12 February 2019
Secretary-General Updates Member States on Reform Progress in January 2019
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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The Secretary-General announced that internal coordination mechanisms for the new management and peace and security architecture are in place, among other updates on the three streams of UN reform currently underway.

UN Member States will consider reform matters at ECOSOC's Operational Activities for Development Segment from 21-23 May 2019.

29 January 2019: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has updated Member States on UN reform processes, summarizing changes that took effect on 1 January 2019 and highlighting areas of additional progress. Recent changes include new management, accountability and institutional structures, and the deployment of the first assessment mission reflecting the integrated approach to peace and security matters. A series of updates on the UN’s reform website provide further information.

As noted in the Secretary-General’s letter, the start of 2019 saw the creation of four new departments – the Department of Management Strategy Policy and Compliance, the Department of Operational Support, the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, and the Department of Peace Operations – as well as the launch of a “reinvigorated” Resident Coordinator (RC) system, served by a “newly-fortified Development Coordination Office” (DOCO). The Secretary-General expressed gratitude to Member States that have provided financial resources for the RC system, and encouraged all countries to contribute “ideally in the first quarter 0f 2019,” to ensure that the UN can “fully deliver” on the expectations of the UN General Assembly.

Guterres said work also has advanced on: the multi-country office review; the preparation of proposals on the UN’s regional assets; the Funding Compact; and the development of a system-wide strategic document. Governments will formally consider these matters during the Operational Activities for Development Segment (OAS) of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), in May 2019.

The Secretary-General recalled that on 1 January 2019 he issued new, simplified and streamlined delegations of authority to more than 200 heads of entity across the UN Secretariat, including heads of departments, offices, regional commissions, field missions, and RC offices. The framework of the revised delegation of authority is shown here, comparing the new delegation of authority with the former delegation. The graphic highlights that in the new delegation, the Secretary-General delegates directly to the head of an entity, rather than via an Under-Secretary-General or Assistant Secretary-General. The reform website notes that efforts to increase delegation of authority “will be accelerated in 2019.”

Guterres explained that this represents a “major decentralization that cuts through bureaucracy,” adding that it will achieve the UN’s goal of bringing decision-making closer to the point of delivery. The change is also aimed at empowering managers to efficiently manage the resources entrusted to them by governments for the implementation of their mandates.

Also on management reform, Guterres reported that a pilot project for the 360-degree performance evaluation of senior managers has been launched, and the new performance management system is expected to begin later in 2019. In addition, the newly formed Management-Client Board held its inaugural meeting in January. The Management-Client Board is expected to provide a “feedback loop” between client entities and the new management structures.

On peace and security architecture, Guterres reported that the newly created Standing Principals’ Group for coordinating the UN’s efforts across the peace and security pillar held its first meeting in early January 2019. The Group identified several areas for action, and the first assessment mission that reflects the integrated approach was deployed in January.

The reform website notes that 1 January 2019 represented the half-way mark for reforms in the peace and security pillar. The head of DPO, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, said “the other 50 per cent will be realized over the course of the year, with a focus on streamlining and simplifying current practices, working methods and cultures.” The organigram for the reorganized peace and security pillar is here. The head of the peace and security transition team is Chris Coleman.

The reform website also describes benefits that will emerge due to linkages between the three reform streams. For example, delegating authority will help align political priorities with resources for field missions, and interaction between the new RC system “will potentially offer a wider range of tools to support regional and country-based conflict prevention and peacebuilding.” Interviews with several of the newly appointed RCs are available on the UN reform website, sharing their expectations and visions for the reform.

The Secretary-General closed his letter by observing that “we now have the mandates, the political will and collective responsibility” to make the UN a “truly responsive and accountable instrument for meeting today’s challenges and achieving the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” [UN Secretary-General’s Letter] [UN Reform Updates] [SDG Knowledge Hub Policy Brief on January 2019 Reform Updates]

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