UNESCO's Basic Position (13 July 2006)

UNESCO's Basic Position (13 July 2006)

    UNESCO’s Basic Position
    13 July 2006

    1.1 Building on the UNESCO Position Paper of 15 May 2006 that outlined UNESCO’s basic position, this paper presents a number of policy orientations to help arrive at a reformed and more coherent UN system in follow-up to the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document.

    1.2 UNESCO is committed to ensuring a higher degree of UN system-wide coherence in order to reduce duplication and redundancies among the UN agencies, especially at the country level.

    1.3 The driving principle for UN reform should be responsiveness to the priorities and needs of the Member States the UN system serves. Accordingly, in addressing the call for improved coordination and coherence, the solutions should recognize and draw on the full range of sectoral expertise, knowledge and resources available from within the entire UN system. One UN should respect and capitalize fully on the diversity of the mandates and specialization available to Member States. One UN should also aim at harmonization, effectiveness and coherence. The achievement of the MDGs and other development targets need sector-specific development strategies just as they do cross-cutting development approaches.

    II How to realize the One UN at the country level

    2.1 UNESCO is committed to the concept of the One UN at the country level. This implies that the programmes and activities should be developed in such a manner as to be inclusive of the mandates and missions of all parts of the UN system. Resident Coordinators (RCs) should create thematic groups, led by competent agencies, who would maintain direct contacts with line ministers in accordance with their mandates (e.g. for education, culture, health and agriculture) while ensuring the overall coherency. UNESCO supports the activities of UN Country Teams along the principle of “managed pluralism”.

    2.2 In order to achieve One UN at the country level, it will also be essential to review interagency architecture. UNESCO’s membership of UNDG since 2001 has led to a better understanding of the need for more holistic and integrated approaches to global and national policy development. It has prompted UNESCO’s involvement in a number of country level activities. Based on this experience and its appreciation of the potential of UNDG, UNESCO believes that it is timely to revisit the processes and governance of UNDG so as to ensure that it is fully reflective of the diversity and specialization of the mandates and expertise available throughout the UN system. A review could look at the possibility of establishing a mechanism for reconciliation in cases of conflict arising from the preparation of country-level programming documents, preferably, under the auspices of CEB. The intention would also be to strengthen CEB’s profile as the principal tool for UN system-wide coherence at the policy and operational levels.

    2.3 UNESCO attaches high importance to its continuous participation in the country-level programming activities, such as CCA, UNDAF and PRSPs. It needs to be recognized, however, that the Specialized Agencies should be able to contribute in accordance with their constitutional mandate and their core competencies, as captured in sectoral development strategies (such as for education, culture, health and agriculture). Such recognition should be based on the wealth of expertise, knowledge and networking power residing with Specialized Agencies, rather than on the volume of funding that the Specialized Agencies can contribute. “Thematic leadership” approaches by UNCTs would highlight and strengthen these Specialized Agencies’ contributions and enhance overall coherence at the country level.

    2.4 In order to demonstrate its commitment to the One Programme concept, UNESCO is ready to step up its involvement, advocacy and resource allocation in the UNDAF exercises. However, due to its limited resources, UNESCO needs to be selective in its decentralization policy and prioritise countries in need or in post-conflict situations.

    2.5 UNESCO considers that, in order to be true to the One UN Concept, the Resident Coordinators (RCs) must be perceived as representative of the whole UN system, and not as accountable solely to UNDP. This would avoid any conflict of interest for UNDP, as RCs would be delivered from their functions as Resident Representatives of UNDP and assume full responsibility for the diversity of competencies across all UN system entities.

    2.6 Ideally, the RC system should be attached to the Office of the Secretary-General. As such, RCs would act and be seen as impartial, objective and neutral leaders, to which the entire UN Country Team would readily rally. Practically speaking, however, the RC system should at present continue to be managed by UNDP on the understanding that:
    (i) UNDP withdraws from the operational activities falling under the mandates of the other agencies;
    (ii) UNDP focuses primarily on issues of governance, cross-cutting MDG work, early recovery and aid coordination; and
    (iii) agencies with sectoral expertise are asked to take the lead in thematic groups.

