Silo Fighters Blog

Taking pilots to standards: Marking 10 years of ‘Delivering as One’

BY Alexander Freese, Gerald Daly, Helene Remling | November 2, 2016

We’ve all felt the touch of coordination. Whether for a hiking trip, a wedding or a picnic in the park: planning together who does what, working on more challenging treats in a team (that barbecue, photo book or treasure hunt!) leads to better results than anyone could have achieved alone –  and it is always more creative and fun too! When it comes to complexity, organizing the activities of 32 UN entities with development operations in 165 countries and territories and a total budget nearing 17 billion US Dollars can hardly be compared to a picnic in the park. But still, coordination in either scenario is essentially about common sense, pooling ideas and resources. Underlying is  the conviction, that one needs to go together instead of alone to achieve common goals. In November 2016, the UN has perhaps a less known anniversary to celebrate. Ten years ago a process was initiated that put the common sense of coordination for better development results on center stage for the UN development system: ‘Delivering as One’ was born.  Aimed at supporting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, this initiative was launched by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006 based on recommendations by Member States to strengthen coordination and management of the UN development operations. Test, evaluate and standardize But what does it take to bring to bear the full potential of a cooperative and collaborative UN on the ground? ‘Delivering as One’ equipped UN teams in 8 countries with flexibility and resources to experiment and find answers to this crucial question.  Some six years later,‘Delivering as One’ was formally recognized by Member States as a valuable business model for UN development activities. Building on five crucial pillars of the UN at the country level, namely one programme, a common budget, one leadership, and to communicate and operate as one, the UN set off to formalise the approach. Mandated by the UN General Assembly, senior UNDG leadership launched a unique interagency process  to come up with  Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for ‘Delivering as One’. These procedures were to codify the approach and bring together the lessons learned from the pilot countries for the benefit of all UN teams across the globe. If you would like to return to the travel analogy, the ultimate survival guide for a successful camping trip. In 2014 the UN Secretary General and 18 Heads of UN Agencies signed the SOPs, making the SOPs document the UN guidance document with the largest ever number of signatures by UN leaders. We’ve learned a number of valuable lessons in this two year journey of reviewing, drafting and negotiating a guidance document that would help unite UN efforts on the ground. With Ban Ki-moon’s term ending and a new resolution to guide the UN development system underway, the UNDG is at an important crossroads and  these lessons could inform future UN change processes:  1. Maintaining momentum: Reforming big institutions takes time. But with concrete yet strategic requests such as for the SOPs, change can happen fast. New resolutions and leadership create momentum for necessary change that should be harnessed. Sometimes this does not allow for in-depth preparatory research, but this time around much data has been collected on the functioning of the SOPs at the country level, paving the way for speedy progress in taking the SOPs to the next level. 2. Co-create change with those who will implement it: The UNDG set up a dedicated high level group to develop the vision of the SOPs, and a series of working groups to flesh out technicalities. Even though the high level group included colleagues from the regional and country levels, due to the very ambitious timeline, little time was left to consult and communicate intensively with important stakeholders such as country level agency staff who would be the eventual implementers of the SOPs. This might have caused delays in the behavioral change required by UN staff at the country level. 3.Keep the big picture in mind, even as you work out the detail: Developing the SOPs was a technical consolidation of experiences with ‘Delivering as One’ At the same time it was a political negotiation as to what extent agency procedures would later align to the the new standards. The UNDG focused on the technical aspects, and could have informed senior leadership and communicated to its governing bodies better about the strategic goal of the SOPs along the way: A UN system at country level ready to provide integrated policy support and solutions to multidimensional development challenges as versatile and complementary teams and has the internal procedures in place to fully support it (e.g. to allow for truly joined upfront analysis and planning). 