11 May 2017
UN Secretariat Reports on QCPR Follow-up
Photo by IISD/ENB
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UN Deputy-Secretary General Amina Mohammed briefed Member States on the status of mandates given by the quadrennial comprehensive policy review.

She outlined the areas of agreement that have emerged through consultations, and plans for reporting to ECOSOC in June 2017.

5 May 2017: UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed updated governments on the work to fulfill the mandates given to the UN Secretary-General by the 2016 UNGA resolution on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR). The resolution calls on the Secretary-General to prepare, by June 2017: a system-wide outline of present functions and existing capacities of UN development system entities that conduct operational activities in support of the 2030 Agenda; options to improve UNDS’ entities accountability and coordination; and proposed improvements to the Resident Coordinator system.

The briefing took place at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on 5 May 2017. Mohammed noted that the UN development system review work is taking place alongside reform processes in the areas of management and peace and security, and that “prevention” serves as a golden thread connecting the three processes.

Mohammed reported that she has created an internal mechanism to follow up on the QCPR mandates, to ensure the UN moves forward transparently and as one. In addition, her office is working with external experts to gather and analyze the data underpinning the system-wide outline of functions and capacities, an exercise done for the first time at this scale, she said. She added that her office has advanced technical work and studies to ensure evidence-based proposals, and is conducting in-house research to draw on the perspectives of Member States on accountability, transparency, coordination and oversight. She announced that a reference group of individuals with recognized experience in development practice and policy is now operational, and will serve as an informal “sounding board” to test ideas for upcoming proposals.

On the substance of the changes envisioned to follow up on the QCPR mandates, Mohammed said that while it is important to build on what exists, the Secretary-General also will introduce changes to meet the ambition set by Member States through the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) and climate commitments. “Small adjustments, alone, will not make the cut,” she underscored, citing the need for the UN to be better coordinated, integrated and coherent at the country level, and to move from a focus on process to “real accountability to system-wide results in countries.”

Mohammed said that open and inclusive consultations have indicated “relative consensus” on several elements of change. These include the need for a new generation of Country Teams, with a new set of tools and capacities to help governments unlock the potential of partnerships and financing. She explained that “traditional coordination tools are no longer enough” for newer approaches to partnerships and financing. She indicated that the roles of the UN Department of Economic Affairs (DESA) and the UN Regional Commissions will be critical, including their synergies with UN country teams.

Highlighting the need for the UN system to practice not just flexibility but “modularity,” to identify and respond to specificities on a country-by-country basis, she announced plans to propose criteria for determining the optimal UN configuration on the ground. The configuration options could include agency co-location where it would make more sense than maintaining individual offices.

Other elements of change prioritized during consultations, she said, include the need for UN Resident Coordinators (RCs) to be impartial and competent, and to serve as a “one-stop shop” for system-wide partnerships and relationships with other international organizations, business communities and civil society. At the same time, these relationships must be anchored in the UN’s partnership framework with the national government, she said, and national governments “must be in the driving seat.” The RCs should also have strengthened authority and impartiality, and should serve as thought leaders who can rally the system around common priorities. These shifts must come with greater accountability, she noted.

She also highlighted an interest in greater coherence for the UN system, including for the UN funding architecture, and in repositioning the UNDS at the forefront of policy making and innovation, including on “frontier issues” stemming from changes in science and technology.

Mohammed reported that consultations also have noted a need to strengthen the UN’s engagement with Member States on implementing the SDGs, and she aims to identify or create a space to review the UN’s collective support to the 2030 Agenda. She suggested that the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) “would provide excellent venues for this interface.”

Finally, Mohammed said that a “particularly delicate balance” will be required to find a way forward on other areas of the QCPR mandates, including on addressing the humanitarian, development and peace nexus. Consultations on this area “raised a couple of red lines,” she said, in particular regarding the resources available. Noting that, on the ground, humanitarian and development challenges happen at the same time, she said the UN must support country teams to better deliver responses. Other difficult topics include defining a revamped RCs system and addressing the funding of the UN system and its coordination function, she observed.

In the ensuing discussion, Cameroon for the African Group expressed hope that the Secretary-General’s work on implementing the QCPR will not shy away from introducing new proposals, and called for the improvement of the RCs system with equitable geographic representation. However, Brazil warned that the Secretary-General should not advance proposals “that have already been extensively discussed during the QCPR negotiations without garnering support.” She stressed that the QCPR is “not about setting a new agenda but implementing … the 2030 Agenda.” India also said the Secretary-General’s report on the QCPR needs to “strictly adhere to Agenda 2030″ and emphasized a focus on poverty eradication.

The US requested information on sequencing the UNDS reforms, cautioned against creating costly structures in New York, and called to break down the silos of development, human rights, and peace and security. Mexico stressed the for need harmonization, streamlining UN activities, and focusing on cross-cutting components between UN’s development, peace and human rights pillars. Colombia called for coherence between country programs and peacekeeping missions.

Also on the nexus between development, peace and security, and humanitarian issues, Brazil called for using only agreed language that connects the three agendas, “without prejudging their mandates.” India said the best way to address humanitarian issues is to focus on development.

Morocco said Middle Income Countries (MIC) need special attention in the QCPR implementation process. Honduras stressed the need to keep the focus on leaving no one behind.

Morocco also called for highlighting the role of the private sector in implementation. Cuba said public-private partnerships (PPPs) need to be accompanied by oversight measures and mechanisms, and India argued that the UN development system “need not be the host of different donor priorities.” Mohammed said the UN needs to become “a policy broker” by which it assists governments in finding the best PPP options, and helps to design co-financing approaches to leverage their domestic resources.

Mohammed drew Member States’ attention to a briefing to ECOSOC in June 2017 on the vision and proposals of the UN Secretary-General. This report, she said, will focus on UNDS functions and capacities, while another report with recommendations for the RCs system will be presented a couple of months later. [UN Deputy Secretary-General’s Remarks] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on QCPR Resolution] [IISD Sources]

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