    2.7 UNESCO’s country-level presence is mainly ensured through the arrangements established within UNESCO’s current decentralization scheme – such as through cluster, national and regional offices, as well as antennas or national UNESCO programme officers hosted by UNDP Offices. But another important dimension of UNESCO, and one of its comparative advantages, is the existence of mechanisms at the national and local level, namely the global network of national commissions for UNESCO as well as the network of associated NGOs and UNESCO Clubs, that go beyond the “national office” concept.

    2.8 UNESCO supports the establishment of UN system common premises and services at the country level where they prove to be more cost-effective and result in improved country programme implementation. The differing conditions and variables in country circumstance require that each proposal is considered on a case-by-case basis. Harmonization and coherence do not necessarily equate with consolidation – there is a range of different models of successful cooperation at the country level, including in Jamaica, Jordan and Nigeria. It would be irresponsible to ignore the cost savings offered to the Specialized Agencies by national authorities through the provision of premises free of charge unless the benefits of common services greatly exceed the economies of these hosting arrangements. It is with these qualifications that UNESCO would be interested in participating in current models to share common services.

    2.9 UNESCO is also prepared to make arrangements for its participation as a Non-Resident Agency in the CCA/UNDAF processes, initially on a pilot basis in a selected number of Member States. The Specialized Agencies believe that UNRCs should adopt and support a “fully participatory” approach in exercising their responsibilities, especially for Non-Resident Agencies, which UNESCO Headquarters would seek to facilitate. 2.10 As concerns the coordination of the UN system at the country level, special consideration needs to be given to Non-Resident Agencies (NRAs) and the responsibility of the UNRC in informing and involving the expertise of all the UN agencies, whether in-country or not. This is of particular importance to those Specialized Agencies which are not present with full country level representation. Alternative arrangements need to be identified so that the scope of competencies of these NRAs can be present in as many countries as possible, without necessarily having permanent offices or staff. There are many possibilities available through the use of ICTs. Any UN reform at country level should recognize this and facilitate alternative arrangements put in place in both conceptual and strategic terms as well as in day-to-day operations and processes.

    III UNESCO’s comparative advantage

    3.1 UNESCO has been contributing to all the three areas identified in the World Outcome Document – development, humanitarian assistance and the environment – by establishing competences in key areas.

    3.2 With regard to development, UNESCO believes that the linkage between the global normative, policy, advocacy and monitoring functions, and operational activities of the Specialized Agencies at country, sub-regional and regional levels, needs to be preserved. The linkage and interdependency between normative and operational activities is essential; there must be a ‘feed-back’ loop between the two. Indeed, normative work is not initiated in a vacuum; it is a response to on-the-ground experiences, which are then translated into universal principles or guidelines. These can only prove their viability and impact once they are translated into concrete action (at the operational level). The experience derived from implementation is then part of the feed-back loop that informs (refines, modifies) the normative work – in a sense, a virtuous circle – and should not be broken.

    3.3 The very need for normative work arises from practical problems on the ground; similarly, for policy advice to be relevant and cogent, it needs to be continuously refreshed by up-to-date information and situation-specific knowledge. For example, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) has advisors in a number of developing countries, providing speedy analyses of educational statistics that feed into policy development and decision-making. This experience is drawn together internationally and contributes to the overall analysis of trends distributed through UIS publications and the UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report or the World Science Report. Another example is how UNESCO, in collaboration with ILO, has supported the development of HIV and AIDS workplace policies for the education sector in five Caribbean and seven Southern African countries. This initiative is being expanded to other regions where workplace policies providing appropriate prevention and protection mechanisms for teachers and other educational workers are needed. It was precisely through its country-level work in teacher training and curriculum development that UNESCO became more aware of the key issues in HIV and AIDS.

    3.4 With regard to the environment, UNESCO has built up the strongest and most wide-ranging freshwater programme with 200 experts. The Organization has been designated the lead agency for the UN-wide World Water Assessment Programme. This strength has been acquired as a result of the elevation of water as one of the principal priorities of the Organization, as well as through UNESCO’s inter-disciplinary approach to the question of freshwater management. UNESCO’s action in freshwater is based on four interlinked pillars:
    (i) UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP);
    (ii) the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education;
    (iii) the UN system-wide World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) led by UNESCO in close cooperation with the other agencies linked through the UN-Water; and
    (iv) the rapidly expanding network of water centres established under UNESCO’s auspices. These pillars support UNESCO’s comparative advantage in several areas of freshwater management, and in particular in water education and capacity-building.

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