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ECOSOC HOLDS PANEL ON OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR THE UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT SYSTEM: EXPECTATIONS OF STATES
11 July 2013

The Economic and Social Council this morning held a panel discussion on challenges and opportunities for the United Nations system: expectations from Members States.

Ferit Hoxha, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that the environment in which the United Nations development system operated had drastically changed over the past decades. The panel discussion would provide insights into how the United Nations development system could further enhance the effectiveness and impact of their operational activities for development.

Pio Wennubst, Minister, Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations in New York, and facilitator of the intergovernmental consultations on the 2012 quadrennial comprehensive policy review of the General Assembly of the United Nations operational activities for development, and Moderator, said that they would discuss challenges and opportunities that the United Nations development system would be facing in the longer term in responding to Member States’ needs. In the near future they would be collectively asked to discuss and negotiate about assuring a more sustainable and equitable development for all. This would surely have important consequences for the United Nations development system among other actors.

Albert Toikeusse Mabri, Minister of Planning and Development, Côte d’Ivoire, said many development issues depended on issues of peace, stability and security. Industrialisation, urbanisation, food security, agriculture and population growth were some challenges that needed to be tackled. The United Nations system had a supporting role to play in all of these areas and a strengthening of unity would allow the system to be more effective.

Ekaterina Parilla, Presidential Secretary for Planning and Development, Guatemala, said that one of the problems concerning the impact of technical and financial assistance received from the United Nations system was Guatemala’s failure to consolidate a long-term strategic plan in terms of public policies which went beyond the four-year period of each government. Channels of communication between cooperation agencies and beneficiaries should also be improved to ensure that the development results sought by Guatemala were achieved.

Aude Lise Norheim, Director General, Department for United Nations, Peace and Humanitarian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, said that intensified efforts were needed to reduce poverty and hunger and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The United Nations development system and international donor assistance could make a difference in fragile and conflict-affected countries. Ensuring meaningful monitoring and implementation of the post-2015 development framework was also very important.

Peter Oganga Managiti, Principal Secretary for Devolution and Planning, Ministry of State for Devolution and Planning, Kenya, said that for the United Nations development system to contribute to development and remain a relevant development actor, it should ensure that programme funding and technical support were aligned to host country national priorities and aspirations, enhance and deepen use of a rights-based approach to support Member States Governments to reduce inequalities and disparities, provide more coordinated and effective assistance, and help strengthen institutional and human resources capacities of Governments, play a coordination role and enhance support for south-south cooperation.

Participating in the discussion were Bulgaria, Ecuador, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Germany, China and Mexico.

The Economic and Social Council will resume its work this afternoon at 3 p.m. when it will hold a panel discussion on accountability for system-wide results and impact.

Panel Discussion on Opportunities and Challenges for the United Nations Development System: Expectations of Member States

FERIT HOXHA, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that the environment in which the United Nations development system operated had drastically changed over the past decades. The review exercise provided an opportunity for Member States and United Nations entities to discuss the implications of those changes for the United Nations development system. The changes included the emergence of new centres of economic dynamism, broadening the stakeholder base of global cooperation and the changing profile of programme countries. The panel discussion would provide insights into how the United Nations development system could further enhance the effectiveness and impact of their operational activities for development.

PIO WENNUBST, Minister, Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations in New York, and facilitator of the intergovernmental consultations on the 2012 quadrennial comprehensive policy review of the General Assembly of the United Nations operational activities for development, and Moderator, said that yesterday they spent most of the day discussing the implementation of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review. Today, what they would like to do was move and look ahead and discuss challenges and opportunities that the United Nations development system would be facing in the longer term in responding to Member States’ needs. One crucial element in the process that led to the quadrennial comprehensive policy review negotiation and outcome was that from a very early stage, Member States engaged in sharing experiences and expectations in an informal manner all across the board, with a frank and very direct analysis of certain issues from the perspective of Member States. In the near future they would be collectively asked to discuss and negotiate a more sustainable and equitable development for all of them. This would surely have important consequences for the United Nations development system among other actors.

