UN Secretary-General Releases Development System Strategy
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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As mandated by the 2016 QCPR resolution, the UN Secretary-General has issued a system-wide strategic document providing recommendations for the UN development system to accelerate its alignment with the 2030 Agenda.

In the report, which elaborates on reforms first presented in June 2017, Guterres also proposes that the UN Development Coordination Office will assume managerial and oversight functions of the Resident Coordinators, in order to ensure a more direct reporting line to the Secretary-General.

20 December 2017: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released his second report on the repositioning of the UN development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report elaborates on proposals first outlined in June 2017, setting out the “major changes required to ensure a more coherent, accountable and effective support to the 2030 Agenda.”

An advance unedited version of the second report was released on 20 December 2017, following an exchange of views with Member States in November. The report includes a system-wide strategic document for collective action to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda, as well as a “comprehensive” proposal on improvements to the Resident Coordinator (RC) system. Both of these elements were requested by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in its 2016 resolution on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) (A/RES/71/243).

The system-wide strategic document was produced by the UN Development Group (UNDG) and, Guterres notes, charts a path for the UN development system to work collaboratively, building on the strengths of each entity, to accelerate its alignment with the 2030 Agenda at country, regional and global levels. The strategic document provides concrete recommendations around four guiding principles: coherence and alignment in support for the 2030 Agenda across the UN Charter; system-wide functions that need to be strengthened in support of the 2030 Agenda; system-wide instruments for measuring, monitoring and reporting on collective results; and more effective funding mechanisms to underpin these efforts. It also identifies measures to re-profile and strengthen the skill sets of the UN development system to respond to the 2030 Agenda, including through a review of work programmes.

The Secretary-General’s December report notes that the strategic document will ultimately serve as an accountability instrument for the process of change initiated by the QCPR. It will be initially framed for the period 2018-2019 and subsequently aligned with the four-year QCPR cycle. The text further explains that the Secretary-General will provide updates annually to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on the implementation of the strategic document, in order to strengthen the interface between the UN development system and the Council. A first update, containing a revised set of actions following feedback by Member States, will be provided to ECOSOC at its 2019 Operational Activities Segment.

Guterres is re-naming the UN Development Group the UN Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG).

The report announces that the Secretary-General has established a Joint Steering Committee to advance Humanitarian and Development Collaboration, which will operate under the chairmanship of the UN Deputy Secretary-General, with operational leadership from two vice-chairs: the Emergency Relief Coordinator and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator. Guterres is also re-naming the UNDG as the UN Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG) “to reflect the comprehensive, integrated nature and the scale of ambition of the 2030 Agenda.”

Also related to strategic action, the Secretary-General’s report notes that he has asked the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) to strengthen and better align its work streams that provide support to intergovernmental processes for the review and follow-up of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) on financing for development (FfD), and to “step up its capacities” in policy analysis and knowledge production. The goal of this process is a “more effective, efficient and realigned” DESA that “reasserts its role at the forefront of sustainable development policy at the global level” and better supports Member States. DESA will report to the UN Secretary-General in the first quarter of 2018 on the outcome of this review, after which he will update Member States on the direction of DESA’s reform.

On the Resident Coordinator (RC) system, the Secretary-General’s report notes that the proposals will result in centering the UN Country Teams around a strategic UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), led by an independent RC. A reinvigorated RC system, the report says, will require full separation between the functions of the RC and UNDP Resident Representative. However, UNDP assets and expertise should be put at the service of the wider development system through the leadership of the RC. Therefore, as a standard practice, the document announces that RCs will continue to be co-located with UNDP in common premises. This will involve a dual role for UNDP: first, making available for RCs and UNCTs the technical expertise and advisory services to lead system-wide planning, risk management, and support to the localization and monitoring of SDGs and financing for development; and second, continuing to provide back office support for RCs and their offices, including all administrative and operational requirements related to the coordination function.

The UN Development Coordination Office (DOCO), which currently provides the substantive secretariat that supports the UNDG, including the UNDG Chair and Vice-Chair, will now assume managerial and oversight functions of RCs. In executing this oversight and management role, the DOCO Director will report directly to the Deputy Secretary-General as UNDG Chair, and will have overall responsibility for talent development and performance appraisal of RCs. This way, the report adds, RCs will have a direct reporting line to the Secretary-General with a more impartial intermediate structure, functionally detached from any specific entity.

The Secretary-General’s December report also contains proposals related to a restructured regional approach, and a Funding Compact aimed at enhancing the quality, quantity and predictability of resources. It concludes with a request to Member States to support six specific mandates to translate the “package of proposals” into action. [Publication: Repositioning the United Nations Development System to Deliver on the 2030 Agenda: Our Promise for Dignity, Prosperity and Peace on a Healthy Planet] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on First Report of Secretary-General on Development System Reform] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on ECOSOC Briefing, November 2017] [SDG Knowledge Hub Coverage of UN Reform]

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