Posts tagged One UN


Let’s get digital: Bringing the UNDAF online

Do your new year’s resolutions include taking joint programming online in 2016?? We in Mozambique are moving in this direction. Working together with a team at HQ and Tanzania country office, we are on our way to fulfilling an aspiration of ours– to have an online United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).

  • Do you want to make your UNDAF more accessible for people within and outside the UN?
  • Do you want to be able to summarize and analyse planned expenditures across the UN in your country?
  • Do you want to have nice graphs and maps of where and what UN did in the previous year?
  • What about tagging results to the sustainable development goals to help track the UN’s support to Agenda 2030?

If answering yes to any of these questions, read on…

Drafts, track changes, more drafts and lots of emails

In Mozambique, UN colleagues have been working towards joint planning and transparency on budget planning for some time, but without a really good way of displaying or disseminating the information. We still send all the information from agency to agency to coordinator who merges inputs and then sends it back via email to many stakeholders. Like many others in UN teams around the globe, we are spending a great deal of time gathering information and the process is subject to iterations without a good way to display data and monitor progress. We think that many of the hurdles we face during the design phase of our country strategies can be solved with an online solution.

Why we think the UNDAF will be better online

There are many other advantages associated with this solution, like:

  1. An online UNDAF can increase the transparency of what we do, what we plan, where we work and who we partner with;
  2. External and internal audiences will be able to see how our work links with the Sustainable Development Goals,
  3. External and internal audiences will be able to see how our work contributes to gender equality, human rights or any other important issue – we can tag it so they can see it.
  4. Being online will make the UNDAF more well-known to wider audiences;
  5. Being online will make the UNDAF more usable and strategic;
  6. Improving access to the UNDAF supports coordination and coherence within and among partners;
  7. Displaying data online gives incentives for UN Agencies to submit quality inputs on time.

Prototyping with HQ

The UN Development Operations Coordination Office (DOCO) has been also scoping out moving in this direction and we’ve agreed to take this forward together. Hopefully this is a good model to support the development of a global system which is designed with the needs of country level users in mind. DOCO is keen because they are often asked the simple question: What are UN country teams working on? And to answer this question now requires a human to read the usually scanned signed versions of UNDAFs and create a taxonomy of what issues are addressed in these UN partnership documents.

2016 will be a development year for the software and we are hoping to be up and running soon. We know that many teams out there have worked on similar platforms – Tanzania, Lebanon, Malawi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda, to name a few. There are probably things you have learned along the way that you can tell us so we don’t repeat the same mistakes or redesign features that have already been done. Any banana peels out there that you know of, let us know! And above all don’t hesitate to help us shape this tool so it can be easily adapted and replicated in your country context and for your UNDAF without you spending a single dollar!

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Inclusive UN strategic planning: a survivor’s guide

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.

Inclusive UN strategic planning- a survivor’s guide

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.

Jamaica Kids - UN Photo

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”

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.UN New YorkISSUES 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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ICT / OneUN / Operations

Talk in Malawi isn’t cheap

Currently, Malawi is among the most expensive African countries in which to make a phone call.  This is further shown in a study carried out by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), who claimed that network rates for phone calls in Malawi are among the highest in the world.

This results in the following inefficiencies:

  • Operating charges are costing the UN agencies far more than they should
  • Joint programme and operations meetings are expensive and less effective as a result of the cost of communication between agencies and are becoming increasingly difficult to administer due to the growing volume of such programmes

This issue is particularly pertinent during the implementation of joint programmes, those that bring more than one agency together to address multi-sectoral issues such as gender equality.  Regularly, separate agencies will have to discuss activities and outputs over the phone, driving up operating costs.  What’s more, in times of humanitarian response when programmes have to be monitored from Lilongwe, the costs associated with implementing activities increase sharply.

Installing VOIP to Increase Efficiency

We conducted a thorough analysis and then pitched a method of interconnecting agencies through a VOIP system, reducing the costs which are currently being incurred.  The VOIP system had a relatively low implementation cost, with agencies dialing each other free of charge thereafter.

malawiThe implementation phase included the following:

  • Install the VPN system, connecting all the agencies
  • Use the existing switchboard equipment, of which the majority are VOIP compatible
  • Procure voice cards for those agencies whose switch boards are not VOIP compatible

This system, which was fully installed in September, will be complemented by cable technology, which is leased from local cable phone operators. This will also allow for UN agencies to be interconnected with agency switchboards programmed to use these lines when calling each other.

