62nd Session of the General Assembly
OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES FOR DEVELOPMENT OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Statement by Manuela Ferreira, Adviser
Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations
on behalf of the European Union
New York, October 17th 2007
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia*, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia align themselves with this declaration.
The European Union would like first of all to thank the Secretary General for his contribution to the upcoming debate through the various reports submitted under this agenda item and in particular his proposed and valuable recommendations on the way forward. In this regard, the EU supports the SG continued efforts to reach greater coherence and effectiveness in the UN development system.
ROLE OF UN OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES FOR DEVELOPMENT
The EU considers effective multilateralism, with a strong UN at its heart, to be a central element of its external action. The United Nations´ universal mandate, unparalleled legitimacy and leading role in setting global norms and standards places it in an unique position to better respond to the development challenges in an increasingly complex international context, where peace and security, sustainable development, and promotion of human rights are mutually reinforcing objectives.
The consensus around the principles of global partnership and mutual accountability, for development, established at the Monterrey Conference and the recognition, at the 2005 World Summit, of initiatives such as the Paris Declaration provide the overall framework for many development stakeholders, including the European Union, to fulfil their commitments in a more coordinated, coherent and effective manner towards the achievement of the Internationally Agreed Development Goals (IADGs), including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In this regard, the EU has recently approved a code of conduct on complementarity and division of labour between its Member States and the European Commission to enhance effectiveness by reducing transaction costs and improving overall development results. The crucial elements of this code are country-based approach and ownership, voluntary and flexible nature and inclusive approach open to all donors.
In this overall context, the EU considers the 2007 TCPR as a valuable instrument, as well as an opportunity, for Member States to further the efficiency and effectiveness of UN operational activities, thus shaping the role the Organization can and should play in the global partnership for development at global, regional and country level.
The EU acknowledges and welcomes the progress made since the last TCPR in increasing the operational efficiency of individual funds, programmes and specialized agencies, strengthening coordination and enhancing the coherence of the UN development system through increased use of common instruments and alignment with national frameworks and coordination mechanisms. However, the EU considers that more needs to be done to improve the system so that it works in true partnership with, and effectively serves the needs of developing countries, in a coordinated and coherent manner with other development partners, based on its comparative advantages.
To fulfil this task, capacity development should be at the core of the UN operational activities, taking into account its impact not only on their sustainability at country level, but also on the overall capacity of developing countries to achieve the MDGs. The UN should therefore continue to lead in assisting governments, at their request, to develop capacities for the implementation of international agreements and compliance with internationally agreed standards.
The role of the UN system in supporting capacity development, in particular with regard to new aid modalities, such as SWAPs and budget support, has to be clearly defined. Furthermore, adequate capacity of, and resources for, UNCTs are critical and need to be further strengthened for a strategic, flexible and result-oriented action.
COHERENCE, RELEVANCE AND EFFECTIVENESS
For the UN to tackle the challenges posed by the need to increase coherence and effectiveness of its operational activities, systematic use of adequate instruments is required. The EU recognizes that progress has been made in improving the quality of CCA and UNDAFs that should, when appropriate, draw upon existing national analytical processes. More could be done to make UNDAF a strategic planning tool for the UN as a whole, simplifying the variety of funding frameworks and cycles while ensuring harmonization and alignment with national planning instruments like national poverty reduction strategies. Further, UN response to country specific development needs must be based on a collaborative and inclusive process among all relevant Funds, Programs and Specialized Agencies, including Non-Resident Agencies, taking advantage of the wide-range of expertise in the system, and include all relevant stakeholders. At central level, mechanisms need to be developed to discuss and approve joint UN programs as many countries would wish their country programs to be presented in an integral way.
COORDINATION AND COHERENCE
The EU considers the Resident Coordinator (RC) system to be key in ensuring an effective and efficient coordination of operational activities for development at country-level. The EU welcomes progress made so far in the RC selection process, training initiatives, assessment mechanism and in the separation of the RC management function from the UNDP programmatic function.
