‘Everything We Do Should Be Judged by How It Impacts the People We Are Serving,’ Economic and Social Council Told in Session with Heads of UN Funds, Programmes

16 July 2012
ECOSOC/6536

‘Everything We Do Should Be Judged by How It Impacts the People We Are Serving,’ Economic and Social Council Told in Session with Heads of UN Funds, Programmes

16 July 2012
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6536
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council

2012 Substantive Session

31st & 32nd Meetings (AM & PM)

 ‘Everything We Do Should Be Judged by How It Impacts the People We Are Serving,’

Economic and Social Council Told in Session with Heads of UN Funds, Programmes

Council Panel Discussions Weighs ‘Delivering as One’ Initiative

In a rapidly changing global environment, an effective, results-oriented United Nations development system was more important than ever, requiring the Organization’s funds and programmes to improve accountability between Headquarters and field offices, reduce transaction costs and build national capacities so that countries could better take charge of their own economic destinies, senior officials from those bodies stressed in the Economic and Social Council today.

Continuing its operational activities segment, the Council held a dialogue with the Executive Heads of the United Nations funds and programmes, which featured presentations by Helen Clark, Administrator, United Nations Development Group (UNDG); Anthony Lake, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women); Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and Amir Abdulla, Deputy Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP).

The discussion, moderated by Economic and Social Council Vice-President Desra Percaya (Indonesia), examined progress made — since the 2007 Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review — in creating a more relevant, efficient United Nations that was more responsive to developing country needs.  Central to those efforts, panellists said, was the “Delivering as One” pilot initiative, which was launched in 2007 to test how well the United Nations family could provide development assistance in a more coordinated manner.

Detailing progress, Ms. Clark said the recently released independent evaluation of “Delivering as One” attested to the relevance of well-coordinated support, especially on cross-cutting issues.  An independent review of the management and accountability system of the United Nations development and Resident Coordinator system also noted a shift in the culture of delivering results together compared to only a few years ago.  But sustained reform of the development system required support from the General Assembly and governing bodies of the funds, programmes and specialized agencies to provide long-term predictable funding.

Measuring results, Mr. Abdulla said, offered a clear way to refine programmes.  United Nations agencies, funds and programmes had heeded the call to strengthen result reporting, but the absence of a streamlined accountability framework that supported system-wide reporting meant that information was inconsistent and reporting was of “variable” quality.  Also, in countries’ moving from relief to development, development actors must recognize that the process moves like a pendulum swinging between peace and relapse.  Thus, programming must provide a “dampening effect” during the backwards swing and impetus during the forward swing.  “Every decision we make, every programme we launch, every dollar we spend should be judged by how it impacts the people we are serving,” he said.

In their comments to the panellists, delegates said the upcoming Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review must address the need to increase — and broaden — the donor base for United Nations operational activities, both from traditional donors and emerging economies.  The quality of non-core funding must also be examined, as should incentives for increasing core contributions.  Priority also should be given to enhancing national capacity-building and national leadership of development programmes.  In that regard, many stressed that “Delivering as One” should move from pilot programming to full-scale implementation.

In the afternoon, the Council held two panel discussions.  During the first — which covered lessons from the “Delivering as One” initiative — panellist Belén Sanz, Member of the Evaluation Management Group (United Nations Evaluation Group) drew attention to the lack of a shared vision on the extent of integration under “Delivering as One”, as well as the lack of incentives in staff performance appraisal and career development.  The fact that draft common country programme documents for funds and programmes — as distinct from United Nations Development Programme documents — had to be approved by different executive boards made for a “cumbersome” process, which could be remedied if joint board meetings were endowed with the authority to approve such documents.

The second panel reviewed messages from the Fourth and Fifth High-Level Intergovernmental Conferences on “Delivering as One”, held, respectively, in Montevideo, Uruguay (8–10 November 2011), and Tirana, Albania (27-29 June 2012).

Gazmend Turdi, Secretary-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Albania, said the initiative owed much of its success to its pillars of “One Leader”, “One Programme”, “One Budgetary Framework”, “One Fund” and “One Office”.  The Fifth Conference had highlighted that sustaining the reform process required political will and joint action from all stakeholders.

Diego Cánepa, Deputy Secretary of the Office of the President, President of the Uruguayan Agency of International Cooperation and Chair of the Fourth Intergovernmental Conference, said one message from the Fourth Conference was that, after five years of “Delivering as One”, country-level reform had not been replicated at Headquarters, revealing systemic issues that affected the development of a consolidated vision for the entire system.

The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 17 July, to continue and conclude its operational activities segment.

Background

The Economic and Social Council met today to continue the operational activities segment of its 2012 substantive session.  The day was to feature a dialogue with the Executive Heads of United Nations Funds and Programmes on “Is the United Nations development system more relevant, effective and efficient than it was five years ago?  What will be the strategic priorities of the United Nations development system in the next Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) cycle?”  The day was also to feature two panels on:  “Learning by doing:  lessons from the ‘Delivering as One’ initiative”, and “Achievements and remaining challenges for ‘Delivering as One’:  Messages from Tirana and Montevideo”.

