ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH EXECUTIVE HEADS OF UNITED NATIONS FUNDS AND PROGRAMMES

10 July 2013

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with the United Nations Funds and Programmes, exploring ways of making the most of the common framework in order to monitor the implementation of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review in the agency-specific systems. 

Ferit Hoxha, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council and panel discussion moderator, said that the difference between this year’s and last year’s dialogue was actually the difference before and after the 2012 quadrennial comprehensive policy review, which marked a clear call by Member States.  The quadrennial comprehensive policy review as a system-wide accountability tool was progressively being integrated into the new strategic plans of United Nations entities.  The more they made sure that all entities had a common understanding of the mandates of the policy review, the easier it would be to track down system-wide and agency-specific results.  

Helen Clark, Chair, United Nations Development Group, and Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, said that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review had given a significant impetus to the reform of the United Nations system.   In line with the quadrennial comprehensive policy review’s substance of activity, capacity-building was a priority, as were supporting broad-based engagement around the development of the post-2015 agenda and strengthening national capacity development.  It was important to ensure that improvement in business practices was accelerated and to support more effective partnerships, including with the financial institutions and through south-south cooperation.

Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund, said this was the first time ever that the United Nations Development Group as a group had translated the quadrennial comprehensive policy review resolution into an action plan for all its members, while previously each agency individually decided how to implement the resolution.  The Action Plan lay out common actions and indicators for all members of the United Nations Development Group, and also for those United Nations entities that were not bound by the quadrennial comprehensive policy review. 

Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund, said that the Population Fund saw an enormous potential in the quadrennial comprehensive policy review to further strengthen the operational activities of the United Nations development system and welcomed the outcome.  To ensure full implementation, the Population Fund had developed its own action plan, in addition to the United Nations Development Group joint work plan, with concrete steps to implement the quadrennial comprehensive review at country, regional and headquarters levels.  

Elisabeth Rasmusson, Assistant Executive Director for Partnership and Governance Services, World Food Programme, said that she had seen significant efforts to drive United Nations reform, which was guided by the quadrennial comprehensive policy review.  It was imperative that the United Nations system function in a manner which responded to the multidimensional nature of the challenges facing it, including the need to link preparedness and sustainable development.  It was important to continue to explore avenues for how risks could be meaningfully shared between the United Nations systems and partners, as a foundation for greater efficiency and transparency and coherent early action.

Moez Doraid, Director, Coordination Division, United Nations Women, said that the creation of United Nations Women had contributed to women’s empowerment and should strengthen their investment, resolve, coherence and effectiveness in that area.  One of the accountability mechanisms that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review called for was greater use of the gender markers.  Adoption of at least some elements of the delivering as one approach had been reported in the last quadrennial comprehensive policy review, which was encouraging.  Gender equality was an essential cross-cutting issue, and the entire United Nations system was responsible for contributing to its achievement.

Helen Clark, Chair, United Nations Development Group, and Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, said that the job of the Resident Coordinators was complex, and that it was important for them not to lose sight of their role to coordinate the United Nations country team focused on development activities.  Regarding funding, there was a long exercise on this issue before moving to a tasked team within the United Nations Development Group to put up a formula for cost-sharing and a proposed amount on top of back-bone funding.  In terms of what coordination funding covered, there was agreement on 10 functions as essential activities performed by the Resident and the United Nations Country Team.

During the interactive dialogue, speakers underlined the importance of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review for the reform of the United Nations system, including its specialized agencies, and raised issues concerning the role and financing of Resident Coordinators and how closer coordination could be achieved at country and regional level.  Some speakers raised the issues of gender equality and the eradication of poverty and said that the Council should not lose sight of those issues, which must remain a priority. 

Participating in the interactive dialogue with comments and questions were Mexico, Indonesia, Italy, Albania, Denmark, Bangladesh, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Fiji, China, Norway and the Netherlands.

The Economic and Social Council will resume its work at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 11 July when it will hold a panel discussion on opportunities and challenges for the United Nations system: expectations from Member States, to be followed by an interactive dialogue.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund, and the United Nations Office for Project Services, on its work during 2012 (E/2012/35).

The Council has before it the report of the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and of the Executive Directors of the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services to the Economic and Social Council (E/2013/5).

The Council has before it the annual report of the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund to the Economic and Social Council (E/2013/6).

The Council has before it the annual report of the World Food Programme for 2012 (E/2013/14).

The Council has before it the report of the Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund on the work of its first regular session of 2013 (5-8 February 2013) (E/2013/34 (Part I))(E/2013/34 (Part I)/Add.1)(E/2013/34 (Part II))(E/2013/34/Rev.1).

