Governments Consult with ECOSOC and UNSG on UN Development Reforms
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UN Member States concluded a series of informal briefings on proposals for the repositioning of the UN development system, as laid out in December 2017 by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The final two meetings addressed system-wide transparency, accountability and oversight and the system-wide strategic document; biannual OAS meetings with distinct focus areas; and the regional approach.

20 February 2018: UN Member States concluded their informal interactions with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) secretariat and the team of the UN Secretary-General on proposals for the repositioning of the UN development system in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. At the two final meetings, governments received additional information on the reform proposals related to system-wide transparency, accountability and oversight, and the system-wide strategic document, and expressed their views on the reform proposals for the regional approach.

The informal briefings took place in advance of the ECOSOC Segment on Operational Activities for Development (OAS) beginning on 27 February 2018. The briefings, which were organized by Marc Pecsteen (Belgium), ECOSOC Vice-President, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, from 29 January-22 February 2018, focused on several key areas of the proposed reforms: a new generation of UN country teams (UNCTs) and the Resident Coordinator (RC) system; the system-wide strategic document; the funding compact; system-wide transparency, accountability and oversight and partnerships; and the regional approach. The ECOSOC secretariat also published eight “explanatory notes” that respond to questions raised by Member States during the briefings.

During the meeting on system-wide transparency, accountability and oversight and the system-wide strategic document, Navid Hanif, Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), responded to questions by Member States on the necessity of an independent system-wide evaluation unit, as proposed by the Secretary-General. He explained that the UN Evaluation Group (UNEG) is only a network, thus it does not have the capacity to produce the system-wide evaluation necessary for the 2030 Agenda, while the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) is responsible for evaluation, inspection and investigation and cannot focus only on the operational activities for development. In order for the JIU to perform the system-wide evaluation for the 2030 Agenda instead of creating a new evaluation unit, Hanif told governments that they would need to give JIU a different, new mandate.

On the Secretary-General’s proposal to hold biannual OAS meetings with distinct focus areas, Hanif said that in only three days (the current duration for OAS) there is not enough time for governments to address all necessary humanitarian and development issues, provide guidance for the boards of UN agencies, and factor in the peacebuilding elements. On the proposal to merge the boards of New York-based funds and programmes, Hanif told Member States that another option would be to give more legal power to the joint meeting of the executive boards, in order to address the current horizontal governance gaps. He added that the evaluation of the system-wide strategic document would be part of the report on the implementation of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR), submitted annually to the OAS.

In the briefing on ‘The Regional Approach,’ many governments noted that the reform proposals related to the regional approach lack sufficient details. While some governments, especially Latin American and Caribbean governments, stressed that the functions of the regional economic commissions (RECs) go “well beyond” those of think tanks (as proposed by the Secretary-General) and their capacities need to be strengthened, others expressed resonance with the Secretary-General’s sentiment that the regional architecture needs to be substantially restructured, adding that the regional level might be over-equipped. They explained RECs have been spared from substantial budgetary cuts, while other UN entities, including the RC system, were not. Thus, they said there is a need to analyze if the regional level delivers sufficient value added to justify the current level of expenditure. They also called for clearly identifying REC’s comparative advantage in relation with the UN Development Group (UNDG) regional offices. Some governments stressed that regional restructuring needs to be tailored to the specific needs and priorities of each region, while others noted that RECs should not focus only on the 2030 Agenda.

Responding to questions and comments, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said governments should not fix their critiques of RECs on the word “think tanks” as another, more relevant word could be found. She noted that the QCPR is about the 2030 Agenda, which is why the Secretary-General’s proposals refer only to the 2030 Agenda, but if countries need support on other issues than they simply need to ask for support from RECs, and they will receive it. She also observed that, unlike the MDGs, the SDGs include six goals related to economics. Therefore, the RECs need to be included in the work undertaken by UNCTs and the RCs, instead of having mostly a one-on-one relation with governments.

The OAS will take place from 27 February-1 March 2018, in New York, US, and serve as the first platform for official discussion of the Secretary-General’s reform proposals published in December 2017. [Explanatory Notes] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Briefings] [Roadmap of Briefings for Member States] [Draft Programme of the 2018 OAS] [SDG Knowledge Hub Policy Brief on Secretary-General’s Reform Proposals] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on the System-Wide Strategic Document] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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