Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6125
                                                                            9 July 2004

    UN Reforms Should Include Alignment of Development Activities Behind “Broadly Owned” National Strategies, Economic and Social Council Told

    Dialogue with UNICEF, UNFPA, WFP Executives Focuses on Key Development Policy Issues; Panel Addresses Country Assessments, UN Development Assistance Frameworks

    NEW YORK, 8 July (UN Headquarters) -- Reforms of the United Nations development system should include a disciplined alignment of all development activities in a country behind a “well-rooted, broadly owned national development strategy”, Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) told the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) during its consideration of key policy issues for the triennial comprehensive policy review.

    Opening a dialogue between heads of United Nations funds and programmes and the Council, Mr. Malloch Brown said it was not possible to legislate for growth, debt relief, or domestic reforms in the General Assembly.  However, a review of progress made towards the goals of the Millennium Declaration in September 2005 by heads of State and government could spur action on a trade round, on the volume of aid and on debt relief and, in developing countries, on taking the necessary tough reforms.

    Although real progress had been made in improving operational activities at the country level, he said more needed to be done to ensure that the United Nations development system could achieve the goals that had been set.  Country-team changes were needed to provide strategic alignment behind a country’s Millennium Goal-based development strategy by improving programming, personnel performance and accountability and oversight by the regional directors.

    Mr. Malloch Brown also updated the Council on the World Solidarity Fund, called for by the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, South Africa, 2002) and established by the Council in 2003.  He said its high-level committee had been assembled, and its first meeting set for 17 September.  There were, as yet, no monies in the Fund.

    Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), addressed the impact of security requirements on programme delivery.  A far more sophisticated and robust security management system was required for the entire United Nations, both at Headquarters and in the field.  “As we move ahead, the United Nations will need to avoid succumbing to a ‘siege mentality’”, she said.  “We can’t fulfil our mission from inside a bunker.”  Staff in the field must be able to carry out their duties with full respect for security standards but without becoming “risk adverse”.

    Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), highlighted results of the reform process at the country level.  There had been a far greater involvement of United Nations country teams in national processes, she said, and clearer linkages had been established between the Millennium Development Goals, national priorities and United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs).  There was now also more rigorous analysis through improved common country assessments and more strategic programming through the UNDAF.  The newly developed procedures had led to improved team building.

    Jean-Jacques Graisse, Senior Deputy Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP), addressed growing challenges faced by his and other agencies due to the pandemic of HIV/AIDS combined with poverty, hunger and a range of other developmental issues that became much worse than could have been imagined only a few years ago.  To meet them, he said, the momentum needed to be maintained, with the Millennium Goals continuing to shape synergies throughout the United Nations system.

    During the ensuing dialogue, moderated by Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, several speakers insisted that the Organization’s reforms at the country level needed to be conducive to the creation of an environment favourable for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Among the problems that inhibited effective performance at the country level, the issue of funding was mentioned.  There was also concern that new mechanisms in the context of harmonization of programmes involved an expansion, rather than simplification, of procedures.  Several developing countries urged support for the World Solidarity Fund, which was called a new tool for helping the poorest populations through multisectoral projects.

    The Council’s afternoon meeting was dedicated to a panel discussion on the role of the common country assessments (CCAs) and the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs).  Panellists were: Rodolfo Severino, Member of the Evaluation Team for the CCA and UNDAF evaluation; Sarah Timpson, Special Adviser on Community-Based Initiatives in UNDP and former United Nations Resident Coordinator in Costa Rica and the Philippines; Jorge Lissner, Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh; and Douglas Lindores, international expert on development cooperation and former Senior Vice-President of the Canadian International Development Agency.

    Noting that the CCA/UNDAF process had been instrumental in promoting coherence and coordination within the United Nations system, speakers said they also represented important tools for focusing on the implementation of the Millennium Goals.  Some also said the Bretton Woods Institutions, however, were not involved deeply enough in the process, and within some governments, there was a distinct lack of coordination and reluctance to take hard political decisions.  Speakers stressed the importance of strengthening the role of resident coordinators and making the necessary resources for that available.  One speaker said that there had been a bewildering number of development planning instruments raining down to the country level, leading to “framework fatigue”.

