28 February 2018, New York – Statement of the EU and its Member States at the United Nations ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment General Debate
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its 28 Member States.
As we have said on a number of occasions, the EU and its Member States fully support the Secretary-General’s ambitious reform agenda, which aims at making the UN system truly coordinated, efficient, effective, integrated, transparent and accountable. Two years and a half after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the reform is urgent. The SG’s report on the Implementation of the 2016 QCPR resolution highlights the challenges the system faces in recalibrating to meet the ambition of both the landmark 2015 agreements, and earlier calls from Member States to improve coherence, like Delivering as One.
Our overarching objective in this exercise is to make the UN development system fit for the purpose of better supporting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. This must include refocusing the UN on those areas where it is best placed to act. The EU and its Member States think that the SG has identified in his December report many of the key priorities to enable this transformation.
These include establishing the UN Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAF) as primary strategic documents at country level and full-fledged programmatic instruments, strengthening and empowering Resident Coordinators, restructuring UN Country Teams, improving inter-linkages between development, humanitarian and peace pillars, and bettering system-wide oversight and evaluation. We believe that completing the long overdue reform of UN DESA, as clearly mandated in 2016, should also be included among these main objectives. To us, this means that DESA should be streamlined, results-oriented and objective, work together collaboratively and coherently, and be strictly focused on areas of comparative advantage, while avoiding duplication. This would result, without any need for hard-to-secure extra resources, in making DESA more responsive, effective, and transparent, while providing the necessary expertise on sustainable development.
We expect that all individual UNDS entities will align their internal strategic planning processes and activities with the outcome of the reform discussions, once agreed by Member States.
Resident Coordinator and UN Country Teams
We support the SG’s overall vision of strengthened Resident Coordinators leading more integrated and result-driven UN Country Teams.
Impartial, independent and empowered Resident Coordinators should be at the core of a reinvigorated, more integrated, efficient and effective development system. Impartiality and independence of the RC system should continue to be safeguarded during the selection process. The RCs should have access to and authority over necessary resources to incentivize collaboration and system-wide activities. They must also have authority to draw on the expertise and assets of the entire system. Moreover, where relevant, they should have skills as regards the humanitarian field, in order to better deliver against the humanitarian-development nexus. Particularly double-hatted RC/HCs should be experts in both development cooperation and humanitarian assistance.
UN Country Teams should be restructured in order to enhance the overall efficiency and impact on the ground as well as coordination, coherence and cooperation with non-UNDS structures, in particular IFIs, humanitarian actors and PKOs. We welcome the reform proposals to move in this direction. We particularly applaud the SG for setting a concrete target of 50% common premises by 2021.
We also support the SG’s call to upgrade the status of the UNDAFs so that they become the most important UN country planning instrument in support of the 2030 Agenda.
The Funding Compact constitutes one of the crucial elements of the SG’s reform proposals.
We agree with the SG’s assessment that the current financing modalities for the UN development system are not sustainable, and should be modernized to enable a more flexible UNDS response, while ensuring the predictability necessary for efficient and effective operations. The requirements of the 2030 Agenda must be at the heart of the discussion on how to improve the funding of the UN development system. We need to create incentives for a broader base of countries to contribute to the UNDS with funding of improved quality and predictability, including a better balance between core and non-core resources.
A Funding Compact that proposes a comprehensive agreement committing both the UNDS and the whole UN membership is a promising approach. Broadening and diversification of the contributor base is essential to increase both volume and sustainability of financing. To do so, the UNDS itself will need to be crystal clear about what its investors are getting in return.
The Funding Compact should also promote financing modalities that incentivize collaboration among UNDS entities through inter-agency funding mechanisms, and well-designed thematic and pooled funding. It should encompass all means of implementation, private and public, national and international, including partnerships (with private sector, emerging economies, civil society, philanthropic foundations etc.). Innovative mechanisms, including non-concessional financing, and closer cooperation with IFIs should be considered in the overall funding package. The link between the UNDS and vertical funds, such as GFATM and GAVI, should be strengthened.
We also agree with the value added of well-designed pooled funds. We believe that these mechanisms are drivers of integration across entities, SDGs and sectors, and this aspect should be strengthened further. The same goes for thematic funds, the Joint Fund for the 2030 Agenda and the new RC coordination fund as proposed by the SG. Duplication of new funding mechanisms with existing instruments should be avoided and a more transparent funding and financing landscape is desirable.
While a number of measures and proposals outlined in the SG’s report are designed to rationalize procedures and lead to efficiencies, these gains are not quantified. We need a clear picture about areas or functions where the UN will do less in the future due to the lack of comparative advantages.
