Lift Off:
Agenda 2030
SHARED RESULTS OF
THE UNDG

Lift Off:
Agenda 2030
SHARED RESULTS OF
THE UNDG

If 2015 was the year of adoption and launch of
the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), then 2016 was the year
when the UN system began to implement its response.
This report summarizes the collective results of the
UN Development Group in getting the SDGs off the ground
at country, regional and global levels in 2016.

If 2015 was the year of adoption and launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), then 2016 was the year when the UN system began to implement its response. This report summarizes the collective results of the UN Development Group in getting the SDGs off the ground at country, regional and global levels in 2016.



JOINT RESULTS AT THE COUNTRY LEVEL


UNDG IN ACTION AT THE REGIONAL LEVEL


UNDG IN ACTION AT THE GLOBAL LEVEL


2016 FINANCIAL
REPORTING





JOINT RESULTS AT
THE COUNTRY LEVEL

2016 was the first full year of global action to begin the formal and full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UNCTs around the world helped governments, civil society and private sector partners to develop the plans, data and partnerships that are needed to get this transformative agenda off the ground.

The following section showcases interim results across the 10 core UN coordination functions in 2016. These functions capture the roles and responsibilities of staff in the Resident Coordinators’ Offices. Results are based on reporting by 131 UNCTs in the UNDG Information Management System. For each function, key performance indicators show broad trends, a selection of country examples from 2016, and indicate possible future directions.


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Streamlined and SDG-compliant
strategic planning

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UN Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) are the strategic plans which describe the collective response of the UN system to national development priorities. By the end of 2016, 126 UNDAFs (or equivalent frameworks) were in place. These unified strategic plans bring together the in-country results of 17 UN agencies on average. Common Country Analyses (CCAs) are an important way for the UN to share data and undertake joint analysis, working across agencies and with national governments. They typically provide the diagnostic analysis that underpins the UNDAF, and helps to set UN priorities for its work in-country. In 2016, 70 percent of UN country teams (UNCTs) reported that they had undertaken a CCA for the present UNDAF, an increase of nine percentage points from 2015.


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Strategic analysis and planning, as part of the common country programming work of UNCTs, are essential aspects of delivering results together as a UN system. Analysis and planning processes coalesce around the development of a UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) or equivalent document. An UNDAF is a strategic plan which describes the collective response of the UN system to national development priorities. It sets out the strategic commitments, results and implementation plan for the UN as a whole in each country. Support from RC Offices to UNCTs for strategic analysis and planning aims to ensure that development programme planning is forward-looking, participatory, informed by baseline analysis and aligned with global norms and standards and national development goals — as defined by Member States in the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR).

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

 

UN COUNTRY TEAMS SUPPORT GOVERNMENTS IN THE DESIGN OF THEIR NATIONAL PLANS

UNDAFs are aligned to national planning cycles, and the UN’s analyses and inputs are available on request to governments and partners throughout the process. In 2016, 86 UNCTs reported that as part of the planning cycle, support was delivered to governments during the crafting of their national development plans.

1.Thirty-four UNCTs refer to their strategic plans as One Plan, One Programme or Frameworks for Partnerships, Cooperation and/or Development

2.This estimate includes the period between the signing of the UNDAF and the time required for approval of country programme documents by the respective UN agency governing bodies.

3.UNCTs that did not undertake Common Country Analyses complemented existing national analyses with analysis from other sources (20 percent), or relied on existing national analysis (nine percent). Both alternatives were options available under the 2010 version of the UNDAF guidance. Data for 2017 will be aligned to changes in the 2017 United Nations Development Assistance Framework Guidance which has narrowed the available exemptions from undertaking a Common Country Analysis.

4.Annual Coordination Frameworks, formerly referred to as UNCT workplans, are the tools used by UNCTs for annual planning of actions that help improve coordination of the UN’s work in country.


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Beyond joint planning towards
national ownership of results

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Ensuring that UNDAFs are aligned with national planning cycles is one way for the UN system to ensure synergy and stakeholder engagement between national plans and UN priorities. In 2016, 75 percent of UNCTs supported national development planning in some form. While some progress is visible in the production of publicly available UN results reports, only about one third of UNCTs reported that they conducted annual reviews of their UNDAFs. This is an area which needs improvement to ensure that national stakeholders are able to monitor progress on the promises the UNDAF makes.