    Speakers noted that donors often demanded levels of coherence and coordination that was not achieved at home.  Addressing the question of whether or not cost efficiency was achieved through the CCA /UNDAF processes, it was stressed that the process was an investment that had to be made in order to achieve greater effectiveness and impact.  A long-term perspective was needed, and national capacity-building was key.  In the area of further policy considerations, it was important to balance theorizing about coherence with actual experimentation.

    The Council will continue its operational activities segment tomorrow, 9 July, at 10 a.m.

    Background

    The Economic and Social Council this morning continued its operational activities segment with a dialogue with heads of United Nations funds and programmes on key policy issues for the triennial comprehensive policy review, including a presentation by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on the operationalization of the World Solidarity Fund.

    This afternoon, the Council has organized a panel on the role of the common country assessments and United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks in country-level coherence and coordination.

    For additional background information on the operational segment, see Press Release ECOSOC/6124 of 7 July.

    Statements by Panellists

    The Council’s Vice-President, STAFFORD O. NEIL (Jamaica) introduced the panel’s moderator, Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and the panellists:  Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Carol Bellamy, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and Jean-Jacques Graisse, Senior Deputy Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP).  Mr. Neil said that priority issues included policy and coordination guidance that should be given to the General Assembly, and what new directions could be taken in the light of the changing international environment.

    Mr. OCAMPO said that, during yesterday’s panel discussion, two issues had been brought to the table.  The first related to coordination at the country-level of United Nations activities and those of other agencies, such as United Nations agencies that did not have a country presence and the Bretton Woods Institutions. The second issue was how to move in the directions of having programmes respond to country-driven processes and how to give full meaning to country ownership of development programmes.

    Mr. MALLOCH BROWN said the triennial comprehensive policy review came at a critical time in global efforts to meet the commitments of the Millennium Summit some four years ago.  In September 2005, heads of State and government would meet to assess progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  However, progress did not lie in United Nations resolutions.  One could not legislate for growth, debt relief, or domestic reforms in the Assembly.  But the prospect of a review would spur action at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on a trade round; in the Group of Eight (G-8) on the volume of aid and on debt relief; at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank on macroeconomic ceilings and rates; and in developing countries to take the necessary tough reforms.  The 2005 event had the opportunity to achieve a global action plan.  The question was whether the United Nations was ready to play its part.

    He said that since the 2001 triennial comprehensive policy review, real progress had been made in improving operational activities at the country level.  Within the overall framework of the Millennium Goals, the role of the United Nations country teams in supporting national priority setting and ensuring that the Goals were mainstreamed had been embedded in United Nations-system tools and guidelines, including the introduction of Results-Based Planning and linking international goals, national goals and United Nations goals in a visible results chain through the Results Matrix.

    However, more needed to be done to ensure that the United Nations development system could deliver the goals that had been set, he said.  Reforms should include a disciplined alignment of all development activities in a country behind a well-rooted, broadly owned national development strategy.  There was also a need for radical simplification of United Nations programme procedures and cycles, and focusing development activities where comparative advantages lay.  A determined effort was necessary to rationalize United Nations country presences, both lightening and integrating them, in order to get the maximum value of United Nations support.  The resident coordinator and country-team system needed to be strengthened to drive the strategic coherence and outcomes of those reforms.

    He said the resident coordinator was tasked with coordinating the United Nations country team’s response to national development priorities.  He or she had to hold the country team together, and should not be an isolated chief.  In terms of building broader United Nations ownership, there was a need to continue the process of appointing more resident coordinators from outside the UNDP, and more candidates from the South must be appointed.  The gender balance must also improve.

    Country-team changes were intended to provide strategic alignment behind a country’s Millennium Goal-based development strategy by utilizing programming, personnel performance and accountability and oversight by the regional directors.  With the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAF), results-based management, post-conflict trust funds and joint-programming, the tools had been created.  Through review by regional directors, the means of accountabilities had been established.  By steadily introducing a new resident coordinator ethic of collegial leadership and team building and appointing individuals who increasingly represented the diversity of the new global development community, he hoped the United Nations at the country level would be renewed.

    Ms. BELLAMY said that this year represented a watershed in United Nations reform, as the Organization came to full implementation of a series of major innovations in programme harmonization and simplification and, at last, had sufficient country-level experience with the common country assessments and United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) to provide programmatic assessment of results achieved so far.  Good progress had been achieved in all areas covered by the last triennial comprehensive policy review.

