Deputy Secretary-General Reports to Economic and Social Council on Steps Taken to Further System-Wide Coherence at United Nations

18 February 2011

Deputy Secretary-General Reports to Economic and Social Council on Steps Taken to Further System-Wide Coherence at United Nations

18 February 2011
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General Reports to Economic and Social Council on Steps


Taken to Further System-Wide Coherence at United Nations


Following are Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks at an informal briefing to the Economic and Social Council on progress in implementing General Assembly resolution 64/289 on system-wide coherence, in New York, 17 February:

Welcome to this informal briefing on UN system-wide coherence.  As you know, General Assembly resolution 64/289 on system-wide coherence was the result of more than four years of intensive intergovernmental deliberations on how to make the United Nations development system more coherent and efficient.  The resolution contains important decisions, in particular the establishment of UN Women [United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women] and steps to strengthen the impact of our work for development.

In this briefing session, we want to report back to you on what the United Nations system has done to implement the resolution since its adoption last July.  I am very pleased that Ms. [Michelle] Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, is joining us this afternoon to brief us on progress at UN Women.

I would also like to welcome Mari Simonen, Assistant Secretary-General of UNFPA and a member of UNDG [United Nations Development Group] Advisory Group.  She co-convenes the UNDG Network on Business Practices and will present the key recommendations from the high-level UNDG-HLCM [High-Level Committee on Management] mission on business practice reform.  We will open the floor for comments and questions after our remarks.  Our colleagues from DESA [Department of Economic and Social Affairs] and DOCO [UNDP Development Operations Coordination Office] are also available to fill in as appropriate.

Let me begin with the issue of governance.  Resolution 64/289 adopted several decisions to strengthen the role of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in the governance of United Nations operational activities for development.  Towards that end, the first informal coordination meeting between the President and Bureau of ECOSOC and the bureaus of the Executive Boards of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and UN Women will take place on 9 March.

The resolution also focused on enhanced participation of national policymakers from developing countries in ECOSOC meetings and in the governing bodies of funds, programmes and agencies.

DESA is currently undertaking a review of existing mechanisms to fund such participation, which it expects to complete prior to the March meeting of the bureaus.  Member States also requested enhanced information on the work of the United Nations Chief Executives Board (CEB).  Several steps have been taken in this regard.  For example, briefings are now held for Member States following each CEB session.  The next briefing will take place tomorrow, during this organizational session of ECOSOC.  The website of CEB has also been revamped to provide easy access to comprehensive information on its work, including reports of meetings and decisions.

Resolution 64/289 also requested UNITAR [United Nations Institute for Training and Research] to offer training courses to delegates on the United Nations development system.  I am pleased that UNITAR started this training series last fall with the support of the Swiss Government.  The feedback from Member States has been very satisfactory.

The Secretary-General has also been mandated to commission a comprehensive review of system-wide evaluation of operational activities for development.  Following consultations with senior evaluation experts in JIU [Joint Inspection Unit], OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services], UNEG [United Nations Evaluation Group], DESA and OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs], my office is in the process of finalizing the terms of reference for this effort.  The review will be conducted by an external consultant and is likely to start in March or April.  The report of the Secretary-General, including recommendations, is expected to be ready early in the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly.  It will feed into the discussions under the comprehensive review on operational activities for development.

As you recall, resolution 64/289 supported the initiative of some countries to use, on a voluntary basis, common country programme documents.  The United Republic of Tanzania has become the first country to do so.  It recently presented its common country programme document to the Executive Boards of UNDP, UNFPA, UNOPS and UNICEF.  Tomorrow it will do the same to the Board of WFP.  The approval of the common country programme document for the United Republic of Tanzania has therefore followed the existing practice of the respective Boards.

Let me now turn to the independent evaluation of the “delivering as one” initiative.  The first meeting of the Evaluation Management Group (EMG) will take place between 7 and 10 March in New York.   The report of EMG will be presented to the President of the General Assembly during the sixty-sixth session.  It is also expected to serve as an important input to the Assembly’s quadrennial comprehensive policy review of United Nations operational activities for development, which will take place next year.

I would like to thank all those Member States that have made generous financial contributions to support this evaluation, namely Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.  A few United Nations organizations have also contributed to the fund.  

Let me turn now to the issue of funding of operational activities for development.  As you recall, the resolution invited the governing bodies of funds and programmes to initiate further discussion on the concept of a “critical mass” of core funding.  This issue will be taken up by the Executive Boards in the near future.

The resolution also mandated the Secretary-General to improve system-wide reporting on funding for operational activities. For example, it requested more comprehensive information on multi-donor trust funds and enhanced accuracy in reporting on non-core funding streams.  It also called for strengthened analysis on the predictability of core and non-core funding flows, and a more refined distinction between development activities and humanitarian assistance in system-wide reporting.

DESA is leading analytical work in this area.  The Department’s findings will be presented in the 2011 report of the Secretary-General on the funding of UN operational activities for development, which should be ready by the end of May and presented to ECOSOC in July.

As part of the preparations for the report, DESA and the CEB Secretariat recently organized an expert meeting on system-wide reporting on funding for the UN system.  At that session, CEB, DESA and OECD/DAC [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/Development Assistance Committee] pledged greater cooperation in improving the accuracy and reliability of information in the three main system-wide reports on the subject, including by reconciling data.

Finally, I would like to touch on the progress made in the harmonization of business practices.  This work is being led by the UNDG and the High-Level Committee on Management of the CEB.  It is based on a two-year joint implementation plan to address bottlenecks identified in high-level missions at the country-level in March and April last year.

The plan focuses on a number of concrete initiatives, including strengthening technical support to country offices in preparing harmonization plans concurrently with the formulation of the UNDAF [United Nations Development Assistance Framework]; scaling-up harmonization in [information and communications technology] and procurement at the country level; and reaching a system-wide agreement on a number of human resources management issues seen as obstacles to greater harmonization of business practices.

Efforts are also under way to speed up the review and clearance of legal agreements at Headquarters.  At the global level, the implementation of the CEB Plan of Action for the Harmonization of Business Practices is also making progress.  A common framework on vendor eligibility is expected to be adopted by HLCM in the next two months, a feasibility study for the establishment of common treasury services will be completed in May, and the CEB financial statistics database and reporting system will be completed in the middle of 2012.  This will also encompass the central repository of information on operational activities for development, mandated in General Assembly resolution 63/311.  The General Assembly comprehensive review of operational activities in 2012 will be the opportunity to take stock of progress in this work and to provide new guidance.

As you have heard, we are making steady, across-the-board progress in implementing the resolution on system-wide coherence.  We will continue these efforts in the coming months, and I look forward to reporting further progress by the next session of the General Assembly.  I am now pleased to give the floor to Ms. Bachelet, who will brief us on significant efforts under way to make UN Women fully operational.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.