Nonetheless, the EU encourages further steps to strengthen the Resident Coordinator system and its legitimacy. On the one hand, an adequate level of authority and executive power should be attributed to the RC, thereby entrusting him to provide leadership for the UN system strategic position in supporting country objectives. On the other hand, more has to be done with regard to the separation of the UNDP’s function as manager of the RC system from the management of its own operational activities. In addition, to perform its role effectively, the resident coordinator system should be appropriately staffed and funded. Incentives for greater ownership and accountability of the RC system need to be streamlined not only at country level, but also throughout the UN organizations at all levels, inter alia, through a more comprehensive accountability, oversight and governance framework. The EU therefore proposes to include a section on "accountability, oversight and governance" in future TCPR reports and GA resolutions on TCPR to avoid fragmentation and ad hoc consideration of this crucial aspect. Further, the EU continues to support Result-Based Management and Budgeting: as such, monitoring and evaluation of operational activities are key in ensuring that Member States and partner countries can see clearly how resources are linked to outputs and outcomes.
TRANSACTION COSTS AND EFFICIENCY
The EU would like to acknowledge the progress made so far on simplification and harmonization of operational rules and procedures, a critical factor to further advance the objective of increasing the transparency, efficiency and flexibility needed to truly deliver as one. Even though progress is made, the EU encourages all organizations of the UN system to further harmonize and simplify their business practices.
It is important to stress that we do not perceive this endeavour to be a mere cost-cutting exercise, but a supporting process to our overarching goal of strengthening the credibility as well as the effectiveness of the UN system. In this regard, efficiency gains should benefit primarily developing countries by being reinvested in development programmes.
A comprehensive assessment of existing common premises and shared services initiatives should provide lessons that need to be acknowledged and encouraged to inform future activities and set benchmarks. Specific Paris targets such as those on joint missions, expenditure on budget, use of government systems, including on procurement, and lead agency concept in delivery, are important in addressing not only transaction costs but also capacity development and ownership through better alignment of UN operational activities with national strategies and systems.
CROSS CUTTING ISSUES
As reaffirmed in the World Summit Outcome, gender equality and the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all are essential to advance development, peace and security.
With this objective in mind, a growing number of UN organizations have adopted human-rights-based approaches to development. The EU hereby reiterates its commitment to the principles and fundamental rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and looks forward to the commemoration of its 60th anniversary in 2008. It is our belief that we should do so by further mainstreaming human rights in the work of the Organization, especially at the operational level. The EU regrets that there have been misunderstandings regarding the human rights-based approach to programming which do not create new conditionalities for development assistance. We hope to continue the dialogue on this subject during the TCPR negotiations towards a common understanding.
The EU would also like to reiterate that accountability for gender-mainstreaming and women's empowerment should be given higher priority within UN agencies. This requires appropriate staff competence and adequate resources within relevant UN entities, clear mandates and intensified inter-agency collaboration as well as explicit performance and accountability mechanisms for gender goals. Monitoring and reporting systems should be improved to ensure enhanced accountability. In this regard, we support the new gender architecture, as described in the concept paper prepared by the Deputy Secretary General, Ms. Asha-Rose Migiro and look forward to further intergovernmental consultations.
The EU highly values South-South cooperation, which has drawn increased and substantial support from developing countries, and acknowledges its role as spelled out in the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, the Doha Plan of Action and the United Nations system guidelines. South-South cooperation should therefore comply with the principles of the Monterrey consensus and acknowledged principles of aid-effectiveness, inter alia, recipient country ownership and leadership, primacy of the poverty reduction strategies, alignment with country processes and procedures, and focus on institutional capacity development.
In this regard, the EU recognizes the potential for an increased role of the UN system in strengthening funding partnerships among developing countries and supporting them in establishing stronger links between the operational activities resulting from South-South cooperation and the pursuit of the IADGs, including the MDGs. In this context, the EU has supported, and will continue to support, South-South initiatives including through triangular cooperation.
