Executive Heads of four of the funds, programmes and entities that make up the United Nations development system underscored their commitment to reforms in support of the Sustainable Development Goals on the final day of the Economic and Social Council’s annual segment on operational activities for development.
Participating in an interactive dialogue with the 54-member Council, a year before the next Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review, when the General Assembly will take stock of the effectiveness and impact of United Nations development work, they emphasized that reforms are a work in progress, with various entities changing the way they work while adhering to their mandates.
“We are building the train as we are driving it and riding it,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women). Describing UN-Women as a small entity with a big mandate and big ambitions, said it sees reform as an opportunity to partner better with other parts of the United Nations development system.
Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said UNICEF is working flexibly and creatively and focusing on results. Emphasizing that partnerships are very much at the heart of reform, she said the development system must be more open and responsive to challenges and solutions. The world is moving ahead rapidly and the Organization must keep up, she added.
Laura Londén, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), discussed the ways in which the Fund has been building collaborative relationships with the global network of resident coordinators - a key part of the Secretary-General’s reform initiative. The objective is to capitalize on the repositioning of the development system, with resident coordinators being seen as amplifiers and enablers of its work on the ground, she said.
Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Vice-Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group, said that if Member States are looking for immediate impacts, they must remember that country teams are only now getting new dispensations on how they are to work. He added that the United Nations development system “is not as dysfunctional as we sometimes see it” and invited Member States to embrace a more sophisticated approach to the question of comparative advantage between agencies.
Several delegates took the floor with questions and comments on such topics as gender mainstreaming, the importance of a human rights approach to development, and the need to eliminate overlaps and maximize efficiency through the system-wide strategic document overseen by the Sustainable Development Group, which brings together the many United Nations agencies, funds, programmes and offices engaged in development-related activities.
Also today, the Council held interactive dialogues on the Funding Compact – an agreement between Member States and the Organization aimed at equipping the development system with the means to support national efforts to reach the Goals – and aligning system-wide and entity-level governance for better accountability.
In closing remarks, Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said this year’s operational activities for development segment lived up to the renewed expectations placed on the Council for accountability and system-wide results. “We believe we must keep aiming high and do more to move forward in a spirit of mutual trust,” she said, adding that the Secretariat trusts that Member States are reassured by the direction of travel towards a development system that can empower countries and people to attain the Sustainable Development Goals.
Kira Danganan-Azucena (Philippines), Council Vice-President for the Operational Activities for Development Segment, summarized several key takeaways from the past three days. Among other things, Resident Coordinators gave a frank assessment of the challenges they face, Executive Heads discussed how they are aligning their entities with the various strands of reform and Member States stressed the need to realize efficiency gains in the medium term to avoid the risk of losing credibility. Looking ahead, she said Members States will have more opportunities to speak out on development issues through consultations and the General Assembly’s 2020 Quadrennial Review.
In the morning, the Economic and Social Council held an interactive dialogue with Executive Heads of the United Nations development system on joint results. Moderated by Rubén Armando Escalante Hasbún (El Salvador), it featured presentations by Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Vice-Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group; Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women); and Laura Londén, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Ms. Fore participated via audio link and Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka via videoconference.
Mr. ESCALANTE HASBÚN said this week has been a moment for Council members to truly have discussions at all levels on where the United Nations development system is headed. Before the Council reformed its working methods, the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review was too technical for anyone to understand, but meetings now are more concrete and anchored to realities on the ground. This session will be an opportunity to discuss the Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework and the system-wide strategic framework in the context of reforming the United Nations development system.
Mr. STEINER, speaking first as Vice-Chair of the Sustainable Development Group, said that at this stage, fulfilling the mandate set out in the Review is challenging, given that key reform elements are still being articulated. He added that much of what is contained in the system-wide strategic document is already being delivered by on-going reforms. Speaking as UNDP Administrator, he said that during 2016 and 2017, the agency sought to be “reform-ready and future-focused” ahead of the transition to the resident coordinator system. If Member States are looking for immediate impacts, however, then they must remember that country teams are only now just getting new dispensations on how they are to work. He added that UNDP is refocusing on and reconfiguring how it engages in terms of the Sustainable Development Cooperative Framework, bearing in mind the integrative approach that the Sustainable Development Goals demand. It is also shifting emphasis towards greater analysis and data contribution. Overall, he said, UNDP is fully committed to the objective of reforms in very practical terms.
