Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6012
    8 July 2002

    Economic and Social Council Opens Operational Activities Segment with Focus on "Capacity-Building" in Developing Countries

    High-Level Policy Exchange With Heads of UN Agencies Stresses Partnership, Improved Coordination of Development Efforts

    NEW YORK, 5 July (UN Headquarters) -- Opening the operational activities segment of the Economic and Social Council's 2002 session, President Ivan Simonovic (Croatia) urged the Council to harness the international community's sense of enthusiasm and renewed resolve to identify new ways to eradicate poverty, achieve sustained economic growth and promote sustainable development.

    Addressing a high-level panel on capacity building, he said the role of the Council, and this segment in particular, was to bring together all actors involved in development cooperation efforts to discuss ways to help developing countries cope with their development challenges. Deliberations this year should build on the spirit of constructive engagement that had emerged last March following the International Conference on Financing for Development, where the key role of the United Nations development system had been stressed.

    He added that the morning's panel, as well as the exchange on United Nations operational activities that would follow in the afternoon, should serve as concrete examples of the way in which this segment must continue to work in the future. The panels should intensify the Council's work as facilitator of a dialogue among key stakeholders, bringing together crucial global actors and exploring better ways to pursue ambitious development goals in a collaborative manner, through development cooperation.

    Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), serving as moderator of the panel on capacity-building, said the focus of development cooperation was shifting from "development assistance" to "development partnership", which emphasized capacity-building. Where past capacity-building strategies had been externally managed and poorly integrated into national efforts, increasing coordination among outside donors to enhance capacities at the country programme level marked a revolutionary shift away from merely providing technical assistance.

    Mr. Desai was joined by P. Kwesi Nduom, Minister of Planning and Regional Integration of Ghana; Ann Theresa Ndong-Jatta, Secretary of State for Education of Gambia; Jean-Claud Faure, Chairman of the OECD; Ellen Margrethe Loj, the representative of Denmark to the United Nations; Zephirin Diabre, Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and Najma Siddiqi, Senior Social Specialist and Learning Coordinator of the World Bank.

    Ms. Ndong-Jatta said the question of capacity-building from the developing country perspective had less to do with what's happening, than with what's not. If the goal of development assistance and capacity-building was to bridge the huge gap between donors and recipients, then why was the gap getting bigger? Either resources were inadequate for the task, or there was a mismatch between what was required and what was prescribed -- perhaps even both.

    In the past, she said most multilateral programmes had focused on fitting local expertise into a specialized unit, with no attention given to passing that expertise on to others within the community. By example, she noted that local participants in World Bank initiatives generally tended to be reallocated to other areas where the Bank operated. In addition, there had been poor coordination of assistance for capacity-building. Competition between agencies turned attention away from a people-orientation and aimed to make a mark for the agency through constant evaluation.

    Mr. Diabre of the UNDP said the development of capacities involved strengthening the aptitudes of individuals and social groups to fulfil their social functions, to resolve problems and to set aims and meet them. While poverty eradication was the ultimate goal, the means to reach that goal must be through capacity-building. Development was not undertaken for people, but with the people, putting them and their needs at the centre of all efforts.

    Over the past 50 years, he continued, the UNDP had learned some lessons. There was no "one size fits all". Some countries required assistance to help them develop capacities in particular areas, for example in governance. Others required assistance to build capacities from the bottom up, particularly in such new areas as information and communications technology. Starting from an existing national base, and developing existing capacities was much more fruitful than creating new structures and institutions that might not be relevant to national needs and contexts.

    The afternoon's policy exchange began with Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), who briefed the Council on the special session on children held in May. She said the session's outcome document, "A World Fit for Children", outlined commitments by Member States in four key areas of action -- promoting healthy lives, providing quality education, protecting against abuse, exploitation and violence and combating HIV/AIDS. The Plan of Action called for developing or strengthening national and regional action plans with time-bound and measurable goals and targets.

    The goals and targets would be implemented as a fully collaborative and cooperative venture involving all relevant stakeholders, she continued. A key level of partnership would be facilitated by improved coordination and collaboration with other United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, through (the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) and the Chief Executive Board (CEB).

    The Council would play a key role in providing guidance and oversight in the process.