TRANSITION AND EARLY RECOVERY
The EU considers international efforts to address the transition from relief to longer-term development as an urgent and on-going challenge to meet the IADGs, including the MDGs. Significant progress has been achieved in joint assessment and planning but operational activities during the transition phase still lack clarity regarding leadership, division of labour, sequencing and prioritization, as well as funding. Coordination, flexibility and the ability to adapt rapidly to changing needs and circumstances should define the transition phase. The EU urges the UN system to intensify efforts regarding use of national capacity, inter-agency collaboration and coordination, simplification and harmonization of administrative procedures, and funding structures that effectively address the “transition gap”, all of which are of particular importance in the transition phase, thereby strengthening its coordinating function for the international community. The EU also calls upon the UN system to clarify and strengthen the role of the global early recovery cluster in mainstreaming early recovery activities throughout other humanitarian clusters.
In transitions contexts, cooperation with other major players is of upmost importance. The EU welcomes recent institutionalized collaboration between the UN and the World Bank and encourages the UN system to build further synergies between all relevant actors, including regional organizations, civil society and the private sector. Emphasizing that prevention of, and recovery from, crisis are interlinked, the EU also wishes to stress the importance of the Secretary General’s progress report on the Prevention of Armed Conflict and the Hyogo Framework for Action.
The EU considers the issue of funding for the UN’s operational activities both at central and country level as a key question which is committed to address, with the objective of ensuring multi-year, adequate, predictable and timely core funding. Improving the balance between core and non-core resources is imperative to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of the UN system at country level. Likewise, a reform agenda reducing fragmentation, increasing transparency, avoiding competition and overlaps, and promoting accountability is a decisive step for the UN operational activities to attract resources from the increasingly diverse donor community. New actors and aid modalities also give the opportunity for the UN system, through its strategic policy advice and advocacy, to have a catalytic influence on using overall available resources for the pursuit of MDGs.
Regarding financing at country level, the EU is willing to consider increasingly pooling funding instead of financing individual projects and programmes, in particular in the framework of the efforts to make the UN to deliver as one at the country level. The EU also encourages the UN system to continue considering modalities for the consolidated budgetary framework in the "One UN pilots" to transparently display all sources of UN funding, including agency core funding. Further, the EU considers that future UN budgets should be included in partner countries´ Medium Term Expenditures Frameworks to enable better planning and coordination at country level.
IMPLEMENTATION AND FOLLOW-UP
Last but not least, to bring real and measurable improvement to the UN operational activities we would like the TCPR resolution to create an effective monitoring mechanism using distinctive timelines and measurable targets, wherever appropriate and feasible. In this light we need to come to a better understanding of the impact of the system’s operational activities and the EU calls for comprehensive and outcome oriented evaluations of the performance of the system against the objectives set out by the TCPR and the different UN entities themselves. The EU continues to support Result-Based Management and Budgeting; as such, monitoring and evaluation of operational activities are key to linking resources to outputs and outcomes.
I wish to reiterate the appreciation of the EU for the progress made in the past years. The 2007 TCPR should give further impetus to the efforts and achievements throughout the organization regarding efficiency and effectiveness of operational activities. More coherence will benefit recipient countries to fully enjoy UN expertise and support mechanisms to reach nationally set development goals and priorities. As promoting greater coherence remains under the umbrella of nationally set priorities and goals it does not entail a “one size fits all approach” to programming.
To conclude, the EU Member States envisage the 2007 TCPR as an opportunity to facilitate progress in overcoming systemic fragmentation and build upon past and on-going reforms that focus on performance, transparency, accountability and results. Member States need to take on this challenge and, as underlined by the former General Assembly President, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, overcome differences to “carry the torch of multilateralism forward”.
Thank you Madam Chairperson.
* Croatia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.