ALBERT TOIKEUSSE MABRI, Minister of Planning and Development, Côte d’Ivoire, said that an assessment of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that beneficiary countries had on the whole honoured their commitments. As commitments made by donors had been confined to aid coordination, the need was identified to do more. Today it was noted that profound changes had taken place in the world in which they lived, such as shifting in decision-making power centres and the growing influence of regional economic communities on all continents. They could not overlook the predominant role of civil society and the impact of the crises faced, such as in terms of the economic, climate, food and energy crises. Many development issues depended on issues of peace, stability and security. They needed to react more quickly and mobilize international aid to settle conflicts, to improve the intervention capabilities of peacekeeping forces and to move from humanitarian missions to development missions in their action. The United Nations system had to support countries by giving them effective planning tools and promoting good governance. Industrialisation today was an important issue as another challenge, because they could see it as a motor for transforming the economy in a number of countries.

The Economic Commission for Africa in March this year held its annual meeting and focused on industrialization; a number of commitments were made. Urbanization was another major challenge, requiring all to promote rural agricultural development. Food security, agriculture and population growth were also challenges that needed to be tackled. The United Nations system had a supporting role to play in all of these areas and a strengthening of unity would allow the system to be more effective. This could not be done with agencies that had separate agendas and fragmented action plans. They needed to be very proactive in addressing youth unemployment, for peace and stability in countries.

EKATERINA PARRILLA, Presidential Secretary for Planning and Development, Guatemala, said that Guatemala was a country with a population of about 15 million; it had been a democracy since 1985 following a long period of dictatorship. Forty per cent of its population was indigenous, so it was a priority for Guatemala to build a multiethnic, multicultural and multilingual nation. Financial support from the various United Nations programmes and agencies had contributed to the fight against problems such as limited access to water, chronic malnutrition and gender exclusion. One of the problems concerning the impact of technical and financial assistance received from the United Nations system was Guatemala’s failure to consolidate a long-term strategic plan in terms of public policies which went beyond the four-year period of each government. An in-depth analysis of needs in terms of capacities in the public sector and better coordination were needed to ensure that medium- and long-term processes were institutionalized.

Monitoring and evaluation were important with regard to strengthening technical and financial assistance processes. Channels of communication between cooperation agencies and beneficiaries should also be improved to ensure that the development results sought by Guatemala were achieved. Efforts to improve conditions for development for the entire population of Guatemala should be redoubled, particularly with regard to eliminating disparities between different ethnic and gender groups. Malnutrition, poverty and extreme poverty should continue to receive close attention, but there were also new challenges which needed to be addressed in a coherent manner, such as infrastructure, energy, security, the environment, and the management of natural resources.

AUD LISE NORHEIM, Director General, Department for United Nations, Peace and Humanitarian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, said that since the Millennium Summit, the world had made significant progress in reducing poverty and disease among men, women and children. Increased economic growth had improved health and education, and better governance had helped to lift 700 million persons out of extreme poverty. Nevertheless, 200 million children still suffered from stunting and one billion persons still lived in extreme poverty. Intensified efforts were needed to reduce poverty and hunger and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The United Nations development system and international donor assistance could make a difference in fragile and conflict-affected countries. Norway would continue to offer its full support to vulnerable persons and nations, with policies and programmes for the promotion of basic human needs and rights, poverty reduction, and progress for sustainable development in key areas such as health and education, gender equality and environmental protection.

The world should work together to consolidate the outstanding progress made so far by devising a people-centred, planet-sensitive, rights-based post-2015 agenda. They must ensure that the new agenda promoted and protected international human rights norms and standards and it should cover areas such as gender equality and women’s rights, global health, and sustainable energy for all. Ensuring meaningful monitoring and implementation of the post-2015 development framework was also very important. Norway attached great importance to the continued role of the United Nations development system and its universal mandate. United Nations agencies needed to better define their specific role, return to their roots and focus on their normative roles. Concerning funding of the United Nations development system, it was the common responsibility of Member States to ensure that the United Nations organizations were funded in a way which enabled them to adapt to emerging situations and work in a cost-effective manner.