    Also taking part in the policy exchange were Imelda Henkin, Deputy Director (Management) of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Jean-Jacques Graisse, Deputy Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP); and Mr. Diabre, the Associate Administrator of UNDP.

    It was announced that a dialogue with executive heads of the United Nations funds and programmes would be held in the fall after the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

    Also speaking this afternoon was a representative of Franciscans International, delivering a statement as part of the high-level segment which ended Wednesday, 3 July.

    The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. Monday, 8 July, to continue its operational activities segment.

    Background

    The Council met this morning to begin the high-level session of its operational activities segment, which will take place 5-9 July, with discussions devoted to the activities of the United Nations for international development cooperation. It will also focus on efforts to improve the functioning of the United Nations system at the country level by discussing reforms, modalities, rules and procedures of the relevant funds and programmes.

    The segment will provide an opportunity for ministers and high-level officials from both developing and donor countries, as well as executive heads of major international organizations, to discuss policy issues affecting future aspects of development cooperation, focusing on capacity-building and rationalization of operational modalities of the United Nations system.

    The segment is set to open with a high-level panel discussion on "Capacity-building: a challenge for international development cooperation."

    Scheduled to participate in the panel are, P. Kwesi Nduom, Minister of Planning and Regional Integration of Ghana; Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Secretary of State for Education of Gambia; Jean-Claud Faure, Chairman of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); Ellen Margrethe Loj (Denmark), Zephirin Diabre, Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Najma Siddiqui, Senior Social Specialist and Learning Coordinator of the World Bank.

    This afternoon, the Council will hold a high-level policy exchange with the Executive Heads of United Nations funds and programmes on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 56/201 on the triennial policy review. Scheduled participating agencies include the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), and the World Food Programme (WFP).

    On Monday, 8 July, the Council will review progress in the implementation of General Assembly resolution 56/201 on the triennial policy review of operational activities for development.

    [Assembly resolution 56/201 emphasized several points in particular. Those included the notions that national ownership of United Nations operational activities for development is fundamental; that United Nations development cooperation should be participatory and country driven, and efforts to enhance the functioning of the Organization's development system at the country level should be intensified. Among other important issues raised are the need to strengthen the relationship between public and private partners and domestic and international resources.]

    Statements

    IVAN SIMONOVIC, President of the Economic and Social Council, opening the Council's operational activities segment, said the segment was based on the recognition that the international development cooperation had an important role to play in assisting developing countries in coping with their development challenges. In that context, the United Nations development system in particular had a key function. The role of the Council, particularly this segment, was to bring together all actors involved in the development cooperation efforts to identify new ways in which concrete progress could be achieved towards common goals for development.

    Two major themes had emerged among those that would be discussed in this segment, he said. The first was capacity-building as a challenge for international development cooperation and potentially important areas of operations for United Nations development efforts at the country level. The second theme concerned efforts to improve the functioning of the United Nations system at the country level by introducing reforms regarding the modalities, rules and procedures of the United Nations funds and programmes.

    He added that the Council could play an important role in furthering effective dialogue on international development cooperation, becoming a central forum for discussion among all relevant actors and bringing together high-level policy makers in the development cooperation field, both from developed and developing countries, together with representatives of the United Nations system. The high-level panel on capacity-building was a concrete example of the way in which the operational activities segment must continue to work in the future, intensifying its work as facilitator of a dialogue among key stakeholders, bringing together crucial actors of the international community and exploring better ways to pursue ambitious goals of development and growth in a collaborative manner through development cooperation.

    DUMISANI SHADRACK KUMALO (South Africa), Vice President of the Council, said the panel on capacity-building was a primer for future operational activities segments. It was an opportunity to debate the value of capacity-building in the context of international development cooperation, particularly regarding operational activities for development within the United Nations system.

    The purpose of the dialogue was to further understanding of the role of external assistance in promoting capacity building, he continued. Under consideration would be lessons learned from bilateral cooperation and cooperation within the United Nations system. Capacity-building was not a new concept. International development cooperation had been a channel for expanding national capacity for years. However, there was a new conception of it today. The panel would explore the evolving approach to promoting capacity-building in developing countries and the role of the United Nations system in the process.

    The expertise of the panellists was diversified, he said. They had experience with both development aid programmes and capacity-building initiatives. That enabled a closer look at capacity-building as a development factor from various perspectives. The outcome of the discussion would feed into the general debate to refine policy guidance to the United Nations system for capacity-building initiatives.