Ms. FORE said that for UNICEF, reform is a work in progress, but the agency is working flexibly and creatively and focusing on results. Emphasizing that partnerships are very much at the heart of United Nations reform, she said the development system needs to be more open and responsive to challenges and solutions. The world is moving ahead at a rapid pace and the Organization must keep up with it, she said. She added that UNICEF has a long and successful track record in realizing efficiencies, especially in the area of procurement, saving millions of dollars for Governments and donors. The idea of common back office functions makes sense, but not across the board, and there must be clear business cases for each and every context.
Ms. MLAMBO-NGCUKA, describing UN-Women as a small entity with a big mandate and big ambitions, said it sees reform as an opportunity to partner better with other parts of the United Nations development system. She emphasized, however, that the entire development system is in a situation in which actors are grappling with reforms when they are at the same time expected to deliver on their mandates and achieve results. “We are building the train as we are driving it and riding it,” she said. For UN-Women, she added, working coherently with the rest of the development system is very important and very significant. Partnerships are at the core of its strategic plan, aimed not only at fulfilling its own mandate, but also at helping others to achieve theirs in ways that help women and girls. She went on to say that reforms are an opportunity to address gender gaps within the United Nations development system.
Ms. LONDÉN said collaborative relationships between UNFPA and resident coordinators are well-established. Citing examples, she pointed to UNFPA offices assisting resident coordinators with joint planning and implementation processes. Resident coordinators are also regularly invited to high-level UNFPA meetings on future programme directions. She said the agency’s objective is to capitalize on the repositioning of the development system, with resident coordinators being seen as amplifiers and enablers of its work on the ground. She went on to describe the ways in which UNFPA is changing its internal processes, with global webinars preparing colleagues for new ways of working and a “resources tool kit” being finalized. The agency is also piloting a one-stop-shop for population data that will be open to the entire United Nations system.
When the floor opened, delegates posed questions to the panellists and addressed concerns on the document draft and the issue of gender mainstreaming.
The representative of Brazil said the system-wide document should be generic given the different mandates and realities in countries. It should also eliminate overlaps and maximize efficiency. He said he hoped for a more robust version in future.
The representative of Canada asked what efforts are being taken going forward specifically in regards to Mr. Steiner’s comment that work must be done at the country level. She further asked to hear about thinking and planning under the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and country programmes. She queried how country programmes are aiming to achieve their targets under the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review, and for thoughts on integrator function.
The representative of Denmark asked for expansion on the review mandate and how global and regional assets can be better harnessed.
The representative of Finland, aligning herself with the statement by the European Union on Wednesday, said she would have welcomed representatives of specialized agencies on the podium as well. She had expected a more concrete document addressing gaps and overlaps, underlining that a human rights approach should be its bedrock but seems to be missing from the current draft. Mainstreaming gender equality in a concrete manner remains inadequate.
The representative of Cuba noted the strategic document was one “we had asked for two years ago” and asked for a less descriptive one, more focused on concrete action on voids that require development. She questioned the categorization of countries, asking for something more inclusive. The regional approach needs bolstering, and specific needs of Governments must be better met.
The representative of Norway expressed concern that review monitoring framework indicates there remains a long way to go on gender mainstreaming. She asked if the gender scorecard will be part of common country assessment, to provide proper knowledge on gender issues.
The representative of Sweden asked how the panellists’ respective entities are engaging in joint programmes to ensure joint results. She also underlined the need for United Nations entities to adopt a human rights-based approach to programming.
The representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) said it is committed to making reform a success, viewing it as an opportunity to reduce fragmentation while improving the impact of its programmes at the country-level in achieving Goal 3 on good health and well-being. She added that WHO views the Development Assistance Framework as the “docking station” of all the Goals.
The representative of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said his organization has been considering for several months how to best engage with the United Nations development system. WMO has a small field presence, with offices in 5 to 7 countries, but it engages in technical projects which support countries in terms of climate services. Currently, WMO is looking into the best ways it can work with resident coordinators and country teams in places where it has no presence.
Responding, Mr. STEINER addressed the representative of Brazil’s remarks on accountability and reform, a means to an end in supporting national development. He said reform can become a paralysis, with many small entities and programmes in a system-wide reform effort. Addressing the representative of Finland, he said there is iteration after iteration in the document to deal with many realities, not least funding, but challenged the notion of fungible regional assets. Personnel cannot just be shifted from Kinshasa to Nairobi. He called for countries to embrace those realities. Responding to Canada’s representative, he said investing in new capacities like accelerator labs and better data and better analysis helps countries and country teams improve focus.
