14 November 2017
UNSG Briefs Governments on Development System Reform
UN Photo/Cia Pak
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The UN Secretary-General said he has advanced towards delivering the "system-wide strategic document for collective support to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," which was outlined in his reform proposals of June 2017.

Guterres said separation between the RC system and UNDP is necessary, and that a merger of the governing boards of New York-based funds and programmes will be done progressively and under the guidance of Member States.

10 November 2017: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres updated Member States on the UN development system reform process at a briefing convened by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). He said delegations’ feedback will be reflected in his forthcoming report on the matter, to be issued in December 2017.

Guterres initially outlined his proposals on development reform in a report of 30 June 2017, which was presented to UN Member States on 5 July. Some of the proposals outlined were intended to be initiated immediately, while others required further consultation. Since then, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has conducted “robust consultations” with Member States, as noted by Guterres. Those consultations, a briefing of 6 October with Mohammed, and the most recent briefing with Guterres on 10 November will be reflected in a more detailed report of December 2017.

Addressing governments on 10 November 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, Guterres said he and his team have advanced towards delivering the “system-wide strategic document for collective support to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” which was outlined in the June proposals. He also said: separation between the Resident Coordinator (RC) system and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is necessary; a merger of the governing boards of New York-based funds and programmes will be conducted progressively and under the guidance of Member States; and the UN’s coordinating function is “vastly underfunded,” and he will discuss the detailed costs with Member States in advance of his December report.

The Secretary-General said five issues will be at the core of his December report:

  • impartial and empowered RCs leading a new generation of Country Teams;
  • a revamped regional approach, created by optimizing existing arrangements and ensuring the UN Regional Commissions serve as think tanks and intergovernmental platforms;
  • strengthened accountability by strengthening system-wide evaluation, with ECOSOC possibly playing a larger role in system-wide coordination;
  • a new Funding Compact, based on both greater results accountability by the UN system and an enhanced predictable base of funding by Member States, aimed at providing incentives for system-wide coordination; and
  • stronger partnerships at scale for the 2030 Agenda, underpinned by a system-wide approach to partnerships.

Ecuador for the Group of the 77 and China (G-77/China) said the reform proposals should go through an open intergovernmental process. He expressed concern that some of the SDGs do not benefit from sufficient funding. On data, he stressed the need to respect the national ownership of data and to support national capacity building for data. G-77/China called for more information on the consequences of merging the governing boards of New York-based funds and programmes, while Belarus inquired about the potential merger’s impact on funding allocations to the funds and programmes. Instead of creating new structures, Brazil said reforms should focus on making the needed experience available on the ground in a coordinated manner.

The EU, Colombia and Mexico expressed full support for the Secretary-General’s reform agenda. Australia, also for Canada and New Zealand (CANZ), noted that the group is aware that not all reform details will be resolved in December, but they would like the Secretary-General to keep pushing and inspiring Member States in order to advance on his mandates. Gabon for the African Group called for more emphasis on SDG 9 (industrialization, infrastructure and innovation) in the December report, while Maldives for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) said the December report should include recommendations on how multi-country offices can become more effective.

Highlighting the link between UN’s development, humanitarian, and peace and security pillars, the EU supported the Secretary-General’s proposed focus on prevention. G-77/China supported by AOSIS highlighted that the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) is a development resolution, saying development should be the purpose of the reform process, with eradicating poverty its priority.

The EU said redundant structures should be abolished and resources redirected for the recalibrated functions. She said the system-wide strategic document should explain how the UN will work with other partners, and how UN entities will coordinate better. She added that the December report should elaborate on how gender equality can be addressed.

On funding, the G-77/China stressed that funding and financing are two separate issues, and the conversation on financing should not eliminate the one on funding. The African Group said funding for eradicating poverty should not be reduced. On the new Funding Compact, he said funding should respect countries’ priorities and provide for increased transparency and accountability of partnerships, including partnerships with the private sector. The EU and Norway said the new Funding Compact should contain guidelines not only for current donors, but also take into consideration new donors, including the private sector. Thailand said the Compact should recommend pursuing pooled funding at all levels, while recognizing the importance of official development assistance (ODA), domestic resources mobilization (DRM), public-private partnerships (PPPS) and South-South Cooperation (SSC). Colombia asked how can the UN develop a new relationship with the financial system to ensure support for development financing, while Tajikistan called for closing the funding gap on water and sanitation (SDG 6).

Both the EU and Norway supported the proposal to delink the RC system from UNDP, with the EU noting that the RCs should be owned by the entire UN system and independent from any UN agency. The African Group asked how the Resident Coordinator will be funded if delinked from UNDP, while Belarus inquired about the role of states in appointing the RCs.

The EU said the UN presence in countries should be further rationalized and remain only where needed the most, such as in the least developed countries (LDCs), land-locked developing countries (LLDCs), and small island developing States (SIDS). Brazil also supported the greater rationalization of UN country presence, calling for shifting the focus to the effectiveness of country offices.

The EU said it does not support proposals on enhancing funding and participation of Regional Commissions in the ECOSOC operational activities for development (OAS), nor expanding ECOSOC’s mandate. Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic expressed support for the proposals on strengthening Regional Commissions’ presence and participation. Mexico added that Member States should be “even more aggressive” in reforming ECOSOC than in the Secretary-General’s proposals.

Responding to comments, Guterres expressed his belief that development should be central for the UN development system, with poverty eradication being the central piece of the 2030 Agenda. He added that, for him, Africa will represent the test of whether the 2030 Agenda is successful. On the RCs, Guterres said the system should have a compulsory core of non-earmarked contributions, plus additional earmarked contributions. [SDG Knowledge Hub Policy Brief on Reform Process] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on 6 October Briefing] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on 5 July Presentation] [Report of the Secretary-General: Repositioning the UN development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda – Ensuring a Better Future for All]

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