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Providing oversight of the UN country programming cycle is a core UNCT function which enables a coherent set of interventions and a focus on results. This is done by supporting the formulation of UNDAFs or their equivalent. It relies on the active leadership of inter-agency Results Groups (or Theme Groups) that drive programme delivery. These groups play a key role in supporting joint planning and implementation of joint programmes; overseeing, reporting and implementing annual reviews together with national counterparts to gauge progress; and ensuring adherence to UNDG programming principles.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

 

5.As set out in the SOPs for the Delivering as One approach, Results Groups should be chaired by heads of agencies and focus on strategic policy and programme content established and aligned with national coordination mechanisms. Inter-agency groups serve similar functions but do not meet the definition of Results Groups as per the SOPs.

6.Also included in this figure are countries in which UN Country Results Reports were developed but where they either do not cover all aspects of the SOPs, or are pending endorsement by some members of the UNCT.

Number of joint programmes by SDG: Concentrated on a small number of SDGs but growing in range

In total, 371 joint programmes were reported in 2016. Over a three-year period, the number of joint programmes in specific SDG-related areas rose, with joint programmes in global partnerships rising by 36 percent, in innovation and infrastructure by 20 percent, and joint programmes addressing gender equality growing by 28 percent. The figure also shows the number of joint programmes devoted to human rights.


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A world of expertise supports
national SDG agendas

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By providing representation and support to the UN Secretariat and to non-resident agencies (NRAs), the Resident Coordinator system is able to harness the full potential of the UN’s expertise to support national development agendas. Nearly half of UNCTs now have NRAs as members, an increase of 11 percentage points from the previous year. Almost all Resident Coordinators’ Offices (97 percent) supported NRAs as UNCT members, while 66 percent facilitated regional engagement in country programming and external representation. Demands on the RC system to leverage and mobilize UN expertise in response to national priorities are expected to continue, and possibly increase given the integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda.


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To ensure that programme countries can benefit from the array of expertise available within the UN, country-level representation of non-resident agencies (NRAs)7 and the entities of the UN Secretariat is essential. This core coordination function facilitates the participation and representation of these entities at country level, including the liaison between UN Secretariat departments, the Executive Office of the Secretary-General and the highest levels of national government. This core function also supports the coordination of country missions such as those of Special Rapporteurs, Working Groups and Independent Experts.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

 

7. Non-resident agencies are UN agencies that have no representation or a limited presence in countries. They are sometimes known as “regionally based agencies”.

Resident coordinators’ OFFICES PROVIDE INCREASING SUPPORT TO NON-RESIDENT AGENCIES

This figure shows the types of support provided by RC Offices to ensure that non-resident agency expertise is available to national counterparts. Support has increased in all areas since 2014.



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National coordination for
global partnership

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To achieve the 2030 Agenda, it will be essential to work together effectively with a wide range of traditional and non-traditional partners for development. Coordination has an important role to play in underpinning and leveraging effective partnerships at global, regional and national levels. Countries need strong national systems to plan development coherently, manage aid partnerships, and get the most out of South-South and triangular exchange. 76 percent of UN country teams worked with external partners on a range of SDGs in 2016. Most partnerships were forged with civil society (87 percent), local government (72 percent), parliamentarians (63 percent), the private sector (59 percent), donors/development partners and academia (four percent), religious partners and international NGOs (three percent).  Top issues addressed by these partnerships were gender equality (by 12 percent of partners), education (nine percent), health (eight percent), peace, justice and strong institutions (eight percent) and employment/decent work (eight percent).


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With the support of RCs, UNCTs play a key role in ensuring that the UN’s contribution at country level is coherent and well-coordinated. UNCTs invest in strengthening national systems for development coordination by ensuring alignment and complementarity between national aid effectiveness mechanisms and UN activities.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

 

The majority of joint UN/national steering committees are co-chaired by national governments

This figure shows that in the majority (73 percent) of countries with UN development operations, government representatives chair Joint UN/National Steering Committees to guide and oversee UN programmes, ensuring that they are aligned with existing national coordination mechanisms. In the remaining 27 percent of countries, governments serve as members in these Joint UN/National Steering Committees.



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Towards lower costs and
shared back-office services

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In 2016, UNCTs continued to develop common services and harmonized business practices. By doing so, UNCTs can reduce costs, deliver better quality services, and enable agencies to focus more of their resources on delivery of their programme work. Despite these advantages, progress in this area has been slow. Only 18 percent of UNCTs have full-scale Business Operations Strategies — strategies which outline the steps that they intend to take to deliver common services and harmonized operations. Around two-thirds of UNCTs are located in shared premises. Eighty-seven percent have implemented the Harmonized Approach to Cash Transfers, which reduces transaction costs for implementing partners by unifying formats for transfers. Results from 2016 include some promising efforts by UNCTs to work with governments to develop UN premises with lower annual rents and with lower carbon footprints — but these efforts are not yet being implemented on a global scale.


