Helen Clark: Speech at the Operational Activities Segment of ECOSOC Dialogue with Heads of the UN Funds and Programmes

Feb 22, 2016

I thank the Vice President of the ECOSOC, H.E. Mr. Alejandro Palma Cerna, Permanent Representative of Honduras, for the introduction and for his commitment to moving forward the ECOSOC Dialogues.

This Operational Activities Segment takes place in the lead up to Members States’ negotiation of the 2016 QCPR. It is our hope that the ambition and drive of the many global agendas agreed in 2015, including the 2030 Agenda, will be reflected in the upcoming QCPR. 

We have before us important guiding questions, and in my remarks I will touch upon a number of the issues raised in them. These include the implementation of and lessons learnt from the 2012 QCPR, as well as areas critical to the UN Development System’s support for the roll out of the 2030 Agenda. 

Implementation and lessons learnt from the 2012 QCPR

Since its adoption, implementing the 2012 QCPR has been a top priority for the UN Development Group.  Let me highlight just a few of the actions we have taken. We have:  

o    Rolled out the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for UN Country Teams to work collaborately. These codify lessons learned and good practices from the experiences in Delivering as One countries. The SOPs have been embraced by UN Country Teams. It is also worth noting that 88 programme country governments, almost seventy per cent of the total, have expressed interest in all or some of the elements of DaO being implemented in their country. 

o    Revamped the selection and training of and appraisal system for Resident Co-ordinators, and improved the gender, geographical, and agency balance  of those selected.

o    Greatly improved inter-agency collaboration at the country level, including through establishing issue-based results groups. All 131 UNCTs are now organized around such groups, working without silos, and there are a total of 320 joint programmes. Close to forty  UNCTs are further improving their operational effectiveness through a common UNDG Business Operations Strategy; 

o    Simplified the UNDAF process, in close to forty countries, including by giving greater attention to striving for results on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  

o    Provided RCs and UNCTs with policy tools and strategies to support programme countries in promoting South-South and Triangular Co-operation; and 

o    Developed an approach to conflict and development analysis which will help RCs and UNCTs to engage the entire system in conflict-sensitive strategic planning.

Overall, it is clear that implementation of the 2012 QCPR has made a good contribution to ensuring that the system is fit for purpose to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. Now it is time to build on those achievements, and strengthen our collaboration and coherence even further. 

The upcoming QCPR will be critical in this regard. It is our hope that it will be ambitious, strategic, and focused on system-wide results; guided by the 2030 Agenda; and be the overarching framework for driving coherence in the UN development system as a whole. 

A Strong Commitment to the 2030 Agenda

We in the UN Development System (UNDS) see the 2030 Agenda as a huge opportunity to advance sustainable development around the world. We also see the Agenda as an opportunity for coming together as a coherent and integrated UN system.

National ownership and leadership on the 2030 Agenda are critical. Already, Governments are requesting the UNDS to support SDG implementation –as of this month, 81 United Nations Country Teams (UNCTs) have reported receipt of such requests. Around two-thirds of the eighteen countries which, as of last Friday, had volunteered to report on the roll out of the agenda are developing countries, and we are available to support that reporting on request. 

Through the MAPS approach, agreed by the UNDG, the UNDS is offering a common approach to SDG implementation through the following: 

o    support for mainstreaming the SDGs into national development plans, policies, and budgets: a UNDG reference guide to support mainstreaming the 2030 Agenda has been issued to all Country Teams;

o    support for accelerating progress on the new agenda across a range of goals and targets simultaneously; and

o    policy support through joined up expertise from the whole UN development system. This will call upon us to host joint policy teams, including in country, to deliver together.

Support from UNCTs will be offered in accordance with country needs, capacities, and demands. This calls for UN country frameworks which have strong national ownership and endorsement, and it includes enhancing the use of national capacities and systems, where relevant.

I fully support the comments of His Excellency, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development of Rwanda, in this morning’s session on the positive impact of the UN delivering as one, as it has in Rwanda for number of years. That is why at the country level we are moving fast with the Standard Operating Procedures which change the way we do business everywhere. Now the regional and global levels have to catch up, to ensure full co-ordination for the 2030 Agenda behind a common approach. 

