UN at Country Level

Timor Women Perform Traditional Dance

UN Photo by Martine Perret

The United Nations Country Team (UNCT) exists in 131 countries, covering all of the 161 countries where there are United Nations programmes. The UNCT encompasses all the entities of the UN system that carry out operational activities for development, emergency, recovery and transition in programme countries.

The UNCT ensures inter-agency coordination and decision-making at the country level. The main purpose of the Country Team is for individual agencies to plan and work together, as part of the Resident Coordinator system, to ensure the delivery of tangible results in support of the development agenda of the Government.

The UNCT membership, roles and responsibilities must also be laid out clearly within each UNCT. These will include accountability to each other and the Resident Coordinator, taking responsibility for elements of the RC/UNCT work plan, particularly in oversight of subsidiary groups, mobilization of resources for the UNDAF and UNCT plans, and taking part in mutual assessments. This will not prejudice their relationship with their own agency.

The UNCT is led by the UN Resident Coordinator (RC), who is the designated representative of the UN Secretary-General. The RC reports to the UN Secretary-General through the Chair of the UN Development Group.

As international civil servants, all UNCT members are expected to comply with the UN Charter and Standards of Conduct of the International Civil Service and indeed as leaders, UNCT members are expected to exemplify the highest degree of compliance possible. This includes an expected set of personal qualities (such as inclusiveness, integrity and ethics, respect and trust, respect for diversity, non-discrimination, freedom from harassment, promotion and protection of human rights, and creativity) and also business process standards (such as teamwork, transparency and accountability, participatory management, open communications, timely dissemination of information, quality performance and oversight, and results orientation) for the UNCT.

All UNCT members have direct-line accountability to their own organization, as well as collegial accountability to the RC and rest of the UNCT for producing results under the UNDAF, recognizing that a well-functioning UNCT allows each organization to be more effective than acting alone. The UNCT will assign various leadership roles to its members on programmatic and management issues.

UN Country Team Membership

According to the ACC guidelines on the functioning of the RC system, “the UNCT is composed of representatives of the UN funds and programmes, specialized agencies and other UN entities accredited to a given country. It could also include representatives of the Bretton Woods institutions (see GA resolution 53/192, preamble 6).” The UNCT will ensure full participation of all other UN entities active in a given country in the decision-making process concerning strategic and programmatic issues.

UN Country Team meetings will include all representatives of the UN funds and programmes, specialized agencies and other UN entities active in a given country. It should also include representatives of the Bretton Woods institutions. These representatives must be a UN staff member, be nominated by their agency to represent, and be empowered with decision-making authority. Mechanisms should be established to ensure all agencies can fully participate in the UNCT consultations and decision making processes and are informed through regular communications and information sharing. Some UNCT topics (e.g. common services, security) and actions (e.g. 180 degree assessment) only pertain to Representatives resident in the country so those topics will only be discussed by those individuals.

Roles and Responsibilities

The UNCT may wish to set out specific Terms of Reference for particular roles undertaken by – or for – the UNCT. For example: Overseeing development and implementation of the UNDAF, endorsing the annual work plans; oversee work of Theme Groups (and participate and lead specific groups); overseeing the work of functional groups such as Communication, Monitoring & Evaluation and the Operations Management Team (OMT); reviewing the overall performance of the UNCT and proposing and taking action for enhancing its performance based on agreed management performance indicators.

The UNCT makes decisions through a consultative process, at least once a month. UNCT members develop operational programmes for development to support UNDAF priorities, noting that additional activities may be required complementary to UNDAF priorities for sector priorities. The UNCT will help develop proposals regarding pooling country level fund raising and joint financing, based on the agreed needs and priorities of the country, as expressed in the UNDAF.


All UNCT members, including the RC, are accountable for their roles in the team, particularly those members that take on leadership roles (e.g. in Theme Groups). RCs and UNCT members will be appraised on their substantive performance in their contribution to the team by an inter-agency appraisal meeting of the RDT/RMT , which includes designated HQ officials. As part of this appraisal process, RC/UNCT working relations will be assessed using the 180-degree assessment mechanism.

Towards this end, UNCT Members will:

  1. Plan annual key results as a UNCT and as individuals and agree on results for the RC;
  2. Participate in 180 degree assessments;
  3. Report on results in appraisal forms in reviewing their own progress and for appraisal of RC; and
  4. Support each other and the team in improving competencies identified in the 180 degree assessments and appraisals of the RC and UNCT by the RDT/RMT.

Resident Coordinator System Support

A UNCT compact should set out the specific parameters for UNCT Coordination Support/Unit and workings of sub-groups (especially Theme Groups) of the UNCT. The following might be included:

Resident Coordinator Office

To coordinate the work of the UN system at the country level, each RC/UNCT should have a Resident Coordinator Office to support these roles and demands. UNCT members will actively support the RC within the context of the UNDAF results framework, including in technical support to achieve agreed UNCT results and in analysis, planning, tracking and reporting processes, information management, communication and advocacy. This Office should have the minimum staffing and resources required to complete this important coordination function. Technical expertise on substantive issues should be provided by agency staff, rather than the RC Office, which should have a supportive/facilitative role. When the UNCT agrees on an activity an agency with the requisite capacity should be identified to implement on behalf of the team.

Theme Groups and other subsidiary groups of the UNCT

As tasked by the UNCT, the UN Theme Groups carry out programme design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation for each of the UNDAF priorities. The UNCT member leading the Theme Group assumes responsibility and is accountable for the agreed work plan results and follow-up on results. The Chair of the UN Theme Group should report to the UNCT on a regular basis to brief, discuss and agree on any proposed actions and follow up. Other groups / networks of the UNCT might cover Monitoring and Evaluation, Communication or Common Services.


The concept of the UNCT originated in 1977, when the General Assembly (GA) established the concept of a single official (i.e. the Resident Coordinator) to coordinate operational activities within the UN system (GA Resolution 32/197). Over the years the concept has evolved, and the key role of the UNCT for the effective and efficient functioning of the UN system at the country level has been noted in all GA Resolutions on the Comprehensive Policy Review since 1992 (GA Resolutions 47/199, 50/120, 56/201, 59/201 and 62/208).

Efforts to strengthen the UNCT were emphasized by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his 1997 reform agenda. The 2005 World Summit also called for a strengthened UNCT in implementing the reforms at the country level.

The GA’s 2004 and 2007 Comprehensive Policy Reviews set out further measures to strengthen the UNCT, including greater accountability towards host governments and the inter-governmental process as well as within the UN system. They also mandated the UN system to become more coherent, effective and relevant, and to simplify and harmonize business practices. In addition, they endorsed the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) as the common planning tool for all the funds and programmes as a framework for the full UN system. The General Assembly also urged the UN system to use all opportunities to increase aid effectiveness.

The use of common instruments and tools has played an important role in UNCT efforts to improve country-level coherence. There are three major instruments in use: a) the common country assessment; b) the UN Development Assistance Framework and its results framework; and, c) joint programming and joint programmes.