For all its discussions today, the Council had before it the reports of the Executive Boards of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services; the United Nations Children’s Fund; the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women; and the World Food Programme (E/2011/35 (Supp. No. 15), E/2012/5, E/2012/6, E/2012/14, E/2012/34 (Part II), E/2012/34/Rev.1, E/2012/34 (Part I)/Add.1, E/2012/36 (Supp. No. 16) and E/2012/L.7).  (For background, please see Press Release ECOSOC/6535 of 13 July.)

Dialogue with Executive Heads of United Nations Funds and Programmes

Moderated by Council Vice-President Desra Percaya (Indonesia), the panel featured presentations by Helen Clark, Administrator, United Nations Development Group (UNDG); Anthony Lake, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women); Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and Amir Abdulla, Deputy Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP).

Opening the meeting, Mr. PERCAYA said the dialogue provided a unique opportunity to hear assessments of the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities for the United Nations development system.  The panel would focus on the themes of progress made since the 2007 Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review (TCPR), strategic priorities of the United Nations development system in the new Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR), and selected issues related to the functioning of the Organization’s development architecture.

Ms. CLARK said that in today’s challenging global environment, an effective and results-oriented United Nations development system that was responsive to country needs was more important than ever.  The challenges were not minor:  accelerating Millennium Development Goal achievement, tackling sustainable development, and stemming inequalities to name but a few.  Since the 2007 Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review, the world had seen a fast-changing geopolitical and economic landscape, the growing importance of a wider range of State and non-State actors in development cooperation, and even more countries in crisis.  Alongside those problems, the United Nations development system had much to offer:  a universal presence in developing countries; a breadth and depth of expertise; and a commitment to human rights-based approaches, among others.

She said that since 2007, the development system had made significant changes to meet the expectations of the Triennial Review resolution.  “There is growing evidence that this is improving our service to programme countries,” she said.  The recently released independent evaluation of “Delivering as One” attested to the relevance of well-coordinated United Nations support, especially on cross-cutting issues.  Innovations driven by those piloting that approach had been found, notably in enhancing Government leadership and ownership of the development agenda. Cost-savings were also being achieved in such business practices as common procurement and information and communications technology.

While those findings were encouraging, UNDG was acutely aware of the need for improvement in its services, capacity to respond to emerging challenges and to the reinvigoration of the development agenda following the International Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).  As for the operational priorities for the Quadrennial Policy Review, she said UNDG supported the full implementation of the management and accountability system.  It also accepted the need for more focus on providing upstream policy advice, building national capacity to take the lead on programming and consolidating reporting requirements.  The Review should affirm the need for a United Nations development system which was “fit for purpose” in a range of contexts.

Further, it must ensure that the system was well positioned to support country implementation of new development directions, she said, especially post Rio+20; support forward-looking results; ensure that the Resident Coordinator system was equipped with tools to provide country-level coordination, based on United Nations capacity and national demand; promote national ownership of common country programming and call for long-term and predictable funding for operational activities.  Member States might also consider the views of “Delivering as One” Governments on how the approach had strengthened their leadership and supported their work on cross-cutting challenges.

She concluded by saying that sustained reform of the development system required support by the General Assembly and governing bodies of the funds, programmes and specialized agencies on streamlining governance procedures and providing long-term predictable funding.  A review of the funding for the Resident Coordinator system had been undertaken last year and the outcome was to be presented in September.  Among the messages from the draft report were that UNDG members should contribute to the costs of the system in recognition of the mutual benefits received and that adequate and predictable funding must be available.

Mr. LAKE highlighted some of the strategic priorities of the United Nations development system in the next Quadrennial Policy Review cycle.  The coming Review cycle would span both the pre- and the post-2015 development agenda and the existing and evolving challenges therein.  It would have to take account of a context in which disparities were widening between and within countries.  And it would take place in a much changed and rapidly changing development landscape.  “Delivering as One” should be a commitment to deliver results — sustainable results — and a commitment to achieve those results with equity and a focus on gender equality.  The coming Quadrennial Review cycle must support the United Nations development system in focusing on the achievement of results for the most vulnerable and delivering results in a more efficient and effective manner.

Developing new partnerships, scaling up programmes, focusing on green growth, and exploring new areas of cooperation had the potential to accelerate results for those most in need.  Delivering results in the coming Quadrennial Policy Review cycle depended on six factors.  First, there was the need to concentrate on how to achieve practical results together, rather than seeing processes as ends in themselves.  Second, results could be best achieved through issue-specific “groupings of agencies”.  Third, and related to the second point, if groupings of agencies and partners planned together using similar timelines that outlined their expected results, activities performance benchmarks and budget, outcome could be increasingly cost-effective and efficient.