    On the impact of security requirements on programme delivery, she said that security was now an integral aspect of the delivery of humanitarian assistance and implementation of development programmes.  A far more sophisticated and robust security management system was required for the entire United Nations, both at Headquarters and in the field, with more professional security personnel, better minimum operating security standards, more reliable information, improved threat assessment and risk analysis and improved structures.

    She said that, at a time when more humanitarian and development personnel were required in conflict zones than ever before, their freedom of action -- the humanitarian space -- was under unprecedented stress.  In that regard, it was important for governments and organized authorities to allow unimpeded and secure access to populations in need and facilitate all necessary requirements, including agreements, visas, customs and permits.  There was a need for United Nations missions and country teams to work closely together and in a more coordinated manner.

    With increased focus on such issues as HIV/AIDS, civilian protection, children in armed conflict, women and human rights, as well as the desire for quick-start projects in peacekeeping, missions now carried out activities that had been traditionally associated with development agencies. Those activities needed to take place in a common framework with operational agencies, and further consideration was required of how they could be carried out best, she added.  The involvement of military personnel also raised a number of issues.

    “As we move ahead, the United Nations will need to avoid succumbing to a ‘siege mentality’”, she said.  “We can’t fulfil our mission from inside a bunker.”  Staff in the field must be able to carry out their duties with full respect for security standards but without becoming “risk adverse”.

    Clearly associated with security was the issue of resources, she continued.  In the case of UNICEF, the Fund had obtained its Board’s approval to spend up to $14 million for security-related emergencies in 2004-2005 over and above the approved biennial support budget submission. Last April, the Secretary-General had submitted a series of unified proposals to Member States addressing urgently required measures, asking for $92 million to cover the first phase of action.  This fall, a comprehensive report would be submitted for building a strengthened and unified security system.

    Turning to a so-called “Greentree Report” covering a meeting at which four operational agency heads had discussed many of the current reform issues, she said that action on the main priorities listed in the report would accelerate reform efforts. Last week, UNICEF had held its first-ever Global Consultation involving all field representatives, national committees, headquarters directors and staff representatives on the theme of “UNICEF in a Changing World”.

    She said there was a growing recognition of the need to improve programming instruments and put greater effort in supporting governments in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers process, where it existed, as well as other national frameworks based on the Millennium Development Goals.  With its overall national programme framework, the United Nations Development Assistance Framework needed to combine a high-quality product with an efficient production process; to be a lighter, more flexible instrument focused on the Results Matrix as a tool for programme development, management, assessment and accountability.  It was clear that UNDAF preparation was too often overly complex, rigid and time-consuming.  The country teams, therefore, needed good planning skills. 

    The ECOSOC should reaffirm the common country assessments/United Nations Development Assistance Framework process as the central element of the country teams’ activities in support of governments, she added.  For its part, UNICEF would continue work to make that process as efficient and transparent as possible.  More needed to be done to engage the full range of United Nations agencies in preparation and implementation of United Nations Development Assistance Framework.  That included the specialized agencies and Bretton Woods Institutions, within bounds established by their governance structures.  The Monterrey Consensus represented a major challenge in approach to the funding of development activities, and UNICEF was participating actively in the resource mobilization group identified at Greentree.

    Ms. OBAID, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that simplification and harmonization efforts had been a high priority within the United Nations system since 2001, both in terms of programming and with regard to common services and premises.  Harmonization and alignment work was also going on within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee.  The United Nations would co-sponsor a High-Level Forum in Paris in 2005.  The Organization’s presence there would broaden the scope and impact of the United Nations system.  It would also increase the likelihood that sensitive issues such as human rights would be addressed in national policy dialogues and national development frameworks.

    Highlighting concrete results that had been achieved, she said that since 2001, there had been a far greater involvement of United Nations country teams in national processes on a collective basis.  Clearer linkages had been established between the Millennium Development Goals; national priorities, including Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers; and United Nations Development Assistance Framework as the United Nations’ strategic response.  Country-team support of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers process had been strengthened, ensuring mainstreaming the Millennium Goals, and country teams were adapting their cycle to better respond to national priorities.  There was now also more rigorous analysis through improved common country assessments and more strategic programming through the United Nations Development Assistance Framework.