PETER OGANGA MANAGITI, Principal Secretary for Devolution and Planning, Ministry of State for Devolution and Planning, Kenya, said that Kenya was facing a number of cross-cutting challenges which impacted on planning and prioritization activities in areas including poverty and equity, climate change, fulfilling obligations on human rights, youth unemployment, and infrastructure. The United Nations was an important development partner in Kenya. For the United Nations development system to contribute to development and remain a relevant development actor it should ensure that programme funding and technical support were aligned to host country national priorities and aspirations; enhance and deepen use of a rights-based approach to support Member States Governments to reduce inequalities and disparities; provide more coordinated and effective assistance; help strengthen institutional and human resources capacities of Governments; and play a coordination role and enhance support for south-south cooperation.

Some key challenges the United Nations development system had to address in the near future included the areas of reporting on financial expenditure and coordination of its activities in host countries, joint mobilisation of resources, and harmonization of budgeting processes. It was important that the United Nations supported the full implementation of the delivering-as-one principles, supported regional integration, and supported peace and security. In 15 years, a future was envisioned where the United Nations system would help build the capacity of the host Governments to build resilience and be fully responsive to the citizen’s developmental needs and aspirations. The United Nations therefore needed to support countries to ensure balanced, equitable and sustainable development.

PIO WENNUBST, Minister, Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations in New York, and facilitator of the intergovernmental consultations on the 2012 quadrennial comprehensive policy review of the General Assembly of the United Nations operational activities for development, and Moderator, asked the panellists what could be done to strengthen cohesion in the future, bearing in mind the activities undertaken by the United Nations in various countries and the massive challenges faced by countries. Would returning to the roots be the answer for specialized United Nations agencies?

EKATERINA PARRILLA, Presidential Secretary for Planning and Development, Guatemala, said that capacity building in State institutions was important. Guatemala was hoping to move into the category of developed countries soon so that it could help other developing countries.


ALBERT TOIKEUSSE MABRI, Minister of Planning and Development, Côte d’Ivoire, said that if by 2020 Côte d’Ivoire could achieve its current goals, then it would be tackling other issues mainly to do with infrastructure. The Government had taken a set of measures to deal with existing challenges, so the goal was well within reach.

AUD LISE NORHEIM, Director General, Department for United Nations, Peace and Humanitarian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, reiterated that the United Nations system had to go back to its roots and that the normative was very important. It needed to cooperate with other actors, including the private sector and multi-lateral financing institutions.


PETER OGANGA MANAGITI, Principal Secretary for Devolution and Planning, Ministry of State for Devolution and Planning, Kenya, said that the most important thing was for the United Nations to strive and align to country priorities.

Bulgaria said that Members States faced the challenges of development from different backgrounds and an evolving environment. Bulgaria referred to the report ‘From Transition to Transformation: Sustainable and inclusive development in Europe and Central Asia’. What these countries needed and expected from United Nations development activities was help to develop and implement policies to reverse trends and reduce the very high level of poverty. Flexible and innovative approaches were needed to adapt United Nations operational activities to the specific development needs of countries.

Ecuador said that it agreed with Côte d’Ivoire and Guatemala regarding what changes needed to be made to the system. They often forgot that the mandate of United Nations agencies and programmes involved States, so it should not be so complicated to translate those into specific policies and programmes. However, each case was different and needed to be analyzed on a different basis.

Belgium said that the role of the United Nations would always combine several activities, including operational and capacity-building work. Belgium was hoping to see the United Nations system functioning, analyzing, programming, monitoring, reporting and reacting to crises as one in the future.

PETER OGANGA MANAGITI, Principal Secretary for Devolution and Planning, Ministry of State for Devolution and Planning, Kenya, said that there needed to be a strengthening of the position of country programmes with regard to the harmonization which was taking place within countries. A seemingly weak link between individual country programmes and their Headquarters needed to be addressed.

