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)

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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.

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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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Inclusive UN strategic planning: a survivor’s guide

BY Bruno Pouezat | November 13, 2015

Having survived the UNDAF process, I provide these reflections in hope that my personal experience and personal convictions will help you and your United Nations Country Team (UNCT). These comments reflect personal experience – and where experience failed to meet expectations, personal convictions. Most will be self-evident, yet not applicable everywhere; and all may be totally misconceived. UNDAFs and Delivering As One: Tools to help the UN and its partners work better together UNDAF is a process, not a document. The document will only be as good as the process that led to it. The document will soon be forgotten; the governance structure and work practices will durably transform how we work and how we are perceived. In addition, in today’s rapidly evolving world, any analysis or programming framework will soon become outdated. The Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) allow for documents to be revised by consensus when needed; smooth-running governance structures will make this easy. Sweat the process, keep the document short. Delivering as One is a Swiss knife with an infinite list of options (‘SOPs’). Compared to earlier guidance, it represents an incremental step towards integration, not a revolution. Beyond the government formally asking for the application of the approach, there is no set minimum. The government and the UNCT can pick and choose how far to go along each of the pillars. 100 percent of any one pillar may not fit a given situation. Choose an option that works for you and adds value. Better to aim low and ratchet up the ambition once something is seen to work, rather than try for the moon, hit a snag and undermine the credibility of the entire effort.   Governance structures must be inclusive, participatory and transparent. Not only do they underpin programming quality, they contribute to our accountability, which goes beyond the national authorities. In line with the SOPs, I suggest: One national steering committee; Vertical thematic groups, one for each result area; Horizontal groups for cross-cutting issues (gender, human rights, youth, disaster risk reduction etc.); Monitoring and evaluation (M&E). All of the above to be co-chaired by a government and UN agency head; Communications and Operations – unless included in the local version of Delivering As One, these last two do not require a government co-chair nor reporting to the national steering committee. The national steering committee should be representative of all our partners at country level, keeping overall numbers reasonable – government, civil society, private sector, media, donors etc. Thematic groups should include anyone interested in the subject matter. All those interested should be on a mailing list or shared workspace. Only some will show up at every meeting, but all must be members, receive all the information and be able to come when they feel like it. The composition of the M&E Group is more technical. It should include the national statistics authorities, the national M&E association if there is one, M&E specialists in donor offices, etc. With regard to their contribution to the UNDAF, the groups are accountable to the national steering committee. The UN co-chairs are accountable to the UNCT. Collaboration, consultation and common work for a purpose Thematic groups function as forums for information exchange, and contribute to project formulation and monitoring. They also drive the drafting of the UNDAF and feed regular (annual/semi-annual) reporting. They should meet often and spend most of their time discussing development issues, not UNDAF bureaucratic requirements (best handled by a core group). People will come to meetings only if they gain something – information, understanding. Keep the meetings and the minutes short, the chairmanship lively and participative, and hold UN co-chairs up to their responsibility of representing the whole UN family, not their agency interests. Thematic groups can also contribute to resource mobilization to fill gaps in the resource table. The support of effective and representative groups provides credibility to a funding request to a donor with regard to a project/programme included in UNDAF. Thematic groups should not duplicate existing sectoral coordination arrangements – ideally, there should be only one coordination mechanism per sector, chaired by the government, which, as a line-item activity, would meet the needs of UNDAF and Delivering As One. Piggy-back on existing arrangements. The M&E group has essential accountability responsibilities: during UNDAF (and later on individual project/programme) formulation, it validates indicators and targets. During implementation, it provides the common format for thematic groups to report progress, and it validates the data they present. Focus on development results, and where working together adds value Joint programming is the aim; joint programmes are an optional tool – for use where and when clear benefits offset the administrative burden. Results framework and M&E constitute the core of the UNDAF. Get that part right. Convincing reporting demands sound M&E. Invest in M&E human resources at the agency and inter-agency (UNCT) level. Use national data systems – and strengthen them through a programme activity if need be. Use indicators that show the UN improving people’s lives, not the number of conferences/meetings/seminars/workshops – or even laws passed. As far as possible, avoid duplication by using UNDAF-wide reporting mechanisms to answer Agency-specific requirements – review meetings, results frameworks, reports etc. The UNDAF Annual Review report should cover most of the reporting requirements of the agencies/ funds/ programmes. Ownership – theirs and ours. Place government counterparts front and centre in annual reviews. Let them own the UNDAF results and be the ones reporting on them to their national peers (consider offering prior training on the effective use of PowerPoint). Consultants kill ownership – use consultants to facilitate the process and polish up the documents if need be; rely on UN staff and their partners for drafting, etc. UN staff’s participation in joint UN work must be reflected in their performance plan, and actual contributions highlighted in their performance appraisal. UN co-chairs can be asked to provide inputs. Break the agency silos at work and at play: between UN staff, familiarity breeds sympathy. The more exposure to each other as individuals, not agency flag bearers, the better. Even short of a UN House, shared premises and facilities like a kitchen/cafeteria help staff meet informally. Joint work increases familiarity with each other’s working practices. Shared accountability towards shared clients builds solidarity. Inclusive email lists spread information and feed a sense of a shared identity. This also applies within the UNCT: each agency representative should have a well-defined share of responsibility in the work of the whole, and be accountable for it to the whole (not to the Resident Coordinator!). Leave comments; let’s talk!