4.The plan-monitor-adjust loop: The adoption of the SOPs falls in a period of change for many agencies, with shifting funding structures, calls for reform of governance mechanisms and the Agenda 2030 that requires taking policy integration and coherence to the next level. The SOPs embody a whole-of-UN approach that mirrors the whole-of-Government ethos that is called for to find the ideal balance between the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda breaks new ground. In the same way, the SOPs allow for continuous adjustment of technical details while maintaining their broader strategic intent. To this end, the UNDG has set up a system to track progress in the implementation of the 15 core elements of the SOPs to allow for the analysis of bottlenecks and accountability towards Member States. Challenges ahead: Changing the way we work In 2015 the UN turned 70, a year that will always be remembered as a year marked by major agreements signalling a paradigm shift in tackling global challenges. But while it was an opportunity to look back, it was also a chance to look ahead.  To help us deliver on the universal and transformative 2030 Agenda, the main challenge going forward is to enable UNCTs to provide equally integrated support to Governments through fully implemented SOPs. We need to gather more evidence on the value addition of the SOPs towards the UN’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda, and in continued reduction of transaction costs and duplication in the UN development system. On average, 16 resident and non-resident agencies in each of our 131 UN Country Teams make an incredible breadth and depth of expertise available to  Governments and societies. They provide pooled expertise, policy support and resources at country level. The SOPs allow us to harness the opportunities inherent in this vast offering by the UN system. As the recently published first Progress Report on the SOPs shows, much has been achieved in the short time span of two years since the launch of the SOPs: They have contributed greatly to improved inter-agency collaboration and enhanced the strategic positioning and relevance of the UN development system at the country level. A growing number of UNCTs are now organized around results groups and the most advanced ones focus their policy capacities around joint policy products and joint work plans. Around one third of UNCTs are implementing, or are in the process of preparing, common Business Operations Strategies in support of their United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). Programme Country Governments that have formally requested the UN to ‘Deliver as One’ are responding much more positively to questions on the UN’s alignment with national priorities, its overall contribution to development, and its focus on the poorest and most vulnerable people. The SOPs were agreed upon, signed and rolled out. Nevertheless, more time and effort is needed to fully implement them across all UN Country Teams. To realise the full potential of the SOPs, we also need to bring the required actions at headquarter level to the governing bodies of UN entities. Member States should understand that this change does not come overnight. Persistent follow-up is required from all stakeholders. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. As John Hendra, Senior UN Coordinator “Fit for Purpose” for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, put it we can build on the SOPs as the “floor” – for UN support to the 2030 Agenda at the country level. They are flexible and common sense principles of working together, transparently, efficiently and effectively. They also ensure government oversight and ownership, helping the UN to better align with national development needs and objective. In this sense, progress made in the past 10 years on ‘Delivering as One’ makes for a great campfire story perfecting a journey towards a UN that delivers better together. A story told jointly by so many UN colleagues from a diversity of organizations, based in countries across the globe, united by the UN values, vision and mission. This is an encouraging result from the 2012 quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR) resolution and positive signal going forward into the negotiations of the next resolution on the UN’s operational activities for development.