Fourth, the same results-based management tools and standards to monitor achievement were vital to better manage results and reinforce horizontal accountability.  Fifth, efforts should be redoubled to simplify and harmonize business practices, building on promoting initiatives such as:  development of common information and communications technology platforms for use at country level; development of harmonized procurement guidelines; the adoption of International Public Sector Accounting Standards by a number of agencies and common practices developed in the area of Human Resources.  Those initiatives laid the foundation for accelerated progress in the area. Lastly, he emphasized the importance of core funding in order to put resources where they were most needed.  “I’m confident that by working together and delivering results as one, we will prove that the whole is greater than the sum of our parts,” he said.

Ms. BACHELET said the priorities of the next Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review cycle would be different from the previous cycle in a number of ways.  The new cycle would take place at a time of significant changes on the international scene.  More countries had moved from low- to middle-income status — which was good news — but most poor people still lived in those countries.  In addition, she said the landscape for development cooperation was changing.  At the Rio+20 Conference, a post-2015 development agenda was set in motion, and one of the major challenges would be easing inequalities.  Although much progress had been made in development cooperation, the international community should not be misled by aggregate prosperity.  What mattered was the situation of people within countries, she said.

Discussing the potential of common country programming in fostering United Nations coherence and reducing transaction costs at the country level, as well as the potential of the “Delivering as One” approach in furthering coherence within the United Nations system, she noted that the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and common services and business practices must improve.  There was room for the Organization’s development system to avoid duplication and improve its upstream policy engagement at the country level.  It also should clearly improve the design of programmes.  “Delivering as One” had been successful and it had been adopted by 32 countries voluntarily, although there was no model that fit all.  The creation of UN-Women was an achievement worth mentioning, as that entity had reinvigorated the Organization’s work on gender equality.

She went on to say that Member States should have better access to tools and resources of the United Nations development system, including non-resident agencies.  To that end, UNDAF was not yet a strategic tool as it should be.  “We need to go beyond UNDAF,” she said, stressing the need for translating concepts into reality under the UNDAF Action Plan.  The Resident Coordinator system was a key driver, but studies showed that it faced challenges, such as the need for better alignment with local needs.  To be efficient, there was a need to move towards joint implementation and the delegation of authority to country offices.  Every agency must feel a sense of collective responsibility, she said.

Ms. ALBRECTSEN, speaking on behalf of UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin, said the United Nations today was more coherent than in 2007, notably in aligning itself with national priorities.  The recent impartial independent evaluation had confirmed that the “Delivering as One” approach had been highly relevant overall and amid that positive evidence, “it is time to define our path as we move beyond the pilot phase”, she said.

To enhance the effectiveness of the United Nations Resident Coordinator system, she said the system should “think more creatively” about attracting and retaining Resident Coordinator candidates from within and outside the system.  Many internal candidates felt discouraged by a perception that their careers might suffer, as their organizations did not guarantee Resident Coordinators placement at their attained personal grades.  More clarity and transparency was needed in the selection process, with individual feedback given to all concerned.

On strengthening the management and accountability system, she said it had been adopted by all United Nations agencies to create a more robust Organization at the country level.  “We still need to implement it fully”, she said, noting that agencies’ acceptance of responsibilities and accountabilities was critical to improving overall UNDAF results. Continued evaluation also was needed to ensure that vertical accountabilities did not undermine the implementation of the management and accountability system.

Strengthened implementation of the firewall between the functions of the Resident Coordinator system and the UNDP Resident Representative had been critical to promoting the neutrality of Resident Coordinators, she continued.  In practice, the stronger the firewall was, the more support the Resident Coordinator system would attract.  Resident Coordinators were obliged to ensure their neutrality was not compromised, even as the Resident Coordinator Office depended on direct UNDP operational support.

Turning to funding for system-wide coherence at the country level, she said that, if funding responded to national development priorities, discouraged fragmentation and focused on delivering the most effective support, the debate about core and non-core funding could be transcended.  A progressive approach should be driven by the ability to show results and “value for money”.  Promoting joint funding required a coordinated policy dialogue at the planning phase among the United Nations, Governments and development partners.  A common understanding on funding the costs of coordination, which reflected a shared sense of importance to coherent and effective programming, must be reached.

Finally, to simplify and harmonize business practices, she said the High-Level Committee on Management had taken steps towards cost-effectiveness in several areas, such as procurement and common services, conference services, and human resources management.  “These initiatives really do have promise,” she said.  Implementation required centralizing United Nations agencies’ service provision, maximizing procurement of common products and services from the same suppliers, and establishing guidelines for common procurement.  While there were no “quick fixes” for revamping governance systems, there was scope for immediate improvement in that governance mechanisms should reduce duplicative reporting and establish incentives for coherence.

With all those developments, United Nations support must be “context-driven” and specific to remain relevant, she said.  Key questions should focus on the Organization’s optimal presence in any given country, its mode of intervention, its arrangements for funding, and its mode for working with all partners.

