Member States Consult on Repositioning of Development System

SDG City16 February 2018: Governments are holding consultations on repositioning the UN development system to respond to the requirements of the 2030 Agenda, following the release of reform proposals by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in December 2017. The upcoming ECOSOC Segment on Operational Activities for Development (OAS) will serve as the first official platform for Member States and other stakeholders to discuss the Secretary-General’s proposals.

The series of informal briefings is taking place at UN Headquarters in New York, US, organized by Marc Pecsteen (Belgium), ECOSOC Vice-President. The briefings are structured around key areas of the proposed reform: a new generation of UN country teams (UNCTs) and the Resident Coordinator (RC) system; the system-wide strategic document; the funding compact; system-wide transparency, accountability and oversight and partnerships; and the regional approach.

The RC system needs to move on from the idea that “country presence” means “physical presence,” as new media provide new ways to collaborate.

During the briefing on ‘A new generation of UNCTs and the RC system,’ on 29 January, Member States asked questions related to: the relation between UNCTs and non-resident agencies; whether the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for multi-country offices will be country-specific or office-specific; and who will have the “last word” on the composition of UNCTs. UN Assistant Secretary-General John Hendra explained that the system needs to move on from the idea that “country presence” will necessarily mean physical presence, as new media provide new ways for collaboration. He said the RC will have the final word on the UNCT composition, but dispute resolution mechanisms will be in place to ensure everybody’s points of view are heard.

In the briefing on the ‘System-Wide Strategic Document,’ on 5 February, many Member States did not support the six core system functions identified in the document, noting that the exercise was not part of the QCPR mandate and represents subjective “cherry picking.” Some governments asked for more detail on how the proposals in the Strategic Document will address the system’s capacity gaps with regard to some of the SDGs, as well as how the list of vulnerable countries was decided. Many argued that discussions on the Strategic Document should take place only after governments agree on the Secretary-General’s reform proposals.SDG-goals_Goal-17 Partnerships For The Goals

Responding to delegations that observed duplication between the Strategic Document and the Secretary-General’s proposals, Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Vice-Chair of the UN Development Group (UNDG), said the Strategic Document tried not to preempt the results of Member States’ future decisions on the reform proposals, but needed a coherent base of these proposals. He suggested that two conversations need to take place: one between governments and the Secretary-General (represented by the reform proposals); and one between the heads of UN agencies, in order for them to build a shared understanding about how things should evolve (represented by the Strategic Document).

During the briefing on ‘The Funding Compact,’ on 12 February, some Member States asked for: a definition of “pooled funding”; explanation of what an increase in assessed contributions would mean for the most vulnerable groups of countries, as it should not impact negatively the funding for those groups; clarification on who will manage and disperse the joint funds; and an explanation of whether the proposed financial requests to Member States will be mandatory or voluntary. Some expressed concern that funding the RC system through assessed contributions could politicize the RC.

In the briefing on the ‘System-Wide Transparency, Accountability and Oversight & Partnerships,’ held on 16 February, many Member States questioned the rationale of holding biannual OAS meetings with distinct focus areas. Some expressed concern that reducing documentation would imply that less information gets to Member States. Some governments opposed proposals to merge the boards of New York-based funds and programmes and for the RC to serve as a “one-stop shop” for partnerships. While some delegates supported the proposal to adopt the UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles as a common partnership standard for the private sector, others noted that those principles have not been intergovernmentally agreed, and they predate the SDGs. Other Member States said discussions on partnerships should be included in discussions on the Funding Compact. Some opposed the proposal to create a system-wide evaluation unit, while others expressed flexibility on the matter.

Responding to comments, Navid Hanif, Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), explained that the OAS does not effectively provide guidance to the executive boards of UN agencies because of lack of time, which is why biannual meetings were proposed. He noted that a merger of the boards would not mean reduced documentation but improved quality. He added that the UNDG is not fit to conduct system-wide evaluation. A system-wide evaluation unit would require US$3 million, D2 level staff and some secondment staff, he said.

Member States will hold an expert meeting on 20 February 2018 to hear answers to other issues raised. They will conclude their informal discussions on the reform proposals on 22 February, with the briefing on ‘The Regional Approach.’

The Secretariat is also working on a set of thematic short papers to provide answers to issues addressed by governments, which should become available in advance of the OAS segment. The OAS will take place from 27 February-1 March 2018, in New York, US. In addition to discussing the repositioning proposals, the segment also will enable Member States and stakeholders to take stock of the implementation of UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 71/243 on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of operational activities for development of the UN system (QCPR). [Roadmap of Briefings for Member States] [Draft Programme of the 2018 OAS] [SDG Knowledge Hub Policy Brief on Secretary-General’s Reform Proposals] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on the System-Wide Strategic Document]

References: International Institute for Sustainable Development. 2018. Retrieved from

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