    Citing lessons learned, she said simplification and harmonization was not an easy process and harmonizing was easier than simplifying.  It had also been learned that adapting to new tools and processes was a time-consuming task.  Overall, it was clear that the newly developed procedures had led to improved team building.  Another benefit of the process was a better functioning knowledge base, so that each United Nations organization knew what the other one was doing and could work together.  There was also greater awareness that flexibility was needed, especially in the face of political change and in conflict and post-conflict situations.

    She said that, while ideally, the common country assessments and United Nations Development Assistance Framework process should follow the timeline of national processes, the United Nations programming processes were driven by the respective Executive Boards.  It was, therefore, difficult for country teams to exactly follow nationally driven timelines.  One of the most useful and successful elements had been the introduction of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework Results Matrix, which clarified the United Nations’ place in the context of larger national priorities and provided government, bilateral partners and the United Nations itself with a clear business plan for the United Nations.

    Addressing the future, she said the executive boards should be allowed to follow through in further simplifying the requirements set by the ECOSOC.  Many discussions on a future United Nations system tended to focus on processes and at times obscured the real purpose of the reform, namely making the United Nations system more efficient and effective in implementing joint commitments, and reaching people and meeting their needs.

    Mr. GRAISSE, Senior Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), said that the last meeting for a triennial comprehensive policy review faced growing development challenges and declining resources.  It was thought that the challenges of poverty, hunger, education, gender inequalities, child mortality, reproductive health, endemic diseases and the environment could be met by focusing on synergies at the country level.  The Millennium Development Goals established a common framework for United Nations system work to meet those challenges.

    Much had been accomplished since then, he said, through the development of country assessment and planning tools and improved means of cooperation.  However, the challenges continued to grow due to the pandemic of HIV/AIDS combined with poverty, hunger and a range of other developmental issues that had become much worse than could have been imagined only a few years ago.  To meet them, the momentum needed to be maintained, with the Millennium Goals continuing to shape synergies throughout the United Nations system.

    As examples of fruitful synergy, he cited a package of health and nutrition interventions developed by the WFP and UNICEF that was targeted towards improving school enrolment and student performance.  In situations that were in transition from crisis to development, such as those in Southern Africa, United Nations partners worked closely together, as well as with governments and a variety of international non-governmental organizations, to overcome the complex HIV/AIDS crisis through the Regional Interagency Coordination and Support Office.

    The strongest coordination, however, could not bear fruit without adequate resources, he said.  He urged delegates to provide such resources, bearing in mind the importance of the work being done by United Nations agencies and their improved efficiency and operational cooperation.

    Mr. MALLOCH BROWN then updated information on the World Solidarity Fund.  Its high-level committee had been assembled and its first meeting set for 17 September.  There were as yet no monies in the fund.

    Interactive Dialogue

    Improvements in the resident coordinator system and increased cooperation among the United Nations system were noted with approval by many speakers as the dialogue began.  Many asked how such synergy could be increased.  Assessment tools at the country level, such as the common country assessments, were also welcomed, and continued focus on achieving the Millennium Development Goals was strongly encouraged.

    In addition, several developing countries urged support to the World Solidarity Fund, which was called a new tool for helping the poorest populations through multisectoral projects. It was hoped that a concrete strategy for mobilizing new finance for such projects would result from the first meeting.

    Repeatedly stressing the importance of achieving the Millennium Development Goals within the agreed time frame, several speakers insisted that the Organization’s reforms at the country level needed to be conducive to the creation of an environment favourable for their achievement. While noting “a remarkable improvement in the capacity of the United Nations bodies and Bretton Woods Institutions to work together in recent years”, a speaker said it was necessary to achieve greater coherence between national objectives and the goals proclaimed in the Millennium Declaration.

    Among the problems that inhibited effective performance at the country level, speakers mentioned the issue of funding for the achievement of sustainable development and implementation of the Millennium Goals.  As requested by Bretton Woods Institutions, “we have put our house in order, but we are still lacking the resources” to achieve those goals, a developing country representative said.  The issues that needed to be addressed to rectify that situation included donors’ reluctance to contribute funds, the need to establish a more consistent role of ECOSOC in coordinating international resource mobilization efforts and the need to establish greater links between humanitarian and development assistance.

