Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6220
    13 July 2006

    Economic and Social Council Holds Dialogue with Executive Heads of United Nations Funds, Programmes

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 12 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council this morning held a dialogue with the executive heads of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Food Programme.

    Leo Merores, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said the dialogue, which was one of the traditional components of this segment of the Council's substantive session, was particularly important today -- in this phase of the debate on the reform and on better coordination and coherence within the United Nations -- to assist the Council in orientating its deliberations on operational activities.

    Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the purpose of the discussion was to have an exchange of views on issues regarding measures to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the United Nations development system at the country-level.  This was one of the main dimensions of the wider United Nations reform, which latter had taken on renewed urgency.  Much in the discussion today would focus on how well the United Nations reform process had worked so far to increase coherence, effectiveness and efficiency at the country-level.

    Kemal Dervis, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, said that there were a variety of competencies among all the United Nations organizations.  However, there was also diversity among them, which should not be a weight on countries.  It was important that they intervene at the country level in a concerted manner as one coherent group.   It was also necessary to harmonize all programmes in order to avoid duplication of efforts.

    Ann Veneman, Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund, said improved coordination could directly have impact on the quality of aid.  More work was needed to utilise the full extent of new coordination mechanisms, but the potentiality existed.  Enhancing coherence and coordination would ensure that the United Nations would continue to play its role effectively in a world where crises remained abundant. 

    Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund, said a streamlined country presence should be placed in the context of how this contributed to a more coherent, coordinated, and a more effective United Nations presence at the country level that supported countries to achieve the internationally agreed development goals.

    James Morris, Executive Director, World Food Programme, said WFP had made significant progress in introducing common programming that allowed it to work more easily together with a shared purpose, and new impetus.  Today, WFP was a better partner for other UN agencies, governments and financial institutions, and for non-governmental and civil society organizations.

    Ad Melkert, Associate Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, said the question of how to enhance the performance of the United Nations system on the ground was an important concern.  Increasing attention had been given to how to strengthen the Resident Coordinator system, both in terms of the cadre of representatives as well as its functioning.  There was a need to invest in increasing the ownership and accountability of all members of the Resident Coordinator system through the adoption of performance evaluation tools.

    In the context of the interactive dialogue, delegations raised issues and posed questions on such topics as the need for competition among the agencies to be used in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness; that any increase in the authority of the Resident Coordinator should be balanced with an increase of their accountability; the need for a coherent approach among the different funds and programmes; the coordination amongst different United Nations agencies and the reorganisation of the system; the danger of host governmental agencies losing out on skills transfer due to the joint office model; how work could be specifically carried out in the field in the context of programmes to increase synergy and coherency;  and how work was carried out in a coordinated fashion with regards to the Programme of Action in Least-Developed Countries.

    Speaking in the context of the interactive debate were the representatives of the United States, the Russian Federation, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Bangladesh, South Africa, Benin, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Kingdom, France, Nigeria, Pakistan and Venezuela.

    Also speaking was the representative of Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru.

    The next meeting of the Council will be held at 3 p.m. this afternoon, when it will hold a panel discussion with the United Nations country team from Indonesia on "the role of United Nations development cooperation in pursuit of employment creation and decent work: results, coherence and system-wide support through the United Nations Development Assistance Framework".

    Documents

    The joint report (E/2006/5) of the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund to the Economic and Social Council is a joint report on progress towards implementing resolution 59/250.  This report demonstrates the level of cooperation between UNDP and UNFPA in a number of areas mandated by the resolution, both jointly and as part of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG).  The first section of the report addresses joint UNDP/UNFPA implementation of resolution 59/250; the following two sections address specific UNDP and UNFPA activities, including resource mobilization.  The report concludes with a joint UNDP/UNFPA recommendation.

    The report (E/2006/6) of the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) covers a range of issues arising from the decisions of the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly, and provides the perspective of the United Nations Children's Fund on these topics of system-wide interest.  It describes UNICEF actions to contribute to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and to respond to the outcome of the 2005 World Summit.  It provides information about the direction UNICEF is taking to work in closer partnership with other members of the United Nations system to ensure that development assistance produces sustainable results for children.