AUD LISE NORHEIM, Director General, Department for United Nations, Peace and Humanitarian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, said that she agreed with the Belgian view on the different roles of the United Nations in 15 years, such as the normative one. Talking about the operational system there was a lot for the system as a whole to learn from the humanitarian system as there was more cohesion and coordination through the cluster approach. If they asked the United Nations system to focus, then donors had to focus as well on how to make the United Nations system function and coordinate. Inequality, sexual and reproductive health and rights were linked in many ways and data collection showed this.


ALBERT TOIKEUSSE MABRI, Minister of Planning and Development, Côte d’Ivoire, said that everyone had referred to the point of social cohesion. Many beneficiary countries found themselves in a situation where they still had a long way to go before reaching social cohesion. This issue was very important. The United Nations in terms of its initial mission could play a vital role in that cohesion. Strengthening national institutions was also important. The United Nations should coordinate multilateral and bi-lateral donors. There needed to be complicity in the designing of development programmes. There had to be indicators for monitoring, implementation, evaluation and follow-up and there was a need for communication through all these stages.

EKATERINA PARRILLA, Presidential Secretary for Planning and Development, Guatemala, said that in general the image of the United Nations system was good. The difficulties were of course seen but there had been very successful projects that had helped the populations of countries. They needed to work in a more coordinated way with Governments and agencies to address problems indentified. Communication was important and dialogue processes were needed, including within the Government. On dwindling resources and the diverse challenges some countries faced, the United Nations system could be a lot of help, for example, on systematizing information, data analysis, and in-depth analysis of problems in countries. Many of the actions that needed to be carried out needed to be focused on young people.

PIO WENNUBST, Minister, Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations in New York, and facilitator of the intergovernmental consultations on the 2012 quadrennial comprehensive policy review of the General Assembly of the United Nations operational activities for development, and Moderator, summarizing some of the points raised, said that coherence among programmes was important. To achieve that, a flexible instrument was needed to allow for rapid communication between the United Nations development system and country programmes. Better coordination was something which everyone needed to do, including States, while complicity in forming partnership was an especially important factor.

Burkina Faso distinguished between two levels, the country level and the United Nations development system level. In certain countries programme priorities were set but were not necessarily included in the country’s economic policy. Better cooperation was needed between country programmes and the regional United Nations development programmes.

Netherlands said that the importance of establishing long-term plans in each country in accordance with the country’s needs had been underlined by the panellists. Should the United Nations focus more on demographic changes in countries, which could have an impact on the economic growth and stability of the countries concerned?

ALBERT TOIKEUSSE MABRI, Minister of Planning and Development, Côte d’Ivoire, said a change in the population was a major challenge for all in whatever they did. Everything that happened in one country would affect what happened elsewhere. There were countries that had very young populations, three quarters of which were unemployed. If they did not manage to control what was happening, particularly in developing countries in terms of managing the young populations, there would be major problems. An ageing population was also a concern in developed countries and they had to find ways of expressing global solidarity on all of these issues.

AUD LISE NORHEIM, Director General, Department for United Nations, Peace and Humanitarian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, echoed what was said about challenges of youth and youth unemployment. It was a challenge for the United Nations system and individual Governments and showed the need to cooperate not only between the United Nations system and Governments but also the International Monetary Fund and World Bank system.


PETER OGANGA MANAGITI, Principal Secretary for Devolution and Planning, Ministry of State for Devolution and Planning, Kenya, said that one of the challenges in Kenya was the increasing population of youth. In that respect, there was a very strong role for the United Nations to play in helping countries to address these challenges directly.


Germany asked the panellists about the comparative advantages of the United Nations system in development activities in particular. Were there United Nations plans to run programmes in specific areas within the next 15 years?

China said that in the past the United Nations development system had made positive contributions to the development of countries, for which it had received the trust, confidence and support of States. This morning’s discussion had been focusing on the future role of the United Nations in promoting development, and China said it hoped the United Nations would play an even more active role.

Mexico said that building capacity to help countries meet their needs in the field was important, while there were also more traditional needs in the cooperation system. The United Nations should use its specialized knowledge to assist in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals in medium-income countries, which had trouble dealing with both types of needs.