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How would Napoleon have approached the 2030 Agenda?

BY Lars Tushuizen | August 25, 2016

For months the trumpets sounded and the drums beat on a new milestone in UN development -- a beautiful baby, called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), was born. It's neither a boy nor a girl,  it’s gender balanced -- a small step for men, but a giant leap for mankind. So our development problems are solved. We have a “plan”. Which, as we all know, means we are all but there. Or so we would think. Truth be told -- the Millennium Development Goals did address a range of significant development issues and created a common cause that rallied the development world. But there is a thing that bothers me about these sweeping development frameworks. A fundamental thing that few know about and is not even discussed while thinking through implementation of programmes to achieve the SDGs. To address this fundamental notion in development programmes, let’s look back in time.  The Russian Campaign in 1812 During  the Russian Campaign in 1812. Napoleon tried to engage the Russian army for a decisive action at the Battle of Maloyaroslavets. His generals were planning their attack (programme) without consulting the logistics officers that needed to aptly plan the logistics and operations support for their plan. His troops exhausted, his operations disarrayed from the start --  with few rations  and no winter clothing -- Napoleon lost and was forced to retreat. His vision was solid but he failed to achieve his objectives and lost 95 per cent of his assets, including his men. Reflecting on this historical occurrence, let’s add a relative perspective to our action plan with the SDGs. We talk about how we will engage universally with all the people we are to serve, we talk about recruiting the best and the brightest the world has to offer, we talk about using big data and real time data to inform our programmes, and most of all, we talk about impact and results. Don’t get me wrong, the SDGs are a great achievement from a planning, monitoring and evaluation, and reporting perspective. And it will have a great impact if we manage it. But to achieve these lofty goals, there is very little thinking going on about the need and the resources for business operations to be reformed. Programmes consist for a large part of business operations processes- one way to look at a programme is that it is a collection of procurement of supplies and services, recruitment of the right staff with the right skills, logistics to move people and supplies around to the population that needs it, ICT to support the planning, reporting and collaboration, and increased analysis  analysis of ever growing data sets. If business operations is from Mars, programme is from Venus There for sure is a fundamental difference between business operations and programme. After all they involve very different skills and expertise. But this does not mean we should approach them as separate areas, where we plan and strategize in a very siloed approach. Especially in an environment where the focus is on integrated programming across agencies and mandates, joint annual planning and advanced collaboration in resource mobilization and implementation. This separation does not have to be. It should not be. We have the instruments to bring operations and programme planning together (as outlined in the Standard Operating Procedures for Delivering as One). Programmes and operations are two sides of the same coin - both are indispensable in delivering development impact. We cannot afford to have separate strategic planning and implementation. They are too closely linked to keep them separate. There is always more room for improvement The UN has introduced innovations in business operations through the business operations strategy, which is closely linked to the UNDAF and programme planning. This is a great start and the UNDG outlined quite an ambitious vision for the role of business operations under the SDGs. But what is needed is a change of mindset of both programme and operations staff, both of senior management and our rank and file. Instead of treating business operations to engage once the programme is set and treat them as an external force that needs to deliver services to the programme, business operations needs to be engaged in the projects. What is needed is a change in project development and implementation to ensure business operations as well as programme staff are part of the same team. Some agencies already do this, but there is more room for improvement. In the end it is like a war, a development war We think about the attack plan, the maneuvers that will get us to our goal and not to forget, the victory speech we will give to position this development war that ends all development wars (or all development, but that is besides the point). But what war is ever won without ensuring the logistics and operations of the army are developed at par with the strategy so the soldiers of reform and development don’t die from cold at the battlefield? We all know what happened to Napoleon. He had a plan, but he did not think through the operations and logistics to implement that plan. Based on the epic defeat and learning from his mistakes, how do you think Napoleon would implement the SDGs? Would we repeat history without learning from key events such as the Russian defeat?

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A story of many transitions: the UN in Haiti as it evolves in 2016

