Background

The Committee was informed that the General Assembly would conduct its quadrennial comprehensive policy review of United Nations system operational activities during its current sixty-seventh session. The Assembly was expected to adopt a resolution to provide guidance to the United Nations development system on how to improve the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of United Nations development cooperation. Preparations for the review had been carried out by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The Committee, at its twenty-third session, had provided input to help determine the position on strategic and political issues to be projected in the report of the Secretary-General (issued as document A/67/93-E/2012/79).

The outcome of the negotiations would give direction to the United Nations system and to its inter-agency coordination mechanisms on system-wide policy orientations for development cooperation and country-level modalities. In preparation for the negotiations, an independent evaluation of lessons learned from the “Delivering as one” initiative had been prepared by the Evaluation Management Group in June 2012 and made available to the General Assembly (see A/66/859). The Evaluation Management Group had also requested the Secretary-General to provide a management response to recommendations contained in its report. At the request of the Secretary-General, the Chair of the United Nations Development Group was taking the lead in preparing the management response while ensuring that the views of the High-level Committee on Programmes and the High-level Committee on Management were sought and included in the response.

Navid Hanif, Director of the Office for Economic Support and Coordination of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, presented a summary of the report of the Secretary-General on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review. Mr. Hanif noted that the substantive preparations for the review as well as the lessons learned from the independent evaluation of the “Delivering as one” initiative suggested that further progress in enhancing coherence, coordination and efficiency of the United Nations development system at the country level might not be realized without significant changes at headquarters level. He noted that such changes should aim at enabling the system to make a strategic shift towards programmatic and operational interoperability across organizations, including in their corporate administrative systems, resulting in reduced transaction costs.

In addition, Mr. Hanif said that the report made it clear that organizations should be able to work seamlessly across the vertical and horizontal dimensions of programming and business operations, including with regard to results, reporting and accountability. The report recommended that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review provide an opportunity to launch a strategic reflection on the longerterm repositioning of United Nations operational activities for development, including improvement of the funding system. The report also noted that the growing demands on the United Nations resident coordinator to represent and coordinate the country team effectively should be matched with enhanced authority and resources. In concluding, Mr. Hanif highlighted the importance of the United Nations system speaking with one voice during the negotiation of the resolution.

Mr. Hanif’s intervention was complemented by that of Dena Assaf, Deputy Director of the Development Operations Coordination Office, who presented the draft management response to the independent evaluation of the “Delivering as one” initiative. Ms. Assaf noted that the feedback received to date indicated that the draft management response was comprehensive and strategic in drawing on the key recommendations in the report of the Secretary-General. There was also a broad consensus on the key messages and the thrust of the recommendations in the report of the Secretary-General. There was an overall agreement to implementing all of the recommendation except recommendation 8, which suggested that the United Nations system, notably its funds and programmes, might wish to make contributions to the One United Nations Fund from their core and non-core contributions.

The feedback also suggested sharpening the management response in selective areas by specifying concrete actions on how system-wide ownership of the resident coordinator function could be enhanced and what actions would be taken to address key challenges to implementing the monitoring and evaluation system as well as how system-wide evaluations could complement agency-specific ones. The acceleration of progress on rationalization and harmonization of business practices and consolidation of functions under the United Nations Development Group at headquarters was also suggested as an additional reflection. The feedback also revealed some concerns with respect to the feasibility of implementing recommendations related to business practice reform, especially within the proposed timelines and considering the fact that some of the recommendations would require approval by legislative and governing bodies of the United Nations system.

The Committee was also briefed by Remo Lalli, Secretary of the High-level Committee on Management, on its consideration of this issue at its recently concluded twenty-fourth session. Mr. Lalli noted that the work initiated through the “Delivering as one” initiative and the joint High-level Committee on Management- United Nations Development Group efforts had been a catalyst for how the United Nations system collectively supported Member States both at the global and country levels. The High-level Committee on Management had taken on its role to serve, with respect to “Delivering as one”, as a forum that contributed to the harmonization and simplification of all areas of work by the United Nations system.

Discussion

In relation to the discussions in the Committee, several smaller organizations noted that they had benefited greatly from the Committee’s harmonization and simplification agenda. With regard to coordination with the United Nations Development Group, Committee members noted the importance of dialogue and joint planning. To do that well, there was a need to focus on the sequencing of work between the pillars and their networks and working groups.

Participants expressed the hope that the draft management response would limit its scope to addressing the 12 recommendations of the independent evaluation and not the 20 lessons learned contained therein. Some participants noted that the response should be drafted along the lines of the United Nations Evaluation Group response methodology, with management clearly stating whether or not the Secretary-General agreed with the recommendations and what actions the system would take to address them. Others highlighted concerns on recommendations that were prescriptive in nature, particularly those in the area of business practice reform, strengthening the resident coordinator system and devolving authority to the regional and country levels. Participants also noted the need for coherence in the submissions provided, particularly as the discussions were being held within the three subsidiary mechanisms of CEB. Participants also noted the importance of accommodating relevant normative considerations, not least gender considerations and human rights.

Some participants underscored that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review was the guiding principle for the United Nations system’s engagement in development programme at the country level. In recent years, the review had highlighted the need to coordinate closely with the Bretton Woods institutions, in particular the World Bank. In that regard, participants had hoped for a contribution from the Bretton Woods institutions that were not represented in the review process but were members of the Committee. Several participants highlighted their views with respect to the role of the United Nations system in defining a development agenda post-2015 and how the system could respond to the needs of all Member States. The Committee members agreed to come back to these issues during their retreat discussions including on the capacity of the United Nations system to tackle future challenges and address longer-term considerations, including in relation to delivering-as-one.

Action

The Committee agreed to transmit the views of its members to the Chair of the United Nations Development Group through a cover note from the Chair of the Committee with an enclosure of the submissions from individual organizations.