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ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL OPENS OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES SEGMENT

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL OPENS OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES SEGMENT
Holds Panel Discussion on Progress Made in Implementation of Resolution 67/226 on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review
10 July 2013

The Economic and Social Council this morning opened its Operational Activities Segment, hearing statements from the Vice-President of the Council and the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, an introduction of the reports of the Secretary-General, and then held a panel discussion on progress made in the implementation of General Assembly resolution 67/226 on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review. 

Ferit Hoxha, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that last December the General Assembly adopted by consensus the landmark resolution 67/226 on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of the United Nations operational activities for development.  There was a general view that full and timely implementation of the resolution could transform the functioning of the United Nations development system and help position the organization for further growth in a more competitive development cooperation environment.  For that to happen, it was important that all actors joined hands to make sure the resolution was adopted in both letter and spirit.

Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, in a video address said that he counted on the Council to take account of the way in which developing countries’ needs were evolving.  Many of them were crossing the threshold to middle-income status, which was a welcome development.  The capacity of governments and national institutions was growing and they continued to look to the United Nations system for support in several areas.  The range of development partners was growing too, and the United Nations system needed to make the most of that positive trend.

Navid Hanif, Director of the Office for ECOSCOC Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced two reports of the Secretary-General and a policy report on development.  Concerning the first report, significant efforts had been made to develop indicators which could measure progress in the implementation of General Assembly Resolution 67/226, and targets would be established later this year.  The second report consisted of an analysis of funding of operational activities for development of the United Nations system for 2011.  The third document was an independent system-wide evaluation of United Nations operational activities for development, containing a number of relevant proposals for consideration by the delegations.

The Economic and Social Council then held a panel discussion on progress made in the implementation of General Assembly resolution 67/226.

Mr. Hoxha said that progress in implementation of General Assembly resolution 67/226 was a topic of great pertinence and it was imperative to ensure that those far-reaching changes were timely implemented.  In this discussion, perspectives and experiences would be heard from four countries, Ghana, Timor-Leste, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Kazakhstan, on how the United Nations system in their country had or could better respond to their development changes. 

Emilia Pires, Minister of Finance, Timor-Leste, said that she had just completed a crucial phase of reform within her own Ministry.  The Ministry had seemed to have 10 heads and 10 voices, often contradicting each other.  She had found, looking at the structure of the United Nations today, that if they were going to work as one, they should go back to the original structure of the United Nations.  Agency plans should be harmonized to a country plan but in her experience, they had not.

Somchith Inthamit, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said the Government had learned a lot from its cooperation with the United Nations system.  Increased investment of time and resources was needed for the implementation of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review, but the fragmentation of the system and the existence of several different agencies made coordination difficult.  A clear decision on harmonization and a co-sharing formula in terms of financing were needed.
Alexei Volkov, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kazakhstan, said that Kazakhstan enjoyed a very strong partnership with the United Nations and that many of its internal and external successes were associated with the organization.  Countries that proved successful in security sustainable development had always been able to harness their civil services at national and sub-national levels as engines for transformation, change and building prosperity in society.

Kweku Ricketts-Hagan, Deputy Minister of Finance, Ghana, said that the global discourse on aid and development reforms had been shifted into its rightful place, the United Nations Development and Cooperation Forum.  The quality and quantity of funding for United Nations activities for development should be increased.  The United Nations should encourage development partners to be sensitive to specific country needs and open to dialogue.  Increased efforts were necessary to harmonize and simplify business practices within the United Nations.   

Helen Clark, Chair, United Nations Development Group, and Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, said resolution 67/226 had affirmed the value of the United Nations development system but there was room for improvement.  A specific quadrennial comprehensive policy review plan had been put in place in order to achieve that, but as the necessary monitoring framework was being developed, they needed to be conscious of the compliance costs involved.  The United Nations Development Group had also developed strategic priorities on poverty eradication and sustainable development, and was also focusing on the role it could play in States emerging from conflict and fragile States.

Participating in the discussion were New Zealand, Belgium, Nepal, Côte d’Ivoire, Australia, China, South Africa, Norway, Kyrgyzstan and Germany.

Mr. Hoxha, in concluding remarks, said that the delivering-as-one process brought order and discipline, therefore coordination was crucial to its success.  The United Nations should follow suit in reforming, since countries, whole regions and even the environment were changing too.  The United Nations should ensure greater coherence, always adapting to country changes.