He noted the remarkable capacity of staff despite challenges they face, including funding, and the integral role of South-South cooperation under the UNDP. The Programme will, in the coming days, launch a “People for 2030” strategy aimed at making its workforce more compatible with the Goals. He also stated that the United Nations development system “is not as dysfunctional as we sometimes see it” and invited Member States to embrace a more sophisticated approach to the question of comparative advantage between agencies.
Ms. LONDÉN addressed the independence of reforms, saying there is a push-and-pull among reform streams. In the regional review of assets, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, there is an interdependency of reform streams at the country, regional and global levels. She stressed that in future, skill sets will be required that not every country will possess, and reform must address that.
Ms. MLAMBO-NGCUKA wondered if agencies are best allocating their resources to achieve gender equality. “It’s too early to say we are acing it,” she said, but noted progress in implementing gender mainstreaming. Under country teams, speaking with national ministers for sanitation, water and hygiene is one specific intervention for women and girls. She emphasized the importance of rights, and called for more to be said, as sexual and reproductive rights are under attack. She stressed that 25 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, “We could not be in a worse position”.
Also speaking were representatives of South Africa, Mexico, United Republic of Tanzania, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom and Switzerland.
In the afternoon, the Council held an interactive dialogue on the theme “Enabling the shift: The Funding Compact”. Moderated by Sanjay Reddy, Associate Professor of Economics at The New School for Social Research and former member of the Independent Team of Advisers to the Economic and Social Council Dialogue, it featured presentations by Jonathan Guy Allen (United Kingdom); Elliott Harris, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, United Nations Chief Economist, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and Anita Bhatia, Senior Adviser on Strategic Partnerships, UN-Women. Mohamed Omar Mohamed Gad (Egypt) was the discussant.
Mr. REDDY said the reform process has already taken on a concrete form, but managerial and administrative debates may only bog things down. Reform is crucial for the system to be fit for purpose. He noted the United Nations remains unique for its universality, engaged with almost every country in world, and the sense of impartiality attached therein.
Mr. ALLEN wondered how the Funding Compact can be made a reality at the country level. He noted the importance of convincing Member States and the United Nations of the value of behaviour change, and to ensure funding meets countries’ needs. Contributions to the peacekeeping fund have doubled from $11 million to $22 million. He also asked agencies to explain to their executive boards ways to step up to funding challenges and address their priorities, such as UNDP in governance or UN-Women in gender mainstreaming. However, this mustn’t be a New York-centric effort, with issues continually raised at the highest levels with ministers, and efforts to broaden discussion beyond traditional donors. He noted that 30 per cent of core funding goes to development and wondered about what is delivered by pooled versus earmarked funding. Most importantly, he said, programme country Governments must be at the core of the discussion.
Mr. HARRIS said the United Nations universality and its implementation of a universal agenda should, therefore, be universally funded. Echoing the call to broaden the donor base, he noted the importance of predictability in funding, as 80 per cent of development is funded by non-core resources. If funding is discretionary or earmarked, that makes things difficult. He said a higher percentage of funding must be from assessed contributions, because they are non-discretionary. Otherwise, the decision to provide the funding may change. He stated that earmarked funding requires additional efforts to render consistent things that are not, leading to suboptimal outcomes.
Donors prefer earmarking because of the perceived lack of efficiency of the United Nations system, but the problem is that the Organization is held to account along lines that do not reflect what it does, he said. The United Nations results can be difficult to measure - development outcomes, for instance, which unfold as processes over time. The United Nations faces factors over which it has zero control. One problem is the lack of clarity and predictability in resources, but managing them must have flexibility, and earmarking means micromanagement. “There is room for Member States to step back” and give the Organization more flexibility to manage, he stressed.
Ms. BHATIA said that in a sense, the creation of UN-Women – which marks its tenth anniversary in 2020 – symbolizes what can happen when there is political will to proceed with reform. On the Funding Compact, she said it is important to step back, gauge its impact and determine how it is contributing to ensuring that the development system remains relevant. Leverage is also key, she said, explaining that UN-Women, with a huge mandate that it cannot fulfil alone, aims to work through others to produce results for gender equality and the empowerment of women. Turning to the question of innovative funding, she said the High-Level Task Force on Financing for Gender Equality is looking into mobilizing private sector resources in a meaningful way.
