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ECOSOC HOLDS EVENT TO DISCUSS SUPPORTING NATIONAL PRIORITIES IN A PROCESS OF TRANSITION FROM RELIEF TO DEVELOPMENT

15 July 2013

The Economic and Social Council this morning held an event to discuss supporting national priorities in a process of transition from relief to development: United Nations delivering as one.

Ferit Hoxha, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, in opening remarks said that the raison d’être of this event was the recognition that transition from relief to development implied a shift away from a strictly humanitarian response to an approach led by national actors that included planning and implementation of recovery initiatives.  The quadrennial comprehensive policy review underlined the importance of robust coordination of the United Nations system country-level support and strong partnerships of national and international actors to better respond to the needs of affected populations.

Sebastian T. Muah, Deputy Minister of Finance, Liberia, said that Liberia had undergone significant transformation in all aspects of the political and socio-economic spectrum.  Delivering-as-one showed the greatest promise for aiding transition countries that had a unified framework, long-term plan and strategy.  Development was not a copy and paste exercise, but was about understanding and setting long-term goals and expectations, which had to be understood firmly by those coming to provide support and assistance.

Jose Rene D. Almendras, Cabinet Secretary, Office of the President of the Philippines, said that the Philippines was the third most disaster prone country in the world.  From the beginning it was identified that together with economic progress there had to be human development.  After typhoon Pablo, the Philippines had learned to be more effective in its response.  It had adopted the United Nations Cluster System.  As it was preparing for the next typhoon season, the Philippines would continue to use the United Nations approach.  The beauty of that approach was the integrated context, the context of delivering as one.

Luiza Carvalho, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines, said that as a self-starter the Philippines was in the process of establishing the principles of delivery as one.  Ms. Carvalho also provided an overview of the preparation and response to Typhoon Bopha in collaboration with the Government from December 2012 to June 2013, and described a number of successful joint actions between the Government and humanitarian actors.  These included joint preparedness and rapid needs assessments and the establishment of a task force to ensure the transition from relief to development, and a comprehensive approach to local development.

Aeneas C. Chuma, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Liberia, said that Liberia was the first post-conflict country with an Integrated Mission to embark on delivering-as-one.  The challenge was to always work together and try to ensure that each complemented each other and raised synergies, energy and presence, which required a fair amount of negotiations.  It had been observed that there were a plethora of initiatives which could overwhelm an already fragile, post-conflict administrative infrastructure in Liberia.

Per Orneus, Deputy Director-General and Head of the Department of Multilateral Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said that much more needed to be done, including strengthening the relevance and legitimacy of the entire United Nations system.  While the issues being grappled with were distinct, they shared some fundamental characteristics concerned with the need to build resilient society.  The experiences in the Philippines showed that sustainable solutions to disaster risk stemmed from effective and long-term support for actions at the local level.  A priority for Sweden was to increase the capacity and resilience of people to adapt to climate change and prevent risks.

Alison Chartres, Counsellor, Development, Australian Agency for International Development, said that as clearly reflected in the quadrennial comprehensive policy review and emphasized by many programme countries, the United Nations was at its strongest and most supporting of national priorities and ownership when it supported coherence and coordination and delivered as one.  Reforms needed to be mutually supportive for an efficient transition process, with flexible approaches to implementation at the local level.  Supporting the transition required appropriate funding and financial instruments, as well as coherent monitoring and evaluation approaches.
In closing remarks, Debbie Landey, Director, United Nations Development Operations Coordination Office and Moderator, said that this had been an excellent morning and thanked the panellists and discussants.  In the discussion, delivering as one was seen as a successful model and the value of clear communication was also heard, among others.

Masood Khan, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council and Panel Co-Moderator, also in concluding remarks, said that the panel discussion had highlighted challenges and lessons learned as part of the implementation of the United Nations delivering-as-one.  In situations of transition from relief to development, including in countries emerging from conflict, the delivering-as-one model could help strengthen the country’s ownership of development priorities.  In post-conflict settings, it could also lead to better integration of the United Nations Country Team with a United Nations mission, thus supporting the Government’s ability to rely on the full capacity of the United Nations on the ground.