BY Mourad Wahba, Kanni Wignaraja | January 29, 2016

The UN has been in Haiti a long time. The most recent iteration of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) arrived 11 years ago. And it has been ‘shall we stay or shall we go’, for some years now. Maybe 2016 is the year where, finally, the decision to wrap up a full peace keeping mission does happen. For real. And for many, Haitians and UN colleagues alike, it is about time. There is much uncertainty in the air about elections. The complex electoral processes, the play of political parties and strong interest groups, the constitution as it is, the candidates; all contribute to an anxiety, a weariness, and a state of uncertainty. In the midst of this, the various parts of the UN have to come together, to try and think, plan and act as one. This is not a moment for individual entity or personal aggrandizement nor self-interest. It is time to step-up to the plate as a UN first, and take a hard look at our future roles and contribution to this country. To do this, we must first all see Haiti for what it can be in 10-15 years – a stable middle income country on a sustainable development path, leading to lasting peace and progress. Setting priorities with the people of Haiti Many of the UN Country Team and MINUSTAH mission colleagues get this, and have started more intensively working together to ensure a smooth transition, one that works for Haiti going forward. Some key areas for focus that came out of the initial visioning and planning exercises, include: Ensuring all Haitians have formal identity, with a national census and a civil registry; and following the missing data so no one is left behind; ‘Going (staying) local’ to build-back institutional and service delivery capacity, so local government can administer essential services and partner with local private sector to deliver; Addressing the rights and vulnerability gaps, which in most areas remain stark across gender lines, with women and girls as victims of violence, the least able to access land and credit, and with least choices available on education and jobs; If the Haitian people are open to it, some form of indepth dialogue to help bring about and keep a culture of peace. This would also include elements of rule of law, respect for human rights and education that integrates a socialization around a common culture and identity; and The need to keep open an emergency response/humanitarian window to address the spikes in cholera and malnutrition that still exists. This is a whole-of-UN system agenda to support. No entity can do any part of it alone. Nor can the mission, even if it is replaced by another UN Secretariat effort. It will take us all. A new global agenda, a new sustainable development framework This is the clear intention behind the team work underway: to develop a UN Sustainable Development Framework (UNSDF), an UNDAF-plus, that will support countries in their Agenda 2030 pathway. Haiti, we hope, will have a national census this year; the government and the UN also have access to multiple assessments and analytics it can draw from; the upcoming elections and establishment of a new government and parliament will provide the new set of national interlocutors to consult and plan with; and most importantly, it is a moment to take all of this to the Haitian people to understand better what they think and want from the UN in their country. This relationship must be refreshed with more public engagement, open dialogues and data transparency, access and reach that is community; and the UN being seen and heard together, with clear common voice on their vision for a young, growing, peaceful Haiti. Supporting together a transition process The transition is underway. We have learnt from others, including Timor-Leste and Sierra Leone. The common vision based on quality data and analytics are key. And a new UNSDF will be born, with not more than 5-6 strategic outcomes as defined and agreed with the key stakeholders. This must be followed by clear joint work streams leading to groups that will deliver together on joint work plans. A Business Operations Strategy (BOS) in a post mission setting is key, as the mission withdraws and with it the administrative services, such as fuel, which it provides to all. Ensuring UNSDF development, together with a BOS and mission transition plan, and having it all led by a common team and leadership, is therefore, the way to go. This is one island-two countries. Borders, biodiversity, epidemics, climate impact, trade are shared. People move across the borders every day. Bi-national it is called. Down the road, maybe more can be done together between the two UN country teams. There still remains too much that separates us – as UN missions and UN country teams serving in the same country. “Integrated missions” (which will bring together these two angles of the UN) will only really work if we truly integrate from the get-go and look at the design, substantive contributions, resource and capacity sharing, and common administration of a UN presence – One country, One UN. We are moving in this direction, but slowly, and not everyone is on the same page within. Our still parallel structures, separate administrations, separate teams - sometimes the mirror image of each other in the exact same areas - and separate visions of a country, attest to this. It is time to change, and Haiti is where we can show it can happen. This team is ready to demonstrate that it is possible.

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Are we as smart as the SDGs?

