The harmonization and simplification of business practices in the United Nations system continued to be a key priority of the Board during the reporting period, pursuant to General Assembly resolutions 62/208, 63/311 and 64/289 as well as Economic and Social Council resolution 2011/7, in which the United Nations system was encouraged to continue its efforts to harmonize and simplify business practices through common strategies and operations with a view to generating cost savings and reducing administrative and procedural burdens. Resolution 2011/7 on progress in the implementation of General Assembly resolution 62/208 on the triennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system provided a clear mandate to the United Nations system to further pursue harmonization and simplification of business practices and guided future initiatives in this area.

The High-level Committee on Management and the United Nations Development Group have jointly led the work undertaken in this area under the purview of CEB. Recognizing the particular importance of support to operational activities for development, coordination and collaboration between the Committee and the Group have been further enhanced. In the course of the reporting period, the two committees have continued to pursue three major objectives: to improve organizations’ business models and make their management and administrative processes more coherent and compatible across the United Nations system; to generate cost efficiencies while improving the quality of delivery; and to pursue the behavioural and cultural changes that are needed to modernize the work environment.

In response to one of the key concerns identified in the report of the Secretary General on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system (A/67/93-E/2012/79) and in the independent evaluation of lessons learned from “Delivering as one (see A/66/859), the High-level Committee on Management has placed emphasis on developing strong measurement systems to assess progress in its respective areas of work in terms of cost savings and efficiency gains, and has prioritized initiatives that have a strong field impact.

To enhance strategic planning and reporting on results of United Nations operations at the country level, the United Nations Development Group developed a new common instrument — the “business operations strategy” — to serve as a medium-term strategic framework for United Nations operations at the country level. The strategy is being piloted in seven countries to form the basis for strategic planning, resource mobilization, results and impact measurement and reporting. A suite of capacity-building measures and supporting instruments was developed to facilitate strategic prioritization and impact measurement of harmonized business operations, including instruments for simplified transaction cost analysis, cost-benefit measurement and business process analysis.

In addition, working closely with the United Nations Development Group, the High-level Committee on Management actively contributed to the development of the standard operating procedures, which represent a key tool for operational coordination and effectiveness at the country level, and a means bringing more coherence and better alignment between the policy directions set by headquarters and the needs and corresponding implementation at the field level.

The major enabling factor for the significant progress reported in the area of harmonization and simplification of business practices through the High-level Committee on Management is represented by the ad hoc resources made available through the plan of action for the harmonization and simplification of business practices in the United Nations system, as described below.

Procurement

A project on harmonization of procurement in the field, which was completed in 2012, delivered inter-agency procurement guidelines and identified elements in organizations’ policies and procedures that required alignment to ensure that collaboration in the field could be optimized.

Financial management

A harmonization of business practices project on treasury services, focusing on foreign exchange and launched in 2011, came to maturity in 2012 and reported over $20 million in savings from better exchange rates through collaboration, directly benefiting programmatic delivery by increasing the amount of local currency available to implement programmes. Furthermore, additional work in treasury services in the area of common banking was initiated in late 2012.

Human resources and safety and security of staff

Responding to the call for improved harmonization in human resources (resolution 62/208, para. 121; and resolution 64/289, para. 45), the High-level Committee on Management launched a pilot project on harmonization of the recruitment process in the field. This project is expected to streamline processes and improve mobility for national and general service staff, and also responds to calls for action in the area of human resources from the lessons learned from the “Delivering as one” pilots.

Information and communications technology

Agencies of the United Nations system continue to work towards the harmonization of ICT services, at both the country and headquarters levels. Analysis performed as part of the report of the Secretary-General on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review (A/67/93-E/2012/79) indicates that shared ICT infrastructure introduced into several programme countries has begun to show results in terms of efficiencies.

CEB Management Themes