Mr. GAD, offering the perspective of a programme country, said the delivery of services on the ground must be improved. With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development setting a high benchmark, better results will lead to greater confidence in the development system and encourage programme countries and others to contribute more. The primary function of resident coordinators is to coordinate United Nations assets on the ground and advance the achievement of the Goals, with the eradication of poverty at the heart of efforts, he noted. Changing the culture within the development system will allow for the effective functioning of resident coordinators and country teams, in line with the dual accountability system. Equally important is the role of national Governments in the operationalization of accountability, particularly with regards to reporting on the implementation of respective cooperation frameworks. He went on to emphasize the need for sufficient funding for resident coordinators and for the development system to be more accountable and transparent about its spending.
The representative of Brazil said the Funding Compact brings about the ability to communicate to decision makers on what paths to follow. More trust and more incentives are needed to engage countries and stakeholders. Donor and programme countries must work together on interests and funding. Developing countries like Brazil face specific challenges, he said, stressing the importance of funding remaining discretionary.
The representative of the European Union said the funding dialogue was a sterling example of transparency and collaboration. However, on substance, there was not enough focus on the crucial need to diversify the donor base. He called for further efforts to incentivize it. There are challenges ahead in ensuring the efficiency gains and savings expected from the system as reforms unfold. He said savings should suffice and further contributions for funding should not be required.
The representative of Sweden said joint and thematic funds must be well designed for Member States to reach goals on their end. She noted the underlying assumption of the levy relies on earmarked funds because it is more costly for agencies to implement and does not contribute to cooperation. She noted Sweden is one of few countries that chose the donor administration option to collect the levy and encouraged others to do so.
The representative of Turkey noted her country is one of world’s largest providers of assistance, exceeding official development assistance (ODA) standards, despite also being the world’s largest refugee-hosting State, which has high resource demands. She called for a long-term solution to funding the resident coordinator system.
The representative of Germany said his Government has stepped up core funding in recent years and hopes to continue. However, that is not always easy, as decision-making is complex. He addressed Mr. Gad’s call to broaden the donor base and noted that even some least developed countries had contributed to their capacities. He echoed the European Union representative on savings, that efficiency is a by-product of reform, and how Indicator 6 can be put into practice.
The representative of Norway said funding must move away from the dominance of earmarking which cannot promote reform, efficiencies or collaboration. She noted the paradox that the donor base has broadened even as earmarking increases.
Also speaking was the observer for the State of Palestine, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.
Ms. BHATIA said that for a smaller agency like UN-Women, being heard is an issue. Noting that only 2.2 per cent of development expenditure goes towards gender equality, while only 17 entities have gender equality as an outcome, she said it is a challenge to ensure coherence between the strategic plans of each entity and the development system’s overall strategic plan.
Mr. HARRIS said he was struck by the number of participants that spoke in favour of widening the donor base. While that is encouraging, what needs to be asked is why does earmarking take place and what does it seek to achieve. For the development system, the challenge is to come up with a narrative that creates an understanding that everyone should aspire to achieve the Goals.
Mr. ALLEN acknowledged that while results are important, it is essential to understand the difficulties of working in different contexts. For the United Kingdom, more than 50 per cent of ODA goes to fragile or conflict countries. That is a deliberate decision and the Government understands the challenges that come with it. He agreed with the representative of Germany on widening contributions to the resident coordinator system, saying it would show that that system belongs to all.
SEZIN SINANOGLU, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that while there is a lot of talk about working with programme countries, in her experience, earmarked funding turns attention away from host Governments’ own priorities. Non-earmarked funding would make it possible to be much more aligned with Government priorities.
PHILIPPE LAZZARINI, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Lebanon, said the Funding Compact is definitely good news for country teams, representing a mutual commitment among all stakeholders that requires changing the way business is done. He added that it is essential to break away from a project approach to development, which for recent years has become something of a comfort zone.
A representative of the United Nations Development System Transition Team recalled what the Deputy Secretary-General said earlier in the week about achieving efficiency gains through existing resources before turning to other options. He added that it is true that the right incentives for accountability have not been provided for core and pooled resources.