Rounding out the panel, Mr. ABDULLA said measuring results offered a much better idea of what worked, what did not, and how to refine programmes to be more effective and efficient.  United Nations agencies, funds and programmes had heeded the call to strengthen result reporting, but the absence of a streamlined accountability framework that supported system-wide results reporting meant that information was inconsistent and reporting was of “variable” quality.

As a first step towards system-wide accountability, agencies, programmes and funds should establish robust links between performance results, resource allocations and accountability.  “We must recognize that everything we do — every decision we make, every programme we launch, every dollar we spend — should be judged by how it impacts the people we are serving,” he said.  Projects must better reflect their needs through better programme design and delivery.  Doing so required strengthening the accountability process and investing in enhancing evaluation skills in country offices.  Reporting on system-wide — and individual — results must be simplified, while the capacity of national development partners for results-based management must be strengthened.

He said moving towards a horizontal system for accountability required applying the four common principles for results reporting — effectiveness, efficiency, mutual accountability and transparency.  Also, collective steps must be taken to enhance the quality and use of tools to support such work.  In that context, he pressed donors and States to recognize that the demand for organization-specific reporting requirements was increasingly in tandem — and often in contradiction — with the demand for system-wide reporting.  For its part, WFP had integrated a risk management approach into its performance planning to ensure that each action taken was “risk informed”.

Turning to complex emergencies — and the transition from relief to development — he said transition settings were characterized by hope for improved living conditions, as well as by insecurity and violence.  As such, it was misleading to talk about linking relief, rehabilitation and development, as that lent a false understanding of how people in transition moved.  It was not a linear process, but more like a pendulum swinging between peace and relapse.  Programming must thus be able to provide a “dampening effect” at the time of backwards swing, and an impetus during the forward swing.

Also, the concept of transition was evolving beyond relief-development to the intersection among relief-development-political-security, he said, placing a great responsibility on the United Nations to develop funding strategies that both addressed immediate humanitarian needs and supported efforts to create conditions conducive to recovery.  “We need to bring development funds forward to support recovery earlier in countries emerging from complex emergencies,” he said.  Concluding, he stressed the importance of integrating a gender perspective in such work, as women and children bore the heaviest burden during war and disaster.

Taking the floor as the first of two guest speakers, JAN MATTSSON Executive Director, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) expressed impatience and frustration with the current pace of the United Nations development system delivering results, stressing the need to move from pilot programming to full-scale implementation.  He hoped the Quadrennial Review would give guidance and a prodding needed.  Countries in need of assistance sought new funding as official development assistance (ODA) had declined.  Official development assistance was not expected to increase in the years to come.  Core funding was essential but not all non-core funding was necessarily bad, adding that funding for a specific programme should not subsidize other programmes.

With fewer resources available for the United Nations system, there was the need to move upstream, he said.  Efficiency made on the programming side was very modest.  It was time — actually past time — to include the Secretariat, in addition to the six agencies, in that joint effort.  Incentives were not working adequately, there was potential for greater economies of scale to be achieved.  Commenting on the Resident Coordinator system, so much progress had been made, but the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had built more firewalls than necessary, he added.

NOLEEN HEYZER, Executive Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said today’s world was marked by evolving national, regional and international situations in which the United Nations operated.  “We are in a time of great transition”, she said, amid growing trans-boundary issues related to finance, food, and climate change, as well as persistent poverty, hunger and inequality.  That called for a rethinking of the global development paradigm.  To deliver effectively, focus must shift to developing partnerships and strengthening multisectoral approaches.  Today’s financial architecture was poorly equipped to handle the “new normal” of persistent volatility in commodity markets.

Regional solutions were often providing viable pathways to inclusive and sustainable development, she said.  Today, “new regionalism” was being driven by trade, financial cooperation and meeting the health, food, security and social protection needs of a more mobile world population.  The Regional Commissions were becoming essential building blocks of a more effective multilateral system.  The United Nations’ assets included its normative, people-centred approach, its convening power, and its development expertise.  The Regional Commissions must be able to draw on those assets in support of regional integration.

Finally, she said that, despite being created at different times, all those Commissions shared the key objective of fostering economic cooperation.  As for Quadrennial Policy Review priorities, she said the regional dimension of development must be seen not as an “add-on” to development efforts, but rather, fully integrated into United Nations development planning.  Partnerships with regional and subregional actors should be fully harnessed, while regional coordination structures should be strengthened.

When the floor was opened to questions and comments, delegates called attention to the complex and changing development landscape, underscoring the need for strong United Nations agency mandates that would lead to solid results on the ground.  Priority should be given to national capacity-building and national leadership in that regard, as that would make development programmes more effective and result-oriented, especially in efforts to reduce poverty.  The views of programme countries must be taken into account at each stage of such work.

