The High-level Panel on United Nations System-wide Coherence in the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and the Environment
The Summit invited the Secretary-General to develop proposals for “more tightly managed entities in the field of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment” (General Assembly resolution 60/1). Accordingly, in February 2006, the Secretary-General set up the High-level Panel on United Nations System-wide Coherence in the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and the Environment to undertake a study on United Nations system-wide coherence, with the participation of the Chairs of HLCP and the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) in an ex officio capacity.
The CEB retreat held in conjunction with its first regular session of 2006 was dedicated to a dialogue between Executive Heads and members of the Panel. The two High-level Committees of CEB — HLCP and HLCM — met jointly in February to contribute to preparing CEB interaction with the Panel. The discussions covered:
United Nations system funding issues and international aid architecture;
coordination for development impact, including the resident coordinator system and the linking of humanitarian, development and environmental activities;
reforming support services in support of development;
coherence between normative, analytical, policy work and operations; and (e) developing new United Nations system management culture(s).
The dialogue with the Panel at the CEB retreat, held on 7 and 8 April 2006, followed the Panel’s own first meeting, held from 4 to 6 April. The consultations between the Panel members and the Executive Heads of the organizations of the system focused on three key issues: (a) financing of United Nations development activities; (b) coherence and effectiveness of the United Nations system, including coherence between normative, analytical, policy work and operations and coordination for impact at the field level; and (c) governance of the United Nations system.
CEB members welcomed the open, forthcoming and committed way in which the Panel is approaching its work. They outlined for the representatives of the Panel the way in which United Nations system organizations, individually as well as collectively, are endeavouring to adapt their responses to the changing requirements of Member States. They undertook to fully support the effort spearheaded by the Panel to bring about the change that is required to ensure that the potential of the system is fully exploited and its capacity to bring about lasting progress is significantly strengthened. They pointed out that the credibility of the system is not only affected by its capacity to respond to emergency situations in an effective and timely way. It depends equally on its capacity to address the root causes of problems. This in turn requires not only convergence of actions between all parts of the system, including multilateral and bilateral actors, but also access to resources commensurate to the magnitude of the problems that the international community expects the system to tackle. Financing modalities are also an important part of the coherence problematique to be addressed by the Panel: current trends away from core funding and privileging special purpose funding are important factors behind the competition for resources in which United Nations system organizations are being forced to engage, leading to strains in the coordination effort and, at times, shifts away from core mandates towards areas where more funding happens to be available. Greater clarity and focus in the role and contribution of each organization is an important part of the greater system-wide coherence being sought, but that cannot be fully achieved unless all elements of funding architecture are at the same time effectively addressed.
Executive Heads also stressed that, in addition to funding issues, and beyond management and delivery systems, the overall issue of policy coherence will also need to be squarely addressed by the Panel, if greater system-wide coherence is to have a significant impact on the system’s capacity to effect real progress and change. Both the contribution of different parts of the system — the United Nations, the sectoral agencies, the World Bank and regional institutions — and the respective roles of organizations and Members States in advancing policy coherence will need to be analysed in this regard. In the same context, rather than artificial separations between normative/analytical work and operational activities, ways of bringing about stronger and more organic links between these two aspects of the system’s contribution to development should be a main objective of the Panel’s work. Enabling agencies, as knowledge organizations, to transfer their knowledge to countries should be an important dimension of the drive towards greater system-wide coherence. At the country level, coherence should be measured by the extent to which “ownership” is effectively advanced: the system’s sense of “ownership” of the resident coordinator system and, even more important, the extent to which all coordination instruments are geared to advance the country’s “ownership” of the system’s support.
The consultations between the Panel and CEB are taking place at a time of great change, in which new forms of international cooperation are emerging and new international institutional arrangements are being introduced in the effort to eradicate poverty, protect people from disasters and safeguard the Earth, on which all life depends. A more coherent United Nations system, which is better able to marshal its significant human and financial resources, global networks and other assets and comparative advantages, is necessary to meet the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and to support Member States in meeting both present and future global challenges. All members of CEB pledged their full support to the Panel in reaching conclusions that will effectively advance the effectiveness and coherence of the system in all its aspects. The organizations of the system intend to pursue their dialogue with the High-level Panel in an open and constructive spirit.