United Nations, Geneva 2011
As requested by the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation (HLC), the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) included in its programme of work for 2010, a system-wide review of the existing United Nations institutional arrangements in support of South-South (SSC) and triangular cooperation (TC). The objective of the review is to assess the current situation and make recommendations on the ways and means of enhancing system-wide contribution to South-South and triangular cooperation, addressing issues of mandates, frameworks and policies, intergovernmental processes, structures, financing and coordination.
Main findings and conclusions
The review found that South-South cooperation has made its way, albeit slowly, across the United Nations system, as called for by the Buenos Aires Plan of Action over 30 years ago. To attain full impact, however, current United Nations institutional arrangements should be improved in terms of overall system-wide policy frameworks, governance, coordination, structures, mechanisms and dedicated resources. Moreover, the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SU/SSC) should prioritize its activities and resources in line with its extended mandate. In terms of triangular cooperation, more effort is required to enhance its contribution to South-South cooperation.
Absence of a common definition
Despite efforts made by many organizations at mainstreaming SSC into their work and operational activities, lack of understanding of the definition and concept of SSC and TC, and of the differentiation between the regular technical cooperation programmes and those dealing specifically with SSC remain problematic (recommendation 1).
Lack of dedicated intra-agency support structures
Only three organizations have dedicated SSC units in place at headquarters. Other organizations lack a dedicated and identifiable structure or mechanism that can initiate, coordinate, report and evaluate their support to SSC across programme activities. The absence of sufficient dedicated resources for this activity in many organizations has meant
that the full potential of SSC has not been tapped (recommendation 3).
Weak overall SSC governance
At the same time, SSC governance, including the mandate and working methods of the HLC, needs to be revisited to ensure better coordination, encourage higher participation in its activities, and drive positive action (recommendation 4).
Poor application of guidelines and guidance
The 2003 Revised Guidelines for the Review of Policies and Procedures Concerning Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (hereafter the “Revised Guidelines”), which provide a common United Nations framework of indicators for measuring progress and results, have not been fully applied by the United Nations organizations notwithstanding the fact that the contents of the guidelines were discussed thoroughly and adopted by the system as a whole. With a few exceptions, support to SSC at the regional and country levels has not been effective; guidelines are not adhered to, ignored, or lack operational value. Very few United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks
(UNDAFs) make reference to SSC, and even fewer have a relevant specific outcome. Although the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) guidance package for UNDAFs was updated in 2009 to include SSC as an area of work, there is no operational guidance for its implementation, nor is there a mechanism in place whereby UNDAFs are
systematically scrutinized to ensure mainstreaming of SSC at the country level (recommendation 2).
Weak reporting mechanisms
Barring a few exceptions, there is little adherence by the organizations of the system to existing reporting mechanisms on their activities in support of SSC, and often reporting amalgamates SSC with the regular technical cooperation programmes. This also applies to evaluations; more needs to be done in terms of tracking, monitoring and evaluating SSC activities (recommendation 11).
Underfunding of SSC
Inadequate financing has been a major stumbling block in advancing support to SSC within the United Nations Development System (UNDS). A specific percentage, not less than 0.5 per cent of core budgets must be devoted to this activity and more needs to be done by the organizations of the system to mobilize and allocate conditionality-free
extrabudgetary funds in support of SSC (recommendation 9).
More effective action at regional level needed
At the regional level, the United Nations Regional Commissions can play a more effective role in advancing SSC. The lack of an effective presence of the SU/SSC at the regional level has meant lost opportunities for the United Nations development system in advancing SSC through existing regional and subregional integration schemes. The regional presence of SU/SSC should be strengthened and centralized at the headquarters of the Regional Commissions in order to enhance its visibility and input, and create synergies. The regional coordination mechanisms (RCMs) should be leveraged as a means of galvanizing support to SSC by the United Nations system at the regional level. Consideration should be given to developing regional and subregional UNDAFs (recommendations 7 and 8).
Ambitious mandate, not matched with resources
The mismatch between the expanded mandate and functions of the SU/SSC, and existing institutional and financial capacities must be addressed in order to make its work more effective. Activities should be prioritized and the staffing profile reviewed accordingly, including the role of the Regional Commissions. The issue of the independence of the
SU/SSC within UNDP needs to be addressed by the HLC (recommendations 5 and 6).
Triangular cooperation lacks coherent strategy and policy
While triangular cooperation (TC) has increased, there is a lack of strategic thinking with regard to policies and financing mechanisms governing such cooperation. More work is required to strengthen its promotion and contribution to SSC (recommendation 10).
Weak coordination mechanisms hamper potential impact of SU/SSC
Current coordination arrangements at the regional and country levels in support of SSC are inadequate, and in certain cases non-existent. There is need for a review of such arrangements in order to better delineate responsibilities and enhance synergies in the work of the SU/SSC and other United Nations system organizations at the regional and country levels. The effectiveness of the focal point system should be boosted and thematic working groups or clusters should be set up (recommendation 12).
The report contains 12 recommendations, three of which are addressed to the executive heads of the United Nations system organizations, and nine to the legislative or governing bodies of the United Nations system organizations, as follows.
The full report can be found online at