Standard Operating Procedures for Delivering As One

The 2030 Agenda calls for a strong United Nations development system that addresses the challenge of doing business differently and delivers joined-up support to advance sustainable development. Embracing the vision of a UN development system that delivers together across mandates, sectors, and institutional boundaries, the UNDG launched the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for countries adopting the Delivering as One approach in 2014.

The standard operating procedures for Delivering as One aim to promote coherence by removing institutional bottlenecks and  improving standards and common operating systems, and motivating the use of shared data, policy analytics, and advocacy to support integrated solutions. They enable a more inclusive system-wide alignment of the UN contribution in country with national development priorities and plans making the UN development system more transparent, common results oriented, and accountable.

The objectives of the SOPs are:

Overall, the standard operating procedures imply two important shifts. First, to shift the focus from the UN system planning together to deliver together, with a clear focus on simplification and streamlining of processes and instruments. Second, they aim to accelerate reform in the area of business practices in support of driving a focused results agenda.

The standard operating procedures comprise of the following five pillars:

One Leader: The One Leader pillar is strategically positions United Nations’ support to countries to reach their development goals and is a critical factor enabling UN country teams to work together. It plays a central role in driving forward the programme of reform and constitutes a critical factor enabling UN country teams to work together on programming and resource allocation.

One Programme: The One Programme pillar brings all members of the country team together under one nationally-owned strategy that draws on the full range of UN expertise. With full participation of relevant national and international partners, the UN Resident Coordinator leads the UN country team through a programming process to create a set of strategic results based on national priorities, the internationally agreed development goals, and the UN’s capacity and comparative advantages.

Common Budgetary Framework (One Fund): The Common Budgetary Framework (CBF) is the consolidated financial framework reflecting the agreed, costed results of the UN system’s development assistance framework (UNDAF)/One Programme. It provides a holistic overview of the total resource picture, indicating the best financial estimates of available and expected funding sources, and areas that require resource mobilization. The CBF covers: regular/core or assessed resources, non‐core or extra‐budgetary/earmarked and unearmarked resources, and the funding gap between existing resources and the total cost of the One Programme.

Communicating as One: Communicating as One ensures coherent messaging from the UN. This pillar improves the quality of dialogue with the host-country government and other national stakeholders, increases advocacy and helps to highlight results achieved by the UN at the country level.

Operating as One: Operating as One is a business model that provides UN country teams with an outline for strategic and cost-effective common operational support to the implementation of the One Programme by capitalizing on existing agency operational capacities and consolidating service provision.

