The increasing effectiveness of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) to engender common commitments and coherent responses to current challenges, based on collective mandates and responsibilities, was highlighted during the 2008/09 reporting period. During the year, the global community was exposed to multiple financial, economic and social crises, the consequences of which were compounded by vulnerability due to the earlier food and energy crises. The cumulative effect of the ongoing complex of events risked pushing millions of people into poverty and threatened the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. While the unprecedented severity of the current crisis affects all countries, it is those which have contributed the least to creating it that are suffering its consequences the most.

The multifaceted nature of the current global crisis calls for the mobilization of all resources and capacities at the disposal of the United Nations system, delivering as one to assist countries and the international community to support the poor and vulnerable, accelerate recovery, and build a fair and inclusive system of globalization based on sustainable economic, social and environmental development for all.

Building on the reforms of its structure and functioning in the prior year, CEB has provided an effective platform for a common response to the demands placed on the United Nations system across a range of programme, management and operational matters in a timely and integrated manner. The three pillars of CEB — the High-level Committee on Programmes, the High-level Committee on Management and the United Nations Development Group — operating with delegated decision making authority from CEB, have refined their terms of reference and working methods to ensure greater alignment between the normative and operational work of the United Nations system at the global, regional and country levels. Country-level operations thus both inform and are informed by the strategic directions and priorities pursued at the programme level in response to intergovernmental mandates. To ensure the flow of information necessary for integration among the three CEB pillars, the Chairs, as well as the respective Committee secretariats, meet on a regular basis to sequence the agendas of their Committees. In 2009, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization, Juan Somavia, was appointed to the chairmanship of the High-level Committee on Programmes, while the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran, was appointed Chair of the High-level Committee on Management, and the new Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Helen Clark, took up the chair of the United Nations Development Group at the end of April 2009.

At its most recent meeting, held in Paris on 4 and 5 April, CEB endorsed a set of initiatives developed by the High-level Committee on Programmes for a system wide response to the global financial and economic crisis in nine different areas. While recognizing the importance of the threats posed by longer-term climate change and development challenges, the Board, in pursuing these initiatives, is building upon its ongoing work which is increasingly directed towards developing United Nations responses to emerging challenges. In July 2008, its High-level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis released a comprehensive framework for action which articulated the outcomes required to address the crisis and introduce greater food and nutrition security globally, within the broad framework of the right to food. The financial and economic crisis adds a new dimension of vulnerability. Within the context of the CEB response, the initiative on food security addresses the additional needs of an increased population worldwide. As requested by Member States, the United Nations system, working through CEB, is acting on all fronts to fight against hunger and poverty and support efforts to achieve all internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

The Board is also addressing the challenges presented by climate change, among which, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is a likely increase of up to 170 million in the number of undernourished people, quite apart from the other threats of a changing climate to lives and livelihoods. CEB is developing a system-wide approach to support the Secretary-General in his efforts to prepare for intergovernmental discussions at the United Nations climate change conference, to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009. The United Nations system also remains at the disposal of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in implementing existing and future agreements. Within the context of the CEB response to the global financial and economic crisis, the Board, through the green economy initiative, recognized the importance of promoting investment in long-term environmental sustainability and putting the world on a climate-friendly path.

At the time of preparation of the present report, a new influenza virus whose full threat was not yet known was spreading rapidly, demonstrating graphically how few of the problems of the twenty-first century remain contained within national borders, and the critical need to work within multilateral structures to address common problems. As CEB works to develop integrated strategies and plans to inform the operational work of organizations of the United Nations system, it is also striving to ensure that system-wide work is carried out in the most efficient and effective manner through its initiative on the harmonization of business practices throughout the United Nations system.

The Board recognizes that coherence in the work of the United Nations system is a goal that it needs constantly to monitor, to ensure the optimal use of resources for the benefit of the world’s most vulnerable populations. For this reason, it has tasked the two co-Chairs of its 2007/08 review of its role and functioning, to undertake an assessment of progress made and to make recommendations for further improvement for the consideration of the Board at its session to be held in New York in October 2009.