Last briefing on the UN’s Operational Activities for the ECOSOC Segment

9 July 2012, New York, USA— About 50 delegates gathered at UN Headquarters for a UNITAR workshop on “Select findings of the Secretary General Reports for the 2012 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR)”, organized in cooperation with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations. In light of the ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment dealing with the QCPR in July 2012, and the General Assembly review in October 2012 of its resolution 62/208 of 2007, UNITAR addressed these timely and complex questions in a briefing on the UN operational activities for development. The workshop was the fifth installment of a six-part series designed to inform delegates about the QCPR process and its implications for UN operational activities.

round tableIn the present module, Mr. Navid Hanif, Director of the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination brought in sharp focus the key findings of the QCPR reports. The development landscape has changed since 2007 with the emergence of new economic centers, the growth of new institutional actors and a changing relationship between states, markets and individuals. The demands made of the UN system have also changed with the UN moving away from addressing countries’ basic needs to a policy advice and resource management role. The current UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and the UN Resident Coordinator System will thus have to adapt. Member States support a strengthened role for the Resident Coordinator and have called for greater national ownership of UN development activities as this is a key element to ensure effectiveness. Along the same line, Member States have expressed the wish to see the United Nations increase its use of States’ procurement, monitoring and evaluation systems. Beyond national ownership, the QCPR is also an opportunity to recognize cooperation and partnerships between the UN, bilateral and multilateral donors and States.

Funding is also at the very heart of the review process, as highlighted by Mr. Kristinn Helgason of the Development Coordination Policy Branch of UN DESA. Operational activities account for nearly two thirds of UN system funding. But the funding landscape is also changing. Funding still comes from governments but is rarely disbursed directly and transit through secondary organizations. Non-core funding, understood as resources that are generally restricted with regard to their use and application as determined by the contributor, is on the rise, at the expense of core funding. In 2011, contributions in real terms have declined, but the UN development system has been gaining some “market-share” with a rise of over 120% in funding, with a general growth of 50 to 60% during this period. This can be interpreted as a “vote of confidence” for the UN development system in a time of worldwide budget scarcities.

After the presentations, participants engaged in a lively debate. Delegates seized the opportunity for directly asking questions to the representatives of UN DESA and expressed their satisfaction that UNITAR was providing a forum for such an exchange. Mr. Pio Wennubst of the Permanent Mission of Switzerland concluded the session by stressing that the QCPR negotiations are an important opportunity to make the UN more efficient and effective in its development efforts.