Background

The Chair brought to the Committee’s attention the background documentation to inform the discussion on the principles and outlined the procedure leading to the submission of the proposal to the CEB. She stated that the document the High-level Committee on Management had before it was the result of a coordinated attempt by the Secretariats of the three CEB pillars to consolidate a set of principles that had been previously discussed extensively and agreed by the three Committees. She noted that the United Nations Development Group and the High-level Committee on Programmes had already commented on the set of principles and pointed out that, after review by the High-level Committee on Management, a package including a revision of the principles and an addendum reflecting the breadth of comments raised by members would be submitted to CEB.

Discussion

In the ensuing discussion, the Committee welcomed the draft principles as a practical, common reference point for the United Nations system in supporting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Members voiced their broad support for the proposal as well as the next steps that would lead to the principles’ introduction to CEB at its forthcoming session. Organizations appreciated that the proposal took an integrated and system-wide approach, with a focus on coherence and collaboration, as necessitated by the new agenda. It was observed that implementing the principles would strengthen convergence among the work of CEB’s three High-level Committees. In this vein, the importance of the management function’s alignment with programmatic and operational objectives and activities was stressed.

The Committee recalled that the purpose of the common principles was to lay the foundation for coherent, integrated action that would contribute to achieving sustainable development. All United Nations system organizations would need to take deliberate action to operationalize the principles. In order to measure entities’ individual and collective efforts towards this goal, it was suggested that a results framework would be needed; however, it was recognized that a heavy reporting process should be avoided. One member suggested that articulating “what success looks like” for each principle could be helpful in informing the behavioural changes that would be necessary to meet the ideals reflected in the proposal.

Several members expressed the view that a simpler, more succinct, focused and tightly defined proposal would be more appropriate for CEB’s consideration. A number of organizations supported reducing the overall number of principles, recognizing that the text – although oriented toward the UN system – was likely to be used in communications with other stakeholders.

A strategic, high-level set of principles was thus favoured by the Committee, which noted that there would be scope to produce documentation cascading to deeper levels of detail, including on defining and pursuing the principles. Going forward, members looked at elaborating the concepts behind the principles and stressed the need to rapidly develop practical guidance to operationalize them.

Members also offered specific feedback on the draft text. Several organizations supported elevating the principle on “One Universal and Integrated Agenda” to a chapeau paragraph. It was suggested that a reference to “data disaggregated by sex” be inserted into the related principle and also that “social partners” be added to the list of stakeholders highlighted under the principle on partnerships. Members supported the proposal to include the phrase “health and wellbeing” alongside “safety and security” in the principle on duty of care. The negative language in some of the principles was also questioned.

With respect to the principle on country-led approaches, one member stated that the proposal did not do justice to the system’s extensive work at country level and that the text would benefit from a fuller description of the work underpinning the approach. Another speaker highlighted the importance of linking the principles with ongoing discussions on bringing together emergency response, humanitarian assistance and development in the context of the integrated 2030 Agenda. The opportunity to stress the importance of developing a leadership model that fostered collaborative (versus authoritative) mind-sets and skills was highlighted, and it was observed that effort should be made to ensure that service delivery solutions were truly transformative. An additional principle on pooled funding mechanisms was proposed.  

Some of the comments pointed to areas of work to be further pursued as the United Nations system moved forward in supporting the implementation of the new agenda. The concept of “non-exclusivity” was seen as very important to defining how United Nations system entities worked together; in order to ensure complementarity, minimize overlap and maximize efficiency, the expertise residing within the various United Nations system entities would need to be elaborated. Concerted effort would need to be expended to motivate leadership and support behavioural and attitudinal changes – by individuals as well as within institutions and collectively across the system – that would be required to live up to the principles.

The importance of aligning the Committee’s work with the realization of the principles was stressed and should be borne in mind in the process of articulating the activities and goals that would comprise the next HLCM strategic framework.  It was observed that one concrete contribution that the system could make to demonstrate both coherence and accountability was to achieve climate neutrality by 2020, as committed through HLCM at its twenty-ninth session and, in turn, CEB at its first regular session of 2015.

In summarizing the discussion on the principles, the Chair thanked the members for offering their organizations’ strong support and for their comments to sharpen and improve the principles. She highlighted the value in establishing the common principles, and noted that they will evolve and be adjusted as the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda progresses. Recalling comments by Committee members that the High-level Committee on Management had already begun contributing in a meaningful way to supporting many of the principles, the Chair stressed that the current review of the High-level Committee on Management strategic results presented an opportunity for the Committee to leverage work already completed and amplify future efforts to fully support the operationalization of the principles to support the 2030 Agenda.

The Chair then gave the floor to the Vice-Chair to present the draft paper entitled “HLCM Strategic Results 2013 - 2016”. The Vice-Chair seconded the Chair’s call for operationalization of the principles and highlighted the main elements of the paper. She furthermore emphasized that the objective of the paper and of the Committee’s discussion at the current session was to identify successes and challenges from the past period in order to incorporate the lessons learned in the development of the Committee’s next strategic plan.

