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Donor harmonisation

UN still struggling with Paris Declaration

by Eleonore von Bothmer

In brief

Teamspirit at the UN: football stars Ronaldo and Zidane have helped to promote the UNDP

Teamspirit at the UN: football stars Ronaldo and Zidane have helped to promote the UNDP

The United Nations and its agencies are working to improve donor coordination. A new study published by the German Development Institute (GDI) confirms that progress is being made, but more reform is still needed.

The debate on donor harmonisation has set in motion a dynamic that is certainly having an impact on the UN’s development efforts. A recent GDI-study, which is based on interviews with UN staff, confirms this trend. Nevertheless, author Martina Vatterodt reckons a lot more still needs to be done.

The reform agenda that germinated in the 1990s is visibly bearing fruit, Vattenrodt writes, but its focus is mainly confined to internal UN issues. The “One UN” concept was designed to streamline and coordinate the work of the various UN agencies, and it has proven a positive initiative, says Vatterodt, as it makes coherent planning possible and promotes information exchange within the UN. However, the GDI scholar bemoans a lack of effort to coordinate with other donors and non-UN agencies.

Vattenrodt points out that the UN needs to do a great deal more to implement the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. In that document, bi- and multilateral donors committed to improving coordination within the OECD context in 2005, but Vatterodt notes that “all donors and multilateral organisations that responded still have a long way to go to meet the targets agreed.” The five core principles of the Paris Declaration are:
– target country ownership,
– harmonisation of efforts,
– alignment with the institutions and procedures of the target countries,
– results-oriented management and
– mutual accountability.

The GDI researcher recommends that the UN embrace more transparency in respect to how it allots and disburses funds. The interested public would then be in a better position to judge how much of the effort is really geared to the needs of the target countries. Apart from that, greater use should be made of target country institutions and procedures, she argues, suggesting that more integrated Programme Implementation Units (PIUs), which involve several donors and agencies, should be initiated.

What the author urgently recommends is that UN and other donors do more to apply the principles of managing for results and mutual accountability. She criticises the fact that there is a lack of reliable data in these areas.

Another interesting point raised by the study is that the author finds no empirical evidence of the strengths generally ascribed to the UN and its agencies. Various UN funds and special programmes claim their primary task is capacity building, in support of target countries’ own efforts to draft and implement development-friendly policy. According to Vatterodt however, it still needs to be found out whether UN staff themselves are adequately qualified for doing so. (eli)