Its Charter gives the United Nations Organization a comprehensive mission, encompassing the maintenance of peace and security, the promotion of human rights, and economic and social progress. The mandates of the specialized agencies, UN Programmes and Funds and related organizations—which together with the Organization make up the United Nations system—cover a wide spectrum of concerns and areas for international cooperation.

Coordination among all these organizations is essential: for maximizing each one’s distinct comparative advantage and for enabling the UN system as a whole to respond effectively to the demands of our times. In the almost five years since its adoption, the Millennium Declaration has demanded and facilitated the evolution—now underway—of a more coordinated, cohesive and functional UN system. This process of change is being propelled by a renewed unity of purpose within the UN system, based on the Millennium Declaration’s shared values and objectives.

With this report, the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) aims to contribute to the preparations for the 2005 World Summit this September, five years after the adoption of the Millennium Declaration. The report provides an account of how UN system organizations are working together to help countries achieve the Declaration’s objectives. In doing so, the report shows how this common effort is serving to broaden the perspectives of all parts of the UN system and helping them, both individually and collectively, to deepen analysis, expand knowledge-sharing, reinforce synergies and sharpen the focus on results.

The three central chapters of the report highlight the main new orientations and approaches that are collectively guiding the work of the UN system under the Millennium Declaration’s broad themes: poverty eradication and sustainable development; human rights, democracy and governance; and prevention and management of armed conflicts.

They also highlight some of the challenges ahead for the UN system in these three areas. An annex provides additional detail on some of the collaborative work by the organizations of the UN system to help advance the Declaration’s implementation. The concluding chapter sets out the key elements for continued progress on that front, including the further changes required of the UN system, in policy and in practice. The report concentrates on both accountability and action: on accountability for the UN system’s performance so far in helping countries to implement the Millennium Declaration and, generally, in improving its effective delivery of services; and on adjusting and accelerating action, as necessary, to help countries meet the Millennium Declaration’s objectives.

Box 1.1: UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB)

The Millennium Declaration: Responding to a changing world

On the threshold of a new millennium, the world’s leaders convened at the UN in September 2000 to construct a new framework for multilateral cooperation. A universal concord—the Millennium Declaration—renewed hope of greater international unity and solidarity in addressing common challenges. The Declaration established the framework as a set of interrelated commitments and goals, articulated in terms of three pillars of collective action: peace and security, human rights and governance, and economic and social progress. In the development area, the framework included concrete, time-bound targets and performance measures for poverty eradication and sustainable development.

Box 1.2: Values and principles of the Millennium Declaration

In many respects, the Millennium Declaration represented the international community’s response to the development and security challenges of a changing global environment. At its core is the commitment of world leaders to make globalization a positive force for all. They recognized that, even as the world has accumulated great wealth, many people remain mired in poverty and deprivation. Across the developing world, countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have made significant strides in lifting their people out of poverty. But for many others, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, infectious diseases, unemployment and environmental degradation continue to pose daunting problems. Compounding these challenges, important differences have arisen since the Declaration’s adoption over the changing nature and sources of conflict, over the most effective way to safeguard security, and over basic approaches to collective security.

The complexity of the challenges that the world confronts has sparked renewed international reflection. Various independent panels and commissions of experts and eminent persons have examined a wide range of global challenges and presented innovative approaches for addressing them. The many initiatives that have been launched since the Millennium Declaration’s adoption—and the sense of urgency that has characterized them—reflect a keen awareness of the seriousness of those challenges.

At the same time, they testify to the depth of the international commitment to bringing the vision of the Millennium Declaration to life. The United Nations High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change called for a new security consensus “between alliances that are frayed, between wealthy nations and poor, and among peoples mired in mistrust across an apparently widening abyss.” It highlighted the indivisibility of security, economic development and human freedom and the idea that “we all share responsibility for each other’s security.” The Millennium Project has underscored the need for international cooperation to meet the Declaration’s development challenges and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The International Labour Organization’s World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization has stressed the need for a more equitable set of rules and governance system to bring about a fair and inclusive globalization, which, it emphasized, is in turn crucially important to achieving the objectives of the Millennium Declaration.