    NITIN DESAI, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Panel Moderator, said the emphasis on capacity-building reflected a major change in the way development assistance was delivered. In the past, it had been externally managed, poorly integrated into national efforts, and not well coordinated into other assistance activities. Today, the movement was increasingly away from project-based to programme-based assistance. National implementation was a major feature of development assistance, and there was great attention to integrating programmes into national strategies. Stand-alone projects were no longer acceptable, and coordination among donors was much better since there was a common framework around which donors organized themselves. The United Nations was central to these developments.

    In short, he said, capacity-building was more important than ever. The focus of development cooperation was moving from development assistance to development partnership, which put emphasis on capacity building. It required capacity at the country programme level to communicate with the outside assistance supplier. As capacity built, accountability and impact analysis became increasingly important. It was a revolutionary paradigm shift in promoting development to move away from the old model of providing technical assistance to the new model of capacity-building.

    High-level Panel on Capacity-Building

    JEAN-CLAUDE FAURE, Chairman of the Development Assistance Committee of OECD (DAC/Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), stressed the importance of the link between all stakeholders in the development process. The Monterrey Consensus provided a mobilizing agenda, which now called for implementation. It was a demanding challenge and a dynamic process that would be undertaken through governance, coherence and performance. Some elements of capacity-building were the operationalizing of poverty reduction policies through operational partnerships, technical cooperation, capacity for trade, and the operationalization of national ownership. He stressed that policy coherence was essential for all -- developed and developing countries as well as international organizations. Capacity development was a central element in promoting sustained implementation of the Monterrey Consensus.

    Attitudes and approaches needed to change, he said. Efforts were starting to move forward, and the United Nations family had an important role to play in bringing out a common-ground approach. The time frame dimensions showed that one needed to move fast and in a consistent manner, particularly in terms of technical cooperation and trade capacity. Mutually supported endeavours by the multilateral system could not be underestimated in this regard, he said. New aspects of globalization, such as new information technologies and information sharing, needed to be approached. It was also time to take into account the continuum of interdependence since all partners could benefit and contribute to capacity development.

    ANNE THERESE NDONG-JATTA, Secretary of State for Education of Gambia, said the question of capacity-building from the developing country perspective had less to do with what's happening than with what's not. Thus far, capacity-building had been so inconclusive as to create despair among both donors and recipients. The question must be asked: if one goal of development assistance and capacity-building was to bridge the huge gap between donors and recipients, then why was the gap getting bigger? Either resources were inadequate for the task, or there was a mismatch between what was required in the situation and what was prescribed -- maybe both.

    Lessons learned from bilateral and multilateral efforts showed there had been some improvement, she said. Design of donor technical assistance had improved over the years. There was less reliance on expatriate advisers and more on national capacities. The involvement of stakeholders had improved, as had national ownership. National ownership referred to national capabilities for achieving development goals. It included elements such as human skills and institutions. As a result, capacity-building was being seen in a new light. The emphasis on it was leading to social and political reforms. Problems were being recognized. Non-political actors must be involved; the multisectoral approach must be expanded; and uneven rewards for involvement in programmes, such as patronage, must be ended.

    In the past, however, she said most multilateral programmes had focused on fitting local expertise into a specialized unit, and no attention had been given to passing the learned expertise on to others. For example, in the case of the World Bank, the local expertise would be catapulted to other areas where the World Bank operated. In addition, there had been poor coordination of assistance for capacity building. The situation was improving, but the strategies being imposed were so deeply veiled they could not be seen as the conditionalities they were.

    She said there were priorities for bettering the situation. They include the need to develop local capacity, especially at the professional level, and to train local capacity with an emphasis on output. Good governance must be enforced, not just on the part of the recipient but on the part of donors and organizations. Infrastructure must be retooled at all levels. Above all, linkages between bilateral and multilateral agencies must be established for more sustained capacity-building based on ongoing evaluation. A multisectoral approach must replace a sector-wide one, because experience in developing countries showed that the more partners that were involved, the more difficult it was to build capacity. Competition between agencies turned attention away from a people-orientation and aimed to make a mark for the agency through constant evaluation. The developing countries were overstudied, she said.