The Economic and Social Council will resume its work this afternoon, at 3 p.m., to continue its Operational Activities Segment and hold a dialogue with the Executive Heads of United Nations Funds and Programmes.

Operational Activities Segment

Opening Statements

FERIT HOXHA, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that last December the General Assembly adopted by consensus the landmark resolution 67/226 on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of the United Nations operational activities for development.  As the evolving post-2015 global development agenda looked to a new global partnership to eradicate poverty and transform economies through sustainable development, Member States agreed on the need to make the Organization’s development system more relevant, coherent, efficient and effective in supporting the efforts of developing countries to achieve the internationally agreed development goals.  In this regard an important role of the Economic and Social Council was to monitor the implementation of this resolution through the provision of effective annual guidance to the United Nations development system.  For the first time, there was also an intergovernmental recognition of the delivering-as-one model, though it remained a voluntary option.  The United Nations Development Group had developed and approved the standard operating procedures for countries wishing to adopt delivering-as-one, with more details to be finalized later this year. 

The resolution also attached great importance to the accountability of the United Nations system to Member States and for results.  There was a strong call to improve the transparency of the system and reinforce its focus on results.  The decision in the resolution reflected, in the Vice-President’s view, growing convergence among Member States on several fronts, such as concern about the high degree of fragmentation of the United Nations development system, the greater willingness among Member States to discuss issues in relation to the future role of the United Nations development system, that they were more cognizant than ever before of the need to improve accountability of the United Nations development system for system-wide results, and the strong demand for evidence-based, effective and coherent monitoring of the implementation of the resolution. 

There was a general view that full and timely implementation of the resolution could transform the functioning of the United Nations development system and help position the organization for further growth in a more competitive development cooperation environment.  However, for that to happen, it was important that all actors joined hands to make sure the resolution was adopted in both letter and spirit.  It was particularly important that Member States took strong ownership of the implementation of the resolution.  This year’s Operational Activities Segment offered a key opportunity to being a journey of ensuring effective implementation of the resolution by all relevant actors. 

JAN ELIASSON, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaking in a video message, said that he counted on the Council to take account of the way in which developing countries’ needs were evolving.  Many of them were crossing the threshold to middle-income status, which was a welcome development.  The capacity of governments and national institutions was growing and they continued to look to the United Nations system for support in several areas.  The range of development partners was growing too, and the United Nations system needed to make the most of that positive trend.  As countries moved up the development ladder, they needed more upstream policy support.  The United Nations system must be fully equipped to draw on the strengths of its parts and cooperate with nations to reduce poverty and advance sustainable development.

Documentation

The Council has before it a report on the follow-up to policy recommendations of the General Assembly and the Council (A/68/97–E/2013/87).

Introduction of Reports

NAVID HANIF, Director of the Office for the Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said that he was introducing two reports of the Secretary-General and a policy report on development.  Concerning the first report, significant efforts had been made to develop indicators which could measure progress in the implementation of General Assembly resolution 67/226 on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system, and that targets would be established later this year in close collaboration with United Nations Directorate General Members.  Areas in which implementation required acceleration included procurement and monitoring.  The second report consisted of an analysis of funding of operational activities for development of the United Nations system for 2011, which amounted to $22.8 billion, about the same as in 2010 in nominal terms and 6.9 per cent less in real terms.   The third document was an independent system-wide evaluation of United Nations operational activities for development, containing a number of relevant proposals for consideration by the delegations.

Panel Discussion on Progress in the Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 67/226 on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review – Perspectives of the United Nations Programme Countries

FERIT HOXHA, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that progress in the implementation of General Assembly resolution 67/226 was a topic of great pertinence.  The resolution represented a shift in which the United Nations development system functioned.  It was imperative to ensure that those far-reaching changes were timely implemented.  The resolution called for breakthrough changes in the functioning of the United Nations development system.  In this discussion, perspectives and experiences would be hear from four countries, Ghana, Timor-Leste, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Kazakhstan on how the United Nations system in their countries had or could better respond to their development changes. 

