ECOSOC Summary Highlights Convergence on UNDS in 2030 Agenda
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During the second phase of the 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, Member States agreed that, to deliver on the Agenda, the UN's organizational renewal must entail significant changes in: capacity, particularly at the system-wide level; and mindset and action in the UNDS and on the part of Member States.

ECOSOC Vice-President Héctor Alejandro Palma Cerna circulated a summary of the Dialogue's second phase on behalf of the ECOSOC Bureau, which was informed by proposals from Member States and UNDS, and recommendations from an Independent Team of Advisers (ITA) co-chaired by Klaus Töpfer (Germany) and Juan Somavia (Chile).

ecosoc7018 July 2016: During the second phase of the 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, Member States agreed that, to deliver on the Agenda, the UN’s organizational renewal must entail significant changes in capacity, particularly at the system-wide level, and mindset and action in the UNDS and on the part of Member States. ECOSOC Vice-President Héctor Alejandro Palma Cerna circulated a summary of the Dialogue’s second phase on behalf of the ECOSOC Bureau, which was informed by proposals from Member States and UNDS, and recommendations from an Independent Team of Advisers (ITA) co-chaired by Klaus Töpfer (Germany) and Juan Somavia (Chile).

The summary identifies several areas of general consensus that emerged in Phase 2 of the Dialogue, including that: promoting sustainable development in the post-2015 era will require UNDS to strengthen its ability to provide integrated, coordinated and coherent support to programme countries; UNDS must become adept at working effectively with different stakeholders and across the peace and security, development and humanitarian pillars of the UN; and UNDS will need to strengthen the regional dimension in its work in the post-2015 era. The summary focuses on the changes required to achieve effective interlinkages and alignment between functions, funding practices, governance structures, organizational arrangements, capacity and impact and partnership approaches.

On UNDS Functions and Impact, the text notes consensus among Member States that: the coverage, priority and intensity attached to UNDS core functions will need to be context-specific, while the work of each entity should be guided simultaneously by a clear strategic focus; support to the least developed countries (LDCs) and those in conflict and other special development situations should continue to be accorded high priority in UNDS’ work, but not at the expense of support of other programme countries; engagement at the country level must remain demand-driven and have a strong focus on national capacity building; and, in middle-income countries (MICs), UNDS will be expected to provide integrated policy and technical support. Several Member States recognized complementarity between humanitarian assistance and development-related activities of UNDS in countries in conflict-affected situations, but expressed concern that increased humanitarian assistance should neither lead to ‘de-prioritization’ of development-related support to programme countries nor to weakened policy and operational independence of the respective entities.

On UNDS Funding Practices, Member States agreed that the current level of non-earmarked funding to UNDS is not sustainable. To increase non-earmarked contributions, delegates stressed the need for: clarity on what constitutes core functions and activities of an entity, and their expected results and impact; improved transparency about results; and strong intergovernmental ownership of strategic plans and resources frameworks. They agreed that it is desirable to earmark funding only at the outcome level of strategic plans of entities, but said this will require strong ownership of Member States of the strategic plans and resources frameworks, and confidence in the quality of their results-based management, evaluation and reporting systems.

On UNDS Governance Structures, Member States concurred that: ECOSOC will need to play an important role in facilitating and supporting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda; the gap in UNDS’ horizontal governance needs to be addressed; strengthening leadership, coordination, transparency and accountability in UNDS is closely interlinked with efforts to improve governance of UN’s operational activities; and it would be beneficial to strengthen the scope of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operation activities of the UN system (QCPR), include the UN specialized agencies in the process, and introduce annual implementation reviews at the level of entities.

On UNDS Organizational Arrangements and Capacity, the summary notes general consensus on the need to: review the field presence of UNDS entities to improve cost-effectiveness in programme delivery at country and regional levels; develop flexible office presence models that respond to different country contexts, and which can be implemented in a phased manner; streamline reporting procedures and back-office functions in UNDS; and harmonize reporting, monitoring and evaluation in UNDS. They further recognized the need for: a highly transparent, inclusive and professional recruitment process for UN resident coordinators (RCs), to attract those with the required skill sets; empowering the RCs and enhancing the capacity of their offices at the country level to ensure coordination and coherence; accelerating implementation of the Delivering-as-One (DaO) initiative in programme countries; and strengthening the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) as a common inter-agency framework for planning, programming, monitoring and measuring results of UNDS at the country level.

On UNDS Partnership Approaches, Member States generally agreed that: partnerships should complement, not substitute, UNDS’ role in supporting 2030 Agenda implementation; partnership efforts should be driven by the specific needs of countries, and augment existing national efforts; and UNDS can strengthen partnerships with the Bretton Woods Institutions and other international financial institutions (IFIs) in support of 2030 Agenda implementation. They also noted the need to develop common standards and reporting rules and regular evaluation for partnerships, both internally and by independent external bodies. They said UN entities’ governing bodies should regularly assess the effectiveness of partnership principles, policies and guidelines established at the global level e.g. through the ECOSOC Partnership Forum, and review the findings of independent evaluations.

The first phase of the ECOSOC Dialogue took place from December 2014 to May 2015, and focused on building a common understanding among Member States of the opportunities and challenges facing UNDS, in anticipation of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. The purpose of the second phase, which began with a briefing session on 17 December 2015 and ended with a formal meeting of ECOSOC on 7 July 2016, was to discuss concrete ideas, options and proposals for strengthening UNDS. Per paragraph 44 of ECOSOC Resolution 2014/14, the UN Secretary-General will reflect the ECOSOC Dialogue in his report on the QCPR for consideration and action by Member States during the 2016 review. [Summary the Second Phase of the ECOSOC Dialogue] [ECOSOC Dialogue Webpage] [IISD RS Coverage of ECOSOC Dialogue]

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