    P. KWESI NDUOM, Minister for Economic Planning and Regional Integration of Ghana, speaking about Ghana's perspective of capacity-building, said his country had experienced considerable migration of skilled and professional human resources. Capacity-building was therefore an important issue in Ghana, and was linked to the ability to retain capacity. In Ghana itself, the issue of capacity-building and retaining capacity also included the rural sector.

    Capacity-building was linked to the building block of any country, and it could not progress if the basic building blocks of good living standards were not present, he said. If the standards of living did not improve, Ghana's capacity building would not go anywhere. In Ghana's poverty reduction strategy there were some priorities, including the improvement of the infrastructure, rural development, enhanced social services, and private sector development.

    There was good infrastructure in the health services in two regional centres, he said. Regrettably, as in many other sectors, the infrastructure had been under-utilized because of the lack of doctors and nurses. Without a good standard of living, skilled labour would continue migrating. In the case of Ghana, there had been extensive discussion between the government and development partners concerning the choice to focus on infrastructure. However, infrastructure was an efficient means of reducing poverty. It was added that even though infrastructure was one of the key areas of importance in Ghana, all priority areas must be considered together.

    The best approach to poverty reduction, after infrastructure, was to focus on education and health, he said. It was important to ensure that Ghanaians remained educated in order to promote good governance and democracy. The United Nations system could help by continuing to find ways of building capacity -- a capacity that could be retained. The system could help by supporting regional cooperation between developing countries, and through the reform of donor procedures. The United Nations system must also actively monitor the implementation of the commitments made both by developed and developing countries.

    ELLEN MARGRETHE LOJ (Denmark) said she would speak from her experience as a development expert rather than as a permanent representative of her country. Her experience was that it was much easier to design programmes than to implement them because the recipient needs were so diverse, varying widely from one country and region to another.

    She said one problem in the past with external assistance had been the fact that programmes had not been locally owned. Local ownership meant ownership at all levels, not just the central. The lack of capacity had been part of the problem, one exacerbated by the setting of short-term goals. Her country had learned from that mistake in Ghana. Instead of building a 200 kilometre road now, a road of 100 kilometres was built, and the rest of the money was devoted to training local capacity for the administration and maintenance of the road. Overall, there was a shift from project to programme assistance.

    Capacity-building should be a broad concept, applicable at the individual and the institutional level, she continued. In the shift from project to programme assistance, planning had a minimum of a five year focus. Accountability was more important in that time frame because capacity-building was the essence of good governance. Good governance was not just a matter of holding free and fair elections -- it also involved the ability to govern after the elections. Building capacity at the central and local levels could increase democracy and accountability.

    She said all actors must recognize that there was only one way to achieve the Millennium Goals and that was to accept the fact that only one entity could set the framework for assistance. That was the recipient country. Only it could establish the framework for itself. Capacity-building must be provided if the country needed help in setting up the framework. Coordination was needed among multilateral and bilateral donors, with a caveat to donors in developing local capacity: don't hire the local capacity away from the Government's needs just because you can pay more.

    ZEPHERINE DIABRE, Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, said the development of capacities involved strengthening the aptitudes of individuals and social groups to fulfil their social functions, to resolve problems and to set themselves aims and meet them. While poverty eradication was the ultimate goal, the means to reach that goal must be through capacity-building. Development was not undertaken for people, but with the people, putting them and their needs at the centre of all efforts.

    Over the past 50 years, UNDP had learned some lessons, he said. Development that was not nationally owned did not have a chance to last. The era of outsiders determining or imposing the development path was now over. It was important to expand the time horizon for capacity-building projects since not all countries, or all societies, had the same level of needs.

    There was no "one size fits all", he said. Some countries required assistance to help them develop capacities in particular areas, for example in governance. Others required assistance to build capacities, from the bottom up, for instance in new areas such as in information and communications technology. Starting from an existing national basis, and developing actually existing capacities was much more fruitful than creating new structures and institutions that might not be relevant to national needs and contexts.

    It was important to go beyond the classical view of capacity development, that of developing the capacities of individuals or institution building. It was important to go beyond the public sector, reaching out to all levels of society, including the private sector and civil society institutions, if the international community was to help develop the social capacity definitions. UNDP had launched a new initiative entitled Capacity 2015, which aimed at combining sustainable development with effective poverty eradication, especially at the local, societal level.

