A new era of global public engagement and communication is manifest. Communications and advocacy which engage governments, organizations and rights holders in a constructive dialogue to advance sustainable development is needed more than ever. To engage people in the new agenda, the 2030 Agenda will require strong UNDG communications and advocacy efforts at country level.

Silo Fighters Blog

New voices to build Costa Rica’s future

BY Alice H Shackelford | April 26, 2017

We at the UN in Costa Rica are designing our  next UN common plan for 2018-2022 to support the Government in its efforts to achieve the Global Goals by 2030. To do that, we are following the crowdsourcing spirit of the new development agenda. We are trying to adapt our decision making  so that our new UN Development Assistance Framework is developed with the full wisdom of the crowd. An outreach strategy to leave no one behind To transform the national and UN planning we worked  with a clear objective: engaging those who are often left out of  mainstream development and public policy discussions. In Costa Rica, these communities are often indigenous people, people with disabilities, people of African descent , youth, LGBTI population, migrants, refugees, women (domestic workers and migrants), and children and adolescents. Our intention was to get to know their needs and demands, to know more about their perceptions in terms of development, and, most importantly, to build on what they know to make them part of the solutions. For this participatory journey, we partnered with the University of Costa Rica, specifically the School of Communications, to find the best methods to build a consultation strategy. This partnership helped us identify some of the building blocks for our outreach strategy: People-centered: The way we engage people will be customized to each of the groups that we will approach, i.e., language, accessibility, etc. Action oriented: When we do consultations as the UN, we must have a purpose beyond collecting the demands, needs and solutions; it should invite to action and "engage" people on promoting the 2030 Agenda. Complementary methods: Combine quantitative and qualitative to tell the story behind the data. Expanding reach: We need to combine two types of consultation: virtual tools which can expand the consultation to many people and collect data in an innovative way, and other more traditional techniques to reach the most excluded communities. Less is more: The online platform should be concrete, with a minimalist design that will allow users to swiftly engage in the consultation process. Messages should be short, concise and clear. With these blocks in mind, we moved to develop and implement our strategy to involve those communities that are commonly left behind. And our journey begins As a start we invited people, mainly individuals who had not participated in this type of consultation, to participatory meetings, where they could discuss the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a creative and interactive way. We consulted 400 women and me from traditionally excluded groups such as: people of African descent, indigenous peoples, LGTBI population, migrants, women (domestic workers and migrants),  young people, persons with disabilities, refugees, children and adolescents. We travelled to various regions in the country (San José, Caribbean South, Limón center and the indigenous area of Térraba) to reach these communities or otherwise they wouldn’t be able to engage in these dialogues. The kind of questions we ask are: What are your group’s demands regarding development? Do the Global Goals encompass your demands? Which SDG should be accelerated in the country and why? What are concrete actions that could be taken to achieve these SDGs? Who can we work with to achieve them? The people we talked to reflected on their experiences, shared their perspectives on SDGs and posed possible solutions to the identified problems. What did we learn? During the consultations, each group had their own specific priorities, but there was a common refrain: People in Costa Rica that we spoke to understand their rights and are ready to claim their fulfillment. Here are some great quotes from people we spoke to during these sessions acknowledging and demanding their rights: "Because of our geographical situation there is little access to specialized educational centers, barely a school, so in order to have an education we have to travel long distances or leave the community, and this is not always easy ... it is a lie that we have access [to education]." Young indigenous person from the Térraba territory. "The labour market leaves out a very vulnerable part of the population... us young people... We do not have work and we cannot find a job ... we end up taking whatever work we can get". Young person during our consultation. "I know many women who want to work, and are hardworking, but they either don’t get a job, they get paid scraps, or the salary is unfair for the job they do." Migrant person present at our consultation reflecting on SDG 1, No poverty. "Access to justice is not real... the stigma for being Afro still exists and when it comes to imparting justice there is a tendency to blame the Afro because of discrimination..." Afrodescendant from the southern Caribbean region. We hear these experiences and value them as important data. In order to gather more inputs during our consultation process, we also set up a web platform to share information about the 2030 Agenda and its goals, asking the people of Costa Rica to have their say in the priorities. We currently have collected more than 250 responses on the platform.   This crowd-sourcing process has impacted how we formed our development priorities. For the first time, the fulfillment of the rights of most excluded populations in Costa Rica, was made explicit in our UN strategic plan as one of the three objectives for the UN and partners to achieve in the next four years (2018-2022): Support to the Government of Costa Rica to implement the national agreement for the Sustainable Development Goals Strengthening Costa Rica’s public sector management Support most excluded populations towards the fulfillment of their rights To keep ourselves accountable, we are now thinking about how to share back with the communities the impact that their voices had on our planning process and how they will transform our future work for the country. Meanwhile we are already working on a monitoring framework for our plan. Towards public accountability The monitoring and evaluation framework is part of any UN strategic plan design phase. So, we decided to be in touch with these communities and other actors engaged in our programmes to check up on whether or not we are delivering on our promises. For that, we thought about upgrading our web platform and use it to monitor the UN programme in Costa Rica. When we shared our plans with the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy, their enthusiasm with the idea was such that they proposed to change the scope of the platform and use it as a tool to measure the Costa Rican government's accountability towards the achievement of the SDGs. Costa Rica is the first country in the world to sign a national pact with its people to deliver on the Global Goals in the 2030 Agenda.  And they are inviting people to have their say. Check it out.

Silo Fighters Blog

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

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

Alexander Freese, Gerald Daly, and Helene Remling 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.

UNDG Guidance and Policies on Communications

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Facts on communication

Based on UNDG real-time IMS data, this global snapshot shows latest progress by countries towards the implementation of the Communicating as One approach. This Standard Operating Procedure requires countries to establish a UN communications group and a joint communications strategy to ensure a coherent approach to communications at country level.


Peter Serenyi

Knowledge Management and Communications Specialist