Some delegates called for stepped-up efforts to strengthen coordination and to move away from agency competition for mandates.  Joint efforts in areas of mutual interest were needed.  One speaker underlined that coordination mechanisms depended on the national context.  How did the Executive Directors plan to work with specialized agencies, Regional Commissions and other agencies that were not represented at the country level?  That was important for ensuring coherence.  Also, agencies should be called on to mainstream sustainable development in their programmes and planning, and one delegate wondered how agencies would react to that.

Many speakers expressed interest in the Quadrennial Comprehensive Review process and preparations, especially as related to funding and institutionalizing the “Delivering as One” approach.  Indonesia’s delegate asked Ms. Bachelet and Ms. Heyzer about how the “Delivering as One” approach had been important for gender equality and women’s empowerment, especially in countries that had not yet implemented that approach.  The representative of the Netherlands asked for panellists’ views on how the Review could help address operational bottlenecks for the smooth coordination of humanitarian, peacebuilding and other activities.

On funding, the Review would be essential to addressing challenges, many speakers said.  The Review must address the need to increase — and broaden — the donor base for United Nations operational activities, both from traditional donors and emerging economies.  It must make clear that funding for any development effort must be based on domestic funding needs.  The quality of non-core funding must also be examined, as should greater use of triangular and South-South cooperation.  Creating incentives for increasing core contributions should also be tackled.

On results and evaluation, some speakers underscored the general recognition that the difficulty of carrying out evaluations was due, in part, to a lack of data or common metrics to assess results.  That was an essential deficit to address.  All funds and programmes must focus on better results reporting.  As all reforms would incur costs, China’s delegate said, asking panellists’ about how the integration process would affect costs.  While some agencies had created their own niches, there were still overlapping functions among other agencies, which undermined results.  She asked for the reasons for that overlap.

Still other speakers asked for views on how to better resource the Resident Coordinator system.  Some said it was important to diversify the pool of Coordinators and asked about cutting-edge priorities in that regard.  Questions also centred on the firewall between the Resident Coordinators Office and the UNDP Resident Representative, which was seen as imperfect.  Should new tools be created to ensure its effectiveness?

Following those comments and questions, panellists made brief remarks.  Responding to a question about the diversity of Resident Coordinators, Ms. CLARK said 40 per cent of those officials had not previously held UNDP “career track’ positions.  Assessment processes had become more stringent, and successful candidates must have strong leadership and teambuilding skills.  To a question on the relevancy of the United Nations development system, Mr. LAKE said such relevance could be found in the results delivered, not in how the Organization conducted business.  Within the groupings aimed at avoiding overlap, agencies each must use their comparative advantages.  Otherwise, they would spend time primarily on coordinating, leaving little time to deliver.

Ms. BACHELET said the creation of UN-Women had given the gender issue more prominence and greater voice.  As for funding, a minimum level of core funding was necessary, while there should be a healthy balance between core and non-core funding.  In addition, the quality of non-core resources should improve.  Ms. ALBRECTSEN said that a premium should be given to joint programmes and horizontal accountability.  Coordination costs were necessary and cost reductions should be made in individual agency’s activities.

At the same time, Mr. ABDULLA stressed the importance of achieving the best value for the money — not just reducing costs.  He also noted the importance of remaining focused on collaborative advantages.  Ms. HEYZER described how UNFPA delivered its mandates — for example, supporting census-taking — by using statistics made available by ESCAP, while emphasizing the bottom-up approach.  Mr. MATTSSON said all Member States should contribute financially to strengthening collective ownership of the Resident Coordinator functions.  Wrapping up the session, Mr. PERCAYA said it was “encouraging” that the United Nations development system was more coherent than four years ago.

Panel Discussion 1

This afternoon, the Council held two panel discussions under the theme, “Learning by doing:  lessons from the ‘Delivering as One’ initiative”.

The first of those, on “Findings from the independent evaluation of ‘Delivering as One’”, was moderated by Desra Percaya ( Indonesia), Vice-President of the Council, and featured Liliam Flores, Chair of the Evaluation Management Group; István Posta, Member of the Evaluation Management Group (Joint Inspection Unit); and Belén Sanz, Member of the Evaluation Management Group (United Nations Evaluation Group).

After a brief introduction by Mr. PERCAYA, Ms. FLORES began the presentation of the key findings of a six-month independent evaluation of the “Delivering as One” programme, which had been carried out by the Evaluation Management Group.  That Group was composed of independent experts from the five regions and from two pilot countries, as well as from the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) and the United Nations Evaluations Group, she said.  The team had visited all eight “Delivering as One” pilot countries and the regional hubs and headquarters of United Nations organizations.

She said that interviews were conducted with Member States, including self-starter countries and countries not involved in the initiative.  Finally, once a draft report had been circulated, the summary report was presented at the fifth High-Level Conference on “Delivering as One” in Tirana, Albania, in June.  It was then submitted to the General Assembly, she said, and was now available on the website of that body’s President.