The Council has before it the report of the Executive Board of the World Food Programme on the first and second regular sessions and annual session of 2012 (E/2013/36).

The Council has before it a note by the Secretariat on the operational activities of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (E/2013/48).
The Council has before it an extract from the report of the Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund on its 2013 annual session (18-21 June 2013) concerning decisions adopted by the Executive Board at its annual session of 2013 (E/2013/L.12).

The Council has before it a letter dated 18 January 2013 from the Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (A/67/708–E/2013/4).

Dialogue with the Executive Heads of United Nations Funds and Programmes

FERIT HOXHA, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that the difference between this year’s and last year’s dialogue was actually the difference before and after the 2012 quadrennial comprehensive policy review.  A very ambitious resolution with 189 mandates stood in between.  It translated a clear call by the Member States on the need for a more balanced ratio between vertical lines of the agency specific drives for efficiency and effectiveness and the horizontal lines of the system-wide coherence and accountability for continued relevance on the United Nations development system as a whole.  The quadrennial comprehensive review as a powerful system wide accountability tool was progressively being integrated into the new strategic plans of United Nations entities.  The text of this year’s Operational Activities Segment draft resolution that would be proposed for adoption by the Council on Friday called on all entities with operational activities to join that path.  The more they made sure that all entities had a common understanding of the mandates of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review, the easier it would be to track down not only system wide results but also agency-specific coherent ones.  In today’s discussion they would hear from executive heads of different United Nations entities present on action taken so far on their plans to implement the mandates of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review as well as on their ideas of how to best use the common framework to monitor the implementation of the quadrennial comprehensive review into the agency specific monitoring systems. 

HELEN CLARK, Chair, United Nations Development Group, and Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, said that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review had given a significant impetus to the reform of the United Nations system.  In the follow-up to the action plan at hand, preparations were underway for the next generation of United Nations development frameworks.  In line with the quadrennial comprehensive policy review’s substance of activity, capacity-building was a priority and there were additional strategic priorities for the whole group which had already been agreed.  Those priorities included supporting broad-based engagement around the development of the post-2015 agenda and strengthening national capacity development.  To achieve the most of the results, it was important to ensure that improvements in business practices were accelerated and to support more effective partnerships including with the financial institutions and through south-south cooperation.  Ms. Clark highlighted the methodology which was being developed for multi-annual strategic business plans.  An effective way to do business was through robust evaluation and harmonization.

YOKA BRANDT, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund,
said she would focus her remarks on one of the major milestones for the quadrennial comprehensive review implementation that the United Nations Development Group members had worked on together, the United Nations Development Group Quadrennial Comprehensive Review Action Plan.  This was the first time ever that the United Nations Development Group as a group had translated the quadrennial comprehensive policy review resolution into an action plan for all its members, while previously each agency individually decided how to implement the resolution.  The Action Plan lay out common actions and indicators for all members of the United Nations Development Group, and also for those United Nations entities that were not bound by the quadrennial comprehensive policy review.  Some of the key areas being addressed in the Action Plan were creating a results culture and improving reporting on results, strengthening national capacity development and increasing the use of national systems in support of sustainable development results, and prioritization of several programmatic areas including poverty eradication and sustainable development.  Another area prioritized was the simplification and harmonization in two main aspects of its work, programme and business processes, and improving the functioning of the Resident Coordinator System.  The United Nations Development Group was also implementing measures to improve funding such as broadening the donor base and incentives to attract core funding.  All of this showed that since the adoption of the quadrennial comprehensive review, important steps had been taken to implement the resolution and to jointly address issues using indicators for progress that were common for all Nations Development Group members. 

BABATUNDE OSOTIMEHIN, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund, said that the Population Fund saw an enormous potential in the quadrennial comprehensive policy review to further strengthen the operational activities of the United Nations development system and welcomed the outcome.  To ensure full implementation, the Population Fund had developed its own action plan, in addition to the United Nations Development Group joint work-plan, with concrete steps to implement the quadrennial comprehensive review at country, regional and headquarters levels.  In this context, the Population Fund had taken the opportunity to integrate the quadrennial comprehensive policy review outcome in its new strategic plan.  It was especially proud of the progress made around the delivering-as-one approach and the harmonization of business practices.  The Population Fund had led to the development of standard operating procedures for countries wishing to adopt the delivering-as-one approach.  These provided United Nations country teams, Governments and partners with an integrated package of clear, straightforward and consistent guidance on programming, leadership, business operations, funding and communications issues.  This was an opportune movement to drive forward greater coherence and effectiveness by building on the strengths of the delivering-as-one approach.  They had to join efforts, as a system, to remove bottlenecks, especially at the headquarters level, that prevented from further strengthening the United Nations system.  In this respect, it would be crucial to implement the proposed standard operating procedures plan of action. 

