Member States Receive Explanatory Notes on Development Reform Proposals
UN Photo/Manuel Elías
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Among the eight explanatory notes provided by the ECOSOC secretariat, the note on ‘UN inter-agency Pooled Funds’ indicates that the Secretary-General’s proposal to double pooled financing would include the capitalization of the ‘Joint Fund for the 2030 Agenda Fund’ at US$290 million per year.

The notes respond to questions raised by UN Member States during a series of informal briefings held in January and February 2018 on proposals for the repositioning of the UN development system.

20 February 2018: The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) secretariat published eight ‘explanatory notes’ on key areas for the repositioning of the UN development system, elaborating on proposals issued by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in December 2017. The notes respond to questions raised by UN Member States during a series of informal briefings in January and February 2018.

The briefings convened at UN Headquarters in New York, US, organized by Marc Pecsteen (Belgium), ECOSOC Vice-President. The first platform for official discussion of the reform proposals will take place at the upcoming ECOSOC Segment on Operational Activities for Development (OAS).

The explanatory notes cover eight topics: a new generation of UNCTs; the reinvigorated RC system; enhanced RC offices; common business services and back-office functions; an enhanced UN Development Operations Coordination Office (UN DOCO); UN inter-agency Pooled Funds; a reinvigorated OAS; and a Joint Board of NYC-based funds and programmes. The notes include information such as the current status of the issue, the relevant reform proposals, background information and definitions, and implications and implementation notes.

The ‘A new generation of UNCTs’ note explains that currently there is no systematic approach to determining UN country presence to ensure that the right mix of capacities and expertise is available to host governments to meet their needs and objectives. To address this, the Secretary-General has proposed establishing indicative criteria to be adopted by UN development system entities and host governments on a country-by-country basis.

The note on the ‘Reinvigorated RC system’ explains that the Secretary-General’s proposals to functionally de-link the RC from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and move its management under UN DOCO, while maintaining UNDP’s operational platform and advisory services “as a bedrock” for UNCTs, aim to: provide an operational and backstopping platform; allow the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General to play their strategic leadership and oversight role; and enable UN DOCO to concentrate on the day-to-day management of the RC System.

According to the note on ‘Enhanced RC offices (RCOs),’ the headcount in RCOs varies significantly across countries, with no common standard of what constitutes a “core capacity.” The Secretary-General proposes a minimum capacity of five substantive staff members in each RCO, to include experts in: coordination and strategic planning; economics; tailored policy support; results monitoring and evaluation; and strategic partnerships. He also envisions RCOs serving as one-stop shops for UN partnerships, including with international financial institutions (IFIs), businesses, civil society and other stakeholders, to mobilize the means of implementation for the SDGs.

The ‘Common business services and back-office functions’ note explains that currently only 33 of 130 UNCTs have completed a Business Operations Strategy (BOS). The Secretary-General proposes all UNCTs to ensure compliance with an improved BOS by 2021 and, by 2022, the establishment of common back offices for all UNCTs, with all location-dependent services consolidated into one service center at the country level, and location independent services being provided by a network of global shared service centers.

According to the note on ‘An enhanced UN-DOCO,’ the Secretary-General proposes restructuring UN DOCO, which currently serves as the secretariat and technical and advisory support team to the UNDG, as a stand-alone coordination office, headed by an Assistant Secretary-General and reporting directly to the Deputy Secretary-General as UNDG Chair. He also suggests a “significant enhancement” of UN DOCO’s capacities, in line with its proposed new role: assuming managerial and oversight functions of RCs, functions that are currently performed by regional UNDG Chairs.

The ‘UN inter-agency Pooled Funds’ note highlights that the Secretary General’s proposal to double pooled financing would include the capitalization of the ‘Joint Fund for the 2030 Agenda’ at US$290 million per year. It explains that pooled funds help to: strengthen country engagement and alignment to national priorities; strengthen coordination, collaboration and coherence of the UN System; finance transformative change based on a common theory of change; improve risk management; and leverage contributions from non-traditional donors. Under the proposed reinvigorated RC system, the RC is to be granted with a new authority to “vet” the allocation of pooled funds against national priorities, as articulated in the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).

The note on ‘A reinvigorated ECOSOC OAS’ explains that, currently, the focus of the OAS discussions is hampered by the limited time and the number of issues to cover in just three days. In addition, time does not allow sufficient reporting by governing boards of UN development system entities, thus their issues are lost. The note argues that two OAS meetings, each having a clear focus, would improve the quality of discussions and outcomes from the OAS.

According to the ‘A Joint Board of NYC-based funds and programmes’ note, a Joint Board would address both single entities’ mandates and their collective action. The merger would focus on the horizontal governance of the system, stressing joint strategy, planning and results to better deliver on the 2030 Agenda, while preserving entities’ accountability on their specific mandates. The Joint Board would be supported by one, stand-alone secretariat. An alternative to a Joint Board, the note mentions, is to grant legislative authority to the existing joint meeting of the Executive Boards. This would give it decision-making power over collective support in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The last of the informal briefings will take place on 22 February 2018. The 2018 OAS will be held from 27 February-1 March at UN Headquarters in New York, US. [Explanatory Notes] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Briefings][SDG Knowledge Hub Policy Brief on Reform Proposals] [Roadmap of Briefing] [Draft Programme of 2018 OAS]

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