Seminar on United Nations Operational Activities for development25 May 2011, New York, USA. The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) implemented a seminar for diplomats on United Nations Operational Activities for Development at United Nations Headquarters, New York. UNITAR organized this seminar in response to General Assembly resolution 64/289 on System-Wide Coherence which requested such a course. Although the seminar was a first-time pilot project, over 50 delegates participated – indicating the need for training in this critical area.

The many challenges facing the Organization in the field of development bring the existing resources and structures of the United Nations under pressure. In the 2005 World Summit, the Secretary General emphasized the need to “strengthen the management and coordination of United Nations operational activities” to ensure effective contributions to international development goals. In 2010, the General Assembly adopted the landmark resolution 64/289 by calling for improvements of the governance of United Nations operational activities for development.

To this end, the seminar aimed at providing an overview of United Nations contribution to global development activities and examined United Nations development architecture. Ms. Eugenia McGill, Columbia University, highlighted inter alia the evolving perspectives on development theory and policies, the trends in development cooperation, and the current development concerns such as aid-effectiveness. Afterwards, Mr. Romesh Muttukumaru, Deputy Director of UNDP Partnerships Bureau, detailed the structure of UN funds and programmes and explained the complex, but important, role of UN Development Group. He pointed out the trend for “One UN” approach for development – a fact which the speakers later emphasized in the afternoon with explanations of the eight test cases for the One UN integrated approach.

The seminar followed to discuss inter alia: Ms. Marion Barthelemy, Chief of UN DESA Development Cooperation Policy Branch, explained the three-tier governance of General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, and Executive Boards. After lunch, Mr. Kristinn Helgason, Deputy Chief of UN DESA Development Cooperation Policy Branch, gave a presentation on the trends in donor funding and the impact on currency fluctuations on this funding. Ms. Mari Simonen, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, focused on the role of inter-agency coordination to promote system-wide coherence. Later on, Ms. Rekha Thapa, Executive Secretary of UNDP’s EBS, and Mr. Moez Doraid, Officer-in-Charge of Management and Administration UN Women, discussed the governance of Executive Boards and alluded to the current and future challenges.

In the last session, Ms. Nadia Isler, Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations, provided an overview of the procedures and decision-making processes of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) – this review takes up a key role in UN development architecture since it “serves as an important instrument for the monitoring and the assessment of UN development operations”. Mr. Ashok Nigam, Acting Deputy Director and Head of UN & Intergovernmental Affairs of UNICEF, complemented the session by giving an agency and implementation perspective of the QCPR. In summary, the seminar pointed to trends in development; trends in donor support; the development of the QCPR and the goal for a One UN in the development architecture.

The knowledge of the proficient speakers from inside and outside the United Nations System, academics, experienced diplomats and UN Staff, enabled participants to comprehend the structure of United Nations development activities and its characteristics. At the end of the seminar, participants indicated that they were pleased with the seminar and indeed gained from its content – better prepared for the forthcoming ECOSOC and QCPR negotiations. About 92% of the participants were “strongly satisfied” and “satisfied” with the course and a member of the audience concluded: “It was extremely useful to have the huge depth of institutional knowledge available through a wide range of presenters.”