    Regarding interaction between Member States and United Nations bodies, a speaker pointed out that agency boards had “built a solid shield of procedures”, and it was necessary to consider how those requirements could be simplified, while respecting Member States’ responsibility for governance and oversight.  Another participant said it was important to see what administrative tasks development agencies “could do less of”, so that a greater proportion of the resources available to the Organization could be directed towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

    There was also concern that new mechanisms in the context of harmonization of programmes involved an expansion, rather than simplification, of procedures.  Governments faced tremendous burden in that regard, which was very costly.  While funding was available for a small set of projects executed in an effective way, speakers stressed the need to ensure a reliable and predictable flow of funding.

    In an effort to harmonize procedures, it was important to avoid imposing rules of one group of countries on recipient nations, a speaker said.  He also cautioned against undercutting the impartiality and neutrality of the Organization in establishing a policy dialogue with developing countries.  In that regard, it was disappointing that not one panellist had referred to the outcome of UNCTAD XI last month, which had addressed, among other things, the developing countries’ need for “development space”.  Another important issue that required attention was South-South cooperation, which was acquiring increasing importance in today’s globalized world.

    Agreeing with Ms. Bellamy, several speakers underscored the importance of staff security, which needed to be enhanced in view of growing threats against the Organization.  At the same time, it was necessary to maintain the humanitarian character of United Nations operations.

    As panellists began their responses to the concerns of delegates, Mr. MALLOCH BROWN reminded participants that their support of the new development fund needed to be backed up by actual contributions.

    Regarding further coordination of specialized agencies, all panellists said it was a priority and would be addressed within the constraints of the different country systems.  It was said by one that a revolution in development cooperation was on the horizon, accompanied by an increase in official development assistance (ODA).  That did not mean just more projects but major flows of aid to be administered by countries themselves.  It was essential, therefore, that national capacity be greatly increased along with a great advance in agency coordination.

    In that context, panellists emphasized that it was important for ECOSOC to work for not only an increase in the quantity of funds, but in the quality of funds -- that is, funds that could be used where needed, both in terms of country ownership and in terms of coordinated activity.  Several panellists said that, while funds in general had increased, core funds had decreased.  Member States had to understand that increased security for staff also required increased support, they stressed.

    The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers should be used by countries to “get a grip” on a single national development framework, and not be seen of as an overly rigid process, panellists emphasized.  All tools should be modified through lessons learned both at the country level and at the agency level.  They also agreed that the wall between humanitarian aid and development aid had to come down.

    Regarding concrete results of coordination and harmonization efforts, it was said that they included mechanisms to channel money for country development through a single agency on the ground and service-sharing initiatives, which allowed various bodies to reduce costs on the ground.  Efforts were also under way to simplify regulations and harmonize the procedures of financial reporting.

    “We are in this together, and we are here to serve you”, a development agency representative said, stressing that Member States were in the driver’s seat, able to participate in decision-making on the content of the programmes being implemented at the country level.

    Afternoon Panel Discussion

    The afternoon’s panel on “the role of the common country assessments (CCAs) and United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) in country-level coherence and coordination”, consisted of Rodolfo Severino (Philippines), Member of the Evaluation Team for the CCA and UNDAF evaluation; Sarah Timpson, Special Adviser on Community-Based Initiatives in UNDP and former United Nations Resident Coordinator in Costa Rica and the Philippines; Douglas Lindores (Canada), an international expert on development cooperation and former Senior Vice-President of the Canadian International Development Agency; and Jorgen Lissner, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh.

    In introductory remarks, the panel’s moderator, MASSIMO D’ANGELO, Chief, Development Cooperation Policy Branch of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), provided a historical overview of the “evolution” towards an integrated response to national needs and priorities that had led to the CCA and UNDAFs.  He said that, as of May 2004, some 106 countries had prepared CCAs, and 85 countries had completed the UNDAF by April 2001.  Sixteen countries had completed two rounds of CCAs.  The DESA had commissioned two external evaluators to assess progress made.

    Mr. SEVERINO said that, on the basis of the most recent external evaluation of the CCA/UNDAF, one could conclude that they had been instrumental in promoting coherence and coordination within the United Nations system.  They also represented important tools for focusing on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and placing them on the national agendas of Member States.  The use of those tools raised certain questions, however, including the need for greater awareness of the nature of those instruments within the United Nations itself; the need for relevant personnel to be trained in their use and the need to undertake a “culture-change”, so that the Organization’s country team in any given country could operate as a team, indeed.