Accountability and oversight
We support measures proposed by the SG aiming at strengthening oversight and evaluation in the system. We agree that accountability has to be fed by robust and independent evaluation. Progress on results-based management, including within individual agencies, system-wide results, accountability and transparency is key to building a trustworthy relationship with Member States, and all these elements are central to the discussion on the Funding Compact.
For these reasons, we welcome the proposal to establish an independent system-wide evaluation unit. This should be done in a resource-efficient manner, with clarity on how this unit complements and adds value to existing structures. System-wide compliance with the IATI standards and greater external scrutiny of the impact and effectiveness of the UNDS programming are also needed.
With regard to the executive boards, the EU and its Member States support, as an immediate step, the idea for the working methods of the boards to be improved. We are willing to possibly consider granting the “Joint Meeting of the Boards” legislative authority in order to increase its impact and value. Finally, we are open to discuss the SG´s proposals on the merger of the New York-based funds and programmes as a long-term possibility.
A new comprehensive approach of the UNDS to partnerships is needed support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and we support the SG’s proposals contained in the report. Proposed common standards and criteria should be balanced – they should aim at maintaining and protecting UN values and objectives without hindering the necessary increased and more constructive engagement with external partners.
System-Wide Strategic document
We appreciate the attempt to produce a first System-Wide Strategic Document, and support the idea of making it an evolving document that will evolve alongside the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the reform processes.
We agree with the view that more effective integration and delivery must be a key outcome of the repositioning of the United Nations. We believe, however, that if the document is to fulfil its task, it will need to be made more specific and concrete, as asked for in the 2016 QCPR resolution, and include a vision on the comparative and collaborative advantage of various agencies, funds and programmes. The recommendations on the four guiding principles should rather constitute commitments of the UNDS entities.
Future versions of the document should better answer the question identified in the Secretary General’s June report – while there are evident existing gaps in coverage of the SDGs by the system, the UN cannot and should not seek to do everything. Future versions of the System-Wide Strategic Document could be helpful in addressing this issue, by demonstrating the clear areas of comparative advantage and by identifying the areas where the UN does not have the comparative advantage and so should do less in future. The document could also usefully explain how overlaps in the system will be addressed, how flagship initiatives will percolate the whole system, and how the UNDS will enhance its engagement with the private sector, while doing more to inform planned system-wide evaluations.
As important would be clarification of the RC’s responsibility for coordination of an integrated SDG planning at the country level as well of the issue how the UNDS entities will ensure coherence between the System-Wide Strategic Document and their Strategic Plans.
We share the SG’s assessment that the regional architecture must be substantially transformed to be able to perform the functions required by the 2030 Agenda. The system currently suffers from duplication, overlaps, competition and lack of communication between various regional actors. Furthermore, its physical setup is simply costly and inefficient. No level of the system should be exempt from the enhanced Member state oversight and accountability called for in the QCPR. The first step to maximise regional support for the 2030 Agenda should be to clarify the division of labour across the system: both within individual entities and across broader regional structures and hierarchy.
The December report is very clear about the considerable level of expenditure channelled annually into the regional level. We need to evaluate carefully if the regional system, as it stands, delivers sufficient added value to justify this expenditure. This issue is not only about whether the regional activities are useful to Member States, but also whether the expenses related to the implementation of these activities could have more impact elsewhere.
We all have a stake in the reform process, and we all come at it from different perspectives. We appreciate the time the SG, the DSG and their team have taken to consult all Member States on your proposals. As evidenced by lively exchanges during DSG’s briefings, more discussions will be needed, including for instance on the specifics of the Funding Compact, particularly what commitments all Member States will be asked to make, and what exactly we can expect from the UNDS in return. And though we recognize the need to enhance the predictability of RC funding, we still need to find a way to ensure that we do not go down the road of counter-productive politicisation, which could hamper the predictability. Equally, the value-added of the proposed merger of the Executive Boards will need to be further assessed, while we agree with the integration objective behind the proposal.
More details and concrete elements will also have to be provided by the Secretariat and other parts of the system, starting with a quantification of expected efficiency gains across the system.
Based on the QCPR and the SG June and December reports, we have a solid basis for moving into negotiations. The DSG’s briefings further strengthened this basis, as did the exchanges taking place during this week’s OAS.
We have shown flexibility on process, and we welcome the PGA’s appointment of Algeria and Denmark to co-facilitate the upcoming intergovernmental negotiations. These should start as soon as possible, and conclude during the 72nd session of the UNGA, as mandated by the 2016 QCPR. The timeline is challenging, but we have by now all the elements to deliver, and thereby reaffirm in deeds our commitment to the 2030 Agenda. We cannot afford to fail.
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