    Some of the most important questions were how one could go beyond the old paradigms of individual and institutional capacity development to reach society as a whole, and what the role of external partners was in this approach, which could only succeed if it was truly country-led and country-owned. The previous assumption of several donors had been that there were no resources in developing countries, he said. That was simply not true, and the focus today must be to retain and build on the existing capacities, as opposed to creating them.

    NAJMA SIDDIQUI, Senior Social Development Specialist and Learning Coordinator of the World Bank, said capacity-building was a means to an end. It was critical to international development cooperation. The capacity of all potential partners must be enhanced for effective partnerships toward sustainable development that was inclusive and equitable.

    Capacity enhancement was a two-way, multi-track street, she continued. All stakeholders had to appreciate their roles, rights and responsibilities. Key questions to be asked were: whose capacity was being built, by whom and to what end? Also, who determined and prioritized gaps in capacity? Who would measure results and how? Where would resources come from and how would they be utilized and accounted for? And finally, how did capacity enhancement relate to issues of ownership?

    On that last point, it should be remembered that ownership was a dynamic concept that changed over time, varied for different stakeholders and was influenced by other factors in the environment, she said. Capacity for ownership might exist in some cases, but there might be no capacity for design or delivery of results on an initiative. In other cases, the capacity to design and deliver might exist, but perhaps there was no ownership. Dialogue and negotiations must be held to understand perspectives and reach agreements.

    Capacity development had gone through a number of evolutionary processes, she said. It had gone from an approach focused on technical excellence to one focused on knowledge, skills and an attitude for creating results. From a focus on individual, it had gone to a team focus and an emphasis on multi-constituency capacity. Instruction and technical advice had given way to operational guidance and support. Further, a narrow, top-down approach had given way to local ownership. Approaches were based on a combination of needs analysis and demand. There was broader accountability to monitor the transfer of knowledge, and side-line activities were being mainstreamed into core actions.

    New partnerships were emerging, she said. The focus on country ownership made capacity enhancement critical for key constituency groups within each country. The Bank had been working with other development partners to improve transparency and access to information for primary stakeholders. It was also promoting the enhancement of knowledge and skills related to formulating, implementing and monitoring development actions.

    Dialogue on Capacity-Building

    In the subsequent free-flowing dialogue between panellists and Member States, several speakers shared their views and asked questions concerning capacity-building. The representative of Uganda asked about the emphasis on good governance. It was important for developing countries to not only lament the lack of capacity, but also question why there was a lack of capacity and how to retain capacity, he said.

    Capacity development was related to the dignity of respective countries, societies and individuals, said the representative of Japan. It was important to be careful of short-sighted result-oriented technical cooperation. Touching on the issues of knowledge, he stressed the importance of South-South cooperation.

    The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union, stressed that capacity development must be linked with national ownership. Panellists were asked to elaborate on the preconditions for strengthening of national ownership and to recommend approaches for collaboration between the United Nations and bilateral efforts on capacity-building. How did one develop indicators monitoring the progress of capacity-building? she asked.

    There was a clear-cut need for an all encompassing concept for the building of national capacities, said the representative of the Russian Federation. How did the panellists feel about the prospect of developing this kind of concept?

    The representative of Grenada said that in the Caribbean region, there was a bittersweet paradox developing regarding capacity development. After people had been trained, people were attracted to work in other regions. Those who wanted to help in capacity development must also help to retain the capacity.

    One of the main focuses of the Norwegian development approach had been the strengthening of institutions, said the representative of Norway. Coordination between donors involved needed to be strengthened and would facilitate a better approach to capacity development.

    Ms. SIDDIQUI of the World Bank said that on the issue of ownership, the International Forum on capacity-building had defined the term in all its aspects. It was the coordinated implementation of strategies articulated and designed by those receiving development assistance. It meant the building of capacity at every level.

    MR. DIABRE of UNDP said ownership had been the missing link that accounted for failures in capacity development from the donor perspective. The question of ownership covered a number of angles. First was a country's ownership of its development vision and strategy. Another aspect of ownership was a country's formulation and statement of its own development needs. A third aspect was the country's development of a strong national strategy, and a final angle was the ensuring that countries designed, implemented and monitored their own development strategy. Finally, donors must coordinate their activities in a way of acknowledging ownership.