Savings for Programmes

Using a three month baseline from data within each agency switchboards, we think that the savings from the VOIP system will be impressive, with up to $95,000 saved every year. We plan to measure the savings by first, measuring the changes in the telephone bills from month to month and, second, by tracking  data on the agency switchboards quarterly.  What we save on telephone calls will be re-directed into programmes, increasing the development effectiveness of the UN in Malawi.


We would love to hear others’ experiences making talk cheaper. Let us know what you have tried and what works.

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Getting out of our silos to tell the sustainable development story

More than 150 world leaders gathered at UN Headquarters in New York last week to formally adopt 17 global goals, and an ambitious sustainable development agenda. As an important step, many like those at Project Everyone, are already at working to help people know and understand the global goals. Everybody should get excited about the historic opportunity the goals provide to make the world a better place by 2030, especially for those currently left behind. Seeing the goals projected onto the UN building last week was a truly amazing experience!

Helping people understand and value the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Those of us engaged in UN communications will now have to work to promote a new set of goals that promise to end poverty, to leave no one behind, to protect the environment and to address climate change – we have a unique opportunity ahead of us:

  • People will need to know about the SDGs so they can hold governments to account for implementing the agenda, and deliver results.
  • Governments need to be supported in communicating the global agenda in a way that is relevant to all local stakeholders.
  • We as a UN system need to come together to communicate as one, and convey the message about a complex but exciting agenda in a way that people understand.

Learning to listen  

But we will also need to listen and engage in dialogue. Gone are the days when we could simply share information with our audiences in a one-way type of communication. Today, people respond. More than 8 million people have made their views known as part of the global goals discussions, through the MY World Survey and lots of other creative means in almost 100 countries. This type of two-way engagement will have to continue all the way to 2030, with United Nations Country Teams working with partners to listen and learn, to feel the pulse, and to understand what matters to the women, men, girls and boys that we as the UN serve.

Silo busting communications?

So, we need to do things differently. We have to stop speaking only from the perspective of our own ‘silos’. And we have to get better at developing a common narrative. Yes, it is a challenge to do justice to complex development issues, looking at them from different angles, and still come out making sense! But it can be done. And it has to be done. Because, the 17 goals together make up a new sustainable development agenda where the WHOLE is greater than the sum of its parts!

For that, we have started work to improve the coordination of communication in support of shared objectives among UN agencies at country level. And we are eager to learn what success looks like. We therefore invite you to share your story about how to Communicate as One in support of the new sustainable development agenda. Examples, innovations and good practices can be shared on this blog, Silo Fighters. So we can all learn from each other, and move the new agenda ahead collectively.

How are your promoting the SDG agenda? Learn about country examples of Communicating as One. Share your stories, tales and tribulations on silo-busting communications.

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Hitting the ground running: the SDGs in Uganda

Uganda’s track record is rather mixed on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Though more children are going to school, too many drop out without finishing primary and secondary education. On maternal health, progress is even slower, to the degree that it is stagnating.

National and local ownership remained low throughout implementation of the MDGs in Uganda. Consequently, the National Development Plan was not aligned with the MDGs, which resulted in a separate financing, implementation and reporting framework.

As the adoption approaches of the post-2015 development agenda with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, national governments have begun preparations to localize the agenda and integrate it within national planning. Uganda is doing things differently this time.

Listening to lessons learned

More than 10,000 people in Uganda voiced what they want for their future during the first round of consultations in 2011 and 2012 to shape the post-2015 development agenda. We listened during stakeholder discussions in workshops and through U-report, an SMS-based surveying tool.  We learned an important lesson: The success of the post-2015 development agenda depends largely on the degree of ownership experienced by citizens, communities and their national government.

Optimized-4.My World Fill Out MorotoThis lesson (and other aspirations) fed into the global consultations, the World We Want web platform, the MY World global survey, and other channels, like the sustainable development track through the Rio+20 conference. Lessons from the MDGs and aspirations for the future fed into national planning in Uganda, making a significant difference in these key plans:

Uganda Vision 2040 and its five-year plans

The importance of national ownership is an idea that influenced the country’s long-term development plan, Uganda Vision 2040, which outlines the ambition to become a middle-income country by the year 2040.  A series of five-year National Development Plans (NDPs) will set medium-term strategic direction, development priorities, and implementations strategies for Uganda Vision 2040. From the beginning of the post-2015 process, alignment of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) with national planning has been a key concern.