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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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How we are ‘communicating as one’ in Iran

BY Gary Lewis | July 7, 2015

Public communications can be challenging in Iran, the country where I work. But we must be visible. Why? If we can show people that we are doing good work – and demonstrate that the United Nations is here to support Iran’s development and humanitarian agenda – Iranians will come to better appreciate the UN’s contribution inside Iran. So will those outside Iran. Partnerships will expand. And the political environment will become more conducive to funding more good work. Here are 10 ways we are communicating as one, using a communications plan approved by the UN Country Team in Iran: 1. Engage key audiences proactively Public communications efforts deliver messages designed to reach specific external audiences: the general public, the media, government, potential funding partners (including Iranian diaspora and local private sector), civil society and the general public. 2. Use UN agency Speakers’ Notes as a common script Opportunities for public speaking are actively pursued. (Check out a recent TEDx event where I discuss the linkages between the environment and human security.) Each of the 18 UN agencies in Iran prepare a set of talking points, outlining the key messages they want me to get across in any interview I have with the media on their issues. Furthermore, we have agreed scripts on cross-cutting issues like human rights, gender empowerment and youth. 3. Celebrate UN Days ― last year we celebrated around 30. We select those ‘International Days’ which connect with our ongoing development and humanitarian work. And we celebrate them. This allows us to hook onto a globally-celebrated day and then point to what the UN is doing on the ground in Iran. At the beginning of the year, the agencies plan to take the lead in organizing an activity for a specific day. 4. Give media interviews – frequently As the Resident Coordinator, I am often joined by agency heads who feel comfortable speaking with the press. We give frequent interviews with local and international media. Press releases and press briefing are structured media interactions that are used less frequently, e.g. when high-profile UN visitors come to Iran or when we have a report to launch. 5. Make the most of websites Almost every one of our 18 UN agencies runs their own website. Material from each of these sites is cross-linked to the UN Iran site. We average 70 stories each month on the UN Iran site. 6. Broadcast a regular E-Burst to friends worldwide At the end of each month we send out an e-mail with photos and links to stories to 1,500 recipients, including government officials, development partners, the private sector, media and civil society. Each issue begins with a brief overview of the preceding month’s events: one column in English; one column in Farsi. Readers can skim down the list of stories and open the links to the stories that interest them. 7. Use social media to greatly magnify messages If the UN is not visible through social media channels, no one will know about the great work we are doing. This will hurt our ability to share good practices, and it will hurt our ability to raise funds to expand the great work. The material that goes onto the website is also broadcast our other social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 8. Pay attention to quality control and speed Originally, I used to review all stories going up on the website before posting. But as time passed, others have assumed the quality control role with excellent results. As a rule we try to get up a story on any event within 24 hours. Speed is of the essence in conveying freshness and relevance. We have an enthusiastic and energetic UN communications team drawn from the UN agencies, which drives the process. 9. Try to use multiple languages In Iran, we try to run as many stories as possible in both English and Farsi. We are getting better at writing and Tweeting in both languages. 10. Monitor the results of public communications activities We are planning a Client Satisfaction Survey for our key audiences, using our 1,500 member E-Burst mailing list database. Proxy indicators can speak to scope and impact. The number of website hits is one example, along with data on the hit’s country of origin, length of time the visitor stayed, number of pages visited. We also track the number of stories we manage to place in the media. What do you think? How is Communicating as One being applied in your country?

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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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Silo Fighters Blog

What if the UN system acted more like a UN ecosystem?

