UN Deputy Secretary-General Briefs Member States on UN Development System Reform
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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The Deputy Secretary-General provided an update on the Secretary-General’s reform proposals related to the Resident Coordinator system and UN country presence; a review of the UN development system regional functions and capacities; the delineation of a Funding Compact; and strengthening system-wide accountability, transparency and oversight.

The Deputy Secretary-General said the Secretary-General had asked her to assume the Chairmanship of the UN Development Goup, with the UNDP Administrator as her Vice-Chair.

Countries generally welcomed the idea of a system-wide strategic document for collective support to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as proposed by the Secretary-General in his reform recommendations.

6 October 2017: UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed briefed Member States on the latest developments in the reform of the UN development system and received feedback from governments. The discussion focused on the Secretary-General’s reform proposals related to: the Resident Coordinator (RC) system and UN country presence; a review of the UN development system regional functions and capacities; the delineation of a Funding Compact; and strengthening system-wide accountability, transparency and oversight.

The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) convened the briefing on 6 October 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres advanced his first proposals on the reform of the UN development system on 30 June 2017, in a report mandated by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in a Resolution on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR).

The Deputy Secretary-General said the Secretary-General had asked her to assume the Chairmanship of the UN Development Goup, with the UNDP Administrator as her Vice-Chair.

The Deputy Secretary-General noted that, in the coming days, the Secretary-General will announce changes to the UN Development Group (UNDG) and had asked her to assume the Chairmanship of the group, with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator as her Vice-Chair.

Mohammed said the UNDG will work closely with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and UNDP to establish a Steering Committee of Principals to foster synergies in humanitarian and development action. She further explained that the Committee will include key entities from the development and humanitarian sides to promote greater coherence of humanitarian and development action in reducing risks and vulnerabilities, while building resilience.

In the ensuing discussion, many Member States noted plans to deliver more detailed comments in writing. Many countries, including New Zealand, for Canada, Australia and New Zealand (CANZ), the Republic of Korea and Sweden, called for ensuring an integrative approach to the UN development system reform that builds on the synergies between the other reform tracks on peace and security and management. Countries generally welcomed the idea of a system-wide strategic document for collective support to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as proposed by the Secretary-General in his reform recommendations.

On RC reform proposals, Ecuador, for the Group of the 77 and China (G77/China), supported by Brazil, said that, when a profile is put forward, it should be done in consultation with the host country. He called for emphasizing the reporting line between RCs and host countries in the reform proposals, adding that countries should be the key voice on performance reviews.

A few countries, including Switzerland, supported the proposal to de-link the RC from UNDP. Norway expressed flexibility depending on the feasibility of the concrete proposal. Others, including Turkey, said delinking the RC from UNDP might weaken capacity and bear additional costs. Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) proposed strengthening the link between the RC and UNDP.

The Republic of Korea said one of the “weakest links” in the Secretary-General’s report is the one between peacebuilding and development, where the RC could play a key role. He called for a “reality check” on expectations for the RC, saying it would be difficult to meet the high expectations set because of funding needs. Japan stressed the need to “seriously examine” the legal and financial consequences of delinking the RC from UNDP.

On proposals for rationalizing physical presence by individual UN entities, the G77/China said a “meaningful and effective” country presence of the UN development system should be ensured for all developing countries that request it. France and CANZ supported the idea of rationalizing countries presence.

Noting that the Secretary-General’s proposals do not mention multi-country offices, Maldives, for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), supported by Solomon Islands for Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS), called for establishing multi-country offices where necessary.

On proposals for reducing the duplicative and overlapping work of UN entities, the G77/China said this proposal cannot be used as an excuse to reduce either agenda items or the number of Secretary-General’s reports and resolutions. He explained that Member States should take into account that agencies can work on the same topic but with different perspectives and called for focusing on filling gaps by “enriching the agenda items” at all levels. Mexico urged cleaning out “the extensive number of reports by the Secretary-General, as most of them are gathering dust on shelves without being read,” saying these reports represent a huge cost for the organization.

On recommendations for enhancing system-wide accountability and oversight, including by progressively merging the governing boards of New York-based funds and programmes, the EU and France said the reform process should not “get stuck” in processes and structural considerations. The UK and the Republic of Korea expressed reservations on the idea of a merged governing board. The UAE said a merger of the boards could be a good solution.

Chile proposed setting a direct “communication line” between UN entities and the Deputy Secretary-General as a new communication structure rather than creating a new bureaucratic structure. China said he would like to see proposals for ways in which entities could make use of current mechanisms to strengthen coordination and communication. Brazil opposed creating a new structure, adding that strengthening of accountability should be done through greater oversight by Member States.

On partnerships with the private sector, the G77/China emphasized the need to strengthen their oversight and accountability. Egypt, for the African Group, expressed concern about the transition from development finance to other forms of financing, with AOSIS noting that the system is ill-equipped to handle the risks that would come with new forms of financing. CANZ said he looked forward to proposals on a new Funding Compact, explaining that the UN development system needs a more sustainable framework for financing and less-earmarked funding.

On proposals for co-location or pooling of system-wide policy capacities at the regional level among UN Regional Economic Commissions and UN development system regional bodies, the African Group expressed support but cautioned that co-location by itself does not necessarily ensure better coordination.

The African Group stressed that the UN development system needs to remain focused on sustainable development even if it addresses synergies with the UN’s peace and security pillar. AOSIS noted as “critical” for the Group the way in which the UN development system plans to address its blueprint, the SAMOA Pathway, as well as the other blueprints for countries in special situations. Switzerland, supported by Peru, said Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 (clean water and sanitation) should be better profiled in the reform plans.

The Russian Federation said reform decisions should not be made by a closed group of experts based solely on discussions with interested parties, recommending that Member States authorize any change in the development system based on consensus. She expressed surprise on the announcement that the Secretary-General appointed the Deputy Secretary-General as chair of UNDG.

Mexico and Switzerland welcomed the appointment of the Deputy Secretary-General as UNDG head, with Mexico stressing the need for a better understanding of what UNDG is doing.

The Deputy Secretary-General announced that the next briefing on the UN development system reform will take place in the beginning of November, when she will present Member States with more options. In response to governments’ requests for more details on many of the proposals, she invited reflection on the extent to which they wish the reform plans to be detailed and specific. She also invited flexibility, from both governments and UN agencies. [UN Deputy Secretary-General Remarks] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Secretary-General’s Briefing to Member States] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Secretary-General’s Report] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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