The Board has been active in developing a plan of action for the harmonization of business practices in the United Nations system. The plan proposes initiatives in a number of key areas, covering all of the major management functions of organizations of the United Nations system (i.e., human resources, information communications and technology, finance and budget, and procurement). Its scope is limited to the functions and processes for which responsibility rests within the purview of the authority delegated to the executive heads by their respective governing bodies. In line with the CEB endeavour to enhance transparency and accountability, a briefing on the plan was provided to the General Assembly by the Chair of the High-level Committee on Management and the Director of the CEB secretariat in the context of the informal consultations on system-wide coherence, held on 13 June 2008.
As moving forward with the plan of action is contingent upon the availability of extrabudgetary resources, following the plan’s endorsement by the Board, a funding proposal was circulated to potential donors in October 2008. The first contribution of approximately US$ 270,000 was made on 20 December 2008, through the generous support of the Government of New Zealand, to fund a project on developing a common framework to deal with suspect vendors.
Many of the projects in the plan of action are integral to the programme of work of the High-level Committee on Management but have been incorporated in the plan in order to raise their objectives to a higher level of ambition, with the assistance of extrabudgetary resources. Implementation has already begun in priority areas on the basis of the contributions received so far and the internal resources earmarked by United Nations organizations. Among the priorities are projects related to procurement (such as those on a common framework to deal with suspect vendors and on enhancements to the United Nations Global Marketplace) and human resources (e.g., comparative analysis of human resources practices and procedures, with particular attention to the employment arrangements of staff working in the contingent workforce and those in non-headquarters locations), financial management (including a study on potential common services and the development of a common conceptual framework on capital budgeting) and information and communications technology (e.g., the development of a common directory for the United Nations system).
The plan of action builds on the premise that, within a system structured around a variety of mandates, increased coherence in the working modalities of the member organizations which contribute significantly to their ability to deliver better programmatic results.
The plan was developed with a view to finding and agreeing on system-wide solutions to issues that have emerged, in many cases, at the country level. This approach ensures the alignment of country-level operations with the strategic directions and priorities pursued at the policy level. It also ensures that the needs of country operations are one of the cornerstones for harmonization of business practices at the global level. It places a particular focus on the needs emerging at the field level, as experiences and issues identified at the country level, including through delivering-as-one pilot projects, are fed into the system-wide development of common policies and standards at the headquarters level. The High-level Committee on Management and the United Nations Development Group have worked closely together to ensure a clear division of labour in relation to business practice coherence, with the Committee leading work on harmonization of global business practices and the Group leading that on enhancement of business operations at the country level.
In 2008, the work of the United Nations Development Group in the area of business operations focused on issues raised at the country level, particularly those flagged by the delivering-as-one pilot countries. It was agreed that the eight pilot countries, supported by the Group, would each take a lead in specific areas of business operations to explore what could be done towards achieving greater simplification and harmonization. Progress was made in the pilot countries in the areas of procurement, information and communications technology and human resources. On 29 January 2009, the United Nations Development Group agreed on a series of proposals to expand the lessons learned to country offices, including the adoption of an integrated programme and operations approach in United Nations Development Assistance Framework roll-out countries and the launching of the United Nations Development Group toolkit. Another set of proposals was agreed on specifically for the delivering-as-one pilot projects and included scaling-up of information and communications technology solutions to increase inter-agency collaboration and proposals to advance harmonization in the area of human resources, that is, fostering inter-agency mobility and accessibility as regards the training and learning resources of organizations of the system.