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This coordination function focuses on the development and implementation of common UN services and harmonized business practices in areas such as information and communications technology (ICT), procurement, human resources, transport, conference services and common premises. The aim is to improve efficiency and generate savings for the UN system at country level.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

 

8. Twenty-nine percent of UNCTs had developed a Business Operations Strategy that had either not yet been signed by all UNCT members; had not yet been fully implemented; or for which a regular monitoring framework is not yet in place.

9. The percentages reported here are based on the UNDG definition of common premises which was in effect for 2016. This definition was simplified in early 2017 to refer to any compound shared by two or more UN organizations.

JOINED-UP BUSINESS OPERATIONS ARE GROWING, BUT VARY BY REGION

This figure shows that in the majority (73 percent) of countries with UN development operations, government representatives chair Joint UN/National Steering Committees to guide and oversee UN programmes, ensuring that they are aligned with existing national coordination mechanisms. In the remaining 27 percent of countries, governments serve as members in these Joint UN/National Steering Committees.



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From response
to preparedness

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UN country teams increasingly plan together to respond to contingencies and coordinate disaster management teams. However, more efforts are needed to support emergency preparedness and pooled risk assessment, and to develop crisis-assistance partnerships with Bretton Woods institutions. By 2016, 34 percent of teams had formalized agreements or arrangements with key partners, including the World Bank, to deliver immediate, effective and coordinated crisis assistance. Just under a third had undertaken joint risk management assessments with such partners. Eighty-nine percent of UNCTs provided support to governments for disaster management, but only thirty-seven percent of UNCTS have their own updated disaster risk reduction strategies to cope with sudden-onset disasters.


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Crisis situations typically require a rapid scale-up of humanitarian interventions by several different agencies. This demands very high levels of coordination. The UN’s crisis-related activities captured under this core coordination function include supporting UNCTs with the capacity to undertake contingency planning and coordinate inter-agency disaster management teams. Coordination of disaster risk reduction, post-crisis plans and assessments, and pursuit of synergies between different agencies’ humanitarian responses are achieved through collaboration with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the World Bank and other relevant agencies.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

 

UNDAFs are aligned to national planning cycles, and the UN’s analyses and inputs are available on request to governments and partners throughout the process. In 2016, 86 UNCTs reported that as part of the planning cycle, support was delivered to governments during the crafting of their national development plans.



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Communications and
advocacy for results

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Joint communications underpin coherent messaging and advocacy about UN norms and operational activities. The infrastructure needed to support joined-up communications and advocacy at the country level is widely in place. Ninety-seven percent of UN country teams had joint UN Communications Groups in 2016, up from 83 percent in 2015. Similarly, 79 percent had a Joint Communications Strategy, up from 70 percent in 2015. Eighty-eight percent manage common social media platforms. Some UNCTs are moving beyond messaging and informational approaches towards more strategic use of communications and advocacy to drive programmatic results. Learning from experiences of using joint communications and advocacy to support programme outcomes will be increasingly important, since the 2030 Agenda demands public engagement on an unprecedented scale.


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Resident Coordinators’ Offices support UN Communications Groups to form, develop and implement joint UN communications strategies at the country level. Communications at country level are important for supporting coherent messaging and advocacy on normative and operational matters, in order to ensure a consistent strategic dialogue with host countries. This has become particularly important as countries begin to implement the 2030 Agenda, which requires broad communication and outreach across many different platforms to build political will and encourage popular ownership of the transformative new agenda.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

 

10. Partial implementation here means that the joint UN Communications Group either did not have a clear terms of reference, did not meet regularly or was not chaired by a head of agency.

Shared leadership of joint communication and advocacy

Joint UN Communications Groups pool communication resources and expertise, coordinate public information, advocacy and media campaigns, and promote coherent messaging. They are co-chaired by UN entities on a rotating basis, an important part of ensuring system-wide coherence in outreach and listening to the people the UN serves. This figure shows which UN entities co-chaired 123 UN Communications Groups in 2016.



