Helen Clark: Speech at session on Improving the governance and co-ordination of the UN development system

Mar 1, 2017

2030 Agenda demands a stroandng UN development system which delivers in an integrated coherent manner. Photo: UNDP Ghana

I am pleased to participate in this Session on Improving the Governance and Co-ordination of the UN Development System.

Allow me to highlight three key points:

First, the QCPR is unequivocal that the 2030 Agenda demands a strong UN development system which delivers in an integrated and coherent manner.

The UNDG is committed to deliver on this call, building on the significant reform progress achieved under the previous QCPR. We now have a common approach to supporting 2030 Agenda implementation, and our redesigned Standard Operating Procedures help us deliver better together at country level. We have taken a number of steps to improve the Resident Co-ordinator system, including through a revised RC competency framework, a performance management system for RCs, and UNCTs, and a system-wide cost-sharing arrangement.

The UNDG is also committed to working collaboratively with colleagues across the UN system. For example, both humanitarian and development actors agree on having more  joined-up analysis and planning; greater use of joint programming and multi-year joint funding; and on enhancing joint monitoring and evaluation and the transparency and frequency of common results reporting.

Indeed, adhering to the highest international standards of transparency is a critical element in achieving improved governance and accountability. The UN development system has become much more transparent. A UNDG transparency portal is already online – open.undg.org, and an expansion is planned to include pooled funding.

Many entities subscribe to the standard established by the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), and are leaders on transparency in how development and humanitarian resources are managed.  UNDP has been independently ranked the most transparent aid organization in the world in each of the past two years.

Second – the QCPR calls for the strengthening of ECOSOC, and, in particular, the revitalization of the Operational Activities segment.

What could this mean in practice?

-    ECOSOC presidencies could decide to convene more short strategic dialogues on important issues. The UN development system would be happy to provide inputs and insights, including from the country-level. The results of such dialogues could be inputs to Member States’ negotiations, and thereby strengthen ECOSOC’s substantive and policy advisory roles. Such strategic dialogues could also encourage more interactive discussion which would engage participants.

-    The links between ECOSOC, the High Level Political Forum and the various Commissions (such as CPD, CSW and others) could be strengthened by ensuring that the perspectives and contributions of the UN development system are consistently considered and reflected in discussions  across these bodies.  

We look forward to hearing more ideas from Member States on how they believe ECOSOC’s governance and co-ordination role can best be strengthened.

Third – there are a number of changes which would help improve the governance of individual entities, including by striking a better balance between the informal and formal interactions between agencies and their boards.

For example, currently the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Board meets three times a year - in January, June, and September.

The reality is that the first Board meeting occurs when the Bureau has been in place for only around a fortnight. This means that it can be very difficult for Bureau members to guide the agenda or the workings of the January board meeting.

The annual Board meeting then takes place in June, and within six weeks of that concluding, papers are due to be published for the next meeting which takes place in September. This timing does not facilitate constructive engagement between the agencies and Member States on significant issues.

I am certain that Member States would be better informed, and therefore more equipped to make considered governance decisions, if there could be better spacing of formal sessions and greater emphasis placed on regular informal briefings on issues of interest.

Last, but not least, I would urge Member States to increase the coherence of their own policies and positions across all UN governing bodies and inter-governmental bodies.

That would include achieving more coherence between, on the one hand, the policy directions set by Member States and, on the other hand, their funding practices. Incoherence in this regard is particularly challenging for agencies funded by voluntary contributions, as it makes it harder to deliver on our mandates and to work collaboratively across the system.


In conclusion, let me emphasize that while much progress has already been made to improve the governance and co-ordination of the UN development system, more can be done to further its reach and contribution. In the UNDG, we are committed to play our part in bringing about improvements, and we look forward to working closely with ECOSOC to that end.


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