EMILIA PIRES, Minister of Finance, Timor-Leste, said that she had just completed a crucial phase of reform within her own Ministry, through which she had learned more than expected and this had had an impact on her perspectives on development.  The Ministry seemed to have 10 heads and 10 voices, often contradicting each other and making it dysfunctional.  She had asked herself what was a functional Ministry of Finance and what was its purpose for Timor-Leste.  The core function was to find money, allocate it, use it and report on it, she had decided, returning to basics.  She had found, looking at the structure of the United Nations today, that if they were going to work as one, they should go back to the original structure of the United Nations.  What were the strategic plans of the agencies?  Their plans should be harmonized to a country plan but in her experience, that had not happened.  On wanting to be evidence-based, this was very important.  It was noticed that what was missing in the Millennium Development Goals were country institutions to deliver those goals.  Once you structured yourself to help, that was when benchmarks had to be set but all these things had to be linked back to the mandate to deliver the report, otherwise you would go around in circles.  This was not easy, but very important. 

SOMCHITH INTHAMIT, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said that a lot of measures had already been implemented in Lao People’s Democratic Republic in order to advance poverty eradication and sustainable development.  The Government had learned a lot from its cooperation with the United Nations system, especially in terms of streamlining.  Lao People’s Democratic Republic had developed several joint programmes, including a programme for sustainable development and a health programme for mothers, newborn babies and children, but several challenges remained.  Increased investment of time and resources was needed for the implementation of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of the United Nations operational activities for development, but the fragmentation of the system and the existence of several different agencies made coordination difficult.  It was necessary for the Government to increase coordination efforts and bring all agencies under one leadership in order to strengthen the overall capacity of coordination systems.  Other remaining challenges included issues of accountability of the Resident Coordinator, and decreased funding as opposed to increased responsibilities of the Resident Coordinator.  Lao People’s Democratic Republic made certain recommendations, including for the Resident Coordinator to increase accountability and harmonize procedures across agencies.  A clear decision on harmonization and a co-sharing formula in terms of financing were needed.

FERIT HOXHA, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said that the plea of joint-processing was duly noted, as well as the important element of coordination and the benefits of delivering-as-one. 

ALEXEI VOLKOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kazakhstan, said that in a relatively short time span, Kazakhstan had been turned into a regional power with a robust economy and a strong position within the international community.  The Government and people of Kazakhstan enjoyed a very strong partnership with the United Nations.  Many of Kazakhstan’s internal and external successes were associated with the Organization.  It believed that the United Nations project activities in Kazakhstan should be upgraded to a new level, seeking to address the most pressing issues within the framework of the country’s development strategy.  Kazakhstan had been undertaking consultations at the national and local level regarding what the world might be like post-2015 and how governments would position themselves to the challenges ahead.  Countries that proved successful in security sustainable development had always been able to harness their civil services at national and sub-national levels as engines for transformation, change and building prosperity in society.  In the nearest future, a new challenge would be faced, with the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, which may produce security threats.  It was necessary to strengthen international coordination of humanitarian assistance and economic rehabilitation of post-conflict Afghanistan.  The United Nations had to play a key role in the process. 

HELEN CLARK, Chair, United Nations Development Group, and Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, noted that inequality was the main issue to tackle in Kazakhstan, while poverty reduction, climate change, and the general issue of how to build greater resilience to volatility and shock remained a priority for all countries.  Resolution 67/226 had affirmed the value of the United Nations development system but there was room for improvement.  A specific quadrennial comprehensive policy review plan had been put in place in order to achieve that, but as the necessary monitoring framework was being developed, they needed to be conscious of the compliance costs involved.  The United Nations Development Group had also developed strategic priorities on poverty eradication and sustainable development, and was also focusing on the role it could play in States emerging from conflict and fragile States.  The United Nations Development Group was also working to ensure that the development system was streamlined at country level. 

Ms. Clark stressed that it was important to be aligned with countries’ national development plans and respect the direction which countries had developed for themselves.  The United Nations system did not monitor countries but monitored its own performance, which would help the United Nations improve on the results achieved.  Concerning the recommendations made by Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Ms. Clark said that the United Nations was working to improve the accountability of Resident Coordinators.  Enhancing the planning and coordination function of the Resident Coordinator was also important.  Harmonization issues were a work in progress, and the United Nations was dealing with legacy effects here.  It was imperative that the United Nations agencies shared all coordination costs, including the costs of Resident Coordinators, but much had to be done to determine how the costs would be shared.     