Silo Fighters Blog

Five steps forward for the UNDAF

BY Diana Torres | March 16, 2017

In the world of development, UNDAF is one acronym you must know if you are interested in the UN’s work. The UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) provides a multi- year strategic plan for the UN’s work in a country. UNDAFs are critical for the UN at the country level to channel coherent support to governments and partners to achieve results for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given the newness of Agenda 2030, the 2016 UNDAFs were one of a kind: they set the benchmark on new trends and practices to illustrate the role of the UN in supporting governments to achieve sustainable development goals. Last year, a small team in the UN Development Operations Coordination Office embarked on a review of 27 UNDAFs that will be implemented over the next 5 years to see what we could learn. What did our review reveal?   1. UNDAFs are slowly moving away from sectoral approaches towards more integrated and multidimensional results. One of the most significant paradigm shifts of the SDGs is the multifaceted and interdependent nature of the SDGs. Distinct from the sectoral approaches that marked the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs require complex and multidimensional thinking. Our study showed early progress in this direction: 55 percent of the UNDAFs reflect integrated approaches and outcomes to tackle national development issues. This is a critical area that needs rapid improvement if we want to meet the expectations of member states. The UNDAFs of good examples of integrated approaches, where gender, environment and human rights underpin the strategic results. These UNDAFs outline a collaborative approach: there are detailed roles and contributions of different UN agencies in achieving results, linking the shared roles and expertise of the UN across the areas relevant to these cross-sectoral challenges. 2. There is an increased focus on strengthening data capacities at the country level, with room for improvement. One of the main demands of member states from the UN is supporting data-related capacity in countries. We found significant progress compared to previous years, but not all UNDAFs articulate a coherent approach towards strengthening the quality of data and national statistics in countries. Only 60 percent of the 2016 UNDAFs included strategies to support national statistics organizations, particularly supporting data relevant to the SDGs. Some examples of UNDAFs that incorporated strengthening data capacity include Georgia, Indonesia, Turkey, and El Salvador. 3. There is some progress on joint humanitarian and development approaches The challenges the world faces today require a coherent approach, one that brings together the humanitarian, development and peace communities to ensure long-lasting results for countries. Our review found that some of the UNDAF (particularly those from Central Asia) show progress in this direction. For example, five UNDAFs (Armenia, Syria, FYR Macedonia, and Uzbekistan) make reference to humanitarian response, in the context of refugee migration. Nine countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kosovo*, Syria, Tajikistan, FYR Macedonia, Turkey and Zambia) include indicators tracking support to refugees and/or internally displaced people, and linking development and humanitarian responses. This is an area where we hope to see more progress in coming years - it is essential to reengineer how we work together and provide preventive, rapid and long-lasting responses to the humanitarian and development challenges many countries are facing today. 4. Revitalizing global partnerships through south-south cooperation is top on the agenda. Around 80 percent of the 2016 UNDAFs that we looked at are from middle-income and/or high-income countries, with the rest from low-income countries. This reflects the reality of our operations across the world. A significant number of UNDAFs have a specific focus on partnerships at the regional and global levels. Eight of the 27 UNDAFs have a specific outcome related to south-south cooperation. Examples include the UNDAFs of China, Kazakhstan,  and Uruguay, among others. 5. UNDAFs are keeping track of UN contributions to the SDGs. Already in 2016, governments and UN country teams in most countries reflect a shared understanding of the linkages between the UNDAF results and support to partners on the  SDGs. In our review, up to 78 percent of UNDAFs link outcomes to the SDGs. In Argentina, for example, SDGs and recommendations from international human rights mechanisms were fully linked to each of the UNDAF outcomes. However, there are challenges. Some UNDAFs identified only one or two SDGs per outcome, when there are likely multiple relationships to other goals. Tracking contribution to multi-sectoral goals like the SDGs will be a challenge in coming years. We hope that the findings and recommendations from this analysis are useful for countries starting a new UNDAF process this year. Kudos those country teams that have raised the bar during this period of transition from the millennium development goals to the SDGs.   * (Administered by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244)

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.

Guidance and policies

Delivering as One Countries

The UN Secretary General and 18 Heads of UN agencies signed the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for countries adopting the Delivering as One approach in August 2014. With the SOPs, the UNDG responded to the 2012 General Assembly resolution 67/226 on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review, which requested  “the UN system to build on best practices and lessons learnt in implementing Delivering as One by a number of countries and to further consolidate the process by clearly outlining the core elements of each of the “ones”, based on lessons learned, including by formulating standard operational procedures as guidelines for the successful work of UN country teams”.


The story behind the SOPs

In 2007, eight countries volunteered to pilot the  Delivering as One approach, innovating new approaches to coherence at the country level. The pilot programme countries were Albania, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Pakistan, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay and Viet Nam.


Headquarters Drivers

To ensure that the Standard Operating Procedures for countries adopting the Delivering as One approach have a demonstrable impact on efficiency, coherence and development effectiveness at the country level, UNDG, in close collaboration with the UN High-Level Committee for Management, have been implementing theStandard Operating Procedures Plan of Action for Headquarters to addresses the organizational bottlenecks that impede coherence at country level.


Other Stuff we like on Standard Operating Procedures


Based on real-time UNDG IMS data, the UN Coordination Snapshot shows progress on implementation across the 15 Core Elements of the Standard Operating Procedures for Delivering as One.