    Member States had had varying experience as far as the CCA/UNDAF system was concerned, he added, and the degree of cooperation with it was uneven. The Bretton Woods Institutions were not involved in that process deeply enough. One of the difficulties was that many agencies did not have country presence, which made their involvement in the CCA/UNDAF process problematic.  It was important to avoid duplication among agencies involved and harmonize their approaches to development and humanitarian work.  In implementing the Millennium Goals, it was necessary to give priority to the economic dimension of countries’ situations.

    “The donor countries must make sure that the right hand does not take back what the left hand gives”, he stressed.  Harmful effects on recipient countries of developed countries’ protectionism and agricultural subsidies needed to be considered.  Another important aspect of the issue was the need to promote country ownership of CCA/UNDAF.  He believed that the decision on the extent of such ownership would be best left to United Nations country teams, which had the ultimate responsibility for CCA, in consultation with the governments concerned.  It was also important to note that within some governments, there was a distinct lack of coordination and reluctance to take hard political decisions, which were needed to carry out the commitments under UNDAF.

    The relationship of CCA/UNDAF with other development documents, including Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and documents of Bretton Woods Institutions, needed to be carefully considered, he said, and appropriate distinctions should be made.  Another issue that needed to be addressed related to the role of civil society organizations.  Bilateral programmes should take UNDAF into account, and frequent consultations among the United Nations system, the countries concerned and the donors should help in that respect.  It was also important to accelerate the flow of resources for development.  To make CCA/UNDAF more useful, it was also important to raise awareness of those instruments, increase training and strengthen the role of resident coordinators, he said.

    Mr. LISSNER said that, at the country level in Bangladesh the challenge was to create order out of the chaos that comprised some 25 donors and many international agencies.  Official development assistance (ODA) was a small percentage of aid, though it provided forty-five percent of the development budget.  That money could be used in a coherent manner.

    He said that there had been a bewildering number of development planning instruments raining down to the country level and leading to “framework fatigue”.  The CCA and UNDAF was a step toward alleviating it, but not the complete answer until it bridged all actors including the Bretton Woods Institutions.  There was no “one-size-fit-all” answer to development frameworks between countries, but there needed to be common standards.  It was critical for the United Nations to create global rights and norms in development.

    In Bangladesh itself, there had been progress in cooperation between agencies and between national ministries, he said.  In the area of HIV/AIDS, for example, a multidisciplinary approach had been developed thanks in part to the CCA and UNDAF.  The benefit of such tools was their service as a bridge between international institutions and the situation on the ground.

    Mr. LINDORES, speaking from the perspective as a “donor representative”, said the United Nations system had displayed superb leadership in arriving at the Millennium Development Goals.  That leadership could not have been achieved without the knowledge gathered at the field level.  Unfortunately, the United Nations system did not seem to be benefiting from that achievement in terms of an increasing share in terms of ODA flows.

    Senior domestic politicians in donor countries often saw the United Nations as idealistic, complex, non-business-like and of questionable efficiency, he said, speaking from personal experience.  Inefficiency was seen as being caused by competition between agencies.  Improving the United Nations’ overall image would depend on the extent to which activities could be brought together into a coherent approach.

    Donors often would demand levels of coherence and coordination that was not achieved at home, he continued.  There was a need for more realistic demands for coherence and coordination.  However, donors were undermining coherence every time they earmarked resources for non-core purposes, thereby eroding core resources.  Between 30 and 40 per cent of resources allocated to core activities went to managing and administration.  In non-core programmes, 15 to 20 per cent went to that category.

    Addressing the question of whether or not cost efficiency was achieved through the CCA/UNDAF processes, he said increased coherence and coordination could not be a free commodity.  It was an investment that had to be made in order to achieve greater effectiveness and impact.

    The perimeters of what and who to include in the CCA/UNDAF processes should also be addressed, he said.  With delegation of decision-making to the field, the United Nations had no option other than dramatically strengthening the role of the resident coordinator, both in power and in resources at his disposal.  It was doubtful that the UNDP alone could meet the future funding requirements of the resident coordinator, but it had to continue to play a primary leadership role.