ELISABETH RASMUSSON, Assistant Executive Director for Partnership and Governance Services, World Food Programme, said that she had seen significant efforts to drive United Nations reform, which were guided by the quadrennial comprehensive policy review.  The World Food Programme was engaged in many internal and external work streams to ensure the implementation of the policy review, including an executive management group monitoring implementation of the review on a regular basis, and regular coordination and reporting on implementation through the inter-agency mechanisms.  Ms. Rasmusson said that it was imperative that the United Nations system functioned in a manner which responded to the multidimensional nature of the challenges facing it, including the need to link preparedness and sustainable development.  The recently adopted integrated assessment and planning policy was part of the related system-wide guidance to achieve coherence and integration.  The United Nations had a vital role to play in countries in post-crisis transition, which was often synonymous with high-risk settings.  Risk management was integrated into the planning and implementation of all World Food Programme operations.  Ms. Rasmusson highlighted the need to continue to explore avenues for how risks could be meaningfully shared between the United Nations systems and partners as a foundation for greater efficiency and transparency and coherent early action.

MOEZ DORAID, Director, Coordination Division, United Nations Women, said that the creation of United Nations Women had contributed to women’s empowerment and should strengthen their investment, resolve, coherence and effectiveness in that area.  One of the accountability mechanisms that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review called for was greater use of the gender markers.  The United Nations Development Group was working with United Nations Women to establish an experts’ roster which would offer support to countries in terms of attending to national priorities.  It was important to create new networks for partnerships across the system and to develop coordination mechanisms for shared knowledge and understanding.  Experience and knowledge acquired at country, regional and global level showed that working together allowed them to be more effective and pay more attention to important cross-cutting issues, such as the empowerment of women and human rights, in advocacy at country level.  Adoption of at least some elements of the delivering-as-one process had been reported in the last quadrennial comprehensive policy review, which was encouraging.  Members should ensure that the United Nations system honoured its commitments with regard to the quadrennial comprehensive policy review.  Gender equality was an essential cross-cutting issue, and the entire United Nations system was responsible for contributing to its achievement.

HELEN CLARK, Chair, United Nations Development Group, and Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, said the leadership of Resident Coordinators was the lynch pin for coordination in countries and getting good candidates from within the United Nations system was extremely important, as well as continuing to support them.  The job of a Resident Coordinator was complex.  It was important not to lose sight of their role to coordinate the United Nations country team focused on development activities.  The Resident Coordinators as a group were a more diverse group than in the past, achieving an all-time high of 41 per cent being women.  Around 44 per cent of them were coming from programme countries and just under 40 per cent came from the broader system beyond the United Nations Development Programme.  A management and accountability system was operating.  Regarding funding, there was a long exercise on this issue before moving to a tasked team within the United Nations Development Group to put up a formula for cost-sharing and a proposed amount on top of back-bone funding.  The formula agreed to three elements, namely an annual-based fee, agency size in terms of staff and budget on development, and a component on system load as measured by agency participation.  The formula discounted for the spending of organizations on humanitarian work.  All agencies, funds, programmes and entities in the group were expected to contribute from next year as much as they could.  There was a reliance on cash-contributions to the extent possible.  In terms of what coordination funding covered, there was agreement on 10 functions as essential activities performed by the Resident and United Nations country team.  The business model would continue to be looked at to ensure that there was spending on what mattered, as cost-effectively as possible.  This was the first time the system had come together as one and agreed on a common plan of action.  When the budget items would come before the boards of funds and programmes and specialized agencies inter alia, the support of Member States would really be counted on.

Mexico welcomed the joint action plan and follow-up to the quadrennial comprehensive policy review.  The fact that this was the first resolution that had a follow up of this type was fully commendable.  On the strengthening of the Resident Coordinator, the financing issue was extremely important and this had to be focused on. 

Indonesia asked panellists to explain how the gap could be bridged between implementation at the field level and implementation at the headquarters level.  Regarding the Resident Coordinator system, Indonesia asked how effective the system had been in ensuring coherence, coordination, efficiency and accountability of entities at the country level.    