BY Gina Lucarelli | January 18, 2016

While many of us in the UN see 2015 as a triumphant year for multilateralism, there are those who hold lingering doubts about the agreement on Agenda 2030, an ambitious set of goals that establishes milestones of growth & equality within the limits of the planet.  Many say they are too ambitious – 169 commandments according to the Economist and A free for all according to the New York Times. Fair enough. But what does ‘too ambitious’ as an indictment really mean? Are we saying that the full collective intelligence of humanity is not enough to reach the goals by 2030 – say ending HIV and AIDS, stopping violence against women, and ensuring no one lives in extreme poverty?  Yes these are high goals, but are we not smart enough to make that happen? It they can find a red balloon in nine hours, why can’t we reach the SDGs? Indulge me with an update of the maxim, “if they can put a man on the moon…” {usually followed with a lament of the lack of society advancement in a seemingly more simply terrain, i.e., ala Seinfeld,  why can’t they make a decent cup of coffee}. The SDG update goes like this: If a team from MIT can locate 10 red balloons hidden across the continental U.S. in nine hours, then why can’t we reach the SDGs in 15 years? The story of the red balloon is a good one to illustrate what collective intelligence is capable of. Handbooks and courses by Tom Malone on the subject at MIT (which I recommend) often start with the red balloon story.  In 2011, DARPA held a contest find 10 large red balloons which were floating somewhere in the continental  US. A $40,000 prize was offered to the team who could find all 10 balloons first. With no other information than the fact that the balloons were somewhere out there, the team used a social media network and incentive system to locate all 10 red balloons in 9 hours.  [Hint, the trick was to incentivize people to refer others to the search party to make the collective smart enough to find the balloons quickly.] If the U.S based collective could do this in 2011–can’t we take 2016 to begin tapping into similar collective intelligence on a global scale to achieve the SDGs?  If we take the perspective that intelligence is not just something that sits in individual brains, but it arises from groups of individuals, and increasingly, people and computers together, then what is possible when it comes to the world’s new ambitious set of sustainable development goals? Inspiration from NESTA’s CEO on collective intelligence With this as a backdrop, in December, with help from mentor/agitator Giulio Quaggiotto, I organized a brown bag discussion with UN staff to engage with Geoff Mulgan, the CEO of NESTA, to share his thoughts based on their applied thinking and experience with collective intelligence.  We were particularly interested in how to use planning processes (the UNDAF in UN parlance) as collective intelligence experiments. How does a UN Country Team harness a country’s best minds for sustainable development? What does a genuine multi-stakeholder planning process look like that goes from public engagement to decision making and investment? Internally within the diversity of the UN system, how do we act smartly as a collective? These were what framed Geoff’s talk on Collective Intelligence, the SDGs and the UN. Geoff gave us a good framework to work from, the elements of individual intelligence as a framework for assessing the smarts of a collective. The complexity increases on a continuum of the attributes of individual intelligence which can also be applied to teams and groups of people. Take observation as a cognitive function  - this is what happens when people are on flood watch. Moving up the chain, wisdom according to Geoff’s presentation adds a moral dimension. Wisdom is a tall order collectively – and individually for that matter.  Interestingly, Geoff mentioned that while web-based data tools may help a team cultivate joint cognitive functions like observation of data flows, when it comes to wisdom, no tech solution can make a team wise! New year’s resolution: make planning as a collective intelligence moment Duly inspired by this line of thinking, and pumped with all the good intentions of a new year… how about a resolution to apply collective intelligence as a framework to get Agenda 2030 moving? Within our work at the UN Development Group, what if we transform our own strategic planning processes into collective intelligence experiments? What would this look like in countries as they adapt national development strategies to the global sustainable development goals?  Many UN teams and governments across the globe have started to move in this direction by making their multi-year partnership planning processes more inclusive, more future-oriented and better informed by data, including peoples’ experiences as a new form of data. More of this all around! Instead of filling the new year’s log frames with mind-numbingly dull jargon, what if we roll up our planning sleeves with the intention to approach planning as collective intelligence experiment?   So that’s a collective provocation for you all. Calling all smart people out there who can now figure out how a collective intelligence planning process would look in practice… Any takers?

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What do member states want? A UN system that is “fit for the future”