New Zealand, with regards to aligning with national development plans and how critical this was, wanted to ask Mr. Volkov to share more about KazAid and how the principle of alignment with national development plans was being integrated. 

ALEXEI VOLKOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kazakhstan, said that
providing assistance to neighbouring countries was fully incorporated in its national development strategy.  KazAid’s purpose was to assist neighbouring countries which had shared problems.  Currently in terms of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, the problem was spreading and it was working with countries including France.  It was creating transport hubs which could be used when integrated economic recovery was underway in Afghanistan.  In the near future, it would join forces with large global agencies including the United Nations and regional organizations and States. 

EMILIA PIRES, Minister of Finance, Timor-Leste, said that Timor-Leste considered itself a fragile State but it had also been helping other countries.  Right now, the Government had approved an agency for cooperation and the office was being set up in Guinea-Bissau, which was going through a tough time and would be sharing its own experience.  One of the main elements was fragility assessment and helping the countries make an assessment of themselves so that they could recognise their own problems before coming up with their own solutions.  The risk for the United Nations was being on the outside and becoming a parallel system.  Instead of preaching, there should be offers of help, allowing for country ownership. 

Belgium said that there were at least two different interpretations of what monitoring exactly consisted of: reporting what was happening in a country, and helping countries to build capacity to deal with socio-economic problems.  The issue needed clarification and it would also be helpful to address the question of what more could be done to advance the delivering-as-one initiative.     

Nepal said that effective intervention with adequate resources was needed, especially in the case of vulnerable countries.  Nepal had a long association with the United Nations Development Unit and agreed with the panellists on the need to streamline policies at the country level.  Nepal said that the international community had to repeat good lessons learned and had to avoid repeating previous mistakes. 

Côte d’Ivoire said that, concerning Kazakhstan, it would be useful for the agency which was set up there to open up above and beyond the Central Asia region on how other countries could benefit from the experience of Kazakhstan.  Côte d’Ivoire said that the issue of monitoring would be a United Nations initiative, but it was also very much an issue of giving responsibility to the States concerned. 

Australia said that it wanted to know more about the coherence and coordination between the United Nations system and the Bretton Woods institutions, such as the World Bank and some of the regional Banks.  Could the panel comment on their own experience at country level in that regard?

EMILIA PIRES, Minister of Finance, Timor-Leste, said that the challenge was ensuring coherence and coordination between the United Nations and international financial institutions.  Lately, they had improved, but there was a lot of competition.  In Timor-Leste, international financial institutions housed themselves in one place to improve coordination.  There were more regular meetings between international financial institutions and the United Nations, among others.  Lessons must have been learned.  On monitoring and reporting, it was suggested that it would be interesting to link the key performance indicators of agencies to the results of the country.  Sometimes, indicators were not developed for the right context.  It was important for everybody to be on the same page, otherwise there would be great discrepancy.
 
SOMCHITH INTHAMIT, Vice Minister, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said that they should have a joint exercise between the Government and development agencies.  Furthermore, common parameters and indicators should be developed.  On coordination between United Nations agencies and international financial institutions and the Government, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic noted that indeed there were problems.  It had asked the United Nations Resident Coordinator to hold informal meetings. 

China said that Kazakhstan’s goal to increase its Gross Domestic Product was a noble goal, and asked Alexei Volkov, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, what he expected from the United Nations country team in terms of the cooperation model used, now that Kazakhstan was trying the enter the high-income country category.

South Africa said that other forms of development cooperation such as South-South cooperation were becoming more evident.  Did the panelists feel that there were new coordination challenges in those and other similar initiatives?

ALEXEI VOLKOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kazakhstan, said that they would also be paying attention to the model used in order to achieve the goal which the country had set.  Referring to a specific programme for children in need, Mr. Volkov said that 20 years ago the main financial assistance for that programme came from a Regional European Office in Austria, but this year the project had been receiving financing from the Government.  That would allow the Regional European Office to re-gear financing into other countries, either in the same region or in other regions.

EMILIA PIRES, Minister of Finance, Timor-Leste, said with regards to challenges of south-south coordination, they had to know very well which part of the Government needed certain information or knowledge.  The Government was exchanging knowledge within itself, and was now communicating with other agencies. The challenge was coordinating in-country and ensuring that the people were really benefitting from south-south coordination.