Italy said that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review provided an opportunity to reform the United Nations system.  As coherence was important, the representatives of all United Nations agencies should proceed with reforms.  Reform at headquarters level was encountering challenges, while it was moving faster at the field level.  Bearing in mind that the next cycle of strategic plans in several agencies was starting next year, how could that be used as a tool to advance reform?

Albania said that multi-year predictable funding was slowing down because of the financial crisis, and wondered how that would affect the implementation of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review Action Plan.  Albania was falling behind in attaining some of its targets, for example with regard to the Paris Declaration, and asked what measures could be undertaken regionally or at country level to speed up the process.  

HELEN CLARK, Chair, United Nations Development Group, and Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, said that to get a joined up United Nations the support of joined up Member States was needed.  The General Assembly could not legislate for specialized agencies.  The quadrennial comprehensive policy review exhorted specialized agencies to do this.  Some of the changes that needed to be made required action at headquarters and funding and cost-sharing required buying-in.  With respect to strategic plans, all were making their plans consistent with the quadrennial comprehensive policy review. 

YOKA BRANDT, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund,
said that it was unprecedented progress that they were now developing an action plan together.  For all of them the joint action plan had already found its way into strategic plans.  On using country and financial systems, this was specific action in the United Nations Development Group Action Plan and it was set to monitor progress against that specific action, but it was now important to see how it translated into specific country contexts.  The Resident Coordinator system had been extremely important in strategically positioning the United Nations in different countries.  It was important to focus on improving this system as a whole and to make sure that everyone put in their weight to make it effective. 

BABATUNDE OSOTIMEHIN, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund, said that concerning the question from Indonesia, the review which was carried out confirmed that at the field level everything was working fine and that it was those at Headquarters level who should make sure that they contributed to the process.  Overall, the system worked very well.  There were indications from countries which had been excellent examples, such as Viet Nam. 

ELISABETH RASMUSSON, Assistant Executive Director for Partnership and Governance Services, World Food Programme, said that the World Food Programme’s Executive Board had just adopted a strategic plan.  Regarding costs and burden-sharing, the costs of the Resident Coordinator system had been incorporated in its budget and hopefully would be approved by the Executive Board.  The World Food Programme fully recognized the leadership role of the Resident Coordinator which was reflected in the terms of reference.

Denmark said concerning alignment to national development priorities, diverging views were heard on how good United Nations agencies were at doing this.  It was interesting and reassuring to hear about the World Food Programme’s work on risk management.  It was important to work closely with national governments.  How had national governments been involved in efforts to improve risk management?

Bangladesh enquired as to what strategy was taken to improve the quality and quantity of funding in case of duplication of aid, as was being experienced by Bangladesh?  Furthermore, what strategy had been taken to have joint monitoring?

Russia enquired regarding the system of joint indicators, whether further details could be provided on the implementation of interagency work on preparing the system of common indicators?  What stage had been achieved and what exactly was in these common indicators?  Would the Standard Operating Procedures assist in bringing more countries on board on the delivering-as-one approach? 

Sweden said that it was evident that much had happened since the adoption of the resolution.  Was there a timeline or ambition expressed on when the Standard Operating Procedures Plan of Action could be implemented across the system?

BABATUNDE OSOTIMEHIN, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund, said that 14 countries had come onboard and he would encourage more countries to do so, bearing in mind that not all countries were at the same stage of their development system.  It was hoped that countries would be encouraged to adopt the delivering-as-one approach, which hopefully would soon become a universal method of work.  Concerning the issue of financing, raised by Bangladesh, delivering-as-one made sense in terms of avoiding duplication while taking into account country priorities. 

HELEN CLARK, Chair, United Nations Development Group, and Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, said that the Standard Operating Procedures would serve to underline the importance of alignment, and stressed that there should be more timely alignment.  In all capacities the Resident Coordinator system could help to avoid overlap and overcome duplication, especially if it had strong links with the country concerned. 

YOKA BRANDT, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund, said with regards to both the question of aligning to national development priorities and of better leveraging funding to achieve national development priorities, it was through working effectively together that they would be able to greatly improve performance and it was on that basis that the Standard Operating Procedures were going to be of help.  An interagency task team had worked on the United Nations Development Group Action Plan.  In terms of indicators, it had worked as much as possible with indicators that already existed to monitor quadrennial comprehensive policy review implementation so as to avoid two parallel sets of indicators.

ELISABETH RASMUSSON, Assistant Executive Director for Partnership and Governance Services, World Food Programme, said on working with national Governments in relation to risk management, this was done through conducting workshops with national governments and partners.  This had been done in Zimbabwe and results of the process would be presented.