The Helsinki Process on Globalization and Democracy has similarly put forward a wide range of proposals and recommendations for how governments and institutions can shape international affairs in a way that makes globalization more equitable. Other panels and commissions engaged in related reflections include: the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations, the Commission on Human Security, the United Nations Development Programme’s Commission on the Private Sector and Development,6 the World Bank’s Global Programmes Evaluation, the International Task Force on Global Public Goods and the Global Commission on International Migration.

The urgency of a collective response

Member States and the communities within them bear the primary responsibility for  action to implement the Millennium Declaration. They hold the key to international cooperation that truly delivers. Global intergovernmental cooperation cannot answer every challenge. The UN system alone cannot and should not deal with every international issue. Nonetheless, the UN system can serve as an essential agent of global progress—when
it acts with a clear sense of its comparative advantages and with unity of purpose, and when its actions have genuine, far-sighted political support.

The world has witnessed important manifestations of unity and political will when nations have acted together, through the UN system, to advance peace and security; address humanitarian crises; develop common frameworks for economic, trade and financial cooperation; and effectively manage many other important areas of interdependence. Such creativity and political will are needed now more than ever. The devastation caused by the recent tsunami in the Indian Ocean underscored the urgency and importance of collective and coordinated international action. The response of the
international community shows that it can be challenged to act responsibly and generously.

A changing United Nations system

As a highly diversified and complex group of organizations, the UN system faces the challenge of transforming its diversity and complexity into a source of strength. This requires a continuing, systematic effort to harness the different capacities and comparative advantages of each organization in a collective endeavour to advance common objectives.

With such a deliberate effort, the diversity of mandates and expertise that the system contains can become a unique asset that enables its constituent organizations, acting alone or in concert, to respond flexibly and from different perspectives to the evolving international environment and to the changing requirements of Member States. Indeed, in a globalized world where so many issues are interlinked, the multifaceted character of the
UN system presents unique opportunities for applying the multisectoral approaches that are required. The system is working to ensure that the most is made of these opportunities.

As they seek to shape and drive change, organizations of the UN system recognize the need to continue to change themselves. As elaborated in this report’s concluding chapter, three crucially important areas of change stand out to enable the system to become a cohesive force for advancing and sustaining progress across the interrelated objectives of the Millennium Declaration: deepening understanding and better managing knowledge; achieving an inclusive, purposeful mobilization of all resources and capacities; and increasing transparency and accountability.

While focusing their limited resources on their main strengths, UN system organizations increasingly are forging and participating in partnerships with non-State actors to exploit new opportunities for advancing international cooperation. Intergovernmental processes of consensus-building and policy-making are increasingly being complemented by a growing array of global policy networks that bring central governments together with constituencies—such as local governments, civil society and business—in joint initiatives for policy analysis, action and evaluation to advance the effective implementation of global agreements.

In order to effectively implement the mandates entrusted to them, the organizations of the UN system rely on the continued political and financial support of Member States. At the same time, the organizations have a keen awareness of the need to transform their management cultures, in order to sustain a multilateralism that genuinely delivers.

Footnotes

  1. A more secure world: our shared responsibility, Report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, New York, 29 November 2004 (issued as document A/59/565).
  2. Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Millennium Project Report to the UN Secretary General, New York, 2005.
  3. “A Fair Globalization: Creating Opportunities for All,” World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, International Labour Organization, Geneva, 2004.
  4. “We the Peoples: Civil Society, the United Nations and Global Governance,” (A/58/817 and Corr.1), Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations, June 2004.
  5. “Human Security Now: Protecting and Empowering People,” United Nations Commission on Human Security, August 2003.
  6. “Unleashing Entrepreneurship: Making Business Work for the Poor,” UNDP's Commission on the Private Sector and Development, Report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, April 2004.
  7. “Addressing the Challenges of Globalization—An Independent Evaluation of the World Bank’s Approach to Global Programs”, World Bank Operations Evaluation Department, December 2004.

Box 1.1: UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB)

In 1946, the UN Secretary-General established the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC), at the request of the Economic and Social Council, to supervise the implementation of the relationship agreements between the UN and the specialized agencies. Over the following decades, as the system grew, ACC became the central body for coordination of the activities and programmes of the organizations of the UN system.

Box 1.2: Values and principles of the Millennium Declaration

In the Millennium Declaration, Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their faith in the United Nations and its Charter as indispensable foundations of a more peaceful, prosperous and just world. Recognizing their collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level, they stressed that certain fundamental values are essential to international relations in the twenty-first century.