Speaking in the discussion were Canada, Benin and Japan.
The Economic and Social Council will resume its work this afternoon at 3 p.m. to begin its Humanitarian Affairs Segment and hear an introductory statement by the Under-Secretary-General on the report on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations, to be followed by a general discussion.

ECOSOC Event to Discuss the Transition from Relief to Development

FERIT HOXHA, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that the raison d’être of this event was the recognition that the transition from relief to development implied a shift away from a strictly humanitarian response to an approach led by national actors that included planning and implementation of recovery initiatives.  Countries that were affected by natural disaster and conflicts faced multidimensional challenges and a non-linear path to recovery that required well coordinated, joined-up and holistic approaches.  In line with the mandate provided by the quadrennial comprehensive policy review, the aim of the United Nations system in countries affected by conflict or natural disaster should be to support country-owned transitions from relief to development.  The quadrennial comprehensive policy review underlined the importance of robust coordination of the United Nations system country-level support and strong partnerships of national and international actors to better respond to the needs of affected populations.  The delivering-as-one model, which applied a joint and coordinated approach to support national priorities, may provide a framework to strengthen countries’ leadership and ownership of their transition from relief to development, as well as enhance their capacity for effective recovery response.

DEBBIE LANDEY, Director, United Nations Development Operations Coordination Office and Moderator, said that there would be two countries sharing their experiences, Liberia and the Philippines, and went on to introduce the panellists and discussants.

SEBASTIAN T. MUAH, Deputy Minister of Finance, Liberia, said that over the last seven years Liberia had undergone significant transformation in all aspects of the political and socio-economic spectrum.  In each of these, external partnership, particularly from the United Nations system, had been integral.  As they moved on to graduate from relief to development, so must their relations.  Liberia continued to grapple with social inequalities, exacerbated by the preceding protracted period of conflict.  Today, the education and health sectors together accounted for 22 per cent of the national budget and expenditures and investments were expected to rise as humanitarian aid decreased.  The rate of this inverse demand could pose challenges as the current national budget had begun to flatten as potentially new revenues were not tied to enclave sectors of the economy.  Initially, the United Nations system came into the Liberian situation taking on a whole lot in a bid to bring relief while protecting a fragile peace.  The solutions were not fully thought out, but the goal was to stabilize.  Interventions, while necessary at the onset, in the end left many vacuums. 

In 2006, partners agreed that the United Nations would support the development of an Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy.  This marked the first truly strategic coordination framework for guiding partners’ intervention in the provision of relief relative to the Government and country’s priorities.  The period from 2007 to 2012 saw an evolution of responsibilities.  Stronger coordination took centre stage.  Today there were six joint programmes that were supporting the Government of Liberia.  While the joint programming approach provided organizational relief in terms of communication and coordination, it had become a stop gap measure in terms of graduating the process from relief to development.  Liberia had engaged all stakeholders to have not only a comprehensive platform for dialogue, but a reinforcing framework for implementing the long term vision and the agenda for transformation.  Delivering-as-one showed the greatest promise for aiding transition countries such as Liberia that had a unified framework, long-term plan and strategy.  Progress had not been without challenges.  Development was not a copy and paste exercise, but was about understanding and setting long-term goals and expectations, which had to be understood firmly by those coming to provide support and assistance.

JOSE RENE D. ALMENDRAS, Cabinet Secretary, Office of the President of the Philippines, said that the Philippines was the third most disaster prone country in the world.  From the beginning it was identified that together with economic progress there had to be human development.  The only way to move, it needed to be fully integrated.  After typhoon Pablo, the Philippines had learned to be more effective in its response.  It was quite a significant challenge to recover people.  Mindanao was a conflict area, but because of this disaster, the military put down their weapons and picked up shovels.  There had been a need to assure the people that the Government and the rest of the world were going to be there.  Infrastructure, buildings and roads were not ready, as a typhoon of such strength had not been expected to hit the areas that it had hit.  Lessons were learned from the preceding tropical storm Washi.  One thing that went well was that the Government was a lot more attentive to the situation on the ground after typhoon Pablo.  Climate change was a reality in the Philippines which it had come to accept and it was acknowledged that it had to be mitigated. 

