JIU Suggests Ways to Improve UN’s Administrative Efficiency and Effectiveness
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The JIU report outlines recommendations to improve UN administrative efficiency and effectiveness through UN inter-agency cooperation.

The author notes that there is significant scope for delivering a wide range of functions through shared services, and there is a lack of support for horizontal integration and a lack of direction and support from UN headquarters at the country level.

5 March 2019: The Joint Inspection Unit of the UN System (JIU) has issued a report that reviews UN administrative efficiency. It provides ten recommendations for improvement through UN inter-agency cooperation. Recommendations for action are directed at the UN Secretary-General, the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) and the UN Sustainable Development Group, among other UN actors and entities.

The JIU report on ‘Opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness in administrative support services by enhancing inter-agency cooperation’ (JIU/REP/2018/5) was prepared by Jeremiah Kramer in 2018, and circulated to UN Member States in a note of the UN Secretary-General dated 5 March 2019. The JIU is an independent external oversight body of the UN system mandated to conduct evaluations, inspections and investigations system-wide.

Among its main findings and conclusions, the report indicates that inter-agency cooperation offers a “significant efficiency opportunity” financially and substantially, but its realization will require sustained effort, time and investment. It also finds significant scope for delivering a wide range of functions through shared services, and argues that some functions delivered locally are not location-dependent and therefore could be provided at a global or regional level.

A model by which a single agency provides hosting services for others may be tested by the end of 2020.

On challenges, the report outlines a lack of comparable data, including data to support analysis of the quality of services, separate administrative support frameworks and operations, and different set of rules and procedures among UN organizations. At the country level, it reveals constraints imposed by different policies, procedures and systems, lack of direction and support from UN headquarters, a lack of support for horizontal integration, and a few evident incentives for inter-agency cooperation. It also notes that the vast majority of UN country teams still manage their business operations through agency-owned departments. The authors reports that the “overwhelming majority” of operations management teams rank differences in policies, procedures, rules and regulations as the top obstacles to common business operations.

The report outlines ten recommendations to improve administrative efficiency and effectiveness through UN inter-agency cooperation. Among them, it calls on legislative bodies to request executive heads to develop performance indicators and targets to drive improvements in the delivery of administrative support services. It also suggests that the UN Secretary-General, in consultation with the Chair of the UN Sustainable Development Group, initiate the testing of a model under which a single agency provides “hosting services” for the others, by the end of 2020.

In addition, the report proposes that the UN Secretary-General, in consultation with the CEB and the UN Sustainable Development Group, ensure that inter-agency mechanisms to support cooperation on common business operations articulate global and country-level measures, clear priority setting and methods of work. It adds that findings and measures taken should be reported to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at its 2020 session and to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) at its 74th session.

The UN Secretary-General has undertaken UN reforms on development, management and peace and security that aim to enhance the UN’s contribution to sustainable development, ensure more effective capacities to tackle conflict and sustain peace, and improve the UN’s internal management and ability to deliver. As noted in the SDG Knowledge Hub’s ‘Annotated Guide to the UN Secretary-General’s Reform Proposals,’ the three reform tracks address the fragmentation and bureaucratization of the UN system, which cause gaps, duplication of work and resource drainage. [Publication: Opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness in administrative support services by enhancing inter-agency cooperation: Note by the Secretary-General] [JIU website]

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