The Second National Development Plan was launched in June 2015, after an exceptionally collaborative process with an eye towards integrating the SDGs from the start.

Highlights: creating a new national plan

When work started on the plan a year ago, Uganda’s National Planning Authority (NPA) made a ground-breaking announcement: to fully integrate the SDGs into the Second National Development Plan. This announcement followed a workshop held by the United Nations Country Team on localizing the SDGs.

Uganda then took integration to an even deeper level – with the alignment of the new NDPII with its new UNDAF, the strategic programme framework that describes the collective response of the UN system to national development priorities. Both the national planning and UNDAF processes benefitted in a number of ways:

  1. Rather than having separate country analysis, the UNCT supported the analysis of Uganda’s development needs for the NDPII and UNDAF.
  2. Joint understanding was fostered in the UNDAF design process, in which the Government was involved from the very beginning, to make sure that UNDAF complemented the objectives of the National Development Plan.
  3. Development of the NDP received extensive support by the United Nations. More than 18 different Government entities and every one of the 19 UN agencies in Uganda were part of the design process.

The results of collaboration are remarkable. The new UNDAF addresses more than 85 percent of the SDG targets. The second NDP integrates 76 percent of the targets. Combined, the new UNDAF and national plan address 89 percent of the SDG targets – an outstanding result of a collaborative process, and a reflection of national ownership of sustainable development objectives.

Next step: localization of the SDGs

Uganda recently hosted the first Post-2015 National Briefing – leading the way in efforts to assist national governments in preparing for the “localization” at national level of the new development agenda. The event tested a briefing package developed by UNITAR and partners. The Ugandan government was the first in piloting this briefing package, together with the UN Country Team and two training experts from UNITAR.

Uganda and the United Nations Country Team will continue to work together to ensure the goals are translated from the NDP into local government and sector development plans.

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Using mobile phone surveys to fight hunger

Surveys carried out over mobile phones are capturing timely data on food supply and access. The mVAM project of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is piloting mobile voice technology for household food security.

Remote data collection on food security

The mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM) project is collecting food security data through short mobile phone surveys, using text messages, live telephone interviews and ‘robocalls’ through an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. The mVAM project is the first project to use mobile phone surveys at scale in humanitarian settings, as shown in this video from a refugee camp in Goma, ‘WFP calling: What did you eat today?’ As readers of our blog know, the project has now been scaled up to 11 countries in Africa and in the Middle East.

Advantages of monitoring with mobile technologies

Mobile surveys provide a valuable complement to the face-to-face survey approaches that are commonly used.

  • We use the data to help track changes in food security in near real-time, increasing our ability to understand needs more quickly and efficiently.
  • mVAM provides information we can use to drill down on a specific theme, area or group.
  • Turnaround is estimated at one to two weeks compared to six weeks for face-to-face surveys.
  • Costs range from $3 to $9 per questionnaire compared to $20 to $40 for face-to-face surveys.
  • mVAM enables data collection in hard-to-access, remote or dangerous locations without putting enumerators at risk.

Mobile surveys are feasible and affordable

In the past, advanced computer coding skills were needed to design and run a polling survey using text messaging or IVR (interactive voice response). Today, it can be done using a drag and drop interface – which is great news if you are less-technologically inclined. Advances in technology make real-time monitoring a feasible and affordable option for agencies. In particular, free and open source technologies offer user-friendly SMS and IVR packages. If you want to do mobile surveys at a large scale, private companies also offer SMS and IVR services at affordable rates.

Lessons learned

  • Before you take the plunge, do remember that real-time monitoring is no ‘silver bullet’: large analytical capacities are required to churn through the data and make it speak to decision makers.
  • Determine exactly what questions to ask in your phone surveys, as you want to keep them as short as possible.