The Council then held an interactive dialogue on the theme “Aligning system-wide and entity-level governance for better accountability”. Moderated by Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), President of the Council, it featured presentations by Cho Tae-yul (Republic of Korea), President of the Executive Board of UNDP, UNFPA, and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS); Tatjana von Steiger, Deputy Head, Global Cooperation, Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation; and Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Ms. KING introduced the interactive dialogue, asking what Member States can do to ensure the operational activities segment delivers on its role as an accountability platform for the United Nations development system. She addressed the importance of the segment in helping mobilize individual governing boards around the implementation of the General Assembly’s mandates on the development system. She also asked what actions Member States can carry out in other governing bodies to improve coherent implementation of development system reforms.
Mr. CHO said insufficient attention has been paid to overall coherence and accountability. He learned from meeting the President of the General Assembly and other bodies that a lack of communication can pose trust issues. He said all bodies must interact more with the Council, and the Secretary-General’s suggestion that all bodies report to the Council is sound, especially for UNOPS, an agency that remains “shy” about dealing with other bodies. He noted the peace, development and humanitarian axis would benefit from more focused dialogue and reviews. Aligning system-wide and entity-level governance are key, but the Joint Meeting of the Executive Boards should not impinge on the oversight of those boards.
Ms. KING cited his focus on the importance of more dialogue.
Ms. VON STEIGER said aligning system-wide and entity-level governance for better accountability is the backbone of reform. She said the development system is organically grown and wondered what can be done in that case. Strategic steering and accountability are key, which establish trust within and outside the Organization. She said the beauty of a value-driven organization is that it often generates impact. System-wide accountability can be strengthened in several ways, beginning with accountability at the country level. The accreditation of resident coordinators by Member States must be done quickly. Recruitment of resident coordinators and country teams requires identifying skill sets and moving the United Nations from a hierarchical to a more agile body. Reforms have been possible in recent years despite a complex governance structure, but more must be done to optimize use of resources in the system, and overlaps and gaps must be dealt with. Removing bureaucratic obstacles and improving efficiencies are also part of the package.
Mr. LIU noted the three-tiered governance architecture of the United Nations, and that the Council oversees system-wide implementation of policies set by the General Assembly. Despite the clear structure, the system still operates in a decentralized way, with governing bodies of individual entities often working independently of the Assembly and Council. He noted Member States have stressed the need to improve the governance of the development system, so the bodies interact better, and that improving it requires the work of the Assembly and the Council be based on solid evidence, evaluation and analysis. There is also a need to improve the function of the Council’s operational activities segment as an accountability platform. He stressed the importance of ensuring that the governing bodies of entities follow up on decisions of both the Assembly and the Council. The next Quadrennial Review in 2020 should be used to take measures that truly improve governance of operational activities to maximize their impact on the Sustainable Development Goals.
ALICE H. SHACKELFORD, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Costa Rica, called for strengthened links between the Council and the Executive Boards, to break down closed boxes and look at the bigger picture. Issues should be seen from the perspective of the Sustainable Development Goals, not from the mandates of the various entities.
Ms. SINANOGLU said the Development Activity Framework should be dictated by national needs and priorities, and that concept should be embraced at the level of Executive Boards.
The observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the Group is not in favour of the Secretary-General’s recommendation, contained in paragraph 188 of his report, that the General Assembly adopt resolutions on the United Nations development system only when it conducts the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review, with the Council adopting resolutions in other years.
The representative of Mexico said his delegation supports the Secretary-General’s proposal, adding that the last two General Assembly resolutions did not appear to represent much added value.
The representative of the European Union delegation also agreed with the Secretary-General’s proposal and the need to avoid duplication in the work of the Assembly and the Council. She also agreed on the need to strengthen the operational activities segment, but asked for more details on establishing a multi-year programme.
The representative of Cuba, associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, emphasized the Assembly’s guiding role vis-à-vis operational activities, adding that it is up to that body to follow up on the mandates it gives.
Mr. CHO responded to Mexico’s representative that the Secretariat has arranged all meetings of the Executive Board for this year, but they were set up as back-to-back meetings over just a few days. The Council will need a few weeks to digest the content. He had recently returned from Colombia, one of the success stories of inter-agency coherence and coordination. He said he was waiting to hear from Bogota on how they are implementing that system reform on the ground and asked if the Resident Coordinators have their own road map for that reform. He said he felt the sense of urgency for reform in New York is not shared on the ground, although the process is only five months in.