    Ms. LOJ said capacity-building was not a sector in itself, but was necessary for implementing sector building. It was a tool for implementing policies that governments had decided upon, and could not be discussed without the sectoral policy link. Concerning the brain drain, a separate meeting was needed since there were so many variables involved. How could one prevent people from wanting a better life? she asked.

    Mr. KWESI said that Ghana's poverty reduction strategy and its costing and financing document had been prepared; however a capacity development component had not been included. This was indeed a missing element. He would recommend that this be worked on between the Ghanaian Government and its development partners.

    Ms. NDONG-JATTA said most of the issues had been dealt with; however the area of capacity retention had been glossed over. To talk about retention was to open Pandora's box. However, in building knowledge capacity there could be a solution. Donors needed to endorse a more holistic approach, and more joint missions and further diagnosis was required. There was a need for greater coordination.

    Mr. FAURE said there was an impressive consensus on what to do and what the objectives were. Frankly, what needed to be answered was how to start the process. Concerning ownership, it was important that the country itself propose and devise a framework. Capacity development was not a sector on its own; it was the base for other sectors to move on. A common ground paper would be a good idea to really establish where the process stood. Integrated efficiency, effectiveness, capacity-building and the necessary resources must be primary goals in the fulfilment of the Monterrey process, he said.

    Mr. DESAI concluded by saying that the measure of the success of external assistance in capacity-building was how soon the assistance made itself redundant.

    Statement by NGO Representative

    Before the Council began its dialogue with representatives of United Nations agencies and funds, LAURENCE CORREA made a general statement on behalf of Franciscans International and the NGO Committee on Social Development. He said the notion that human resources development must be recognized as an essential form of productive investment was an important part of the overall strategy to implement the comprehensive and holistic vision of development that had emerged during the last decade.

    He urged the Council to take into account, among other things, that more political will among national governments needed to be cultivated, so that poor children in rural and urban areas, especially girls, were provided with opportunities to attain the highest level of education. He said more attention needed to be focused on such areas as literacy for all, basic formal education and employment-oriented education. He said a reduction in military spending was also needed, so that more funds could be allocated for education.

    He urged the developed world and the Bretton Woods institutions to give priority to capacity-building, education and job opportunities while providing assistance to governments in developing countries that genuinely worked towards the education of all their citizens. He said there was also a need to increase official development assistance (ODA) and to cancel the debt of the poorest countries, so that sufficient funds would be available for human resources development.

    Dialogue with Head of UNICEF

    CAROL BELLAMY, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund, discussed the recent special session of the General Assembly on children. She said a large part of the "specialness" of the session was that it had represented a true leadership summit for children. In addition to governments, there had been broad based participation from many other opinion leaders and change-makers from all spheres of society, including 400 children.

    Children had addressed the Assembly plenary, participated in round tables with heads of State and government, had taken part in almost all of the more than 80 supporting events and, in one of most popular events, engaged in a series of inter-generational dialogues with world leaders. She hoped that the inclusion of children as full, active and substantive participants could be replicated in future sessions and summits.

    She noted that the session's outcome document, "A World Fit for Children", outlined commitments by Member States in four key areas of action -- promoting healthy lives, providing quality education, protecting against abuse, exploitation and violence and combating HIV/AIDS. The Plan of Action called for developing or strengthening national, and where appropriate regional, action plans with time-bound and measurable goals and targets, of which there were 21 and 99 respectively.

    The core set -- covering such indicators as maternal, infant and under-five mortality; school enrolment and completion rates, immunization coverage rates; access to safe water and sanitation -- were closely related to the Millennium Development Goals. She envisaged implementation of the goals and targets as a fully collaborative and cooperative venture involving all relevant stakeholders. One key level of partnership would be facilitated by the improved coordination and collaboration with other United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, through the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) and the Chief Executive Board (CEB).

    She noted that the Council would play a key role in providing guidance and oversight in the process. Governments at the session had requested UNICEF to work in close collaboration with them, as well as with United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies to prepare and disseminate progress made in implementing the Plan of Action. Governing bodies were requested to keep the General Assembly, through the Council, fully informed of progress to date and of additional action required and to use existing reporting frameworks and procedures.

    Following Ms. Bellamy's opening statement, the floor was opened to questions and comments.

