An introduction to the international forums, processes and events where aid policy is crafted.
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The UN system

 

Introduction

The UN Development Cooperation Forum

Financing for Development Conferences

The Millenium Development Goals

UN Reform and System-Wide Coherence

The UN Response to Aid Effectiveness

The UN Peace Building Commission

  

Introduction

 

With its global mandate, universal membership and neutrality, the United Nations (UN) system is an indispensible actor in international development. According to the UN Charter, one of the purposes of the UN is to “achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character” and “to a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends”. It leads on the establishment of global norms, from international human rights conventions to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which represent internationally agreed, medium-term targets for development. The UN is also instrumental in mobilising international resources for development, having brokered the commitment from OECD nations to raise their development financing to 0.7% of GNP. Responding to its mandate, the UN system also leads in many aspects of peacebuilding and conflict prevention, as well as humanitarian assistance.

 

 Due to increasing demand for its services and an expanding membership over the last few decades, the UN system has evolved into a large family of development agencies, funds and programmes. At the same time, this has increased the risk of duplication between agencies and competition for scarce resource. The ongoing UN Reform has sought to respond to this and other challenges as part of a process aimed at strengthening the management and coordination of United Nations development activities both the global and country-level, to make the UN system more effective and relevant in a changing aid environment. Under the umbrella of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), the 32 UN funds, programmes, agencies, departments, and offices that play a role in development come together to deliver more coherent, effective and efficient support to countries seeking to attain internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. The common UNDG approach and response to aid effectiveness are built on the principle of national ownership and the firm recognition of the need for adaptation of approaches and instruments to the local aid and development finance context.

 

The UN Development Cooperation Forum

 

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is one of the principal organs of the UN, established to coordinate the economic, social and related work of the 14 UN specialised agencies.  It is the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues, and for formulating policy recommendations addressed to Member States and the UN system.

 

In 2007, ECOSOC launched the biennial, high-level Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), to improve its engagement with the international development agenda.  The DCF is mandated to enhance the implementation of internationally agreed development goals, particularly the MDGs, through international dialogue. As a global and inclusive forum to discuss key policy issues affecting the quality and impact of development cooperation, the Forum focuses on three inter-related workstreams: (a) mutual accountability, (b) South-South Cooperation and (c) policy coherence. The DCFwas launched in Geneva in July 2007, and the first Forum was held in New York in June-July 2008.  Bilateral development agencies, UN organisations, the World Bank, the IMF, the OECD, regional development banks and civil society all participated.  The next DCF will take place in New York in July 2010.

 

According to the Official Summary, the first DCF called for greater policy coherence on trade, debt, investment, technology and food security.  It called for both increased aid, and efficient and transparent aid allocation criteria.  The DCF noted the Paris Declaration as an instrumental part to promote the principles of effective aid as principal tenets of development cooperation.

 

More details about DCF are available here.

 

Financing for Development Conferences

 

In 2002, the UN launched an international process to mobilise international resources to meet the challenge of defeating poverty in a globalised world.  At a high-level conference in Monterrey, participants agreed to a set of principles and commitments in six thematic areas: 

  • mobilising domestic financial resources for development;

  • mobilising international resources through foreign direct investment and other private flows;

  • international trade as an engine for development;

  • increasing international financial and technical cooperation for development, including reaching the 0.7% of GNP target for ODA;

  • external debt;

  • enhancing the coherent of the international monetary, financial and trading systems in support of development.

The resulting document, the Monterrey Consensus, is notable for its emphasis on coherence across these different inputs into financing for development.

 

In December 2008, the UN hosted a follow-up conference in Doha, Qatar, attended by more than 160 countries, including 40 Heads of State or Government.  In context of the global financial crisis, the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development reaffirms the Monterrey Consensus and called for a United Nations Conference at the highest level to examine the impact of the financial crisis on development. The participants specifically welcomed “increasing efforts to improve the quality of ODA and to increase its development impact”. They noted that “the Economic and Social Council Development Cooperation Forum, along with recent initiatives, such as the High-level Forums on Aid Effectiveness, which produced the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, and the 2008 Accra Agenda for Action, make important contributions to the efforts of those countries which have committed to them, including through the adoption of the fundamental principles of national ownership, alignment, harmonization and managing for results” and called for accelerating the efforts under way.

 

A Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development was then held in New York in June 2009.  Among the commitments summarised in the Outcome Document, participants agreed to avoid a return to protectionism and ensure that stimulus measures help to alleviate the impact of the crisis on developing nations, and called for improved global governance of the international financial system.