The evaluation had found that some of the principles of “Delivering as One” had been interpreted and applied differently among the eight pilot countries.  An assessment of the situation that existed before implementation of the programmes was also largely absent.  The evaluation had used a theory-of-change approach, which was based on an understanding that “Delivering as One” was intended to achieve progress in terms of enhanced national ownership, better country support, and reduced transaction costs.  The emphasis was on detecting common traits and features of the “Delivering as One” initiative and factors that were significant for the United Nations system as a whole.

Taking over the presentation at that stage, Ms. SANZ said that the joint programmes were uniformly adopted in the first generation of the “One” programmes, but that there had been some divergence in the second generation.  For example, some countries had moved from a United Nations development assistance “framework” to a United Nations development assistance “programme”.  Pilot countries had invested considerable efforts to improve the monitoring and evaluation system of the One Programmes, which had proven to be a highly complex endeavour that had not yet yielded satisfactory results.

The “One Leader” strategy had enabled the United Nations country teams to work together in programming and resource allocation.  However, while there had been notable attempts to clarify the issue through the management and accountability system, the evaluation found that vertical accountability within the Organization still prevailed over horizontal accountability at the country level.  Additionally, Country Team members and United Nations organizations had expressed reservations concerning the effectiveness of the “firewall” between the functions of the Resident Coordinator representing the entire United Nations system and the function of the UNDP Resident Representative.

Reviewing particular areas of the “Delivering as One” initiative — including the “One Voice”, “One Fund” and “One Office” strategies — she said that some of those elements had not been implemented uniformly.  All United Nations country teams had reported savings as a result of implementation of the initiative, but in relation to overall costs and programme values, those were relatively modest.  That finding also took into account the major staff time required to generate the reported savings.  There were no convincing examples of savings reinvested in programmes, she added, though overall feedback showed that transaction costs for donors and national partners were perceived to be lower with “Delivering as One”.

In conclusion, she said, the strategies of the “One Programme”, “One Leader”, “One Budget”, and “One Fund” all had achieved a moderate level of success, while the “One Voice” represented strong progress.  The “One Office” strategy had made little progress as far as the business practices of the United Nations system were concerned.  In spite of major efforts by United Nations country teams and staff, including some notable progress and achievements, she said, the countervailing weaknesses were “substantial”.  Two main weaknesses were noted in the report:  first, the lack of harmonized rules and regulations, and second, the fact that no common measures for transaction costs were found.

Taking up the presentation, Mr. POSTA said that the goal of enhanced national ownership had shown strong progress under “Delivering as One”.  There were many achievements with regard to the delivery of support by the United Nations system.  To date, strengths in support of the initiative had been sufficient to “strike a balance” with the many weaknesses also noted at that level, he said.  According to the evaluation, there had been little progress made on the long-term objective of enabling pilot countries to better address their national development goals.  There had also been little progress in reducing transaction costs of the United Nations system, where substantial weaknesses had offset gains.  Overall, relevance had achieved strong progress and efficiency had ranked little progress, while effectiveness and sustainability had ranked moderate progress.

He went on to outline the 12 recommendations of the Independent Evaluation Report.  Among those, it was recommended that, in the area of enhancing national ownership, the basic principle of voluntary adoption of “Delivering as One” should be maintained.  Strong national coordination mechanisms needed to be consolidated and links between individual United Nations organizations and line ministries should be strengthened and expanded.  In the area of supporting the Untied Nations system to deliver better support to programme countries, it recommended that the UNDG consider the consolidation of its functions at Headquarters level, which would greatly enhance system-wide coherence and ensure that horizontal accountabilities at the country and regional levels were matched at the systemic level.

Member States contributing to the non-core funding of the United Nations development system, and countries in a position to do so, should consider the “One Fund” and “Expanding Funding Window” mechanisms as attractive complements to traditional core and non-core funding, the report found.  In that respect, the intergovernmental oversight of such mechanism might need to be strengthened.  In addition, the Group should support the use of a common “One Budgetary Framework”.  For the strengthening, simplification and harmonization of business practices to reduce transaction costs, the report recommended that Member States reiterate their calls for the harmonization of business practices to reduce transaction costs.

Ms. FLORES reviewed the “Lessons Learned” section of the evaluation report, drawing attention to what the evaluation found was a “lack of shared vision” about the extent of integration under “Delivering as One”, and how it could best be achieved.  Another key element was the lack of incentives in performance appraisal and career development of staff under the initiative, and the fact that transaction costs tended to increase under the programme.  Among the lessons learned that might be addressed through intergovernmental decision-making, she noted the fact that draft common country programme documents for funds and programmes had to be approved by different executive boards, a “cumbersome” process, which could be remedied if joint board meetings could be endowed with the authority to approve such documents.

Reading from the final paragraph of the report, she said that “Delivering as One” had been “a real world testing ground for an ambitious agenda” of greater United Nations system coherence at the country level.  While its efforts at reform had been largely positive, bolder measures were needed to truly achieve system-wide coherence, she concluded, adding that a “more concerted vision of reform” was also needed on the part of Member States themselves.

