Annan welcomes high-level coherence panel’s blueprint for sweeping UN overhaul
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed a high-level coherence panel’s report on revamping the organization’s development, humanitarian and environment portfolio, calling it ambitious yet realistic.
“We all now have a solemn obligation to seize the opportunity the panel has offered, and to take its recommendations forward with the same energy and sense of urgency that its members devoted to formulating them,” Mr. Annan said after receiving the High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance, and the Environment report from panel co-chairs, the prime ministers of Norway and Pakistan.
“The changes proposed will enable the UN to respond better to new challenges, and to support countries more effectively in their efforts to achieve development goals,” he said at an informal meeting of the General Assembly. “It is my sincere hope that together we will be able to carry out their recommendations, and thus make the UN system stronger, more coherent and more responsive to the needs of people everywhere.”
The report, entitled Delivering as One, recommended a country-level consolidation of UN agencies, the strengthening of leadership on humanitarian and environmental activities, and the creation of both a new funding system and a new women’s organization.
The panel, co-chaired by Prime Ministers Luísa Dias Diogo of Mozambique, Jens Stoltenberg of Norway and Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan, released the report, which global leaders requested at the 2005 World Summit in New York to lay the groundwork for a fundamental restructuring of UN work in the field.
“No one facing today’s challenges would design the UN system as it currently stands,” said Mr. Stoltenberg. “To leave it the way it is would mean giving in to short-term national and institutional interests.”
The report stated that currently the UN’s work in development is fragmented, weak and not properly structured to meet country needs, with more than one third of UN Country Teams have ten or more agencies on the ground, and several with more than 20, resulting in “incoherent” programme interventions and “excessive” administrative costs.
“We have proposed a bold but realistic agenda for action,” Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said. “It should ensure that the UN is well funded, and can respond more effectively to the needs of countries and communities everywhere.”
Among recommendations was establishing “One UN” Country Programmes, which would streamline UN agency activities and be led by resident coordinator and handled by a strategic Sustainable Development Board that would eventually bring together boards of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The UNDP administrator would serve as a UN Development Coordinator, reporting to the Sustainable Development Board, the report suggested.
The panel also suggested testing the “One UN” programme in half a dozen countries next year to pave the way to a possible system-wide overhaul.
“We want the UN to be a strategic player at the country level, supporting us in the preparation and implementation of our nationally-owned development strategies,” Luísa Diogo, Prime Minister of Mozambique, said.
Addressing concerns that the proposed changes may demand too radical structuring, the panel readily replied.
“The most radical and dramatic thing we can do, is to do nothing,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. “Maintaining the status quo would represent a victory for inertia.”
In the coming weeks, Mr. Annan will formally present the report to the General Assembly and will transmit it to his successor, Ban Ki-moon.