SOMCHITH INTHAMIT, Vice Minister, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said that it had schemes in the region, with a lot of activities with neighbouring countries supporting the most important areas to match real needs.  The problem was in capacity-building and technical cooperation.  Triangular cooperation schemes were being developed which were useful, allowing for the use of expertise from neighbouring countries and the cost was relatively cheap. 

KWEKU RICKETTS-HAGAN, Deputy Minister of Finance, Ghana, delivered the greetings of the President of Ghana and said that Ghana highly appreciated the work carried out by the Economic and Social Council.  The global discourse on aid and development reforms had been shifted into its rightful place, the United Nations Development and Cooperation Forum.  The quality and quantity of funding for United Nations activities for development should be increased.  Ghana’s changing national context with respect to oil exports and its improved economic growth had enabled it to increase the quality and quantity of United Nations funding.  The United Nations should encourage development partners to be sensitive to specific country needs and open to dialogue.  Efforts to increase the quantity of funding required Member States to prepare scaling-up scenarios and fiscal analyses which would outline the likely use of the funds.  More specifically, scaling-up scenarios should be guided by objectives such as promoting good governance and preparing an exit strategy as part of the scaling-up process for the country to follow after achieving its results.  Concerning evaluation and monitoring at the country level, there were several alternatives to previously used reporting mechanisms.  Mr. Ricketts-Hagan said that the need to support national evaluation systems could not be emphasized enough.  Increased efforts were necessary to harmonize and simplify business practices within the United Nations.   

HELEN CLARK, Chair, United Nations Development Group, and Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, said that the conversation about south-south cooperation was very interesting, as well as what was said about experience-sharing.  On whether there were too many mandates in the system or whether there were too many organizations, indeed there were many, but they had to do their best to really get coordination working well.  Efforts were underway to ensure mandates did not overlap.  Delivering-as-one showed the critical role of Governments and countries on leading on coordination.  On the issue raised about coordination with the international financial institutions, it was worth noting that there had just been a meeting in New York with the World Bank on developing a strategic framework for how they worked together in fragile States and how to collaborate on technical and Millennium Development Goals acceleration.  It really was very important to encourage the World Bank and other international financial institutions to work with the United Nations Country Team to get the most synergy possible between the work of the United Nations and the Bank’s plan was. 

Norway said that it would be interesting to hear more about Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s and other countries’ experience with the delivering-as-one modality, given that the success of the initiative heavily relied on increased Government coordination.   

Kyrgyzstan said that, concerning the alignment with national development plans, the United Nations had consulted with Kyrgyzstan and had tried to coordinate efforts with its Government.  A high level development conference was currently taking place in the country to discuss how aid to Kyrgyzstan and implementation of the national strategy for sustainable development would be facilitated.  

Germany asked the Vice-Minister from Lao People’s Democratic Republic to clarify and expand on what he said about the necessity to strengthen the coordination function of the Resident Coordinator.

SOMCHITH INTHAMIT, Vice Minister, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said that ownership of the country was important in the delivery-in-one process.  The Lao People’s Democratic Republic tried to develop joint programmes.  It tried to work closely with the main United Nations organizations on, for example, carrying out joint review activities.  When it came to nutrition, a lot of participation was needed from different stakeholders, the United Nations agencies and civil society.  When it came to financing, prioritization was needed.  On the necessity to strengthen the capacity of Resident Coordinators, which had a very important role, financial support to the Resident Coordinator Office was suggested. 

EMILIA PIRES, Minister of Finance, Timor-Leste, said that she had seen rivalry between the United Nations and the World Bank in the past.  This rivalry had now been vanquished with coordination and a division of labour.  The World Bank took care of stakeholders and the United Nations took care of coordination of its agencies, and Ms. Pires herself took care of coordination at the Governmental level.  

FERIT HOXHA, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, in concluding remarks, said that the delivering-as-one process brought order and discipline, therefore coordination was crucial to its success.  The United Nations should follow suit in reforming, since countries, whole regions and even the environment were changing too.  The United Nations should ensure greater coherence, always adapting to country changes.


For use of the information media; not an official record

ECOSOC13/017E


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