    The annual report (E/2006/14) of the Executive Director of the World Food Programme for 2005 gives a comprehensive picture of WFP's response to United Nations system initiatives and resolutions.  WFP acted in 2005 to improve its partnerships with United Nations agencies, other international organizations and civil-society groups in three significant ways: (i) it contributed as a team member at the global, regional and country levels to the work of major inter-agency coordinating bodies in humanitarian and development affairs; (ii) it pursued operational and advocacy cooperation with United Nations and non-governmental organization partners to enhance joint contributions to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and WFP's five Strategic Objectives; and (iii) it advocated for the interests of hungry and vulnerable people in major international conferences and meetings.  Major achievements of WFP's engagement in inter-agency coordinating mechanisms in 2005 included: (i) endorsement by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of new arrangements for addressing major gaps in current international humanitarian response; (ii) further progress on simplification and harmonization of development programme cooperation through the United Nations Development Group; and (iii) significant contributions to the operation of United Nations common services, particularly the WFP-managed United Nations Joint Logistics Centre and Humanitarian Air Service.  WFP's operational and advocacy partnerships with United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations focused on meeting the needs of refugees and beneficiaries in food security, emergency response, nutrition, HIV/AIDS and education.

    The report of the Executive Board of the United Nations Children's Fund on the work of its first regular session of 2006 contains the work done at the first regular session of 2006. The report is not immediately available in English.

    The report (E/2006/34) on the first and second regular sessions and annual session of 2005 of the Executive Board of the World Food Programme, lists current and future strategic issues; resource, financial and budgetary matters; evaluation reports; operational matters; organisational and procedural matters; administrative and managerial matters; summaries of the work of the Executive Board, and other business.

    Statements

    LEO MERORES, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said this dialogue, which was one of the traditional components of this segment of the Council's substantive session, was particularly important today -- in this phase of the debate on the reform and on better coordination and coherence within the United Nations -- to assist the Council in orientating its deliberations on operational activities.  The reforms that were introduced in 1997, and were still being implemented, had certainly not been easy for organizations, which had their own well-developed operating systems in place and their own organizational culture as well.  The UN development system had many parts, and the process of reform had been painstaking, not only for those in the UN organizations, but also for those who worked closely with them, especially national partners.  Blueprints did not always fit different realities on the ground.  New questions inevitably come up in the process for which answers were not always ready or satisfactory.  Often the best answers were found in the process of learning by doing. 

    Although many important measures had been introduced and significant changes were taking place towards meeting the objectives of the reforms, many areas had yet to be covered, and some posed a bigger challenge than others.  It was a development process in itself seeking to achieve a chain of results and an ultimate outcome.  In a dynamic and constantly changing environment where challenges continued to evolve, the question was whether there was one well-founded vision of the how the UN system should look, or at least how it should be at the country level; or was it rather, a moving target?

    JOSE ANTONIO OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the purpose of the discussion was to have an exchange of views on issues regarding measures to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the United Nations development system at country-level.  This was one of the main dimensions of the wider United Nations reform, which latter had taken on renewed urgency.  The 2005 World Summit Outcome Document gave prominent attention to coherence as a key area of action towards strengthening the effectiveness of the United Nations system in general.  This could be seen in the new functions assigned to the Council by the Summit.  The Council had an occasion to consider these components and other matters with members of the high-level panel appointed by the Secretary-General to undertake the study on system-wide coherence called for by the Summit, with a view towards strengthening the contribution of United Nations operational activities to the achievement of the development goals. 

    Much in the discussion today would focus on how well the United Nations reform process had worked so far to increase coherence, effectiveness and efficiency at country-level.  The Council should explore issues that confronted not only United Nations system organizations, but also national partners in implementing reforms in the fast changing global environment for development.  This year's dialogue was fortuitously timed: in September, at the General Assembly, the High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence would present its recommendations.  Preparations for the next (2007) triennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development would be taking place at the same time.  This dialogue could therefore provide critical input to the Council's deliberations on operational activities and to the guidance that the Council would itself provide to the United Nations development system in the review of the full implementation of Assembly resolution 59/250 and the preparation of a comprehensive analysis of implementation of the resolution to be submitted to the Council in 2007. 

    KEMAL DERVIS, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that there was a variety of competencies among all the United Nations organizations.  However, there was also diversity among them, which should not be a weight on countries.  It was important that the UN agencies and organizations intervened at the country level in a concerted manner as one coherent group.  As representatives of the United Nations system, they should put in place measures that would help each country to achieve its goals.  The County Teams should help to implement programmes designed by the countries themselves.   It was also necessary to harmonize all programmes in order to avoid duplication of efforts.  The role of the Resident Coordinator should be strengthened.  The different representatives of each of the UN agencies should not only coordinate their programmes and work, they should also be regrouped in the same vicinity to facilitate their tasks.  Even if they were not regrouped in one building, they at least should be situated in the same area.  Creating a common office for all would be a good idea.  