Best practices from the typhoon Pablo Task Force were strengthening of partnerships, joint preparedness, a cluster approach implemented at the municipal and provincial level, and multilateral humanitarian assistance.  The Government’s priorities in rehabilitation included the building back better principle in the rehabilitation phase.  A very smooth transition from recovery to rehabilitation was desired with continued partnership and coordination along the way.  Needs assessments were done at the local level to ensure that the response in relief as well as rehabilitation and development were aligned to these.  No one would again be allowed to build houses in areas identified as extremely dangerous in the event of another disaster.  Schools would be better built to withstand strong winds.  The Philippines had adopted the United Nations Cluster System.  As it was preparing for the next typhoon season, it would continue to use the United Nations approach.  The beauty of that approach was the integrated context, the context of delivering-as-one.

LUIZA CARVALHO, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines, said that the presentation would look at the process of implementing the United Nations delivering-as-one in the Philippines, and the transition from the humanitarian and relief phase to a development phase.  Ms. Carvalho expressed appreciation for the support of the Government.  As a self-started Philippines was in the process of establishing the principles of the United Nations delivery-as-one, the convergence of the Government planning system was also very important, aligning planning cycles.  A joint implementation plan substituted individual agency plans and provided a coherent framework, even for specific humanitarian plans responding to particular emergencies.  The main objectives were reducing inequalities and improving access to quality social services; promoting accountability, ensuring rights and enabling participation; and strengthening national and local resilience.  The implementation plan addressed thematic concerns, such as universal access to services with a focus on the Millennium Development Goals; cross-cutting issues, including human rights, gender equality, development and sustainability principles; and counted with a geographic focus targeting urban conglomerates, disaster-prone and climate change adaptation regions; and the autonomous region for Muslim Mindano. 

Ms. Carvalho also provided an overview of the preparation and response to Typhoon Bopha in collaboration with the Government from December 2012 to June 2013, and described a number of successful joint actions between the Government and humanitarian actors, strengthening the clusters and the move from humanitarian response to recovery operations.  These included joint preparedness and rapid needs assessments; the joint prioritization of needs, response and resource allocation; joint Government-United Nations decisions on the allocation of grants; the establishment of a task force to ensure the transition from relief to development; and a comprehensive approach to local development.  

AENEAS C. CHUMA, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary- General, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Liberia, said Liberia was a country that was remarkably rich in natural resources and this had been the cause of conflict and civil strife.  A large percentage of the population lived below the poverty line.  In February 2010 the Government requested for Liberia to become a delivering-as-one self-starter.  Liberia was the first post-conflict country with an Integrated Mission to embark on delivering-as-one.  For a long time, perhaps because of the circumstances of Liberia in terms of the humanitarian crisis, the United Nations had generally worked together well in terms of developing joint programmes and communication strategies.  The overall vision of Liberia was covered in the Vision 2030 and the intermediate programme was the Agenda for Transformation from 2012 to 2017, and the United Nations strategic plan One Programme.  The Agenda Transformation was being aligned with the One Programme.  Some initiatives being worked on were the United Nations Country Team Capacity Assessment and the United Nations Mission in Liberia security and civilian transition strategies. 

The challenge was to always work together and to try to ensure that each complemented each other and raised synergies, energy and presence, which required a fair amount of negotiations.  There were joint programmes and operations such as the Resource Mobilization Strategy, joint Communication Strategy, and joint Business Operations Strategy.  One of the main challenges was the decline in core resources which would affect the level of ambition, and the need for a structured shift from humanitarian response to sustainable development interventions.  The process of transition had to be structured and managed to respond to the needs of affected populations.  The draw down and redirection of sources from the United Nations Mission in Liberia was another challenge.  The Government had made it very clear that it would like to see partners increasingly work through national institutions.  It had been observed that there were a plethora of initiatives which could overwhelm an already fragile, post-conflict administrative infrastructure in Liberia.   

