Global Policy Forum

UNIDO Managing Director Speaks on UN Coherence Process

October 1, 2009


The challenges the United Nations system faces in regard to its coherence agenda was the focus of a presentation by UNIDO Managing Director, Wilfried Luetkenhorst, in the capital of Uruguay on 28 September.

He took part in a special meeting of the UN Country Team, composed of representatives of the operational agencies on the ground.

"The most pressing issue today is the global economic and financial crisis and whether the recovery process is effectively used to develop a green, low-carbon economy. There are high expectations from donors and countries on what the UN response should be and how fast we can deliver," said Luetkenhorst.

"The UN system is at a critical cross road, and if it is unable to respond fast, its credibility and ultimately even its relevance will suffer."

The United Nations launched its "Delivering as One" initiative in 2007 to respond to the challenges of a changing world and test how the UN family can provide development assistance in a more coordinated way. The governments of eight countries - Albania, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uruguay, and Viet Nam - volunteered to become pilots of the initiative. They are looking at ways to increase the UN system's impact through more coherent programmes, reduced transaction costs for governments, and lower overhead costs for the UN system.

"While all UN agencies have important mandates that together constitute the strength and richness of the UN system, Country Teams should be empowered locally to design responses embedded in the specific country context.  This would enable a much more flexible response while limiting the participation to those agencies that are relevant for each specific situation based on government priorities. This requires the empowerment of the UN Country Teams and a strong leadership of the Resident Coordinator. This may also require the courage to reject some agencies' proposals," said Luetkenhorst.

He added that there was a much better mutual understanding now on what the mandates of UN Funds, Programmes and Specialized Agencies are, and how they can be complementary.

The Managing Director outlined the main challenges that the UN system has regarding the coherence agenda. They include providing effective guidance to the UN Country Teams without overburdening them and creating more bureaucracy; providing capacity-building assistance, prioritizing each country's strategic focus and being selective in the key contributions that the UN system makes; and harmonizing business practices.

"The reduction of transaction costs is important - interestingly evidence so far seems to indicate that they have gone down for Governments, but have increased for the UN," said Luetkenhorst.

He expressed concern over the long term funding basis of the coherence process, saying that only a few donor countries have so far contributed to the expanded "Delivering as One" funding window and to country-level pooled funding.

Rebeca Grynspan, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of UNDP's Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, voiced her support for the points raised by the UNIDO Managing Director.

Luetkenhorst also elaborated on UNIDO's thematic leadership in the UN coherence process in the fields of energy and trade. He reminded that UNIDO Director-General, Kandeh K. Yumkella, chairs UN Energy and the Advisory Group to the Secretary-General on Energy and Climate Change, and that UNIDO is a leading player in the Chief Executive Board thematic cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity and has issued an inter-agency resource guide on trade-capacity building.

He emphasized the importance of the UN system defining its approach towards middle-income countries like Uruguay and, in this context, the need to build on the growing role of South-South cooperation.

Luetkenhorst has been personally involved in the UN coherence process from day one and has witnessed how the system has changed to adapt to the new settings and demands. UNIDO has been very supportive of the "Delivering as One" process from the start. Luetkenhorst represents UNIDO at the United Nations Development Group which unites 32 UN funds, programmes, agencies, departments and offices that play a role in development.


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