    ANN VENEMAN, Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund, said two years ago the United Nations system-wide issue of transition from humanitarian crises to relief and development had been examined.  In the last two years, additional lessons had been learned that were now being applied, especially regarding coordination.  Development coordination had traditionally focused on the United Nations country team and its national partners.  At times of transitions, a mixture of approaches was required with clear priorities and responsibilities in order to ensure results.  There was now a strong consensus that early recovery actions should begin at the same time as humanitarian assistance.  New peacebuilding initiatives and the roles of those involved were being defined through the inter-agency process. 

    The ongoing United Nations study on violence against children and the work done on gender-based violence at the global level and in specific countries were very important.  Aid coordination should ensure results and adequate financing whilst strengthening partnerships to ensure greater predictability and successful results.  This would help improve the lives of those affected.  Improved coordination could directly have impact on the quality of aid.  More work was needed to utilise the full extent of new coordination mechanisms, but the potentiality existed.  Enhancing coherence and coordination would ensure that the United Nations would continue to play its role effectively in a world where crises remained abundant. 

    THORAYA OBAID, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund, said the rationalisation of country presences was very important.  In of themselves, management reform initiatives served an important purpose, but the context in which they were being undertaken was equally important.  The purpose was to ensure that the United Nations system was more efficient in delivering its aid, whilst upholding universally agreed human rights.  The point was that reform efforts should enhance organisational efficiency and facilitate the achievement of concrete development results.  A streamlined country presence should be placed in the context of how this contributed to a more coherent, coordinated, and a more effective United Nations presence at country level that supported countries to achieve the internationally agreed development goals. 

    A streamlined country presence involved more than the joint office model: there were also various hosting arrangements put in place where a larger United Nations agency managed the country programme of other agencies that had smaller programmes and/or no physical presence.  This was a crucial way to leverage the entire United Nations system at the country level as not all United Nations system agencies had the financial and human resources to be present in all countries.  The first lesson learned was that strong commitment and leadership from Governments was crucial for the planning and successful implementation of a joint office, as was a well-functioning United Nations Country Team.  The second was that there was not one joint office model that fitted all situations.  The third lesson was how the differences in business practices, systems, policies and procedures were making it more difficult to work together than it should be. 

    JAMES T. MORRIS, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP), said there was nothing more important than working in partnership to achieve concrete results from the programmes in order to touch the lives of people, and provide them with hope for the future.  Much of what one was able to achieve was due to the extraordinary commitment of all to reaching targets and goals set at the Millennium Summit in September 2000.  WFP had made significant progress in introducing common programming that allowed it to work more easily together with a shared purpose, and new impetus.  It had improved its processes and ways of programming resources, and had developed better linkages with poverty reduction strategies and national development plans.  WFP was a better partner for other UN agencies, governments and financial institutions, and for non-governmental and civil society organizations. 

    Improving primary education, attendance and quality, particularly for girls, was an important part of the Millennium Development Goals.  As noted in the World Declaration on Education for All, poor health and nutrition were crucial underlying factors for low school enrolment, absenteeism, poor classroom performance and early school dropouts.  An excellent example of its efforts to progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, with support from regional mechanisms and existing regional technical resources, could be found in southern Africa where one of the greatest humanitarian challenges and threats to investments in development was taking place.  In that region, the triple threat of HIV/AIDS, governance and food insecurity demanded a coherent and focused approach. 

    AD MELKERT, Associate Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said the question of how to enhance the performance of the United Nations system on the ground was an important concern.  Increasing attention had been given to how to strengthen the Resident Coordinator system, both in terms of the cadre of representatives as well as its functioning.  There was a need to invest in increasing the ownership and accountability of all members of the Resident Coordinator system through the adoption of performance evaluation tools whereby members of the United Nations Country Teams were rated according to their individual contributions to achieving UNDAF results.  Over the last two years, the focus had been on improving the cadre of Resident Coordinators through improvements in the testing and selection process. 

    Significant strides had also been made in the performance appraisal system.  The incentive structure had significantly evolved.  There was a need to invest more in promoting inter-agency mobility for mid-career staff so that they could acquire the necessary skills and competencies, as well as multi-agency experience to function as effective Resident Coordinators later in their careers.  A further issue was the need to better ensure diversity both in terms of gender and geographic profile.  There was confidence that with the Council's support, the United Nations could bring all its different voices and specific capacities in a coordinated manner to respond to national needs.

