21 May 2019
UN Member States Set Stage for Discussion of Development Reforms
UN Photo/Manuel Elías
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The UN Secretary-General published his annual report to ECOSOC's Operational Activities for Development Segment, updating Member States on reforms to the UN development system.

The report illustrates the initiatives, processes, and structural changes that have been put in place since May 2018.

At a briefing on the advance unedited version of the report, UN Member States provided preliminary feedback to the report.

3 May 2019: In preparation for the UN Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) 2019 Operational Activities for Development Segment (OAS), the UN Secretary-General reported on the implementation of reforms to the UN development system. During a briefing with the UN Deputy Secretary-General, UN Member States provided preliminary feedback on the advance, unedited version of the report, setting the stage for the OAS.

Responding to mandates contained in the quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR) (71/243) and the resolution on repositioning the UN development system to align it with the 2030 Agenda (72/279), the report illustrates the initiatives, processes and structural changes that have been put in place since May 2018, when resolution 72/279 was adopted. The report presents the outcomes of the reviews of UN multi-country offices (MCOs) and of the UN regional assets, and indicates the foundational elements upon which the system-wide strategic document is being built. The publication also presents the outcome of the funding dialogue that culminated with a Funding Compact, aimed at shifting funding practices towards better quality and increased quantity of funding, along with increased transparency and accountability for results.

The report’s introduction notes that at the heart of a renewed UN development system rests “a fundamental cultural shift, rooted in transparency, accountability and a truly collaborative approach.” The Secretary-General underlines that this is “a shared responsibility” that brings together the UN system and Member States. He further calls on UN Member States to endorse his proposals for further change.

The briefing for UN Member States took place on 3 May 2019, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Palestine for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China) stressed that actions to strengthen ECOSOC’s role should not undermine the leading role of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in policy guidance. She said the Group is not in favor of the recommendation for the UNGA to only adopt resolutions on the UN development system when it conducts the QCPR, while ECOSOC would adopt resolutions on the implementation of UNGA guidance only in the years when there is no QCPR. G-77/ China added that the report goes beyond the QCPR mandate with regard to partnerships, and the proposals need to be agreed by Member States. She requested that the management and accountability framework for the RCs be made available to Member States, and expressed concern about the proposal for human rights advisers to be deployed in the UNCTs. Russia said human rights advisers should be deployed only at the request of the host country.

G-77/China, EU and US expressed dissatisfaction that the repositioning of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) is not captured in the Secretary-General’s report. They asked for more information to be made available to Member States.

The EU emphasized that all UN entities need to fund the RC system through cost sharing. He said the report should better reflect efficiency gains, as it is currently “elusive,” without presenting any measures to identify and address duplication. He said the report should be “as ambitious as possible” with regard to the regional level. He asked for more information on guidance for the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), the business innovation group, and MCOs (especially with regards to the new mechanisms and resources listed). He also expressed concern about the delay in the delivery of the system-wide strategic document to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Norway said the Secretary-General’s report gives little insight into how changes at the country level are taking place, and said transparency will be essential in the reform’s implementation.

Senegal, for the African Group, said Africa’s “peculiarities” should be taken into consideration in revamping the UN’s regional assets. He added that the coordination levy should be implemented as soon as possible, and it should not be absorbed in UN agencies’ cost recovery. Paraguay, for the landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), underlined that countries in special situations need to remain a priority for the UN. Kiribati, for the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), said the UN needs to do more and better to support small island developing States (SIDS), especially those covered by MCOs.

Lebanon, noting that the UN Development Coordination Office has been assigned to manage the RC system, stressed the need to ensure that this does not undermine the role of the UN regional economic commissions. China called for upholding the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) in the funding of reforms to the UN development system. He said developed countries should contribute more resources to the dedicated fund, and push for early availability of funds when it comes to both their core and non-core contributions.

Also in preparation for the 2019 OAS, ECOSOC has published addenda on the Funding Compact, the UN development system’s Funding Analysis, the Monitoring and Reporting Framework, a report by the UN Deputy Secretary-General on the UN Development Coordination Office, and an annotated outline of the System-wide Strategic Document.

The OAS will convene from 21-23 May 2019, in New York, US. [Publication: Implementation of General Assembly resolution 71/243 on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system, 2019: Report of the Secretary-General] [SDG Knowledge Hub sources]

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