In the dialogue that followed, a number of representatives said that the independent evaluation report was an “important input” in considering how to take up better reform efforts in the future.  Many agreed with the findings of the report having to do with the importance of national ownership, with representatives noting that no single approach could take into account the diversity of all countries’ national problems and priorities.  However, some stressed, it was also important to take into account good practices and lessons learned, and to “keep moving forward” in implementing leadership that could coordinate efforts and resources at the country level.

The representative of Canada said that, as indicated in the evaluation report, much innovation had emerged from the “Delivering as One” initiative.  However, the fact that headquarters had been slow to respond in addressing challenges at the country level highlighted the limits and challenges of country-level reform.  With regard to funding, she asked the panellists to expand on the “intergovernmental oversight mechanism” recommended by the report.

Many speakers also raised concerns about specific areas of the “Delivering as One” initiative, in particular with regard to the role of the Resident Coordinator.  One delegate wondered if the mandate of those officials was strong enough, considering the vast role he or she was expected to play, while another felt that a stronger system was needed in order to allow the Resident Coordinators to effectively carry out their mandates.  In that vein, the representative of the Philippines agreed that the Resident Coordinator system should redouble its ongoing efforts to overcome the fragmentation caused by vertical accountability systems.  A more decentralized approach could assist countries in that respect, he said.

Other concerns raised related to the need to “fine-tune” administrative aspects of “Delivering as One” — such as consistency in monitoring and reporting, the timing of administrative processes and the consistency of procedures — while one speaker emphasized that the initiative’s “One Office” principle had proven its “selective applicability”.

“The path is clear for the work that we need to take”, said the representative of the United States, noting that many of the recommendations of the evaluation were not country-specific, but instead were systemic in nature.  However, there was a significant lack of concrete data in the evaluation.  Among other recommendations, she said there should be more discussion on the issue of the decentralization of decision-making at the country level, and asked the panellists which specific metrics could assess progress of the programme delivery and operational capacity of “Delivering as One”.

Taking the floor to share his country’s particular experience with “Delivering as One”, the representative of Mozambique said that, since the inception of the programme in 2007, the United Nations had strengthened its position as a development partner in his country.  The initiative had improved the leadership and ownership of the United Nations at the country level, in particular in areas such as social protection, HIV and AIDS, nutrition, food security and disaster risk reduction.  The initiative had also strengthened key comparative advantages of the United Nations system and its synergies with the Government of Mozambique.  He highlighted the “highly positive role” played by the Resident Coordinator and the United Nations country team, which should continue to be enhanced.  In sum, he said, Mozambique’s experience showed that the “Delivering as One” model could be adopted to further streamline and strengthen the work of the Untied Nations system around the world.

Ms. FLORES responded that the evaluation had been a process of “learning by doing”, which had not allowed for a specific initial baseline.  On the Resident Coordinator role, she said that there had been no specific guidelines on that role when it began.  Instead, it was largely left up to the individual personalities of the Resident Coordinators themselves.  However, incentives for the United Nations system to work with and through the Resident Coordinators were important, and the country team itself must also make a commitment to work with the Resident Coordinator.  In that vein, she said, commitment and voluntary adoption remained the “key” to “Delivering as One”.

Responding to the representative of Canada, Mr. POSTA said that it would be ideal to have more predictable, stable, un-earmarked funding for “Delivering as One”, with multi-year commitments.  “If we want more predictable and increased funding, we have to elevate the level of guarantee towards intergovernmental players so that they have control over funding,” he said in that regard.  That was an issue on the systemic level as well, he continued.  The Multi-Partner Trust Funds mechanism — one important form of funding — also had relatively weak intergovernmental oversight.  Strengthening that mechanism, with the participation of its beneficiaries, had already been recommended.

On the issue of transactions costs, Ms. SANZ said that efforts had been made to assess costs and savings.  However, the multiplicity of financing and accounting systems had been an impediment to establishing a common system on transaction costs.  In addition, the management and accountability system had been introduced in the later stages of the “Delivering as One” pilot process, and was not able to be evaluated with regard to costs.  The main finding was that, in the absence of such a common system, there should be a clearer definition of transaction costs, as well as clearer indicators.  Time should also be considered as a variable in that respect, she said.

Panel Discussion 2

A panel discussion, on “Achievements and remaining challenges for ‘Delivering as One’:  Messages from Tirana and Montevideo,” featured panellists Gazmend Turdi, Secretary-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Albania; and Diego Cánepa, Deputy Secretary of the Office of the President, President of the Uruguayan Agency of International Cooperation and Chair of the Fourth Intergovernmental Conference on “Delivering as One” held in Montevideo in November 2011.

