The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Dialogue on the longer-term positioning of the UN development system (UNDS) in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has concluded.
In the final session of the second phase of the Dialogue, many UN Member States expressed support for reforming the UNDS, including by enhancing its internal coordination, reducing competition and overlaps, and strengthening the UN Resident Coordinators (RCs) system.
7 July 2016: The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Dialogue on the longer-term positioning of the UN development system (UNDS) in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has concluded. In the final session of the second phase of the Dialogue, many UN Member States expressed support for reforming the UNDS, including by enhancing its internal coordination, reducing competition and overlaps, and strengthening the UN Resident Coordinators (RCs) system.
Opening the meeting on 7 July 2016, Alejandro Palma Cerna, ECOSOC Vice-President (Honduras), said the exchange of views during the ECOSOC Dialogue provides an excellent foundation for the upcoming negotiations on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the UN system (QCPR), which will take place in the fall of 2016. He noted the “unique” role of the Dialogue in discussing the functions, funding practices, governance structures, capacity and impact, partnership approaches and organizational arrangements of the UNDS, and their interlinkages. Among his observations from the Dialogue, he noted that that the delivery of the UNDS suffers from duplication and other inefficiencies, funding is fragmented, and there are strong interlinkages between funding and governance.
The ECOSOC Vice-President announced that he will circulate, in the coming weeks, a summary of the second phase of the Dialogue that will include key message of the process. He also noted that an updated advance, unedited version of the UN Secretary-General’s report on the QCPR should be available in August 2016, ahead of the intergovernmental negotiations on the QCPR.
Thomas Gass, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), on behalf of Wu Hongbo, Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the Dialogue showed that the UNDS should focus on results, and make changes to the way it plans, operates and cooperates, at all levels. He added that: governments must adopt a more coordinated approach in the way they fund and govern the UN system; changes will require time and perseverance; more investment will be needed to make the system fit for purpose; and ECOSOC should have a more “active role” in ensuring QCPR implementation.
Amir Abdulla, UN Development Group (UNDG) Vice-Chair, said the UN Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) should be replaced by UN Sustainable Development Frameworks (UNSDF). He called for the RCs to be resourced with adequate capacity, and added that the UNDG is committed to: supporting implementation, monitoring and reporting across the three pillars of sustainable development; providing integrated policy advice to countries; delivering technical assistance to countries in crises or recovering from crises; and facilitating knowledge sharing through South-South and triangular cooperation.
Several countries welcomed the work of the Independent Team of Advisers (ITA) to the ECOSOC Bureau, which had made proposals throughout the Dialogue. However, views diverged regarding implementation of their recommendations. For instance, China said the ITA recommendations focus largely on functions at UN headquarters, and implementation of the recommendations will be costly and time consuming, thus delaying implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Maldives, for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said ITA proposals deserve attention and further consideration, and Chile called ITA proposals provocative but also feasible, saying some can be implemented immediately.
Some delegations made proposals to address UNDS fragmentation, including: undertaking a comprehensive mapping of functions within the UNDS (Thailand, for the Group of 77 and China); and carrying out an independent review of mandates of UN development entities (Sweden). Germany noted that UNDS reform must account for what is feasible and realistic, and that reform should be a priority for the next UN Secretary-General, who will succeed Ban Ki-moon in 2017.
Many delegations called on the UNDS to be flexible, avoid a one-size-fits-all approach, and carry out its functions in a differentiated manner that responds to different needs, situations and national priorities of countries. Brazil and others stressed the importance of national ownership. Brazil also said the UNDS should enhance analytical capabilities regarding Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) implementation in countries, and that its perspectives on peace must be developmental.
G-77/China said guidelines might be needed to improve coherence and the accountability of the UNDS, and that the underrepresentation of developing countries in governing bodies of UN entities should be addressed. Kazakhstan noted his country’s proposal to transform ECOSOC into a global development council, and to host a UN regional hub in Almaty to increase the UN’s ability to respond to the needs of the region. He also expressed support for the adoption of a system-wide Global Strategic Framework (GSF), as proposed by the ITA, and for keeping the RCs system under the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
On funding, G-77/China and others stressed the importance of a balance between core and non-core funding. The US, Serbia and other delegations underlined the need for multi-stakeholder partnerships.
On next steps, some developed countries called for: UN guidance on timelines and milestones; a concise and strategic QCPR resolution or outcome; QCPR discussions to be inclusive; and involving delegations in the drafting of the zero draft of the QCPR resolution. Mexico proposed to postpone consideration of the QCPR to the first quarter of 2017, after the appointment of the next UN Secretary-General.
On the QCPR, Canada and other delegations suggested to replace its name with more understandable term. Norway expressed support for a proposal from the UNDG to use the new QCPR as a high-level system-wide strategic framework for the UNDS as a whole. South Africa and China, among others, remarked that the 2016 QCPR should focus on development cooperation issues, especially poverty eradication. The Republic of Korea said the QCPR should address the linkages between peacebuilding and the humanitarian and development pillars.
The ECOSOC Dialogue took place in two phases (December 2014 to May 2015, and December 2016 to July 2016) and included several meetings that focused on the reform of the UNDS. Its outcome is expected to feed into the QCPR negotiations. [Meeting Programme] [ECOSOC Dialogue Website] [IISD RS Coverage of ECOSOC Dialogue] [Meeting Summary] [IISD RS Sources]