Governance of the United Nations Development System

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    Alexandra Ivanovic

    The United Nations Development System, the activities of which make up a significant portion of those of the United Nations, is dispersed widely among the UN’s funds, programmes, commissions, and specialised agencies. It is essentially two-tiered, with policymaking and oversight taking place in both system-wide UN governance structures and in the governance structures of UNDS entities themselves. Yet is also subject to an ad hoc overlay of committees and country-level coordination mechanisms that have sprung up as a result of repeated efforts at reform. The current UNDS is burdened by (1) decentralisation and competition, (2) issues of financing, (3) the shifting nature of development challenges, and (4) lack of political will and the predominance of vested interests. UNU-CPR has engaged with the debate around governance of the UNDS in several ways, including: 1) A review of the UNDS in partnership with legal firm Linklaters The purpose of the review of the UNDS is to assess the models and principles from the public sector and the private sector which might assist in managing the identified governance challenges in the UNDS. The goals of the review will be to: a) understand what the key governance challenges are affecting the management, operations and effectiveness of the UNDS; b) understand the inherent limitations on what the UNDS can do to tackle its key governance challenges; c) understand the key models from the public sector and the private sector that might assist in managing the identified governance challenges; and d) understand what principles are behind the models used by the public sector and private sector to manage governance challenges. 2) A background paper on transitions from relief to sustainable peace and development, for the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (2016). The QCPR is the mechanism through which the General Assembly assesses the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and impact of UN operational activities for development and establishes system-wide policy orientations for development cooperation and country-level modalities of the UN system, in response to the evolving international development cooperation environment. The 2016 QCPR is expected to provide policy guidance to the work of the UN development system, including in countries in transition, based on progress made since 2012, and, more importantly, the rethinking of policy priorities to ensure a more efficient, effective and coherent approach to deliver the post-2015 development agenda. The 2016 QCPR process offers an opportunity to strategically rethink the QCPR as a tool for strategic guidance system-wide. The 2016 QCPR process will benefit from the input of the ECOSOC Dialogue on the longer-term positioning of the UN development system, which was established with ECOSOC resolution 2014/14 and requested the Secretary-General to reflect the discussions of the Dialogue in his QCPR report for consideration and action by Member States. The first phase of the Dialogue highlighted the need to give top priority system-wide to narrow the gap between relief and development. The heavy lifting required by the development community to chart and support a path to sustainable development, in a world context increasingly affected by protracted crises, fragility and volatility, calls for stronger mutual collaboration with the humanitarian world, including by putting risk at the center of both humanitarian and development action and through the alignment of multi-year planning. In fragile contexts, the path to sustainable peace also involves the breaking down of silos between UN agencies and partners. In this regard, the outcomes of the Peacebuilding Architecture Review, the Peace Operations Review and the Review of Resolution 1325 are also expected to strengthen the foundations of prevention, post-conflict recovery and capacity building efforts to ensure lasting peace efforts and a path to sustainable development. It is against this backdrop that UNU-CPR was commissioned by DESA to produce a paper aimed at informing Member States of the complexities around the transition from crisis to sustainable peace and development, and propose a way forward on how to address gaps and build on opportunities to strengthen the UN system’s response to crises and move onto a sustainable path to peace and development.