United Nations Development System Reform

Since the founding of the United Nations, the Member Nations have established important thematic organizations, funds and programs within the UN framework. However, the increasing fragmentation of the system provides a challenge to the coordination of activities and can prevent the UN from pursuing a unified approach to the development agenda. Over and above that, the difficult question of how to finance development presents many challenges. Many activities of the UN are financed by voluntary contributions by Member States which often limits the capability and flexibility of individual organizations.

Against this background, at the Millennium+5 Summit in 2005, the Secretary-General was asked to develop recommendations on improving the cooperation among UN organizations. One of the key tasks in this process was to improve leadership and supervision in the areas of development, humanitarian aid and the environment.

A High-Level Advisory Board, established by the Secretary-General, presented concrete recommendations for reform in November 2006, among them the “One UN” principle: all UN organizations active in a developing nation should coordinate their actions in one central office overseen by the UN Resident Coordinator of that country following a country-specific plan and budget framework. These recommendations have been implemented since January 2007 in eight pilot projects in Pakistan, Mozambique, Vietnam, Rwanda, Uruguay, Cape Verde, Albania and Tanzania.

The founding of UN Women in 2010 constitutes another important step in the UN reform process and an example of reducing the fragmentation of the system. Four different organizations that dealt with questions related to gender equality were consolidated.

The “Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR)” adopted by the General Assembly in December 2012, provides strategic guidance for the development activities put into practice by the UN in the period 2013 to 2016. It gives impetus to reform of the development practices of the UN with the goal of making the work the UN provides more efficient, effective and coherent.

New strategic plans for UN Funds and Programs for the time period 2014-2017 were the first consequences to the QCPR. For the first time, strategic plans were complemented with detailed Results Frameworks. In addition, budgets were adopted that integrated assessed and non-assessed contributions.

Another recent reform is the formalization of the “Delivering as One” pilot initiative. The UN Development Group, which encompasses all UN development organizations, developed “Standard Operating Procedures” that would regulate all UN cooperation in nations participating in the “Delivering as One” system. The “Delivering as One” initiative’s goal is to present a unified presence of the various UN organizations in its partnering country in order to ensure better coordination of supporting services. In this process, a strong role of the UN Resident Coordinator is essential.

United Nations Development System Reform

UN logo on office building in Bonn

UN Funds and Programs

The United Nations Funds and Programs are financed by voluntary contributions and are the actual development organizations of the United Nations.