Switzerland enquired whether the panellists were thinking of taking measures to agree on rates that took non-core contributions into account.  What other measures had been envisaged to encourage an increase in core contributions?  How could they establish a link between joint results presented at the country level and the current discussion about a system-wide evaluation policy?

Ireland said that according to the Secretary-General’s report, in 2013 gender equality seemed to have become one of the areas where the most competition between United Nations agencies had been reported.  Was that a statistical anomaly or were there any emerging issues which they needed to be aware of?

Fiji said that the Economic and Social Council needed to play a full role in implementation, and asked how that could be channelled into the monitoring framework which the Member States would be seeing every year without reduplicating efforts?  Building on national capacities would be the best way to ensure that countries took their destiny into their own hands.

China said that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review resolution reaffirmed the eradication of poverty as a core responsibility of the United Nations system.  Different reforms and adjustments should ensure that the resources allocated to the eradication of poverty were not decreased and that eradicating poverty worldwide remained a priority for the Council.   

Norway said regarding the agreement on funding of coordination activities of the United Nations Resident Coordinator system, it fully agreed that it was up to Member States to ensure that all the entities actually implemented this agreement.  The problem was that the amount agreed upon was apparently pretty low and Norway expressed concern about this.  On delivering-as-one, it would be interesting to hear views on the prospects of funding. 

Netherlands said that it was mentioned that from the recent 19 United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks, five were by self-starters and more would probably follow.  Strategic Operating Procedures were now in place to guide self-starters on delivering-as-one.  It would be interesting to know if there was a common mechanism in place to track specific problems self-starters might face and any interesting innovations they could come up with. 

HELEN CLARK, Chair, United Nations Development Group, and Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, said on the issue of cost-recovery rate that costs arising from the implementation of projects and funding from other resources had to be fully recovered under the new model.  On the good deal of joint programming on gender equality issues, it had to relate to the fact that it was truly an issue that had to touch on the work of every agency.  On reporting, the United Nations Development Group was very proactive on getting going on the Action Plan for implementation.  The United Nations system should now work very closely to finalize the monitoring framework and the United Nations Development Group action plan would be a very important part of that.  On developing capacities, this was strong in the quadrennial comprehensive review.  It was also fair to note that from time to time the point had been made by small island developing states that where departments were very small, there was always a quest for capacity development.  Poverty eradication was indeed given pride of place in the quadrennial comprehensive review.  Regarding the question from Norway, they had to look at the business model and ensure that there was absolute value for money.  On funding for the delivering-as-one approach, the Resident Coordinator had the responsibility to mobilize funding for the system.  On broadening the donor base, south-south cooperation also had the possibility to augment non-core funding somewhat, but support for core-funding from a broader range would be greatly appreciated. 

YOKA BRANDT, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund, said that she agreed with China that poverty eradication should remain at the heart of their activities and strategic plan.  An action plan on gender was being developed to ensure that the issue was fully integrated into the United Nations strategic plan.  It was crucially important to ensure that indicators were fully aligned during the reporting process, which would facilitate the process.  

BABATUNDE OSOTIMEHIN, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund, said that it was important to work with donors to ensure better coordination.  Building capacity of national institutions would enable them to function better and that was one of the core activities of the United Nations Population Fund.  

MOEZ DORAID, Director, Coordination Division, United Nations Women, said that the United Nations system’s engagement in cross-cutting issues such as gender and environmental sustainability was not surprising.  There was a need to implement what the quadrennial comprehensive policy review itself called for, which was for the United Nations system and entities to increase investment in gender equality and the empowerment of women.  Through such increased investment they could operationalise the engagement towards greater impact and reduce competition.  United Nations Women and other entities were vigilant and active in increasing coordination to enhance the coherence of joint and individual work on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the formulation of strategic plans of United Nations entities.  On score-cards noting, it was already a good achievement that a good share of United Nations Country Teams had used this.  United Nations Women was working with Country Teams to expand this use and one of the messages was that the use of such score cards required an investment, but that this investment paid off in terms of motivating work on gender equality in terms of enhancing coherence and impact.  There had been a steady and considerable increase in United Nations system joint action on gender equality.

FERIT HOXHA, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council and discussion moderator, in concluding remarks said that the dialogue had been very fruitful.  The implementation of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review had begun and it was up to everyone to ensure that it had a better and greater impact.  Member States were crucial stakeholders in this enterprise and stood ready to do their part, but action plans were also important.  Mandates were in place to be implemented, and by enhancing coordination and cooperation they maximized the chances of success.  


For use of the information media; not an official record

ECOSOC13/018E


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