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Human rights and the SDGs:
Uniting the UN to
leave no-one behind

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Integrating human rights into development work connects the pillars of the UN system, and underpins national capacities to meet human rights obligations. UN country teams work with governments to support the integration of human rights norms into national policy. In 2016, 61 percent of UNCTs supported Universal Periodic Review processes1 and 73 percent facilitated government follow-up on the recommendations of human rights treaty bodies to States on human rights issues. Emerging practices, not yet evenly distributed across UNCTs, include using data more effectively to monitor human rights violations and aligning UNDAFs with the recommendations of international human rights mechanisms. Some UNCTs have begun collecting disaggregated data within SDG monitoring processes, to try to enhance understanding of the experiences of diverse vulnerable populations, and the extent to which they are benefiting or being excluded from development gains.


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The principle that human rights should be respected, protected and promoted throughout every aspect of the UN system’s work is enshrined in the UN Charter. Resident Coordinators’ Offices provide support to UNCTs to help them address human rights issues in their development work. They do this by making knowledge and expertise about human rights available within the UN system; by ensuring greater linkages between the normative and operational aspects of UN programming; and by reinforcing the capacity of national actors to implement human rights obligations.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

Human rights

Gender equality

 

11. The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective.

12. A UNCT gender adviser is typically based in the RC’s Office and/or provides support and advice to the RC/UNCT on gender issues as part of her/his primary functional responsibilities. This does not include agency gender advisers.

UN country teams’ engagement with the UN human rights mechanisms

This figure shows the number of UNCTs that engaged with human rights mechanisms in 2016, and the types of initiatives that they undertook. The follow up of human rights treaty body recommendations, engagement with government to facilitate visits by Special Procedures, and follow-up of Special Procedures all saw increases this year.


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Mobilizing resources to meet
the challenge of the SDGs

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Joint resource-mobilization strategies have helped UNCTs maintain adequate funding flows and promote joint inter-sectoral responses to development and humanitarian challenges. Unfortunately, funding for UN-administered pooled funds for development decreased between 2015 and 2016. In 2016, only 37 percent of UNCTs had joint resource mobilization strategies. This was an increase from 30 percent in 2015, but is still too low — especially since pooled funds will be of increasing importance as a basis for leveraging external private and domestic finance for the SDGs.


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As part of this core coordination function, UNCTs identify funding gaps in their multi-year plans and develop joint resource mobilization strategies to ensure adequate funding while preventing duplication and competition for donor resources. Joint resource mobilization also includes raising funds for pooled funding mechanisms, such as Multi-Donor Trust Funds,13 One Funds and Joint Programmes. For UNCTs with One Funds, the coordination function requires the management of One Fund allocations through a Steering Committee where national governments are represented alongside the UN system. UNCTs also coordinate annual reporting against the Common Budgetary Framework and the One Fund through the Country Results Report.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

Inter-agency pooled funds were invested most heavily in the humanitarian sector¹⁷ 

This figure shows that total inter-agency pooled funds increased from 2015 to 2016. The pattern of investment emphasizes humanitarian and post-crisis efforts, while the use of pooled funds for development programmes decreased in 2016.

13. One Funds are funds at country level designed to support the implementation of the UNDAF.

14. Note: This result is surprisingly low and is being validated with the Pooled Funds Database. However, the decrease resonates with trends data on deposits to UN-administered Pooled Funds, which also show a decrease between 2015 and 2016.

15. Twelve percent of UNCTs have a fully implemented Resource Mobilization Strategy, while 25 percent have drafted one that has either not yet been approved by the UNCT or has not consistently been implemented by all UNCT members.

16. Correction: The number of UNCTs with open data transparency portals was erroneously reported as 86 percent in the 2015 UNDG Results Report. The data was erroneously reversed and the correct number for 2015 was 14 percent of UNCTs with open data/transparency portals.

17. Source: 2016 Annual Report of the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office. The report details the Trust Fund’s portfolio, and outlines the progress, partnerships and promise of UN pooled funds to deliver on commitments to advance peace, humanitarian and development goals.


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The standard operating
procedures: progress
but not fully achieved

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In 2014, the UN Development Group agreed to standard operating procedures (SOPs) to increase the coherence and effectiveness of its operations, applying what is referred to as the “Delivering as One” approach. The SOPs describe the operational changes that UN country teams need to make in order to be able to move towards Delivering as One. Data from 2016 show that the SOPs are being progressively put in place in certain areas, such as national oversight and programming mechanisms, leadership and communications. However, take-up is still relatively low in areas such as business operations and common budgetary frameworks. Where the SOPs are in place, UNCTs can see results in terms of better policy targeting, greater national ownership of joint efforts and common results, more effective SDG advocacy, and lower transaction costs for governments and partners.