The Vice-Chair noted that the draft results paper was structured around the five closely linked strategic priorities set out in the Strategic Plan for 2013-2016: attracting and retaining talent, redesigning and innovating the UN business models, supporting the second generation of Delivering as One, strengthening the risk management and oversight architecture, and measuring and communicating results.  Together, they contributed to advancing the “fit” of the UN system to the new environment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Observing that the UN system was able to work closely together and had responded well to the mandates directed to the HLCM by the 2012 – 2016 QCPR, the Vice-Chair suggested that the priority areas also needed to be looked at in light of the discussions on ECOSOC Dialogue on the Longer-Term Positioning of the United Nations Development System and the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR). The Vice-Chair highlighted the constructive collaboration between HLCM and UNDG on some of its work. She then gave an overview of achievements of the HLCM and its Networks in the five priority areas.

In the area of attracting and retaining talent, the Vice-Chair underscored the important contribution of the Committee to a modernized, transparent and equitable United Nations common system of salaries, allowances and benefits. The adoption of the Occupational Health and Safety Framework and the launch of the United Nations Mental Health Strategy were pointed out as examples of achievements in the field of duty of care. The High-level Committee on Management’s role in improving performance management by implementing reward and recognition schemes was also emphasized by the Vice-Chair.

Highlighting the value of continuous redesign and innovation of the United Nations’ business models, the Vice-Chair cited the work on headquarters collaborative procurement, common procurement of high-value commodities, the vendor registration system, common treasury services, the Feasibility Study on ERP Interoperability, the United Nations Roadmap towards Climate Neutrality, common definitions of operating cost and the harmonization of procurement manuals as examples where mutual acceptance or mutual recognition of business practices among agencies had succeeded.

The close coordination of the United Nations Development Group and the High-level Committee on Management in assisting United Nations country teams to “deliver as one” was stressed, and the Committee’s successful efforts in response to the QCPR to remove obstacles for the implementation of the Standard Operating Procedures were acknowledged. The promotion of an integrated approach to programme and operations by instituting United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) training programmes and setting up a roster of trainers to introduce the Business Operations Strategy to country teams was highlighted as another area of the High-level Committee on Management’s support to the second generation of Delivering as One.

Acknowledging the considerable accomplishments of the United Nations system in strengthening the risk management and oversight architecture in recent years, the Vice-Chair noted that the introduction of internationally recognized standards gave credibility and legitimacy to the work of the United Nations. For example, she observed that following the adoption of IPSAS, all United Nations system organizations had obtained unqualified audit opinions on their financial statements. The endorsement of a common reference risk management, oversight and accountability model for the United Nations system and of an Organizational Resilience Management System by the CEB, as well as the support to the programme of action on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse were alluded to as other illustrations of the High-level Committee on Management’s strong engagement in risk and oversight efforts.

Referring to the need for better and more disaggregated data and more user-friendly presentation of results and the impact of the United Nations’ work, the Vice-Chair noted the United Nations System Data Catalog developed by the High-level Committee on Management and UN-OICT, in close cooperation with the IATI secretariat.

In concluding her presentation, the Vice-Chair highlighted key lessons learned. She reminded the Committee that a key for change in the complex, multi-sectoral environment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was collaborative leadership and that the HLCM’s results demonstrated the benefits of working in a harmonized and integrated fashion. She also stressed that change required resources for analysis, planning, implementation and monitoring and expressed her gratitude to donors for their contributions to the High-level Committee on Management trust fund. The Vice-Chair urged Committee members to build on achievements, to incentivise collaboration across organizations and among their staff and to work in a collaborative way with the other two High-level Committees so that the work is integrated in support of the 2030 Agenda. She highlighted the five areas of work in the draft paper that could constitute “the way forward” and invited members to react to the proposals.

In the subsequent discussion, Committee members welcomed the HLCM results paper as a useful account of achievements on which the Committee could build in the future. It was observed that the paper would benefit from greater alignment with the 2030 Agenda as well as the CEB common principles so that it could serve as base document for the operationalization of the latter.

Some members advocated for greater emphasis on the way forward particularly on how cross-cutting behavioural changes could be achieved, how the Committee could be more innovative and outward-looking and how it could examine topics with more flexibility in a thematic or cross-cutting way. The digital agenda, human resources as well as financing arrangements were mentioned as areas that could be specifically highlighted in the forward-looking section of the paper. There was also a suggestion for the Committee to strengthen investment cases which would facilitate decision-making in an increasingly complex environment.

In concluding the discussion on the draft paper the Chair and Vice-Chair thanked Committee members for their comments and suggested that they sent additional written proposals to the Secretariat of the High-level Committee on Management, so that the paper could be finalized and submitted to CEB.

Action

The Committee:
Endorsed, in principle and with amendments as per discussion, the CEB common principles to guide UN system’s effective, integrated, and whole-of-system support to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, for submission to CEB at its April 2016 session.

Provided comments and suggestions towards the finalization of the HLCM Strategic Results 2013-2016 paper and proposed Way Forward, for submission to CEB at its April 2016 session.