BY John Hendra | November 3, 2015

The first phase of the ECOSOC dialogue on the longer-term positioning of the UN development system captured Member State’s views on UN functions, funding, governance, organizational arrangements, capacity, impact, partnership and change-management. The recent UN Summit heralded a global agreement on the sustainable development goals (SDGs). In the final outcome document, Member States highlighted “the important role and comparative advantage of an adequately resourced, relevant, coherent, efficient and effective UN system in supporting the achievement of the SDGs and sustainable development”, and stressed the “importance of system-wide strategic planning, implementation and reporting in order to ensure coherent and integrated support to the implementation of the new Agenda by the United Nations development system” They also welcomed the ongoing ECOSOC dialogue in the lead up to the 2016 QCPR. The first phase of the dialogue – a series of sessions and workshops open to all Member States and other relevant stakeholders – ran from December 2014 to June 2015, as summarized in the Vice-President’s report.  “UNDG perspectives” papers developed for the first phase of the dialogue are available on the QCPR site. So what are Member States saying and what – at least to date – are their expectations of the United Nations? Clarity on emerging UN system functions The UN must be ‘purpose’ driven in the era of the sustainable development agenda. Form must follow function. In other words, funding and organizational arrangements (form) must follow the UN’s fundamental functions: universal normative role, integrated policy support, convening and leveraging, and a stronger focus on partnerships and South-South and triangular cooperation. This goes along with greater integration of the pillars of the UN  – peace & security, humanitarian action, human rights, and development. UN functions must be adequately funded The UN will need to much more proactively leverage resources. Funding must support the UN’s functions, including funding of the ‘platform’ of work at the country level. Ensuring adequate and sustainable core funding for the UNDS will be key, though innovative use of non-core resources can also be improved including through increased use of pooled financing mechanisms. Improve system-wide governance There’s a clear call to improve not only the representativeness but also the effectiveness of system-wide governance across the United Nations. Different models for different countries The need for greater agility and flexibility has been repeatedly highlighted by Member States.  There’s a strong call for much greater differentiation of country support, tailoring the UN’s presence and capacity on the ground to country needs and demands. ODA should be targeted to where it’s most needed, in least-developed countries and fragile and conflict-affected settings. Delivering as One is the “floor” for country support Member States increasingly accept Delivering as One as the 'floor' for the work of the UN at country level.  But at the same time, they are asking what more is needed to enable the UN to effectively support countries to implement the SDGs. Strengthened measurement of collective contributions to results, more integrated policy support and a modern, highly-skilled, mobile workforce are needed to deliver the post-2015 development agenda. Strengthening of partnerships It’s clear that partnerships are going to be central to delivering the SDGs. Member States are strongly calling for greater investment in, and focus on, South-South and Triangular cooperation, as a critical function of the UN. Integration Also, discussions highlighted the protracted nature of crises in many humanitarian and conflict-affected settings. There’s general consensus about the need for much greater integration of humanitarian and development efforts – including joint analysis, planning and programming, leadership and financing.ISSUES FOR THE SECOND PHASE OF THE DIALOGUEThe second phase of the ECOSOC dialogue will commence in late 2015 or early 2016. Member States tabled some key proposals and flagged some critical questions that will need to be taken up: Proposal for an overarching strategic framework for the UN’s overall contribution to the SDGs; Call for development of a theory of change to guide change-management efforts, Proposal that Member State deliberations during the second phase of the dialogue be supported by an independent advisory group of experts; Need for a much more strategic QCPR, informed and shaped by the ECOSOC dialogues – that is more about ‘purpose’ and less about ‘fitness’, (i.e. giving high-level guidance is more important than micro-managing the UN’s day-to-day operations.). We are at a unique moment in time. Where the MDGs were siloed, and did not demand that the UN system be coherent, the SDGs very clearly do.  The ‘UN we want’ must be truly system-wide at the national, regional and global level. To do so it will be critical that the UN has the substantive capacities, knowledge, leadership and mind-set change needed to deliver the post-2015 development agenda and the SDGs.  The 2030 Agenda is an agenda for change, and we need to be ready.

