In November 2010, Helen Clark, UNDG Chair, and Josette Sheeran, HLCM Chair, launched a high level HLCM-UNDG study, co-led by UNDP and WFP, to identify standardized principles of results reporting. The joint initiative was in response to the continuing and urgent call from Member States, in the context of the TCPR, SWC and other GA resolutions, for improved reporting, linking funding to demonstrable results.
UNDP and WFP, with support from the Boston Consulting Group, worked with UN agencies, the private sector, NGOs, OECD, and individual donors to determine and assess different approaches which might align with prevalent UN results reporting requirements. The study included two UNDG/HLCM consultations (one in Rome and one in New York) of UN results reporting experts. Fourteen UN entities were represented during these consultations, which helped to define, shape and reach consensus on the final report. Rather than a single framework, the goal of the study was to propose and agree on common UN results reporting principles, which could be embraced by all UN agencies to clarify and improve results reporting practices.
The study (CEB/2011/HLCM-UNDG/1) provides clearer understanding of results reporting challenges and supports the adoption of a standardized language by the UN system. It makes the case that reporting on the various contributions of operational and normative functions of UN system organizations towards their mandated results should offer a reliable indication of value for money; and, that reports should be based on the common tenents of mutual accountabilty, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness. The agreement of common reporting principles would represent the first step towards more simplified, consistent, and measurable reporting on results by the UN system organizations.
The study also proposes some further action for the implementation of the principles, as follows:
Incorporate the results principles approach into organizations’ various reporting practices, accountability systems and discussions.
Simplify the existing reporting mechanisms. It is recommended that all normative guidance relating to the preparation of system wide reporting (e.g. the Resident Coordinators’ annual reports and reporting on the UNDAF) be adjusted accordingly. UN organizations would be responsible for their own modifications to ensure common and coordinated approach. HLCM Networks and UNDG/DOCO would be tasked with ensuring simplification of results reporting instruments.
Innovate. Piloting of new reporting models is recommended, whereby one or more agencies would assume the leadership in reporting innovation in a specific sector (on a cross-sectoral issue). These pilots could be under UNDG/HCLM or either, as determined.
The discussion stressed the importance of results reporting as one of the key issues in the agenda of Member States, as well as one of the most serious obstacles to collaboration reported by UN Country Teams.
HLCM noted that UNDG had already reached the following conclusions regarding this subject:
The common principles should be integrated into organizations’ systems;
The existing Task Force should continue to work to develop a framework to simplify reporting;
UNDG organizations should collect and share best practices.
Strong emphasis was placed on the fact that the UN system works on a variety of mandates that go well beyond just development, and that normative, emergency and technical work needs to be captured as well when reporting on results. Any further work on this topic should therefore explicitly cater for the diversity of the UN system.
There was consensus on the fact that attention to measurable results by all UN stakeholders is expected to increase. The UN system should therefore drive the response to such pressure by proactively developing appropriate tools, like the proposed common principles, that would ensure consistency and transparency towards the external world, and foster collaboration internally to the UN system. Concurrently, the principle of mutual accountability also places an emphasis on a multi-stakeholder contribution to results.
Some organizations confirmed their agreement to incorporate the principles into their results reporting tools, while others indicated that they had already successfully used the proposed framework in their discussions with governing bodies.
In moving forward, it may be useful to link this work to the upcoming discussions about the QCPR, which represent an opportunity to draw Member States’ attention to this issue. Also, the discussion on results reporting would have to be broadened to include the High Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP), as much of the reporting is related to programmatic issues. In this respect, the Secretary of the HLCP confirmed that the Committee was ready to collaborate with HLCM and UNDG, as necessary.
Endorsed the following common principles on results reporting:
Support national governments to implement their global commitments
Agree on a shared agenda
Improve national M&E systems
Engage in dialogue to facilitate learning
Accessible results reporting
Balanced reporting on successes and challenges
Understandable for intended users
Efficient use of resources
Reporting on efficiency initiatives and relative efficiency gains of individual agencies over time
Simplify, standardize and streamline financial, internal management and external results reporting
Effectiveness in results
Individually and collectively reporting on contribution towards national, regional and global results
Recommended that member organizations incorporate, simplify, and innovate to ensure the principles are applied across all relevant business practices.