit from being reported by one programme manager while maintaining its decentralized implementation. This would be in line with the nature of the programme, which entails a close relationship between the provision of technical cooperation by departments and agencies with the demands and emerging needs of Member States at the regional and national levels.
80. Meanwhile, to maximize the use of existing resources, savings which could accrue from more efficient management of the common support services dedicated to intergovernmental processes related to economic and social issues could be allocated for high-priority activities in the area of development. For example, the United Nations regularly has close to 100 international days or years of observance on its calendar, to mark special occasions or to raise awareness about issues of international significance. A relevant number of these observances refer to social and economic issues. The large number of observances dilutes their significance, forces the United Nations to choose which to celebrate, and makes the Organization vulnerable to the criticism that it wastes resources on programmes that have no real impact on people's lives. Therefore I suggest that the General Assembly review these observances, decide on a process to guide which of them should be commemorated each year and make better use of resources dedicated to these commemorations.