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Let’s go occupy data street

BY Kanni Wignaraja | May 4, 2015

I know it is exciting to be a part of the data revolution. It feels rebellious, almost unfettered by the institutional boundaries and the day-to-day stuff we all have to deal with. Like those who started a movement on another street, the freedom of possibilities makes us want to go ‘Occupy Data Street’! But data also takes careful planning, costing and the ability to work together. Without collaboration, as a UN on the ground, we cannot occupy this space. This blog post is my way of sharing a few things we are learning together, with all our UN ‘friends and family’ also collecting and looking at the same data. Vertical and static approaches to data are a thing of the past In Zambia, I recall that we had multiple UN agencies working with the central statistical office. We did so for decades, and quite separately. We were all helping a Zambian institution collect numbers for the census, demographic household surveys, poverty mapping, special issues surveys, electoral registers, water and land use surveys, and anonymous HIV and gender based violence focus group data. These data-gathering projects proliferated to a level of exhaustion - for the client! I hope the days of our stoically vertical and often static data sets are over. They no longer serve in a world of increasingly complex development challenges and responses. Most data sets are no longer what the new development agenda calls for. Today, where we can go that extra mile by collecting and analyzing together, we absolutely need to. We cannot justify the cost of such ‘lone ranger’ operations anymore. And why would we want to go it alone? The richer evidence with combined data and analytics helps us navigate much more complex waters. In the case of Zambia, pooling of data and stories on the movement of people, the rains and land use patterns, cultural practices, market opportunities and immunization coverage tells us much more about the seeming contradictions of this country, which is peaceful and economically surging, yet where so many still die young and where the majority of girls do not complete secondary school. The richer evidence can also tell us more about the interventions that could make a difference. We go ‘public’ even with each other Even when we do not really want to share our data with each other, we are being pushed to go public.  Within the UN we are putting more out in shared public spaces and having it used, questioned and improved on by many others. This sharing of data should be one of our calling cards as a UN system. It used to be so in a number of countries and it can be again. Getting to the most vulnerable comes at a cost If you want to go deeply local, following the lines of poverty and inequality, it does not come cheap. It often takes well over twice the time, requires hands-on local outreach to go door-to-door, and comes with a higher price tag. So action has to be designed, costed and planned with that in mind. Over the years we have had long, hard negotiations with some donors on what it takes to contribute to improving material and child health services in rural as well as peri-urban poor communities. Some partners were reluctant to extend civic education, voter registration, basic education and skills training initiatives into the Bangweulu Swamps or across the floodplains and sandy deserts of the Western Province in Zambia. Covering these sparsely populated, remote hamlets came with a heavy bill. And yet, these folks did not have birth certificates, no voter i.d’s, hardly a primary education. We kept saying ‘leave no one behind’ and ‘these people count’. Get scrappy with new data When gathering data in Zambia, we realized there is more cell phone coverage out there, even in rural parts of the country, than we thought. Some of our teams were using mobile technology for their surveys and they were getting much better coverage, particularly in areas of health status and services. Yes, some of it relied on somewhat scrappy sample sizes based on cell company records, and you never quite knew how many or what you missed and, yes, it was difficult to quality assure. But even such random sampling can work for some purposes. As long as the size and spread makes ‘good enough’ sense in statistical and practical terms, why not? We’ve seen this trend in mobile technology explode in so many countries, so why not benefit more from it? Delivering together provides more ‘aha’ moments and results A single UN programme that supports national statistical capacities, instead of a multitude of small projects, is a great start. The beauty of Delivering as One on national data and statistical capacity support is that we can provide a design that makes good political, financial and results sense. Examples of such work include our support to bolder MDG acceleration and tracking, and for understanding rapid changes in youth and voter demographics, and the rise of silent killers such as non-communicable diseases. It is really great when the broader UN team and partners experience the ‘aha’ moments that good data brings. When the effort is shared together and supportive of local needs, it is quite exhilarating to see what eyes, minds and doors good data can open. It can change the course of our UN joint programmes and has done so in a number of countries innovating with the new UNDAFs. Better joined-up data and evidence has also helped centre our normative base – with the core issues of human rights, inequalities and injustices addressed with less angst and sensitivity. It is exciting to see UN Country Teams stepping up, joining the innovations and being a part of ‘Occupy Data Street’. The revolution is well underway, and this is a call to action!

