UN Member States discussed interlinkages in the UN Development System (UNDS) during the seventh workshop of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Dialogue on the longer-term positioning of the UNDS in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
They also provided views on recommendations from the Independent Team of Advisers to the ECOSOC Bureau (ITA).
13 June 2016: UN Member States discussed interlinkages in the UN Development System (UNDS) during the seventh workshop of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Dialogue on the longer-term positioning of the UNDS in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They also provided views on recommendations from the Independent Team of Advisers to the ECOSOC Bureau (ITA).
The ITA was established in February 2016, with 14 members from all regions and various NGOs, to offer specific recommendations on the Dialogue process. The ITA is co-chaired by Klaus Töpfer (Germany) and Juan Somavia (Chile). It has produced six background papers to inform the Dialogue workshops, including one on interlinkages which notes that ITA proposals for repositioning of the UNDS should not be seen as adding new structures and mechanisms to the system, but rather as “rebalancing” them.
Opening the meeting on 13 June 2016, in New York, US, Alejandro Palma Cerna, Vice-President of ECOSOC (Honduras), asked participants to focus on interlinkages in the UNDS, including between the alignment of functions, funding practices, governance structures, organizational arrangements, capacity and impact and partnership approaches, which constitute the focus areas of the Dialogue. Töpfer asked whether the UN system is currently fit to address such interlinkages. Somavia highlighted the need to use sectoral knowledge and information already available in the UN system in an integrated way, so as to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Hanaa El Hilaly, ITA member, presented the ITA background paper on ‘Interlinkages in the UN Development System,’ which was issued on 1 June 2016. Among the proposals contained in the paper, she highlighted the creation of: a system-wide Global Strategic Framework (GSF) that would allow UNDS entities to link their own activities to the related activities of other UN entities; a Deputy Secretary General for Sustainable Development (DSG-SD), who would be responsible for developing the GSF and manage the UN Resident Coordinator system to ensure that it is autonomous, effective and empowered, and not influenced or constrained by the priorities of any individual UNDS entity; a Sustainable Development Board (SDB), established through gradual merger of existing governing bodies, who would have the authority to review and approve the GSF, among other functions; and the re-designation of Regional Economic Commissions into Regional Sustainable Development Commissions.
El Hilaly noted that each UNDS entity could undertake a thorough, evidence-based annual review of its progress in implementation of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) resolution, noting the “enormous potential” of the QCPR to link system-wide efforts and outcomes of the 2030 Agenda. On funding available to UN funds, programmes and specialized agencies, she said there should be more concerted efforts to make financial resources more predictable, flexible and transparent, and pooled resources should be encouraged. On Delivering as One (DaO), she noted the need for a single office incorporating experts and other staff delegated from UNDS entities and working under a single, consolidated authority.
Switzerland remarked that the ITA’s interlinkages paper could be seen as a summary of the other ITA papers, which were discussed in previous ECOSOC Dialogue workshop. He said the paper outlines a long-term vision and it is up to Member States to decide on next steps.
Some governments stressed the importance of national ownership and of governments’ taking the lead in the implementation of SDGs. The Russian Federation, Ghana and others cautioned against an “over-centralized” UN system. Zambia and others asked what impacts UN reforms will have on development. Some expressed concern about adding “new structures” and the budgetary implications, and called instead for reducing fragmentation and increasing coherence and accountability.
Several countries asked for more details on the GSF, including its added value and the amount of work it would represent. Some countries expressed reservations on the SDB, including about the process of merging existing governing bodies. Canada asked how the SDB would be linked to the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), and the US asked for clarification on reporting from this board, and where it would meet. On the DSG-SD, some countries asked about the difference between this new structure and other existing ones, and stressed the need to avoid duplication of functions.
Somavia stressed that the resident coordinators would need a holistic understanding of issues and countries, and the RC appointments should not be made politically. Several delegations questioned the added value of having the UNRC report to the DSG-SG instead of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
The eighth and final ECOSOC workshop will take place on 22-23 June, to discuss findings and conclusions of the ECOSOC Dialogue and the way forward. [ECOSOC Dialogue Website] [Workshop Programme] [Publication: Interlinkages in the UN Development System] [IISD RS Story on Worshop 6 on Partnerships, Governance and Organizational Arrangements] [IISD RS Sources]