    A speaker asked about UNICEF's qualitative approach to education. How would UNICEF guarantee a more harmonized education -- one that would recognize the global nature of the world without impinging on national identity? Another speaker noted that there had been great difficulties prior to the special session. He asked if the session had represented a "step forward", "stabilization" or a "step backwards".

    Ms. BELLAMY said the question of enrolment was very important, and that was indeed a quantitative matter. Quantifiable goals were clearly important, as past experience had shown. It would, however, be limiting not to move beyond such an approach. You could count the number of children who had been immunized, but you could not necessarily count the number of street children who had found homes. Harmonization did not mean "one size fits all." Not every education system had to resemble every other one. The details of implementation were left open to individual countries in the session's outcome document.

    Responding to the second question, she said the document was "quite strong." It did not move any issues backwards. It took the process forward in the areas of health and protection from the 1990 World Summit.

    Another speaker supported the UNICEF proposal to continue including the participation of young people in the work of United Nations meetings and conferences. She wondered whether UNICEF had plans to address the growing drop-out rates among young boys.

    Ms. BELLAMY urged the representative to look at the outcome document of the special session. It had expressly called on governments to reduce the number of children who were out of school, which meant those that had never been to school at all -- more likely to be girls -- and both boys and girls who were dropping out. She said the goals in the document were first and foremost the responsibility of governments. At the same time, UNICEF was committed to addressing the issue. The goal was not just to get young people into school, but to also make sure that they stayed there in order to attain the highest level of education.

    Presentations by United Nations Agencies and Funds

    IMELDA HENKIN, Deputy Director (Management) of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), briefed the Council on the latest developments regarding ongoing efforts to improve the quality of the Common Country Assessment (CCA) and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). She said the CCA and the UNDAF had been introduced in 1999 as part of the Secretary-General's reform initiative, aimed, among other things, at making the United Nations system more effective and efficient at the country level.

    She said in preparation for the triennial policy review, an external evaluation of the CCA and UNDAF processes had been undertaken. With three years of experience, she was pleased to announce that some 105 CCAs and some 63 UNDAFs had been completed. Some new guidelines that had emerged included a more focused view of the importance of broad-based national participation in in-depth analysis of development challenges through the CCA, under the overall guidance and leadership of governments. She added that, with the approval of the harmonized programme approval process by the Executive Boards of UNFPA, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNICEF, the CCA and UNDAF exercises were now fully integrated into the country level programme formulation processes of the three agencies.

    She concluded her statement by providing statistics on the gender profile of the United Nations Resident Coordinators. In an effort to improve the gender balance, in the Resident Coordinator system, she said the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) member organizations had agreed earlier this year to propose at least 50 per cent women candidates for assessment. However, the number of female Resident Coordinators remained low, at around 26 per cent of the total.

    JEAN-JACQUES GRAISSE, Deputy Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP), said the UNDG had been expanded to include all agencies with resident missions at the country level. Thus, UNDG membership now mirrored the composition of the United Nations Country Team. The scope of the UNDG had also been enhanced with the addition of the World Bank as an observer.

    He noted the "very effective" cooperation between the UNDG and the Executive Committee on Humanitarian Activities on the preparation of a joint United Nations response earlier this year to the humanitarian and development needs in Afghanistan. He then updated the Council on the progress made by the UNDG Executive Committee agencies with respect to the country programme approval processes.

    The process, he said, took into account the timing of CCAs and UNDAFs, reflecting the need for those country-specific analytical and strategic framework documents to be in place prior to the detailed design of the individual agency programme of cooperation. The UNDAF was now the basic tool for programme planning, bringing together government, United Nations agencies, Bretton Woods institutions, civil society and bilateral agencies in developing the framework for United Nations action.

    He said he was pleased to report on the real and substantial collaboration that had taken place over the last year between the funds and programmes and the World Bank and the IMF. That collaboration had been most apparent leading up to the International Conference on Financing for Development. That had been noted by the Secretary-General during the Special Council high-level meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions in April.

    There was no doubt that the funds and programmes and the Bretton Woods institutions were now focused at the global level on strengthening the collaboration between them. The next challenge was to make sure that the same degree of collaboration was taking place at the country level. While it was certainly evident in some countries, it was still not taking place in others.