Mr. TURDI underscored the main messages that constituted the bulk of work from the Fifth Intergovernmental Conference on “Delivering as One” held in that Albanian capital, Tirana.  If United Nations development assistance was to be relevant, effective, coherent and sustainable, it was high time to consider the “Delivering as One” initiative as the right approach to successfully dealing with key challenges to attaining those goals, in particular — and as it had been rightly mentioned this morning — the fragmentation of the United Nations system.

Indeed, he continued, there was no going back to the way things were before “Delivering as One”, especially because the reformed cooperation among national Governments and the United Nations country teams under that approach served best the interests and development priorities of programme countries.  “It aligns United Nations development assistance with the countries’ development framework and plan of action,” he said.  At the same time, “Delivering as One” better served the United Nations funds, programmes and agencies on the ground to retain their relevance and bolster coordination, in order to deliver more efficient and coherent results to development.

The success of “Delivering as One” related to reduced Government transaction costs and had strengthened national leadership and ownership of the process, leading the Organization to better deliver on cross-cutting issues, he said.  Each of the pillars of “Delivering as One” — one leader, one programme, one budgetary framework and one fund, as well as the United Nations ability to speak with “One Voice” — had proven essential for making the initiative a success.  The Tirana Conference had highlighted that sustaining the reform process under “Delivering as One” required political will and joint action from all stakeholders.

One of Albania’s recommendations was to increase decentralization of the decision-making processes, as much as possible and as appropriate, as a much-needed and effective way to substantially shorten the approval time of the programmes, in order to allow timely implementation, he said.  Most of the time, the formal approval of the programmes by the respective boards of the agencies unnecessarily took at least one year.  His Government urged countries developing new UNDAFs to consider adopting the “Delivering as One” approach.  They had already drawn significantly from the “One United Nations” pilot countries as a way of delivery through a single development plan, and a single budgetary framework.

Mr. CÁNEPA said the “Delivering as One” was based on five interrelated pillars:  “One Programme”, “One Leader/One Voice”, “One Budgetary Framework”, “One Fund” and “One Office”.  Uruguay, through joint programming, had identified, designed and delivered development results in 16 different programmes involving 12 resident and non-resident United Nations agencies, in priority areas such as economic development and energy policies, environmental sustainability monitoring, sustainable production and employment, education and social development, gender equality, food security and civil society strengthening, to name a few.

Uruguay had found that its main challenge was operating as “One Country”, explaining that the newly created Agency of International Cooperation had to coordinate with all public administration entities and civil society, as well as with the United Nations system in the field.  He said that the “Delivering as One” process catalysed and supported the institutional transformation the country needed to face the various complex challenges taking place at the global development cooperation arena.

He said that Uruguay needed better institutions and processes capable of aligning development cooperation to the needs of the country.  “Delivering as One” was Uruguay’s first experience to gradually put such skills to the test and Government leadership and ownership of the process were key to successful implementation.  Since the initial implementation of the programme, his Government had done business with the rest of cooperation partners this way.

One of the key messages from the Montevideo conference, was that an empowered Resident Coordinator, adequately staffed and funded, as the primary United Nations interlocutor with the Government, was fundamental to ensuring system-wide coherence at the country level, he said.

The Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review was not a revolution, but a very boring issue.  It was not on the top of Government Heads’ minds.  It was not an issue to be discussed by the Security Council.  But for a country like Uruguay, the issue was very important.  “We have good speeches, but we need to show that we can change and deliver,” he said.  Otherwise, everyone would think the United Nations was not the best entity to which development could be entrusted.  “‘Delivering as One’ was a right step in the right direction,” he declared.

In the interactive dialogue that followed, the representative of Indonesia described how his Government had struggled to adopt the “Delivering as One” initiative, citing difficulties of coordination at each agency’s headquarters level.  Before the UNDAF was put in place, more that 20 United Nations agencies were operating in Indonesia, and they were relatively autonomous.  But the earthquake and tsunami that struck Indonesia had made it urgent and important to adopt the initiative.

Some questions were posed from other delegations, such as if adopting the “Delivering as One” was an added burden for the Governments of Albania and Uruguay and if transaction costs were lower than other funds.  Mr. CANEPA responded that any project that would bring about changes could cost higher in the first year.  Reform generally met resistance.  Those opposed to the initiative would likely say the cost had gone up the year after initial implementation.  But that was a false argument because costs would decline in the years to follow as benefits kicked in.

To a question about transaction costs, Mr. TURDI said 32 Member States that had adopted “Delivering as One” were satisfied with that approach.  So, not just eight pilot countries, but countries that had joined later acknowledged its benefits.  He said that one positive aspect had been that instead of negotiating with multiple partners, it was easier for Albania to deal with “one” United Nations.  The initiative made it easier to align United Nations development assistance with Government priorities.

Panellists also said, although no “one size fit all”, the United Nations system must operate “as one” and not the sum of the parts that had no coherence.

To a question about operational activities needed to implement internationally agreed sustainable development goals at Rio, a panellist said the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review would consider only how such development was delivered.  It was the authority of other bodies, such as the General Assembly to discuss “what” should be delivered.

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