We have good examples of how change is happening, with adaptions to our instruments happening at a fast pace on the ground. In Kenya, for example, that has led to an ambitious new UNDAF process which is embedded in the new national plan. The UNDAF itself was signed at the highest level by the President of Kenya himself. We see the new UNDAF process as an excellent example of how the UN development system can adapt fast and rise to the challenges of doing business differently.

UNCTs will need to be flexible in the ways they work in order to scale up efforts quickly or change course in light of lessons learned and/or of unforeseen events.  We also need differentiated responses to suit the needs and capacities of different country typologies – such as for LDCs, LLDCs, SIDS, and MICs. The SDGs call for delivery platforms which are differentiated across the goals, but we must ensure we can always provide the most joined-up, efficient, and high impact contribution we can as a UN development system. The days of working in silos and separately are over.

The 2030 Agenda is an integrated agenda which requires work across the pillars of sustainable development. That applies to governments, and it applies to the UN. It will also be a test of our commitment to work together across the development, humanitarian, peace, security, and human rights pillars of the UN Charter. The World Humanitarian Summit later this year presents another good opportunity to give attention to this need for collaboration. We look to Member States for further ideas and support in this regard.

Towards greater integration, coherence and impact: what will help?

1)    An empowered and responsive RC System

The Resident Co-ordinator system is at the center of UNDS’ support to the new agenda. The corps of RCs must include the “best and brightest” of UN professionals. They need the authority to bring a range of actors in their teams together around providing more joined-up support to national partners. 

UNDP is fully committed to its role as host of the RC system, and to ensuring that it grows in strength and has a sustainable financing base. We are grateful for the contributions to a small portion of the financing which is provided by the UNDG members, and those principals on the panel with me today have been key champions of this cost-sharing.  RCs and the RC system need to be strongly grounded in country development realities, be institutionally supported by a broad based field presence; not be politicized; and enjoy full support and commitment from across the UN system.

2)    Predictable and Flexible Funding Practices
The nature of funding has a big influence on how the UN development system functions. It can act either to incentivize or to disincentive collaboration. The current funding architecture is complex, fragmented, and characterized by ever growing levels of non-core funding. 

Let me repeat: how the system is funded matters. We need to be able to call on a broader range of funding instruments which will help make us fit for purpose. Greater predictability of funding flows and flexibility in the use of both traditional and innovative financing instruments is vital.
 
Funding practices which favor predictability enable us to plan and operate in a more coherent and integrated manner. Pooled funding, and un-earmarked or minimally earmarked funding, support strategic and joined-up operations. Fragmented and highly earmarked funding does not. Solutions to these challenges are in the hands of Member States.

More pooled and multi-year funding commitments would also support moves towards one framework for planning and financing humanitarian, peacebuilding, and development action. With the support of governments, new UNDAFs are being designed in this way.

Changes to funding practices also have to be matched by changes in the way we attract, manage, and report on funding and allocations. We are moving to higher levels of data transparency and must do so across the whole UN system. All agencies need to meet the standards of the International Aid Transparency Initiative. 

3)    Strengthened data and analysis as a basis for improved performance

Innovation in the use of data, global knowledge sharing platforms and services, technology, and public engagement techniques will be important for delivering the 2030 Agenda. There is widespread innovation in the UN system in these areas. We will draw on the best practices in the system, and continue to innovate across all countries. Pooled data and knowledge, and encouraging experimentation and “learning by doing” are critical. Cross-country learning, knowledge, and capacity exchanges should be facilitated along these lines, and we must do this globally. 

Let me also add here that we need to intensify our co-ordinated work in the UN development system on national statistical and data capacity development as a continued area of high demand and support. This will be an area of high priority for us as we support governments on the 2030 Agenda.

UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women, and WFP are currently working together on a co-ordinated and data-based approach to the mid-term reviews of their strategic plans. For UNDP, the midterm review process is an opportunity to ensure that its Strategic Plan is fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda.   

Conclusion

The ambitious and integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda demands adaptation and change from individual UN entities and the whole system.  We have to move the bar on what we do together, to urge and incentivize a more joined-up UN development system which actually delivers together. Member States are making their expectations clear in this regard, and we look forward to the ongoing dialogues with and support from you to make this happen.

Implementation of the 2012 QCPR has positioned the system well for the 2030 Agenda. The 2016 QCPR will build on this, and we look forward to working with Member States to that end. 

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