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Making the UN “fit for purpose”

BY John Hendra | March 24, 2015

The new sustainable development agenda is transformative, rights-based and universal. Without a doubt, supporting countries to implement the new agenda requires a United Nations system that is “fit for purpose” and I see six steps we can take before 1 January 2016. We have a tremendous opportunity to re-position the UN system to maximize its unique comparative advantages in support of sustainable development. What’s so different from the MDGs? From the outset, it has been clear that the new post-2015 development agenda, set out in the sustainable development goals (SDGs), will be a very significant departure from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Where the MDGs were largely vertical and somewhat ‘siloed’, this new agenda has the potential to be much more integrated and horizontal. Where the MDGs reflected and drove a largely North-South agenda, the post-2015 development agenda is universal. It is also a much more transformative agenda, not least because of its rights-based perspective and explicit focus on tackling inequality and discrimination. Dialogue on ″fit for purpose” is unique, unprecedented What’s unique about the current discussion on “fit for purpose” is that is happening at three levels:  among Member States; in countries, with 45 countries now adopting Delivering as One ; and within the UN system itself, at the level of the Chief Executives Board (CEB), and its pillars – the UN Development Group, the High-Level Committee on Management (HLCM) and the High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP). This level of attention is quite unprecedented and in many of the conversations I am having about the UN being more “fit for purpose”, I am really struck by the level of enthusiasm and willingness there is to reflect on this and to innovate. What do we need to do next? Build on the Delivering as One initiative and roll out Standard Operating Procedures in all programme countries. Deepen UN system efforts to develop more integrated and innovative business models. Ensure that a high-performing, mobile and diverse workplace is in place to support the new agenda. More specifically, take these six steps In my view there are six additional critical areas for immediate to medium-term action, a number of which have been integrated into the UNDG Strategic Priorities for the coming year: Provide integrated policy support at all levels, drawing on the expertise of different agencies in a cohesive and strategic manner anchored in international norms.  Support governments – and more broadly societies – to address complex, multi-sectoral challenges and implement a new post-2015 development agenda that is much more horizontal and integrated than the MDGs were. Drive forward the data revolution. Ensure that data and evidence are used much more effectively, more systematically and more transparently. And this means much greater disaggregation of data – by sex, ethnicity, age, disability, socio-economic status – to better understand and monitor inequalities and vulnerabilities, and track progress for the most marginalized and vulnerable groups. Take a much more systemic, system-wide approach to assessing risk, and promoting resilience. The implementation of the new agenda should encourage more integrated partnerships and collaboration between humanitarian action and development, build national and local capacity to manage shocks and stresses, and better coordinate emergency response and prevention work with sustainable development. Pool resources. Ensure negotiated, sustained and coherent financing for long-term support to the post-2015 development agenda. Pooling resources may also include bringing together development and humanitarian financing where this makes sense. Really open up the UN to be much more consultative not only with civil society but also with the private sector, Parliamentarians and other stakeholders. Build on the great work that has been done to date to engage millions of people in the UNDG-sponsored post-2015 consultations. At last count, over 7 million people around the world have participated in the "MY World" survey and the various UNDG-organized Consultations. Ensure much greater transparency and accountability. This includes resources (both financial and human) at country, regional and global levels, as well as sharing data, analysis and information about programmes and operations. Greater transparency and accountability to beneficiaries and stakeholders in the UN’s field-based operations will be key to implementing the new agenda. Looking forward, a Member States-led process must provide the impetus for broader, structural reform of the UN development system that is more “fit for purpose”. The current ECOSOC dialogues on the “Future Positioning of the UN Development System” are very timely as are the final inter-governmental negotiations of the post-2015 development agenda. To make this work will require all our efforts and commitment, most of all at the country level. We need the full engagement of staff – and real behaviour change – at all levels. All of us will need to engage fully to help get the United Nations ready to be more “fit for purpose” on 1 January 2016. What do you think? What else can we do to ensure the UN is fit for purpose? Photo: Andy Wagstaffe. Creative Commons

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