UNDP Administrator Updates Member States on Resident Coordinator System Reforms
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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UNDP is working with the transition team set up by the UN Secretary-General to ensure that the reformed development system will be in place on 1 January 2019 – an operation described as “lift and shift” by the Secretary-General.

The Resident Coordinator system is currently being moved from UNDP to the Secretariat, efforts being undertaken to: put in place an infrastructure to allow the RCs to operate on 1 January 2019; help staff their offices in 129 countries; and set the payroll for 129 RCs and 1,200 RC offices and DOCO staff that form the new RC system.

14 November 2018: Achim Steiner, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, briefed UN Member States on the reforms to the UN development system at a meeting of UNDP’s executive board. He described UNDP’s work with the UN Secretary-General’s transition team to ensure that the reformed system will be in place on 1 January 2019.

Among Steiner’s updates was the announcement that the transition of the UN Development Operations Coordination Office (DOCO) was completed on 1 November 2018, and DOCO is now part of the Secretariat, with funding from UNDP and its current configuration until June 2019 in order to ensure a smooth transition.

Steiner said the system went through an exercise to determine how many of the current 129 Resident Coordinators (RC) want to remain RCs, and how many want to return to UNDP or their originating agencies. The exercise was completed at the end of September 2018, with 117 of them choosing to remain RCs. Thus the “lift and shift” operation will consist of moving 90% of the current RCs from UNDP to the Secretariat. He said this implies developing a service level agreement that will cover a second request by the Secretary-General, comprised of: putting in place an infrastructure to allow the RCs to operate on 1 January 2019; helping staff their offices in 129 countries; and setting the payroll for the 129 RCs and 1,200 RC offices and DOCO staff that form the new RC system.

Steiner reported that this operation will cost UNDP US$2.6 million, and emphasized the need to ensure sufficient funding for the Secretariat to support the new structure moving forward. He said the cost of the contribution to the RC system by UNDP will be US$10.3 million.

“Everything is happening as we speak,” Steiner noted, with the UN Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG) currently developing new job descriptions for the RCs, as well as the mutual accountability framework between RCs and the UN country teams. This exercise is being conducted as a collaboration between UNDP, the UN Secretariat, and the transition team, Steiner said. He added that interim protocols and internal control frameworks are also needed for the process to delink the RCs from UNDP.

Steiner also flagged the required “unprecedented exercise” of replacing the 117 UNDP country resident representatives, since the current RCs have been playing that role. He said that UNDP has had four months to identify and appoint the new resident representatives by the end of 2018. He reported that in one month of advertising the openings, UNDP received 3,500 applications, and 195 candidates are currently shortlisted. He saluted the fact that 22% of the candidates are from Africa.

Steiner noted that UNDP is coming from “an extremely contractive period,” in which it was in deficit while Member States’ contributions were at a historical low, and hundreds of posts were frozen or eliminated; the total staff decreased by 1,000 of its total of 8,000 between 2012 and 2017. Currently, UNDP is increasing at a rate of 6-9% per annum, and replacing its pyramidal structure with a “21st century” global policy expertise network, which will be rolled out starting 1 January 2019. Steiner said more resources are going to Africa and the Arab states in conflict, UNDP is reducing operational costs while delivering more, and it is “delivering on the promises for the UN development system reform.”

Steiner added that UNDP is exceeding delivery on all its six of its “signature solutions” in 2018, and anticipated having one of the highest rates of delivery in the history of the UN.

In the ensuing discussion, Member States asked whether UNDP or the RC will play the integrative role for the UN presence in countries (Albania), inquired about the timeline for new appointments to be discussed with host governments (El Salvador), asked about an internal communication strategy for UNDP’s new relationship with other UN agencies on the ground (Switzerland), asked what the impact will be on multi-country offices (Antigua and Barbuda), and requested information on plans for private sector partnerships (Netherlands, Sweden and US).

Steiner said UNDP will move away from coordinating UN agencies’ activity on the ground. He emphasized that the role of the RC is not to implement the SDGs, but to coordinate SDG implementation on the ground, and UNDP will support the RCs when requested. He explained that UNDP’s integrative platform is an offer, with the agencies on the ground and the RCs to decide if or when to use it. He clarified that UNDP’s principal role is not to serve as the integrative platform for the UN system but provide the development support.

The UNDP Administrator said the appointment letters for the RCs were to be sent to countries in November 2018. He also added that no major changes will be made to the current composition of the UNDP country teams.

The “new vision for the Resident Coordinator” is outlined on the UN’s reform website, which also provides other information on the repositioning of the UN development system, overall. An update on the status of the reforms can be found in this policy brief from September 2018, and a summary of the Secretary-General’s September briefing on RC system reform is available here. [Meeting webcast] [SDG Knowledge Hub coverage of UN reforms]

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