United Nations system response to the global financial and economic crisis
Since the unfolding of the global financial and economic crisis, CEB has taken special measures to enable a rapid United Nations system response. Starting in October 2008, the Board and the High-level Committee on Programmes initiated a review and analysis of the impact of the crisis and identified the major challenges facing the international community in meeting the needs of the world’s most vulnerable. Bearing in mind the multidimensional nature of the crisis, the Board adopted nine Joint Crisis Initiatives in the first months of 2009. The Initiatives served as a coordinated system-wide operational response to support Member States’ efforts to address the crisis. The initiatives constitute a comprehensive strategy to rally the knowledge, experience, strengths and capacities of the entire system in support of a holistic response to the crisis globally, regionally and nationally.
The Joint Crisis Initiatives also form an organizing framework for a system-wide response in support of the Outcome of the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development, held from 24 to 26 June 2009 in New York. To assist Member States in their preparations for this event, on 18 June 2009, CEB circulated an issue paper describing the nine initiatives to permanent missions in New York and also contributed to consultations of the Economic and Social Council on the Outcome of the Conference.
In moving forward, CEB has focused on ensuring effective country-level implementation of the Joint Crisis Initiatives through the mechanism of the United Nations Development Group. The nine initiatives were decentralized to activities at the country level, coordinated through the lead and cooperating agencies. As part of this effort, the Chair of the United Nations Development Group addressed a letter to relevant resident coordinators on 1 September 2009, noting that the United Nations system’s support should be rapid and relevant to the emerging needs of countries and that the Initiatives should inform an integrated country-based approach through which the United Nations system could concretely help countries, including through analysis, identification of gaps and joint action. Supporting the operationalization of the Initiatives, a resources guide summarizing the support available to United Nations country teams under each initiative was also circulated to resident coordinators. The quick handover of the Initiatives from the strategic programme level to implementation in operational activities serves as an example of the enhanced synergies between the High-level Committee on Programmes and the United Nations Development Group.
The Joint Crisis Initiatives build upon ongoing work of the United Nations system, with particular focus on the crisis-related aspects of the system’s response. Their contribution to response measures in developing countries is best measured in terms of the policy frameworks that are being developed. For example, the crisis has led to greater global receptivity to the establishment of a basic social protection floor, heightened recognition of the significance of decent work and the risks of a jobless recovery, as well as the importance of maintaining agricultural production for food security. Countries have taken political measures that include social protection measures, independently from the United Nations system and the Joint Crisis Initiatives. At the outcome of the Pittsburgh Summit, the Group of 20 agreed on measures reflecting those of the global jobs pact, such as training, support to small and medium enterprises and infrastructure investment, and in promoting a job-rich recovery from the crisis. The role of the Initiatives is thus to feed into those processes by advocating for a coordinated and integrated approach and to promote and introduce policy measures, such as those contained in the global jobs pact, in specific countries.
There is clear evidence that the goals of the Joint Crisis Initiatives are complementary. For example, the goal of the green economy initiative is underpinned by initiatives on the global jobs pact, the social protection floor, trade and food security. These synergies strengthen the common outlook in the nine respective areas. There has furthermore been a fundamental shift towards increased reliance at the country level in the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks and the United Nations country teams to ensure an integrated, comprehensive and coordinated approach to the crisis and its aftermath.
Although fiscal measures contributed significantly to preventing the deepening of the recession, they do not add up to a sustainable long-term solution. Along with the food security and climate change challenges, the global financial and economic crisis brings with it the risk of rolling back gains and creating obstacles to achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. The crisis has revealed the internal weaknesses of globalization and the need to address those challenges. In moving forward, CEB has underlined the opportunity that the crisis poses to the international community to take on board lessons learned and develop a fairer, greener and more inclusive globalization. The green economy initiative, which covers the area of the creation of green jobs, sustainable development and growth, poverty reduction and climate change, embraces such an effort and has received wide political support. The Board will pursue its work on this initiative, taking into consideration the preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012.