Journal of the Group of 77 - Volume 19/1 (2007) (Spring Edition)


UNITED NATIONS, (G77/IPS) - The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Group of 77 (G77), the two largest political and economic groups of developing nations, have expressed reservations on a proposed plan to restructure the U.N.’s operational activities for social and economic development.

In a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, both groups have cautioned him against rushing into any hasty decision leading to the implementation of the proposed plan, which includes a single, unified approach to all U.N. development activities in the field.

“There is no one-size-fits-all (approach),” the joint letter said, warning that there should be no restrictions on the ability and sovereignty of national governments to determine their own development priorities or select their own development partners.

The letter was a strong reaction to a report by a blue-ribbon panel of current and former world leaders who have called for “a unified United Nations” at the country level — with one leader, one programme, one budget, and where appropriate, one office.

Titled the “High-Level Panel on U.N. System-Wide Coherence”, the 15-member panel released a study last November called “Delivering as One” that focused on three areas: development, humanitarian assistance and the environment.

The ultimate aim of the “One-UN” initiative is to reduce duplication and transaction costs so that the United Nations can use resources more effectively to support partner countries to achieve their development goals, according to the panel.

While conceding there are “a number of useful recommendations on the report we can build on”, the NAM/G77 letter warns that the study may have mistakenly touched on “cross cutting issues” — such as human rights, gender and sustainable development — as part of U.N. operational activities for development.

While cross-cutting issues are not confined only to developing countries, the letter says that both the G77 and NAM are concerned “that those issues, as well as humanitarian assistance, might be misused to introduce new conditionalities on international development assistance, which is not acceptable to developing countries.”

Both groups have met the secretary-general and briefed him in greater detail.

Among the other recommendations in the report are: a Sustainable Development Board to oversee the One-UN Country programmes; a new panel consisting of the U.N. Secretary-General, the president of the World Bank and the Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to review, update and conclude formal agreements on their respective roles and relations at the global and country levels.

As part of the “One-U.N.” programme, eight countries have volunteered to be guinea pigs in an experimental exercise meant to reduce duplication and to use resources more effectively.

The programme, which is currently being implemented, will be evaluated over the next 12 months for possible inclusion of additional countries willing to join it.

The eight pilot countries — Albania, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uruguay and Vietnam — will provide case studies as to how the U.N. family can deliver in a more coordinated manner by pooling funds at the country level.

The G77 and NAM are sceptical of the One-UN approach to operational activities for development.

“The U.N. development system should continue to support development efforts of developing countries principally by assisting in the implementation of nationally determined development plans, strategies and priorities,” the letter said.

Jens Stoltenberg, prime minister of Norway and one of the co-chairs of the panel, told a U.N. press conference last November that the United Nations could save up to 20 percent of its current costs system-wide by eliminating duplication and consolidating certain funds and programmes.

“The whole idea is not to save money for donor countries, but to save money so we can use more money for development, more money for protecting the environment and more money for humanitarian assistance,” he added.

But despite the good intentions of the panel, the successful implementation of its proposals will depend largely on whether or not it receives the necessary support from developing countries, comprising over two-thirds of the 192-member General Assembly and who represent all the members of both NAM and the G77.

The letter to the secretary-general also points out that coherence at the national and international level should also involve the Bretton Woods institutions, namely the World Bank and the IMF, where they exist.

“They should be part of any integrated approach to development cooperation. Bilateral development partners should also be part and parcel of this approach,” it said.