Ms. VON STEIGER addressed the question from the Republic of Korea, stating that the scheduling of the operational activities for the development segment in February was problematic as it used data from a year to 18 months old. She noted the resident coordinators’ wish that agencies work better together on strategies. She said the Common Chapter is new at the level of the Executive Boards, but it exists, and so “we don’t need to reinvent the wheel”. At the country level, with the coordination framework, the coordinators have the means to rally agencies around common responsibilities. The over-arching vision must be known by specialists and also agencies with specific mandates. She acknowledged that specialized agencies roles pose a challenge, in how to make better use of decisions by the Executive Board but stressed the system governance structure can’t be changed “because we would have to change the world”.
Ms. KING asked if Mr. Liu’s meeting could be moved, as it is not mandated, unlike the Council meeting.
Mr. LIU addressed Member States’ complaints about duplication of resolutions in the General Assembly and Council, but noted they were the result of those bodies’ requests, which retain the prerogative to make decisions. Turning to the European Union’s request to strengthen the operational activities segment, he said it is important to the repositioning of the development system. He pointed to Member States’ opportunity to offer overall guidance on making that segment more effective, substantive and action-oriented. Multiple surveys are due in the coming months for the 2020 Policy Review, including on how coordinators will coordinate at the country level. In response to the European Union representative’s comments on reform of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, he noted that the Department is not an operational entity.
Ms. SINANOGLU responded to Mr. Cho that the urgency communicated from Headquarters is there on the ground and they have embraced it. She noted the road map is not clearly on paper, as it is an organic development right now. However, her country offices do have transition plans, are now working towards more clarity, and are proceeding with business operational angles.
Ms. SHACKLEFORD said the focus is on accelerating achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. More effort are needed to strengthen messaging from Headquarters to the ground level.
AMINA J. MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said this year’s operational activities for development segment lived up to the renewed expectations placed on the Council for accountability and system-wide results. Council members appreciated the steady pace of reform implementation and early achievements, including the successful transition to the new resident coordinator system – a key enabler for transformation across the development system. Council members shared their initial positions on the Secretary-General’s proposals and engaged in a spirit of transparency and responsibility with Executive Heads while also hearing first-hand accounts from resident coordinators. Ideas and feedback from Council members will enable the Secretariat to forge ahead with implementation and take corrective action where needed.
Expressing appreciation for the strong support given to the Development Coordination Office, she said the Secretariat appreciates the complexity of the efforts being made, recognizes that no one solution can respond to all concerns and acknowledges those delegations that feel their voices were not heard. However, feedback from Council members has given further clarity about their expectations, she said, adding that she would like to establish a structured dialogue with Member States going forward. “We believe we must keep aiming high and do more to move forward in a spirit of mutual trust,” she said. The year 2018 witnessed the implementation of the most comprehensive reform in United Nations history, she said, and there is a strong willingness and sense of ownership to drive change. The Secretariat trusts that Member States are reassured by the direction of travel towards a development system that can empower countries and people to attain the Sustainable Development Goals.
KIRA DANGANAN-AZUCENA (Philippines), Council Vice-President for the Operational Activities for Development Segment, said the past three days produced several key takeaways. Resident Coordinators gave a frank assessment of the challenges they face and where they need support, including changes in the funding architecture, incentives on the ground, international communication, the sharing of information with host Governments and a clearer definition of their role vis-à-vis regional actors. Executive Heads discussed how they are updating policies and guidance to align their entities with the various strands of reform. They also stressed that the approach to entities’ mandates or comparative advantages cannot be oversimplified, especially given the 2030 Agenda’s integrated nature. While appreciating the smooth transition to the new resident coordinator system, Member States stressed that efficiency gains must be realized in the medium term to avoid the risk of losing credibility, while also not incurring additional costs. They were also clear that they expect a regional response from the development system that is more than the sum of parallel processes.
She noted broad consensus on the need to strengthen the way the development system supports small countries and small island developing States covered by multi-country offices. Clearly, options that better meet the needs of those States, particularly in the Caribbean, remain to be discussed. On funding, she underscored the need for more resources to be allocated to pools or joint funds, adding that hopefully the Funding Compact will lead to less earmarked and more predictable funding. She went on to observe that the segment underscored the complementarity of the roles and responsibilities of the General Assembly, the Council and the governing bodies of the development system, as well as the need to further strengthen them. Ongoing reform measures will likely bring their own coordination and governance challenges that will need to be watched closely. Finally, the segment emphasized the critical need to enhance partnerships for achieving the Goals and leaving no one behind. Going forward, she said there will be more opportunities for Member States to pronounce on all the issues through further consultations, the upcoming Council resolution tabled by the Group of 77 or in the General Assembly through next year’s Quadrennial Review.