How we avoided the ‘data silo’ trap

From the start of the mVAM project, we have tried to ensure that our data is being made available outside the confines of WFP.  We think that the mVAM-HDX collaboration around Ebola data is a great example of how two UN agencies have helped each other out for the greater good: WFP and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

WFP HDX image for silofighters blog

Interactive visuals on WFP food price data

At the peak of the Ebola emergency last year, we teamed up with OCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) in order to help share our data with the wider humanitarian community. When we put our data on HDX, we saw a surge in traffic on our website, a clear indication that having an open access policy was the best way to share our information.  Soon, we saw partner organizations – donors and NGOs – publish reports using the data that had been shared in this way. In addition, HDX has helped us develop cool visuals that we have embedded into our website. Interactive visuals on WFP food price data are already up and visuals of mVAM data are coming soon.

Looking ahead

WFP looks forward to expanding its partnership network and working with others on remote data collection. We see potential for collaboration with UNHCR in camp settings, for example. Working with community-based organizations at the grassroots level has promoted continued engagement of communities with our surveys, and we will continue doing this. We also plan to conduct a series of webinars this autumn, which you are invited join.

More information

For more information and updates on mVAM, please visit MVAM: THE BLOG and the VAM Resource Center, where we offer guidelines, training materials, sample survey forms and related articles and news.

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OneUN / SDGs

Listening to people’s voices in Tanzania

Mobile and online surveys are inspiring a new focus on communications and advocacy for the United Nations in Tanzania, where listening to people’s voices is a priority in our efforts to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.

Some 1,200 Tanzanian men and women replied to our survey asking, “What can we do better as the UN?” They received the mobile survey by SMS (text message) while attending the Sabasaba, an international trade fair and major promotional event organized by the government. We not only analyzed the results for use in our programming, but amplified the people’s voices through a UN exhibit at the fair. Recently, we received an award from the President of Tanzania for the UN’s outreach to the people.

Showcasing the survey results at the Sabasaba fair

Participating in the Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair, known as ‘Sabasaba’, is a key activity related to the UN@70. In early July 2015, the event brought over 2,000 exhibitors from various countries in Africa and elsewhere representing government, entrepreneurs, the private sector and NGOs. Under Delivering as One, 23 agencies of One UN Tanzania participated. This was the fourth time we participated, but this time with a unique focus on peoples’ voices, including those gathered in the survey and from other sources.

Gathering perceptions about the UN

The UN in Tanzania has implemented a mobile survey platform aimed at hearing the people’s voices. The United Nations Country Team worked with the company GeoPoll, which administers surveys through SMS, voice or mobile web, to create a short list of key questions. Five questions were prepared that focused on the activities of the United Nations in Tanzania and what people think we could do better as the UN. Respondents could also propose means of receiving and sending information to and from the UN.

The mobile survey was sent as a questionnaire in the Kiswahili language. It targeted the general public visiting the Sabasaba exhibition over a one-week period. Respondents came from across the mainland and Zanzibar, with each region, sex and age bracket represented.

Interestingly, the findings were that people are keen to receive UN messages and information largely through SMS, WhatsApp, Email and Radio, in that order of preference. At the moment, we have been focusing on newsletters, social media, our website and print media as the means of communications with the people. The top three areas where people think we could do more as One UN are Education, Employment and Agriculture.

The mobile survey was part of a series of Stakeholder Perception Surveys that reached diverse audiences in 2015. We also administered four other online surveys. They targeted government, civil society, development partners, the media as well as our own UN staff and personnel.

What did the survey results tell us?

Arguably, the most interesting data emerging from the mobile survey and other surveys was related to communications and outreach. In other words, if the UN wishes to maintain the interest of its stakeholders, it must work harder to expand audience reach and demonstrate relevance. This could include:

  • Greatly augment ‘traditional’ forms of communication, i.e. email, events, meetings, website and newsletter;
  • Much greater use of SMS (text messaging) and social media;
  • More materials in Kiswahili language of;
  • More ‘technical’ information on key development issues provided through popular versions with simplified language.

The findings confirm the need for the UN to integrate the people’s voices into our plans since they help us improve our effectiveness and efficiency, especially on communications. We are also using the findings to help shape our next UNDAF.

In addition to priorities in communications and outreach, other important insights emerged from the different surveys we have been administering:

  • Demand on the UN in Tanzania is set to increase, and its relevance is widely acknowledged;
  • The ‘added value’ the UN brings to the country is viewed in terms of ideas, not just financial resources;
  • Poverty reduction remains a priority, and the UN has a key role in the three ‘poverty reduction’ clusters as defined by government: inclusive growth, social well-being and governance;
  • Greater sensitization on the importance of mainstreaming human rights and gender equality is required.
  • Development partners in the donor community recognize the importance of Delivering as One. However, the pace of change is not as fast as partners would like to see.
  • UN staff require regular information-sharing, through a variety of channels, to ensure the spirit of Delivering as One in Tanzania is maintained.

