ReformtheUN.org Latest Development, Issue #250 – System-wide Coherence Consultations Turn from Funding to Governance Issues
New York, 9 May 2008 – Member States met on 17 April to review decisions made so far on Funding aspects of System-wide Coherence and to begin discussing the Governance component.
The High-level Panel’s recommendations on Funding concern the need for sustained and predictable funding from Member States and how this funding should be put to use at country and headquarter levels. The funding discussion has included use of funds saved by the Delivering as One initiative, with consensus emerging during April’s meeting that savings should be returned (or “ploughed back”) to development-related initiatives in the same countries. During the April 17 meeting, one of the two co-Chairs of the General Assembly’s consultations on System-wide Coherence, Ambassador Paul Kavanagh of Ireland, described this progress and made recommendations on other aspects of funding, detailed below.
Turning to Governance, delegations heard from representatives of the UN’s development system on the role of the Resident Coordinator and on developments at country level. Co-Chair Kavanagh made recommendations to Member States for moving forward with the issue of governance reform, and a general discussion among delegations followed.
The meeting made clear Member States’ reservations about the governance structures recommended by the High-level Panel.
For background and recent updates on System-wide Coherence, see Latest Development Issue # 242 and Latest Development Issue # 246.
Update on Funding Recommendations
Co-Chair Kavanagh suggested that:
· Member States continue to replicate the success demonstrated so far by some countries in coordinating the budget cycles of various funds, programs and agencies;
· There must be an increase in core funding to counteract the recent decline of core contributions;
· Predictable, multi-year funding is essential for the UN’s coherence and effectiveness; and
· Increased donor activity in the Delivering as One pilot countries not leave non-pilot countries deprived of funding, and that the short-term increase in donor activity in pilot countries be continued in the long term.
Origins of the Governance Issue
The 2006 report of the High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence (HLP) recommended a series of changes to the way the UN is managed at the country level and identified improved UN governance as the enabling factor for country-based change. The HLP proposed a series of changes – consolidating some functions and strengthening others – to streamline country-based UN agency work with work done at UN headquarters.
The HLP recommendations fall into three broad categories: (1) the organisational level, (2) the regional level, and (3) the intergovernmental level. Recommendations at the organisational level fall mostly within the remit of the Secretariat and the Chief Executives Board, which are expected to be addressed by the Secretary-General in mid-May. Recommendations at the regional level are being dealt by the General Assembly under the existing Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review (TCPR) process.
April Meeting on Governance
The 17 April meeting focussed on the HLP’s recommendations for the intergovernmental level, including:
- Establishment of Global Leaders Forum of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), comprised of selected heads of state of ECOSOC members and the heads of the major international economic and financial institutions. The Global Leaders Forum would provide leadership on development and global “public goods” issues, and it would oversee the policy goals of major international organizations.
- Establishment of a UN Sustainable Development Board to oversee the Delivering as One initiative and the performance of the Resident Coordinators in each country.
- Review of the UN Chief Executives Board (CEB) established in 2000, with a view to improving its performance and accountability for System-wide Coherence.
In the General Assembly’s 61st Session, discussions among Member States revealed concerns about such changes, including:
· Possible erosion of national ownership of UN intergovernmental processes;
· The need for more information about the proposed new bodies; and
· The possible duplication of existing mandates and functions of the Executive Boards.
States also indicated that institutional reforms could be undertaken within existing frameworks such as the TCPR.
The co-Chairs’ statement at the April meeting asked Member States to consider whether and to what extent the June 2007 Annual Ministerial Review and the current work of the Development Cooperation Forum has abated the above-mentioned concerns.
In their responses, many Member States expressed continuing concerns, highlighted below.
European Union: Country based reform efforts must be supported by a reliable institutional framework. Further progress at the country level cannot alone advance operational activities – UN headquarters must also step up their efforts and demonstrate greater flexibility and synergy with field operations.
G77 and China: Need to ensure full agreement between changes at the central level, with changes at the country level. Also expressed concerns that the role of the Resident Coordinator may develop into intermediary role between governments and civil society.
Pacific Small Island Developing States: UN reform offers an opportunity to enhance, not duplicate, partnerships between relevant agencies
Switzerland: The current improvements demonstrated by the “Delivering as One” initiative demonstrate that it is possible to respond to the World Summit outcomes without having to adopt some of the more controversial recommendations of the HLP.
Japan: The establishment of a UN Development Board would require a complex re-evaluation of the functions and mandates of existing bodies such as ECOSOC, CEB and UNDG.
Pakistan: How would the HLP recommendations relate to the existing framework, without merely becoming “another layer” of duplicative policies? The best way forward is to proceed with the Development Cooperation Forum developed by ECOSOC, and to move forward with the policy goals identified by the Millennium Development Goals.
India: The current process runs the risk of subjecting reforms to a structural process that remains nepotistic, and there will continue to be disagreements on issues of System-wide Coherence while there remains disagreement on why such reforms are necessary at all.
Mexico: The lack of coordination is not due to the lack of institutions to undertake the work, and it would be a bad idea to create the Global Leaders Forum proposed by the HLP.
Egypt: System-wide Coherence should make more use of existing mechanisms – such as a more revitalised role for ECOSOC – instead of creating new structures.
Bangladesh: The current system is fragmented and under-funded, but it is not appropriate to merely create new structural layers as a response to the problem.
Korea: Only when the existing mechanisms are exhausted should more structures be established.
Russia: Do not understand the purpose of the proposed Global Development Board and Global Leaders Forum, or how they would be more useful that the existing structures.
Consultations on gender are expected to take place in mid-May. A co-Chairs’ report to President Kerim on all System-wide Coherence consultation issues will be submitted in June.
Co-Chairs’ Statement on System-wide Coherence: Governance (17 April 2008)
Government Statements on System-wide Coherence: Governance (17 April 2008)
Delivering As One – Report of High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence (9 November 2006)