    Ms. TIMPSON said a long-term perspective was needed.  The objective of development tools such as the CCA and the UNDAF was to translate international development goals into terms relevant to each country.  Such transformations required a focus on process.  People-centred development required flexibility, continuous adjustment and learning from experiences, since there were many factors that differed from country to country and with time.  For that reason, various options had to be provided, with national sensitivities considered as well.

    National capacity-building was key, she said.  The CCA/UNDAF had to be aligned with national systems for their sustainability, and, as a result, the national systems could also be transformed.  But incentives had to be provided to countries to cooperate in such a transformation and create true national ownership.  Involvement of a large range of national actors in the process was, therefore, desirable.  There were many possible actors within government, as well as non-governmental ones.  Much flexibility had to be allowed such actors, especially in the area of timing.

    To build further bridges to a common framework, she said, it was necessary to share experiences at all levels.  To include specialized agencies, it was particularly important to explore commonalities of interest in an imaginative way.  The United Nations system image needed to be re-examined as well -- an emphasis on showing results achieved by the system might be counterproductive to national ownership.  A low-key approach, in that area, as well as in any area that grated upon national sensitivities, was often desirable.

    She added that, it was important to balance theorizing about coherence with actual experimentation.  In the course of policy considerations, lessons learned should be not only gathered, but analysed and translated into a form that could improve the process.

    Interactive Dialogue

    While substantial progress had been made towards reform of procedures, several speakers in the ensuing debate expressed concern that UNDAFs were still perceived as too complex and rigid.  Other concerns related to the additional burden placed on countries by drafting those documents and the costs involved in that process.  Recognizing that CCAs/UNDAFs should not be seen as ends in themselves, speakers emphasized that those instruments should benefit from, and not duplicate, work done elsewhere.

    Joint programming at the field level had great potential for delivering assistance and elaborating a comprehensive development approach, a discussion participant said.  Key actors both within and outside the United Nations could contribute to working out such a unified approach.  In that regard, a speaker said it was important to synchronize the work cycles of various agencies and align them with national programmes.  He also underlined the importance of tying CCA and UNDAF with other analytical instruments.  Quality CCAs could serve as a strategic contribution to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and national development priorities.

    It was agreed that such instruments should be short, flexible and rapidly developed, serving both as programme management and results-assessment tools.  Also, to eradicate poverty, CCA/UNDAF processes should adopt a comprehensive approach to countries’ situations, taking into account both social and economic aspects of development.

    Debate participants recognized that achievement of positive results would require not only simplification of CCA and UNDAF processes, but also circulation of good examples, analysis of feedback from national governments and establishment of effective communications processes, both within the United Nations system and among international organizations, donors and recipients of development assistance.  While new approaches were needed to improve the funds’ and programmes’ role in sectoral programming, more also needed to be done to make governments fully aware of the new mechanisms adopted in response to the United Nations reform proposals.

    Several speakers also underlined that the work of the United Nations should be based on its areas of proven competence. Instead of focusing on each agency’s programmes and services, the Organization needed to address, first and foremost, countries’ priorities themselves.  Programme impact could be increased through greater coherence of action and true partnerships among all actors involved.

    Preparation of UNDAFs was considered not possible in some 60 countries either because of the difficult situation or limited presence of United Nations agencies there, a speaker said.  Thus, one should consider whether it was really necessary to draft CCAs/UNDAFs in such countries.  At the same time, however, it was important for developing countries themselves to identify their development priorities and draw plans in that respect, another participant of the debate added.  Governments needed to play a guiding role in working out international economic and development programmes, as well.

    Responding to concerns raised by speakers, panellists agreed that the CCA/UNDAF process was valuable even in countries where the United Nations presence was limited.  They reaffirmed that the role of those tools and their alignment with the Millennium Development Goals would vary from country to country, as would the participation of governments and civil society.  The Goals were particularly important because they included many priorities that were left out of purely economic frameworks.

    Panellists also reaffirmed the importance of core funding.  The ideal ratio of core funding to non-core funding would be 100 to 0, according to Mr. LINDORES, since that would mean that all work was being done in a truly multilateral manner.

    Regarding advocacy functions of the various parts of the United Nations system, they were described as too varied to harmonize.  Advocacy related to rights.  According to Mr. LISSNER, rights-based approaches operated very differently from goals-based approaches and the two should never be mixed.

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