    ZEPHIRIN DIABRE, Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), spoke on the follow-up to recent United Nations conferences and the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. He said UNDP had developed a development goals strategy that focused on four areas: reporting at local, regional and national levels, the Millennium Project, led by Dr. Jeffrey Sacks, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the goals, aimed at fleshing out just what would be needed to reach the goals by 2015; partnership in operational activities, and initiating a series of campaigns at the country level throughout the world to raise awareness.

    On funding, he said since Monterrey there was now a much broader consensus emerging on the issue of financing. There was still a need to address the serious imbalance of attention given to development in donor capitals. That issue needed attention at the highest level, to move from Monterrey to real achievement. Some areas that needed closer examination included increases in ODA, and the performance improvement of the UNDP and other programmes.

    Ms. BELLAMY, UNICEF Executive Director, said the work on simplification and harmonization was being led by a joint working group made up of a core team of staff from UNDP, UNFPA, WFP and UNICEF. An experienced facilitator was attached full time to the development group office for the exercise and had guided the process. Overall, it was field based programmatic considerations that were driving the process.

    Some 17 areas had been identified as needing or potentially needing change, she said. They ranged from ongoing efforts aimed at ensuring a smoother transition from UNDAFs to country programmes, to issues relating to national execution, harmonization of terminology, mid-term reviews, donor reporting and audit requirements. As indicated at joint meeting in January, the issues being addressed went to the heart of "who we are and what we do as funds and programmes." While mandates were convergent and complementary, the funds and programmes were not exactly the same and there were differentiated areas of responsibility.

    "What we want to ensure is that we bring as much unity as possible into our diversity and that, as a result, our diversity is a strength that adds value rather than acts as a burden on partners, staff or governments," she said. "We are looking at good practices and good principles that can be adopted and adapted by each one of us, rather than searching for lowest common denominators."

    The floor was then opened to questions and comments.

    A speaker said enhancing national ownership of the development process was crucial and asked what measures were being taken in that regard. She approved of a decision by the agencies to facilitate joint-monitoring mechanisms. She stressed the importance of harmonization and simplification to lower costs and enhance efficiency.

    Another speaker addressed the consolidated list of issues related to the coordination of operational activities. He felt the list should be even more structured and clear. The UNDG was continuing to reform its operational activities and he welcomed the fact that all agencies were represented there. He asked to what extent the drafting of decisions in the UNDG was proceeding and what the relations were between the UNDG and the World Bank.

    A speaker recalled that at the UNICEF Executive Board meeting a few weeks ago there had been an excellent discussion of the follow-up to the special session. The consolidated list was very comprehensive and it could be, as had been proposed, more focused. It was important not to forget that from now on the World Bank would have 20 per cent of its resources available for grants. That was the sort of event that the Council should discuss. He appreciated the programme of work on harmonization and simplification, but felt it was "rather ambitious" and could have been further prioritized.

    Despite progress, more could be done in the area of harmonization, another speaker said. He asked for the panel's view on the possibility of making more progress in moving forward on joint programming at the country level.

    Ms. BELLAMY said decisions in the UNDG discussed issues and took actions. It was not a voting body that examined actions at the field level. On harmonization and simplification of operational activities, she admitted that guidance sent to the field on such activities among agencies and funds had been fuzzy. The funds and programmes needed to have a clear view of the value added from implementing initiatives together, as opposed to planning and monitoring together, and then implementing initiatives separately.

    On assessment of interaction with Bretton Woods institutions at the country level, Mr. DIABRE of UNDP said the United Nations system had been working to ensure that those institutions were involved in assessing poverty levels within countries. There was also work under way to enhance efforts to monitor progress being made towards poverty eradication. As far as work being undertaken in conflict and post-conflict situations, he said it was safe to say that there had been broad cooperation on such matters throughout the United Nations system.

    Ms. HENKIN, of UNFPA, answered a question on the division of labour between the United Nations and the World Bank in programming development. She said the Bank had proficiency in macroeconomic framework and fiscal issues, while the United Nations could better address social issues and monitoring. So with the UNDAF and CCAs, the labour could be addressed rather equitably.

    Mr. GRAISSE, of WFP, said one thing that came to mind as he listened to the discussion was the word "mission-creep". Referring to a Swiss proverb, he said that if everyone did what they were supposed to, everyone would be happy. He noted the diminishing resources available to the funds and programmes; that was the problem being faced.

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