M i s s i o n R e p o r t
Subject: ECOSOC dialogue on the longer term
positioning of the UN development system
From: Tian Wen Juang
Team/Unit: International IDEA
Date of the Report:
Mission to: ECOSOC, UNDS
Mission Dates: 15/12/2014
IDEA Participants: N/A
Country/Organization Participants: United Nations
IDEA Publications Distributed: None
An ECOSOC dialogue on the longer-term positioning of the UN development system
(UNDS) took place on December 15th
2014 in the ECOSOC Chamber at the UN. The
purpose of this dialogue (5th
meeting) was to discuss the alignments needed to
optimize the UNDS to support countries in the implementation of the post-2015
development agenda, in particular the links between the adaptations of functions,
practices for financing, government structures, capacity and repercussion of the
system for development, associations and institution rules. The debate was to be
carried out with human rights and the eradication of poverty as key issues of the
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the agenda.
Background/Purpose of Mission
The meeting’s point of reference was the draft discussion paper by independent
experts Bruce Jenks and Bisrat Aklilu and the adoption by the General Assembly in
2012 of resolution 67/226 on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR) of
the UN operational activities for development. ECOSOC has the duty to monitor the
implementation of the QCPR, which is fundamentally the mechanism through which
the GA assesses the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and impact of UN
operational activities and establishes policy orientations for development cooperation
between countries of the UN system in response to the evolving international
The discussion between Member States was built on past work and was focused on
maximizing the potential and impact of the UNDS. This is to be achieved by ensuring
the system’s Fit for Purpose, in other words targeting the essential topics of policy
coherence, flexibility (no “one size fits all”) and complete effectiveness, efficiency and
transparency on all levels.
The authors of the paper illustrated the four parameters which were inserted in their
the role of the UN in the changing development landscape
the new development agenda
the long-term positioning of the UNDS
the interlinkages between the alignment of functions, finance, partnerships,
organization/capacity, impact and governance.
It was requested that the Member States provide an analysis on the relationship
between the four parameters and provide useful elements for such dialogue.
The authors summarized the paper through a brief explanation of each parameter. The
changed development landscape is a consequence of the increasing global size of the
economy and the matter of differentiation which derives from it, namely the fact that
not all countries are benefiting from this. Therefore the role of Official Development
Assistance (ODA) has radically changed with globalization. Another important element
to be considered in the changing landscape are the new development challenges
represented by climate change, the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease and the
concept of global public goods.
It was also reminded that the whole agenda is the result of the work in the Open
Working Group and the commitment of Member States to the normative framework
around the SDGs. Both of the first two parameters, the two authors pointed out, have
impact on the positioning of the UNDS.
Representatives of United Nations Development Group and of the High Level
Committee on Programs clarified the fourth parameter, i.e. the interlinkages between
the factors that are at the heart of the drivers of change:
Functions: the universality of the new agenda must prevail, for the principle that “no
one size fits all”. This is motivated by the reasoning that an integrated nature needs an
integrated intervention. Moreover, it was stressed that all parties involved must work
harder on the development and humanitarian approach to build peace and security, in
order to support the agenda in boosting coherence and collaboration in the world.
Furthermore, a critical function is the capacity to identify opportunities to leverage
solutions, because of an economy characterized by highly volatile resource flows.
Supporting policy coherence and defeating traditional silos are consequently essential
functions as well.
Finally, the UNDS must strengthen its capacities to be a champion of evidence-based
policy, thus providing leadership in the collection and use of data and financing and
analysing the optimal configuration of the multiple databases.
Finance: changes in the development landscape suggest that the use of ODAs, the
main source of financing for UN operational activities, should be optimized. Core-
resources are essential for LDCs, especially because they strongly rely on both core
and non-core ODAs. The volume of these forms of aid are significant in the lowest
income countries, so the rationalization of the multiple funding channels (pool funding)
is critical. Another pursuable option for the UNDS is to find new sources of private
finance, for example fees.
Partnerships: dialogue and partnership is essential for finding a way to better engage
with the UN and the agenda. Deepening partnerships can bring new resources,
contribute to innovation and broaden capacities for SDGs, but it is important that full
clarity is obtained for an accountability framework (governance and integrity measures
are pending issues that must be resolved).
All speakers also recognized that a more systemic and broader dialogue with civil
society is to be achieved.
Organization: first of all, the “no one size fits all” concept was reiterated. Secondly, it
was noted that the Delivering as One (DaO) initiative has been largely implemented in
the last decade, allowing substantial decreases in transaction costs by benefiting from
comparative advantages and increasing the effectiveness of the system through more
coherent programs. A question to be answered is whether countries support the DaO
model and want to further integrate the UN country presence.
Impact: an ongoing issue concerns the methodology for measuring impact. In the post-
2015 framework, this will relate to the effectiveness of the UNDS support to countries
in the formulation of SDG-focused policies. Moreover, all shareholders were
encouraged to be bold in accepting partners, but then publicly spousing their norms
Governance: the quality of governance of specific organizations, of Funds and
Programs and of the entire UNDS is a fundamental matter. The principle by which “an
integrated agenda needs an integrated coherent approach” applies. Governance
related to evidence based policy making must always be accompanied by rigorous
documentation and expert representation, while all types of governance have to be
transparent and coherent. In pursuing more robust UNDS wide governance
mechanisms, the present dialogue between countries and all stakeholders must
continue to be transparent and inclusive, in particular boards must communicate
frequently with management and there must be continuity and vigilance within these
boards. Finally, the adoption of a principle that matters requiring intergovernmental
decisions should only be discussed in one intergovernmental forum.
Member States had the possibility to express their opinion on the report and a fair
amount of divergences surfaced.
Most nations feel that the report fails to adequately address the problem of the existent
structural gap between developed and developing countries. Notwithstanding the fact
that the report has indeed remarked the topic of the changing landscape, it misses to
sufficiently discuss about poverty and inequality in middle-low income countries. A
more balanced paper would have acknowledged more the challenges faced by these
countries in their path to sustainable development. Moreover, the impact that these
structural gaps have on the UN, especially for what concerns the strategies for
development in LDCs, is unclear.
Frequent comments were made about the lack of clarity of some definitions and
measures, including the definition of global public good (GPG). There is no multilateral
agreed concept of it, therefore it is seen by some as a misleading concept. For
example, climate change can be seen as a GPG, but it is actually a goal;
environmentally clean and sound technology fits the definition, but it is a mean of
Member States hope for a data revolution in the near future. More information is
needed and data statistics have to be strengthened, especially in regard to poverty
eradication (where is aid needed the most and in which sectors must we intervene?).
A large portion of countries believe that a more systematic and broader general
partnership with civil society is required. However, others noted that the mandates for
the agenda is part of a process of intergovernmental negotiation, thus to be Member
The DaO approach received large consensus and this was motivated by the belief that,
despite no one size fits all, there are certain things that fit every country and are
common to everyone. However, a preemptive approach should not prevail: reforms
should be the result of negotiations and the evolution of a process. No policies should
therefore be preemptive in either direction.
Overall, experts and Member States agreed that it is crucial that all parties have a
common shared vision. Only then it will be possible to have shared accountability.
For what concerns the governance parameter, the core of all processes is governance
reform: the lack of legitimacy of governance will hinder the entire agenda.
Finally, as stated by the Secretary General in the Synthesis Report, negotiations must
be carried out in function of the fundamental issues of human rights and poverty
eradication, while keeping the dialogue between countries and parties involved
inclusive and transparent.