Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 64/289 on system-wide coherence, the United Nations system is encouraged to continue its efforts to harmonize and simplify business practices through common strategies and operations with a view to generate cost savings and reduce administrative and procedural burdens. The harmonization and simplification of business practices continued to be a key priority of the Board during the reporting period. Work on harmonization is predominantly carried out through the CEB High-level Committee on Management and the United Nations Development Group and their functional networks, and limited to functions and processes whose responsibility rests within the purview of Executive Heads.

In the course of the reporting period the High-level Committee on Management and the United Nations Development Group have worked on multiple tracks, with 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.

One key aspect of the work of the CEB secretariat on the agendas of the High-level Committee on Management and of the United Nations Development Group has been to identify and replicate best practices, successful experiences and lessons learned. In this context, the High-level Committee on Management completed a comprehensive compilation and analysis of measures put in place across the United Nations system aimed at improving efficiency and control costs, as well as challenges faced. The results of this work were provided as a system-wide contribution to the discussion on efficiency undertaken by the United Nations Secretary-General under the auspices of the Deputy Secretary-General.

The work programme of CEB on harmonization and simplification is also supported by the Harmonization of Business Practices Plan of Action of the High-level Committee on Management, which received funding of about $10.5 million from the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. To date, close to $4.6 million has been allocated to projects that support harmonization and simplification initiatives in the areas of human resources, procurement, finance and budget, information and communications technology, and training and knowledge transfer. Additional projects amounting to about $2 million are currently being developed.

Harmonization and simplification of business practice at the country level

CEB, in particular through its plan of action for the harmonization of business practices, has increased its focus on country level harmonization in response to findings of the high-level joint mission conducted in 2010 by the United Nations Development Group and the High-level Committee on Management to identify bottlenecks in business practices at the country level. The annual report of CEB for 2010/11 (E/2011/104) provided information on the outcome of the mission.