PER ORNEUS, Deputy Director-General and Head of the Department of Multilateral Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said that Sweden welcomed the opportunity to discuss issues of transition at the Council since there was a crucial role for the United Nations to play in these contexts, whether in cases of disaster or fragility.  Much more needed to be done at many levels, including strengthening the relevance and legitimacy of the entire United Nations system.  While the issues being grappled with were distinct, they shared some fundamental characteristics concerned with the need to build a resilient society.  The experiences in the Philippines showed that sustainable solutions to disaster risk stemmed from effective and long-term support for actions at the local level.  A priority for Sweden was to increase the capacity and resilience of people to adapt to climate change and prevent risks.  Attention should be paid to the most marginalized and those living in slums.  It was promising to see that more and more developing actors were supporting the efforts of national governments. 

The international system for disaster risk reduction should be stronger than its individual parts and, in this regard, more could and should be done.  Liberia was an example of initiatives carried out under the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, of which Sweden was a sponsor and main supporter and, in this regard, Mr. Orneus emphasized the importance of national ownership and leadership to address issues of fragility.  Finally, Mr. Orneus asked questions concerning inclusivity and the role of donors.  Sweden was a large development donor and major provider of humanitarian assistance, including support for peacebuilding activities, but Sweden was also a friend of self-criticism.  Donors were still missing the gap between humanitarian assistance and long-term development.  Mr. Orneus asked panellists for their views of donors’ actions in this regard, were more actions rather than talk needed?

ALISON CHARTRES, Counsellor, Development, Australian Agency for International Development, said that she would focus on the experience in the Philippines, a close development partner of Australia.  As clearly reflected in the quadrennial comprehensive policy review and emphasized by many programme countries, the United Nations was at its strongest and most supporting of national priorities and ownership, when it supported coherence and coordination and delivered as one.  The benefits of delivering-as-one in transition were many.  They often heard criticism about the United Nations humanitarian system and reform and that the humanitarian coordination system was too headquarters-driven and lacked flexibility.  This had not been the experience in the Philippines although there was room for improvement. 

Reforms needed to be mutually supportive for an efficient transition process, with flexible approaches to implementation at the local level.  Delivering-as-one was not just about coordination between agencies, but needed to be about drawing in the international development community.  The Government and the United Nations were commended for early planning for recovery and reconstruction.  Investments in public sector capacity development had allowed the Government to demonstrate ownership.  Supporting the transition required appropriate funding and financial instruments, as well as coherent monitoring and evaluation approaches. 

Canada said that it was evident that in the cases of Liberia and the Philippines there was strong Government support for the delivery-as-one approach, but what about cases where the Government was less comfortable with that approach or less supportive?  Canada saw the value of promoting a United Nations approach to improve responses and specific challenges in the field; what was the perspective of the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinators in the panel on how multiple hats and responsibilities contributed or hindered to the ability to deliver as one.   

Benin commended the support of the United Nations and the effective coordination which had been referred to and, with regards to Liberia, which was a least developed country, Benin did not hear any reference to the Istanbul Programme of Action, and asked Mr. Muah and Mr. Chuma to what extent were these priorities being taken into account. 

Japan said that it had recently realised the importance of incorporating development assistance from the very beginning of a crisis or even before it began.  In order to address the many large risks particularly affecting the poverty-stricken after typhoon Bopha, Japan was offering support to the Philippines for agricultural production, to develop infrastructure for disaster risk reduction and for capacity-building of communities and local Government, so that they could overcome their vulnerabilities and to strengthen and stabilize livelihoods.

SEBASTIAN T. MUAH, Deputy Minister of Finance, Liberia, said that in his experience, when first returning home to work after the conflict, he worked with UNAIDS and in talks about delivering-as-one, discussions were about budgetary matters.  Now there was strategic direction and vision document.  What was found in the process was that if the Government was prepared, there could be alignment with the United Nations and donor partners.  They must innovate and change and that was what was happening, with adaptation both on the United Nations and the Government side.

