The work of changing and making the UN’s development work more efficient has been a recurring element over the years.
There has previously been a lack of confidence in some of the bodies working on UN development work, especially the UNDP. To restore trust and increase efficiency and coordination, the UN implemented a series of measures in the late 1990’s. A special steering group was formed to strengthen coordination and efficiency. In addition, the UN Development Group was formed in 1997, consisting of, among others, UNDP, Unicef, UNFPA and WFP. In 2001, the trade unions FAO, Unesco and WHO also joined the group. In addition, the UN agencies were located in the same premises in different countries, under the coordination of a special country coordinator, often the UNDP chief in the country.
A system has also been set up in which UN assistance to individual countries is coordinated within specific country strategies, so-called Development Assistance Frameworks, in a collaboration between the UN country leaders and the recipient governments.
But an expert group, formed at the invitation of the UN summit in 2005 to investigate how the work for development, humanitarian issues and the environment can become more efficient, stated in its report in autumn 2006 that there was still a lot of duplication, communication shortages and waste of resources.
From 2006, a new method has been tested within the UN, Delivering as one. According to nonprofitdictionary, UN agencies have worked together in countries with a joint operation, budget, head and office. The purpose is again to save costs and make the work more efficient and result-oriented.
New elements in the development work are the programs Sustainable Energy for All and Every woman every child. These are based on governments, business, civil society, NGOs and other organizations working together for common goals. In 2012, the Secretary General launched a new such initiative with several partners, Education First Inititative, a gathering of forces to highlight education as a global priority issue.
At the same time, the world has changed in the 21st century, which poses major challenges for the UN’s development work. A major change is that several developing countries have taken great strides forward in terms of economic growth. The number of poor countries has decreased while the group of middle-income countries has increased. This became particularly clear in connection with the global financial crisis at the end of the twentieth century, when the economies of developing countries continued to be tough, while many developed economies were hit hard.
New large economies that have become globally powerful have gathered within the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.) But countries such as Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey have also made advances. A few years into the 2010’s, the countries in Asia together account for a larger share of the world’s GDP than the United States and the euro countries in EU monetary cooperation do together. Africa is the second fastest growing region in the world, with 15 of the 20 countries making the most progress on the MDGs in Africa in the early 2010’s, and the continent’s growth is expected to continue. At the same time, we must not forget that the differences between the emerging economies of Asia and the West are still large in terms of prosperity, at least in terms of GDP per capita. And in Africa, the problems of fighting poverty are not enough,
The old division between North and South is no longer relevant in the same way as the starting point for the UN’s development work. A major change that donors must relate to is that many of the poorest people today can live in relatively richer countries. What will development aid look like in the future, when more countries are middle-income countries, many assessors ask themselves? Will the assistance still be relevant?
Consideration must be given to environmental degradation and climate change, which have become an increasing problem that particularly affects the poorest in the world. In addition, the gaps in countries between rich and poor, rural and urban, are growing.
All this must be taken into account by the UN member states in the ongoing discussion on what the UN’s development work should look like after 2015, when the Millennium Development Goals should be met.
At the so-called Rio + 20 conference on sustainable development in 2012, the Member States decided that new goals would be created after 2015 that would focus on sustainable development, so-called Sustainable development goals (SDG). They would be integrated into the UN’s forthcoming development agenda, post-2015. A special working group will provide proposals for such goals in 2014. In addition, a special high-level panel with politicians and representatives of civil society, business and the research world has presented a report on the post-2015 agenda with its own proposals for development goals. These documents, together with a wealth of analyzes and research reports within and outside the UN, will provide a basis for negotiations between governments. At the General Assembly’s meeting in September 2015, the Secretary General will present new goals, SDG’s.
In September 2013, the General Assembly decided that the new sustainability goals should be universal and applicable to all countries and that they should be based on principles of human rights, equality and a functioning rule of law.