In Tanzania we are capitalizing on UN@70 to listen to the voices of the people! These lessons will be integrated in the content and modality of our programming, including our communication and advocacy strategy.

An award for listening to UN stakeholders’ voices

We have already started to overhaul our joint UN communications strategy, where mobile applications will now be a priority. And yes! We won an award – first prize on Information and Publishing. The award was given to UN Tanzania by the President of Tanzania, and received on behalf of the UN system by the Resident Coordinator. This shows that we are recognized as a development partner committed to reaching the people as well as to listening to them. It is all about ‘the voices, their voices, and our support’.

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Making the UN “fit for purpose”

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:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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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SDGs / Uncategorized

Distilling the SDGs at country level

The MDGs were brief enough to fit on the back of a business card. The 17 goals currently agreed are something different. One difference is how they tackle national obstacles (in developed and developing countries). The UN family and the Brazilian government, one of the leading champions of sustainable development in the world, have opened up a new dialogue mechanism to assess what works best in Brazil.

The United Nations Task Force on the Post-2015 Development Agenda is composed of representatives of the following Agencies, Funds and Programs in Brazil: UNDP, as well as the UNDP/IPC-IG, FAO, UNESCO, UNFPA, UN Women, ECLAC, PAHO/WHO, UNODC, UNIDO, UNOPS, UNAIDS, ILO, UN-Habitat, UNISDR-CERRD, UNICEF, UNV, WFP and UNEP. The group will also have the participation of Brazilian Federal government, represented by the Ministry of External Relations, the Ministry of Environment, Secretariat-General of the Presidency of the Republic, and other members of the Interministerial Commission on the post-2015 development agenda.

The proposed SDGs have 17 goals and 169 targets. What does this mean in Brazil?

Rooted in Rio+20, the dialogue will help shape cooperation and activities to carry out the post-2015 development agenda in Brazil. It builds on a year of intense work by the Open Working Group (OWG-SDG), which produced the proposal for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the MDGs at the end of 2015. The proposal of the Group is the main basis for the process going forward.

Moving from global to intergovernmental debate

Many voices have informed the debate over what comes next after the MDGs. Global consultation and negotiation has been extensive. In the current stage, the process to design the post-2015 development agenda is increasingly intergovernmental in nature, although outreach and consultations are still on-going. Country ownership, already strong, is about to drill down on specifics.

The most immediate challenge: indicators

The most immediate challenge is to identify and establish indicators, especially at national and local level, focused on measurable outcomes. The OWG-SDG gives some guidance:

  • Aspirational global targets accompany the SDGs. Each government should set its own national targets, guided by the global level of ambition but taking into account national circumstances;
  • Goals and targets will be further elaborated through indicators focused on measurable outcomes;
  • Indicators will need to take into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respect national policies and priorities.

Objectives of the task force

The UN Task Force is an institutional mechanism for consultation and dialogue that aims to support the country as it defines and implements the post-2015 development agenda. It also looks at the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) to make sure the issues are taken into account. It creates a platform to share with the country how the UN family is working and to explore opportunities for cooperation.

How the task force works

In his December 2014 report, the UN Secretary-General said “in the coming months, the Member States will negotiate the final parameters of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda”. That time is now, and governments are being guided not only by the aspirational nature of the goals and targets, but also by the reality of their societies translated into indicators.

The task force has a fast-paced work plan in first part of the year. Meeting frequently, separate thematic technical groups will be taking deep dives into 16 priority areas. The consultation and dialogue between the UNCT and the government partners on the range of thematic issues related to the post-2015 development agenda is taking place in a dynamic and frequent basis.

The leading agency will be UNDP, represented by me. The Task Force will be co-chaired by the Brazilian federal government, represented by the Ministry of External Relations through Mr. Mario Mottin.

In order for the SDGs to be judged a success, what do we need to do by 2030?

This year, with its UN Summit and other high-level international meetings, will be fundamental to chart a new era of sustainable development. Your suggestions about how to make the most of 2015, in Brazil and in other countries, are welcome.

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