JOSE RENE D. ALMENDRAS, Cabinet Secretary, Office of the President of the Philippines, said that in the case of the Philippines the motivation for delivering results came from the realization of the limited time available, which meant the Government had to push hard and work hard.  Governments had to prove themselves worthy of trust, including the international community and everyone supporting peace initiatives.  Earning this trust was about showing a bias and decisiveness for action and quick execution, showing that aid would not be wasted.  Regarding the need to have local relevance, Mr. Almendras argued that if a Government proved to be worthy of trust then United Nations’ support could be crucial.

LUIZA CARVALHO, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines, responding to the question about challenges associated to having “different hats”, said that this related to issues of perception and the need to understand different roles.  Part of the challenge was to identify and address day by day problems, for example in the context of specific security issues and the need to move beyond a traditional perspective on a humanitarian response.  Leadership and support from Governments, in this regards, was essential as shown in the case of the Philippines.  Concerning the need to achieve local impact, Ms. Carvalho said that innovative responses emerged at a country level and best practices should be recognized as momentum could be lost by failing to notice these developments.

AENEAS C. CHUMA, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary- General, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Liberia, said about inclusivity in national strategies that this was really a design variable.  In the design of a national vision all stakeholders had to participate and be seen to be participating.  In the end it was a national plan, not a Government plan.  If there was a national vision and national plan it should be able to transcend the term of office of the National Government.  On the artificial humanitarian and development division, you could not lose sight of development and early recovery in humanitarian planning.  This was difficult, however.  For example, funding was separate.  One of the lessons of the crisis in the Horn of Africa 2010 and 2011 was the need to try and ensure flexibility.  In a continuum, priorities shifted.  You could not lose sight of the long term.  On public sector capacity, this was one challenge faced by Liberia.  The fragile, post-conflict public sector capacities were often stretched.  The governance of the Resident Coordinator system had improved considerably and it had been recently strengthened by decisions on shared responsibilities.  In addition to the provision of a military security presence, they had to look at development investments that could bolster security in Liberia’s border areas.

JOSE RENE D. ALMENDRAS, Cabinet Secretary, Office of the President of the Philippines, said that the reason why the assistance and intervention of Japan and Australia was that the framework and plan had been put in place.  On inclusivity, a policy statement was made within the Presidential administration that stipulated that inclusive growth was not just a target or goal, but part of a strategy and action.  The plan was to include the communities which it was serving.  Whether the humanitarian crisis was caused by conflict or by disaster, they must accept the fact that any response could not be band-aid or temporary.  In any and all response to the humanitarian crisis, the solution should be sustainable and delivering-as-one.

SEBASTIAN T. MUAH, Deputy Minister of Finance, Liberia, responding to the question about the role of donors, said that partners and donors had a practical role to play.  For example, whenever Liberia engaged with donors it had been challenged to measure progress.  Donors provided support and assistance and, as part of this process, they should ask themselves whether practical plans or strategies were in place.  Sometimes countries moved into implementation without clear plans, thus creating additional challenges, particularly in the context of the transition from relief to development.  Concerning the Istanbul Declaration, Mr. Muah highlighted the importance of sustainability.  Liberia had created a development alliance, bringing together the private sector and civil society and ensuring inclusivity and sustainability in the context of the development agenda.   

DEBBIE LANDEY, Director, United Nations Development Operations Coordination Office and Moderator, said that this had been an excellent morning and he thanked the panellists and discussants.  In the discussion, delivering-as-one was seen as a successful model and the value of clear communication was also heard, among others.

FERIT HOXHA, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, expressed thanks to the moderator, panellists, discussants and participating delegations for their contributions to what was a lively exchange of views.

MASOOD KHAN, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council and Panel Co-Chair, said that the panel discussion had highlighted challenges and lessons learned as part of the implementation of the United Nations delivering as one.  In situations of transition from relief to development, including in countries emerging from conflict, the delivering-as-one model could help strengthen the country’s ownership of development priorities.  In post-conflict settings, it could also lead to better integration of the United Nations Country Team with a United Nations mission, thus supporting the Government’s ability to rely on the full capacity of the United Nations on the ground.  In addition to enhancing national leadership and ownership, it helped position the United Nations more strategically, and facilitated the United Nations’ role as an effective development and programmes partner, increasing the impact of its collective interventions.


For use of the information media; not an official record

ECOSOC13/022E


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