EKATERINA PARRILLA, Presidential Secretary for Planning and Development, Guatemala, said that the United Nations’ experience in development and work done in different countries meant global knowledge. This provided significant comparative advantage. Experience in drawing up Millennium Development Goals and following-up had provided very important lessons not only in achieving objectives and results but also in how countries had managed to achieve them. This warranted more in-depth analysis and could be shared more dynamically. It was the first time that an effort of working in parallel with the United Nations Development Assistance Framework was taken by Guatemala. Right from the early stage, coordination had been launched and there was agreement that technical groups would work together.


ALBERT TOIKEUSSE MABRI, Minister of Planning and Development, Côte d’Ivoire, said that obviously each organization had its own mission. The United Nations system had a calling, a mission, and closeness with countries should be seen as a positive complicity. Development agencies, banks and economic communities had a role to play. On planning, the Kenyan administration had come together and drawn up a draft development plan, which was then distributed to all partners for input and feedback. Once the parliament adopted the plan, the United Nations system would be met with in order to align the United Nations Development Assistance Framework with the national development plan. Follow-up was now needed and ensuring that all agencies and structures were behind the plan.

AUD LISE NORHEIM, Director General, Department for United Nations, Peace and Humanitarian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, believed that the United Nations development system had comparative advantage in areas such as providing policy advice on poverty eradication and sustainable development of nations. The United Nations development system also had comparative advantages in operational activities.

PETER OGANGA MANAGITI, Principal Secretary for Devolution and Planning, Ministry of State for Devolution and Planning, Kenya, said that the comparative advantage of the United Nations lay in its convening power, particularly in areas of national calamities and conflict and in the case of fragile States.

EKATERINA PARRILLA, Presidential Secretary for Planning and Development, Guatemala, said that interagency coordination for the implementation of programmes, access to reporting, and institutional capacity-building, among other things, could help to strengthen institutional capacity in developing countries and enable them to tackle the challenges facing them.

ALBERT TOIKEUSSE MABRI, Minister of Planning and Development, Côte d’Ivoire, said that in the post-2015 agenda they needed to think of the United Nations in 15 years’ time, allowing countries to develop their own vision by strengthening their institutions and including all stakeholders in the process. Monitoring each other would allow them all to make progress. The United Nations had an important role to play in maintaining social cohesion, peace and security.

AUD LISE NORHEIM, Director General, Department for United Nations, Peace and Humanitarian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, said that donor countries had an interest and a need to have a United Nations system that worked very well and that showed it was consistent and coherent in its work to ensure parliament and public support for contributions. On opportunities the United Nations system should take when dealing with changes, they were in a changing world, with possibilities to change both the funding and working system in the United Nations.


PETER OGANGA MANAGITI, Principal Secretary for Devolution and Planning, Ministry of State for Devolution and Planning, Kenya, said that moving forward, the United Nations development system would continue to play a very important part in the development of countries. In the area of flexibility and innovation, this was very important. The world and countries were changing, such as Kenya, which was on the threshold of tremendous transformation. On alignment and harmonization, they knew that globally international best practice was advocating for certain things to be done collectively, in a coordinated and harmonized way in terms of aid. They had to move forward and ensure that the work that the United Nations would do in host countries was well-supported in terms of resources for initiatives.

FERIT HOXHA, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review represented an important and promising point to adapt the United Nations development system to a fast-changing global environment. A number of important factors of change were highlighted. 2015 would be a major turning point in taking stock of what had happened, including tremendous positive change. There were then the questions of how the system would adapt itself to the post-2015 agenda, what structures would be needed and what changes were to be made. A post-2015 process should be people-centred, people-sensitive and rights-based. When should change occur and how could it be brought about? Two years from 2015, with negotiations on sustainable development underway, Member States should begin serious reflection on how the system would look in 2020 and beyond. The quadrennial comprehensive policy review remained the way to reflect and possibly sweep changes across the system. The key words were coherence, sustainable development and demand-driven system. Delivering-as-one was a co-shared responsibility. The United Nations in 2020 and beyond should be able to function as one, which was not the reality today.


For use of information media; not an official record

ECOSOC13/019E


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