BY José Dallo | March 12, 2015

An ecosystem is a community of living organisms interacting as a system. The ecosystem is more than the sum of its parts: each member of the community depends on acting and working together. Becoming an ecosystem will require bringing together all the United Nations’ capacities, even the ‘soft’ ones – like our convening power . This will guarantee the system’s ability to act holistically and to link the national and global levels. Imagine the different parts of the UN System as a dynamic community with continuous realignment of synergistic relationships of people, knowledge and resources in responsiveness to the vision of the post-2015 development agenda. This way of working takes forward the ideas of the Innovation Ecosystem Network, at Stanford University which brings together an international interdisciplinary team to share insights among diverse groups of people involved in technology-based business development. Talking about an evolution All ecosystems thrive on novelty and innovation, which help build resilience. Nature is the ultimate innovator; human nature in the case of sustainable development. Humans are a pivotal and creative force capable of adaptation to complex problems. However, we often tend to overlook sources of innovation provided by others outside our community. The UN Ecosystem will need to do a better job of coordination among its systemic components. More importantly, it will need to engage in collaboration more closely with its members and those outside its system. This entails a move – an evolution – from ‘coordination’ towards ‘collaboration’. It will require the UN System to open up, or to ‘Open as One’, a term coined by my colleague Gina Lucarelli in her paper ‘From complicated to complex: DaO for post-MDG development agenda’. Opening up is not only about interacting with civil society and the private sector, but also opening up to people living in poverty. A UN Ecosystem would engage all in delivering the post-2015 development agenda while upholding UN norms such as human rights. A good example of what can be done in this regard is the World We Want initiative, a global conversation facilitated by the UN to contribute to an open and inclusive definition of the post-2015 development agenda. Collecting data for a purpose Natural systems function as living organisms. The UN Ecosystem will be a community interacting as system. It will scan the horizon constantly when planning and implementing work because ‘static’ strategies and analysis are not an option. To support this responsiveness, the UN Ecosystem will need to take advantage of the exponential amount of data and new technological tools available today. It will need to have a common vision and analytical framework. A good example of data for development is UNICEF’s Monitoring and Results for Equity System (MoREs), which monitors programmes and policies to ensure that the equity approach of reaching the most marginalized children is evidence-based and makes the most impact. In the next 15 years, the UN System has the opportunity to be a creative force in achieving the ambitious goals of the post-2015 development agenda. Functioning as a UN Ecosystem can enhance shared progress.  Three things are key: taking into account all capacities, constant interaction with the outside, and adjusting our ecosystem based on continuous data scanning.

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Silo Fighters Blog

Raising our impact in middle-income countries: What it will take

BY Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen | March 2, 2015

Conflicting emotions hit me today as I read of a man in Turkey who was given a life sentence after killing his wife for giving birth to a girl: revulsion, frustration and, also, pride. As a former member of the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) in Turkey I am proud that we worked with women’s groups to help Turkish legislators increase the penalty for honor crimes and violence against women. Yet, I also feel deeply frustrated because, despite many years of UN support, Turkey remains one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. I am hopeful that the new universal development agenda, including the sustainable development goals (SDGs), will increase the focus on inequalities, gender equality, as well as safe and just societies. This is clearly needed because, despite real development gains in middle-income countries (MICs) such as Turkey, inequality, social exclusion and democratic governance deficits still exist. A changing dynamic Today, partnering with MICs has become the new normal for the UN, driven in part by the following factors: numbers: over 100 MICs are home to 5 billion people and 73 percent of the world’s poor; projections: by 2040 most African countries will be MICs; the changing universal development agenda; and growing economic power and investment capability of MICs. The UN is expected to support all countries reach the SDGs – including MICs. But how do we best support the development aspirations of governments and people in MICs? How do we support countries that have strong policies on paper, but where the real challenge lies in their implementation? And how will we respond to and fund requests for support as un-earmarked funds and traditional donor support for MICs shrink? The answers, I am convinced, lie in integrating UN actions in all MICs across all dimensions: clarity and unity of stance on global norms and standards; joint analytics; coordinated strategic positioning; and effective joined-up operations, including pooling human and financial resources. An urgent agenda There is no time to waste. Greater relevance and impact requires the urgent implementation of a change agenda with the following transformative elements: 1)      Consistent application of gender and human-rights based approaches (HRBA) to identify and focus UN activities on addressing the underlying causes of discrimination and abuse. UNCTs (supported by unwavering global and regional support – particular in moments of tension) must be driven by a strong commitment to the normative mandates of the UN. 2)      Integrated country analysis across UN system entities, so that the core areas of inequality, vulnerability, human rights and climate change analysis, as well as political and humanitarian risks are joined up and support more integrated and shared policy outcomes. 3)      Truly transforming the UN into a knowledge bank and broker. The goal is to build joint networks of high level experts from across and outside the UN system, which the UNCT can draw on when faced with specific requests. 4)      The universal application of the Standard Operating Procedures for Delivering as One, enhancing the coherence, relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of our actions. 5)      Extensive promotion of national ownership, transparency and accountability to beneficiaries. Becoming more ‘coalition-ready’ is a key immediate challenge for UNCTs. 6)      New in-country funders (governments, philanthropists, private sector and individuals) are increasingly ready to fund UN activities in MICs. This makes a strong case for single window modalities, such as the One Fund. 7)      Cost-reducing common services and operations are needed. The single UN operational back-office is a must in MICs. 8)      A shift in results-based management systems to enable integration of UN ‘up-stream’ activities, putting increased emphasis on outcomes, rather than outputs and project budget-attributable results. There is no doubt that MICs have enjoyed extraordinary progress alongside unacceptable — and unsustainable — levels of want, fear, discrimination, exploitation, injustice and environmental folly. These problems are not accidents of nature. They result from actions and omissions of people, public institutions, the private sector and others charged with protecting human rights and upholding human dignity. A strong, integrated and coherent UN can help bring know-how and means to address these challenges, but we need urgent leadership and joint action now.

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