    Interactive Dialogue

    In the context of the interactive dialogue, delegations raised issues and posed questions on such topics as the need for competition among the agencies to be used in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness; that any increase in the authority of the Resident Coordinator should be balanced with an increase of their accountability; the need for a coherent approach among the different funds and programmes; the need to respond to needs by concerted and complimentary action; the coordination amongst different United Nations agencies and the reorganisation of the system; the importance for poor countries of instances of misuse of resources; the recognition of the fact that there was no possibility of applying a one-size-fits-all approach and the need to determine different models, and that this remained a significant challenge; the danger of host governmental agencies losing out on skills transfer due to the joint office model; competition between agencies for resources; how work could be specifically carried out in the field in the context of programmes to increase synergy and coherency;  how work was carried out in a coordinated fashion with regards to the Programme of Action in Least-Developed Countries; concern at the role of the Resident Coordinators and the system; the bottom-up approach with regards to the elaboration of a country programme; whether the host country's opinion could be taken in the selection of a Resident Coordinator; what was the ratio of Resident Coordinators who were from Asia and Africa; what were the next steps with regards to the promotion of the one-United Nations in the future; and what were the criteria used for countries to start the Schools Food Programme.

    Many delegations also expressed their sorrow at the events that took place in Bombay the previous day, and condemned such acts of terrorism unequivocally. 

    KEMAL DERVIS, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that different programmes designed for one country might create competition by the actors, and the country might be obliged to choose.  Although competition could be healthy, there could be a waste of time and resources.  It was more helpful to build a cohesive system of implementation.  There should be cohesion among the donors in order not to destroy the efficiency of the programmes.  The fractioning and dispersion of resources might also render the programmes inefficient in some cases.

    ANN VENEMAN, Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund, said on the issue of coordination and coherence as being against competition, the problems of the developing world were too great for competition in the field, and there should be a coordinated response in the field in order to get the best use out of resources.  A coordinated United Nations country team worked together with the country to achieve results and avoided duplication or waste of resources.  The cluster approach was a good concept on the humanitarian side and should be further examined with regard to development activities.  The coordinating mechanism by UN/AIDS should be further examined.  One size did not fit all, and while a model might work well in one area, a different one would work better elsewhere.  A single model should not be prescribed, but coherence should be achieved in other areas. 

    Co-location was one issue, but another was bringing together business practices in order to enhance coordination.  Country teams did work better together if they were working towards common results.  Outputs should be measured rather than inputs.  It was critical to work together as a system to get common sets of data and measure it in the same way in order to achieve measurement of the results.  Branding was also a major issue and was important for fund-raising activities.  Coherence could be brought among the country teams without losing the individuality of the different agencies and what they represented.  There was a lot of opportunity to work with the World Bank in leveraging results.

    THORAYA OBAID, Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said the work of the UN system required passion and compassion in dealing with the people and projects.  The developing countries had made heard their voices that they were fed up to see so many flags of the UN organizations operating separately.  In the case of South Africa, it was using one unique document for all bilateral and multilateral negotiations with the UN system.  The idea of having one office for all should be supported.  The joint-office model would relate to each ministry at the national level and would not neglect the different needs of that country.  The basic principle agreed with some countries with the joint office model was to have a joint budgetary design for all activities.  Through linkages of mandates, one could achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  With regard to choice of delivery, the country should choose in accordance with its national priorities.  

    JAMES T. MORRIS, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP), said a shared sense of understanding and commitment to passion and compassion would be the greatest possible contributor to coherence in the development and humanitarian community.   The importance of the work and of doing it coherently and thoughtfully had unending opportunities of bringing all together in the development community.  The coming together did not have much to do with the issue of competition - instead, a sense of unity and common focus was being created, focussed on the people who needed help.  The issue of hunger and malnutrition could not be addressed just by addressing the food issue - there was also a need for a system of clean water and sanitation, for example, as well as the need to address cultural issues.  The objective was not to stop competition, but to acknowledge and understand the need for collaboration.  It was often an issue of delivery. 

    The issue of governance was also important.  Great institutions marched to their dreams, and to the aspirations and vision of the Board that ran them.  Boards should be emotionally engaged in the work which cared about what was being done and how it was done - there should not be a monolithic development and aid agency reporting to the General Assembly.  Branding was also an interesting issue.  There was interest in how to make the Resident Coordinator position a leadership position, and not a management position.  They should help to lead, and therefore there was a need to make the position very attractive, and this had to do with training, investment, and profiling.  The issue of funding was powerfully important, and WFP was voluntarily funded. 

    AD MELKERT, Associate Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that it was necessary to find a balance between competition and centralized management.  The work of organizations should be rationalized in order to reduce costs.  The donors should coordinate their actions and distribute the funds in a manner that would enhance the effectiveness of their works.  The UNDP country representatives were accountable externally for the programmes in a given country. 

    JOSE ANTONIO OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said dealing with the donors was an important problem for developing countries in the context of the country-specific programmes.  The support for the intergovernmental process and for the normative work was also very important.  Work was being done on the link between the United Nations Development Group and the Council.  The United Nations brand should stand above all other brands.

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