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General oversight and coordination refers to efforts undertaken by UN country teams to lay the foundation for substantive collaboration by building consensus around critical UNCT processes. This includes progress towards the SOPs for “Delivering as One”; preparing and validating annual reporting; and overseeing troubleshooting and dispute resolution, where applicable.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

 

18. In the data presented here, each inter-agency group addresses up to five Sustainable Development Goals.

Shared UN country team leadership to achieve the SDGs

This figure shows the share of agencies that currently chair or co-chair inter-agency groups. These have been set up to support UN country teams to drive greater coherence and results within their programmes and policy advice. Globally 990 inter-agency groups are in place to support joint action, compared with 893 in 2015. The groups mostly address more than one SDG in their activities.¹⁸



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UNDG IN ACTION AT
THE REGIONAL LEVEL

Regional UNDG Teams support UNCTs as they align with and roll out globally agreed goals at country level. They provide leadership, oversight and technical expertise linking global policy with country operations. On average, Regional UNDG Teams include 20 UN agencies. They are able to mobilize rapidly in response to crisis or opportunities. They assess the performance of UN RCs and UNCTs, and lead on the progressive implementation of the SOPs which support the UN system to “deliver as one”. Regional UNDG Teams also provide quality assurance for the development of robust and strategic UNDAFs as frameworks of cooperation between the UN, governments and partners.
To improve regional coordination, 2016 saw the first year of implementation of a Statement of Collaboration between the Regional UNDG Teams and the Regional Economic Commissions. Initial results of this collaboration included sharing of information on country demands for support to implement the 2030 Agenda, pooling of data and analytical resources, and joint advocacy for shared policy messages.


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RELATIVELY EQUAL SPREAD OF JOINT PROGRAMMES ACROSS THE REGIONS

Figure 18 shows the 2016 percentage of countries in each region which pool resources through joint programmes to advance the SDGs.



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UNDG IN ACTION AT
THE GLOBAL LEVEL

2016 saw the conclusion of the most recent Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR). The resulting resolution by the UN General Assembly carries an unambiguous message: Member States expect a strong UN development system that delivers coherent and integrated support for SDG achievement. Moreover, progress towards the SDGs should “leave no-one behind” — in other words,
it should prioritize meeting the needs of the most vulnerable and excluded populations. In 2016, in response to this direction, the UNDG engaged in a collective process to reposition the UN development system to meet the demands of the 2030 Agenda.


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UN COUNTRY TEAMS worldwide ARE A KEY RESOURCE for SDG planning

By the end of 2016, 114 UNCTs had received government requests for support on the 2030 Agenda (compared with 95 in 2015). The greatest increase in requests was for support with SDG measurement and reporting (requested by 66 UNCTS, compared with 44 in 2015). The next most-rapidly increasing support requests were for mainstreaming SDGs in National Development Plans (77 UNCTs, compared with 64 UNCTs in 2015). Requests for support on specific SDGs also rose in 2016 (requested by 21 UNCTs compared with 13 in 2015), and for general orientation (75 UNCTs in 2016 compared with 67 in 2015).

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Most UN partnerships are with civil society and local governments

Figure 23 shows the types of external partners that UNCTs work with to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. The figure shows the results from 99 UNCTs (76 percent) which reported that they convened external partnerships for policy and programmatic purposes in 2016.



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UNDG cost-sharing
2016 financial reporting

It is essential to sustain investment in a United Nations development system that works together effectively, ensuring that efforts to support greater coherence and coordination are generating significant results. In 2016, the UNDG Cost-Sharing Agreement for the Resident Coordinator system entered its third year, with a persistent funding gap for the third year running. Illustrating the high demand for predictable funding for coordination, the cost-sharing funds that were provided to the RC system were fully utilized, with delivery rates of over 95 percent at the country, regional, and global levels. The 2030 Agenda highlights the central importance of strong coordination, and the increasing demands on the RC system to deliver this. Full and predictable funding is essential to enable the RC system to ensure the effective delivery of UN support across programmes, operations and policy advice to Member States.


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DISTRIBUTION OF THE UNDG COST-SHARING AMONGST PARTICIPATING MEMBERS FOR 2016

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*IOM started contributing to the UNDG cost-sharing when it became a member of the UNDG in September 2016. Its contributions were thterefore not part of the original cost-sharing calculations for 2016-2017.
** The UN Secretariat represents 14 UNDG members: OHCHR, UNCTAD, UNDESA, UNECA, UNECE, UNECLAC, UN Environment, UNESCAP, UNESCWA, UN Habitat, UNODC, UNOHRLLS, UNOSAA, SRSG/CAAC.
*** UNDG Gap allocation for 2016 limited to $7.2 million. (See Table 4 on page 66.)


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