 

The Millenium Development Goals

 

At the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, heads of state or government from 189 rich and poor nations committed themselves to a set of 8 time-bound targets – the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – designed to end extreme poverty worldwide by 2015.  The MDGs are a compact between the world’s major economic players.  Developing countries pledged to improve their policies and governance and increase accountability to their own citizens, while wealthy countries pledged to provide the resources required to defeat extreme poverty.  Major financial institutions, such as the World Bank and IMF, also agreed to be accountable for achieving the MDGs.  The 8 MDGS are set out in the Millennium Declaration.

 

The MDGs are not just lofty statements of intent.  Precise monitoring mechanisms have been put in place, in the form of national Millennium Goals reports and the Secretary General’s reports to the General Assembly.  Civil society organisations also participate in the monitoring process.  Current progress worldwide is summarise in the MDG Progress Report 2008.

 

The UN has established a Millennium Campaign to mobilise people around the world to work towards the MDGs.

 

UN Reform and System-Wide Coherence

 

Due to increasing demand for its services and an expanding membership over the last few decades, the UN system has evolved into a large family of development agencies, funds and programmes. This has increased the risk of duplication of mandates and actions between different agencies within the system and competition for scarce resources.

 

Reform of the UN system is a major priority for the Organization and its Member States, as reaffirmed by world leaders at the 2005 World Summit.  The Secretary-General has established a High-Level Panel to explore how the UN system could work more coherently and effectively in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment.  The Panel’s report, Delivering as One, analyses the challenges involved and proposes a series of practical measures in the areas of governance, funding and management of the UN system.  In particular, it recommends a ‘One United Nations’ at country level, with one leader (an empowered Resident Coordinator), country-led programme, budget and office.  It suggest that UNDP should focus its efforts on policy coherence and position of the UN country team, and withdraw from sector-focused political and capacity building work carried out by other UN entities.

 

Following these recommendations, the UN established 8 ‘Delivering as One’ pilots (Albania, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uruguay and Vietnam) to explore new forms of coordinated delivery at country level.  The results are summarised in the Delivering as One stocktaking report.

 

More information on One UN reforms can be found here.

 

The UN Response to Aid Effectiveness

 

Bringing together the 32 UN funds, programmes, agencies, departments, and offices that play a role in development, the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) recognizes that the current aid environment offers new opportunities for efficient development financing through a series of international commitments on aid quality and a diversity of aid modalities and development assistance actors. The common UNDG approach and response to aid effectiveness are built on the principle of national ownership and the firm recognition of the need for adaptation of approaches and instruments to the local aid and development finance context.

 

The UN system is guided by its Member States and relevant resolutions and decisions. Most recently, the UN Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review (TCPR) 2007 calls upon the UN system to increasingly participate in current and new aid modalities and coordination mechanisms at the request of the programme countries. Notably, Member States also call for the UN to play a role in strengthening programme countries’ capacity to effectively design and implement national development plans as well as “further support the capacities of developing countries for effective management of development assistance.” In early 2008, the UNDG issued a paper titled “United Nations Development Group: Response to the Changing Aid Environment” to provide policy guidance to UN Country Teams.

 

The UNDG is one of the international organizations adhering to the Declaration. By implementing the principles spelled out in the Paris Declaration and reiterated in UN documents and commitments, the UN development system is responding to the requests of its member states through global, regional and country level support. The UNDG Action Plan on Aid Effectiveness is defined by three main principles of engagement: (a) putting national development plans at the centre of United Nations programming; (b) strengthening national capacities; (c) increasingly using and strengthening national systems.

 

UNDP is an official observer at the OECD/DAC. In agreement with the UNDG, UNDP represents the UN development system in this role. The UNDP/UNDG involvement with the OECD/DAC focuses on development effectiveness with aid as an instrument for its achievement and not a goal in itself. It ensures bridging the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness to the multilateral processes around the MDGs and the Financing for Development as well as the ECOSOC Development Cooperation Forum.

 

The UN Peace Building Commission

 

The UN Peace Building Commission is a new intergovernmental advisory body bringing together multiple stakeholders to promote integrated approaches to post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery.  It works by bringing together the different actors involved in peacebuilding efforts, mobilising resources and advising on integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery.  The Commission fills an important gap in the UN system in the relief-to-development continuum.  The Commission deals exclusively with countries emerging from conflict, where a peace accord has been concluded and a minimum degree of security established.

 

The Commission has established a Peace Building Fund (PBF) to provide finance for the early stages of peacebuilding, before regular donor funding becomes available, and to fill critical gaps thereafter.  It is administered by UNDP, and has a window for emergency projects under US$1 million.  Where support from the PBF is made available to a particular country, the government is required to work with donors and national stakeholders to establish a Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding – namely, a prioritised action plan for securing peace, with an agreed monitoring and tracking mechanism.  This has been done on a pilot basis in Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Central African Republic.

 

More information on the work of the Commission can be found here.