Looking ahead to the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda

This report is to highlight the achievements made by the Chief Executive Board’s High Level Committee on Management (HLCM). In the course of the past three years, HLCM has set the directions for the re-design and operationalization of the management functions of the UN System. The work of the Committee has proceeded along the five strategic priorities set out in the Strategic Plan for 2013-2016:

  • Attracting and retaining talent
  • Redesigning and innovating the UN business models
  • Supporting the second generation of Delivering as One
  • Strengthening the risk management and oversight architecture
  • Measuring and communicating results

The content of this Report is structured around those five priorities, providing stakeholders with a concise overview of the work and benefits realized in management and business operations since 2013. Each of the five priorities captures a number of activities that work towards yielding a more collaborative UN system at global, regional and country levels.

Significant progress has been made towards addressing many operational challenges. Organizations have progressively developed global service delivery approaches, and several policy platforms for joint and more efficient service provision have been designed and put in place, especially in the area of procurement, banking, treasury, harmonization of financial management practices and definitions. This work has fundamentally changed how the United Nations, as a common system, can effectively put in place collaborative approaches with very limited or even no investment, generating considerable savings that translate into immediate additional cash for programmatic activities.

The United Nations common system of salaries, allowances and benefits has been profoundly modernized. Its new unified salary structure is more transparent and equitable, and properly reflects pay for work performed rather than for dependency status. The introduction of more lump-sum options and the rationalization of certain allowances contribute to simplicity and provide cost-containment and predictability. Concurrently, the new compensation package improves the incentives available to organizations to assign staff to hardship duty stations, supports geographic and inter-organizational mobility, and recognizes the need for provision of support to single parents to further promote the recruitment and retention of staff, particularly female staff.

Progress has been made on multiple fronts towards the objective of preserving the System’s ability to deliver on its programmatic mandates – the UN’s raison d'être – while at the same time ensuring that staff remain safe, physically and psychologically, so to best contribute to the objectives of organizations.

The Delivering as One approach has become the reference modality for country level operations. Acting on its strategic responsibility to ensure that inter-agency policies, procedures and guidance are in place to enable UN Country Teams to work together, HLCM, in coordination with UNDG, has supported the design and implementation of the “Operating as One” section of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and the related Headquarters Plan of Action for their implementation. HLCM is proud to report that it has delivered on all of the actions required by its technical Networks to remove obstacles for the successful implementation of the SOPs. Human resource policies in the area of recruitment in the field have been harmonized, towards increased workforce integration and staff mobility at the country level.

HLCM recognizes the strategic value of collective engagement to devise effective and coordinated approaches to the management and mitigation of risks. These include threats of all kinds including programmatic, strategic, business disruption, security threats, cyber security and reputational. The Committee has also focused on ensuring the provision of consistent, accurate, and timely quality of controls. A series of tools have been developed and put in place, including the common Reference Risk Management, Oversight & Accountability Model for the UN system, and the Organizational Resilience Management System. Accountability and transparency have been increased through the adoption of authoritative international standards such as IPSAS, Institute of Internal Auditors’ Three Lines of Defense; IATI, etc.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda commits “to addressing the gap in data collection so as to better inform the measurement of progress” and stresses that “quality, accessible, timely and reliable disaggregated data will be needed to help with the measurement of progress and to ensure that no one is left behind. Such data is key to decision-making.” Data availability and knowledge sharing have been the focus of intense and still continuing investments by HLCM, leading to adoption by CEB of a programme of work for a Data Revolution, currently informing the development of a UN system Data Catalog.

With the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda demanding that the United Nations system moves from silos to synergy, and from fragmentation to partnership, the system must pool its strengths and foster its integration on all fronts, including operations. The operational infrastructure of our organizations is the key enabler in the pursuit of such integrated approach.

As the top management coordination mechanism for the UN system, a crucial nexus of expertise and leadership, the High Level Committee on Management renews its commitment to a UN system that is innovative, agile, inclusive, and results-oriented, building on the comparative advantages of its diversity and specialization to work collaboratively and deliver together.
HLCM has an important contribution to make to the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, by further advancing and accelerating the harmonization and integration agenda that has been at the core of its 2013-2016 Strategic Plan.

Moving forward, HCLM will also work to improve its communication throughout the ‘delivery chain’ of its decisions. Executive decisions need to be supported by strong communication, to ensure that the decisions at the top trickle down those who actionize them day to day. Such an approach will require a continuation of the strong relationship and coordination with the UN Development Group, to clearly define roles in communication and roles in the follow-up on implementation of new policies, procedures and tools.

The integrated humanitarian, peace and development agenda will be better served by the new approaches to business models and workforce that we, together, are engaging to deliver.