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UNEP Deputy Director Addresses Regional High-Level Consultation on UN System-Wide Coherence

Shafqat Kakakhel, UN Assistant Secretary General and UNEP Deputy Director, addresses the Third Session of the Regional High-Level Consultation on UN System-Wide Coherence - The Challenges of the UN Regional Team´s in Supporting MDGs Achievement under UN System-Wide Coherence Framework

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends…

I am delighted to be able to address the Regional Consultation on UN System-Wide Coherence. This Consultation has brought together an extraordinary collection of high-level dignitaries, all with a deep commitment to helping to shape a United Nations that is better equipped and better able to respond to the needs of the people of Asia and beyond.

The report of the High Level Panel on System Wide Coherence in the areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and the Environment – Delivering as One – is indeed a remarkable document. Remarkable in the breadth of ideas and recommendations it presents. And remarkable in the enthusiasm and interest that it has generated within the United Nations.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan, Prime Minister Luísa Dias Diogo of Mozambique and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, who co-chaired the Panel, along with all the distinguished panellists deserve our heartfelt congratulations.

Their report marks the beginning of what will be, at times, a difficult and intensive period of work for the United Nations - from the debates in the coming weeks and months in the General Assembly, to the reform within the agencies of the UN, to the concrete activities of the UN country teams.

The High Level Consultations of yesterday and today are a vital part of the process towards building a consensus on the way forward in the implementation of the recommendations from the High Level Panel report. While our focus has been on the Asia and the Pacific, our discussions and the collective ideas will clearly help to pave the way for action beyond this region.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to share some ideas with you on two main questions:

• How can the UN better deliver as one in the area of the environment?

• What are the challenges for the non-resident and specialized agencies such as UNEP to participate in the UN Regional Teams and in the UN Country Teams?

Delivering as One on the environment

As the High-level Panel noted, global environmental degradation – including climate change – will have far reaching economic and social implications that affect the world’s ability to meet the Millennium Development Goals. The tide of public opinion in much of the world has turned and we must be ready to react.

The place to start is within the UN itself. In the UN system we need to strive for greater coordination and harmonization of environmental action.

UNEP is the UN’s principal environment organisation. That is not to say, however, that we can deal with the environment in isolation from the rest of the UN. Quite the contrary, we are just one programme and can only hope to achieve the kinds of changes that are desperately needed by working with and, in many instances, though our sister agencies and programmes.

We are already putting in place concrete measures that will enable UNEP to provide substantive leadership and support on the integration of the environment within the operations of the UN family and subsequently the member states.

Let me begin with delivering as one at the national level.

The most vivid example is in the One UN pilots. UNEP has already engaged with all the One UN pilot countries and will accompany the UN country teams in this process. But we are also using this opportunity to test our own capabilities and different models of engagement.

As you are aware, UNEP operates without a permanent presence in most countries and we are not looking to open up offices all over the world. For the One UN in most cases we will use strategic engagement – making UNEP and its technical support available at key moments in the development planning process. In some cases we will place people on a longer term basis within the UN country teams to help direct and channel UNEP’s capacities into the national processes.

But most important of all, by being present when needed on the ground, UNEP is working with countries and UN country teams to bring about greater coherence to the UN’s environmental action rather than focusing on UNEP’s own activities alone.

Delivering as one also has an important regional component.

UNEP recognised the importance of regional work and presence from early days, establishing regional offices to help better serve its partners. It is in this realm that we have been the most active traditionally.

In addition, we have focused a great deal of energy on servicing and supporting the regional and subregional fora including the ones based in this region such as ASEAN and SACEP.

We are also working at the global level to ensure coherence of UN operations in the environment.

The main vehicle for this is the United Nations Development Group – or UNDG - and its various working groups in which UNEP actively participates.

[UNEP is also part of the informal One UN Support Committee created by UNDG as a mechanism to provide guidance to the implementation efforts in the pilot countries. And in collaboration with the UNDG Office, we organize training sessions to raise environmental knowledge and awareness of key country team staff members, particularly the Resident Coordinators.]

So as you see UNEP has stepped up its work within the UN family at the national, regional and global levels considerably.

Challenges for non-resident and specialized agencies

Ladies and gentlemen, let me move onto the challenges and opportunities we see for non-resident and specialised agencies.

The Secretary General’s decision to test out some of the recommendations from the High-level Panel has enabled UNEP to take advantage of the many opportunities and grapple with the challenges of delivering as one.

Again the One UN pilots provide the most illustrative example. Although a compelling and seemingly simple idea, “One UN” also poses many challenges to the UN system.

Involvement of the UN non resident agencies, in particular and the non executive committee (ExCom) agencies in general, is one of the major challenges for delivering as One.

Some UN system actors with longstanding presence and operations find the One UN process somewhat threatening: many have spent decades building their identity and particular relationships with donors, governments and other stakeholders, neither of which they want to lose.

However, UNEP looks at the One UN idea as a great opportunity.

We are convinced that we can achieve more for environmental protection and sustainable development, by fully engaging with the One UN pilot countries.

Let me outline five of the many benefits we feel this work will bring:

a) The One UN pilots have enabled UNEP to work with the Resident Coordinators, the UN country teams and the UNDG to strengthen the role of environment within the UN country plans – the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) as they are known. In this way we hope to better mainstream the environment within the UN country operations;

b) Through the One UN pilots we are also able to work more closely with national authorities - especially planning, finance and environment agencies - to mainstreaming environmental sustainability into national, sectoral and other planning processes.

[There is a clear need, for example, to incorporate environmental dimensions into measures of growth and development so as to ensure that trade, industry (for example tourism) all contribute to sustainable human development.]

c) The One UN pilots provide an avenue for UNEP to step up the implementation of the Bali Strategic Plan for technology support and capacity building. The adoption of the Bali Strategic Plan by the UNEP Governing Council was a clear signal that governments wanted UNEP to become more responsive to country needs and a more accessible partner, delivering its support in a more coordinated way (internally and within the United Nations system) and on a much bigger scale.

[The Bali Strategic Plan offers UNEP an unprecedented opportunity to change the way it operates so as to meet the needs of its clients and partners and the One UN pilots provide the perfect avenue for on the ground implementation.]

d) When it comes to implementation, the One UN has provided us with the opportunity to work more closely with other UN partners, especially UNDP, and to work through the incompatibilities of administrative and other processes and mechanisms.

[While it sounds rather easy, let me assure you that there are great complexities and these very same systems have often frustrated our efforts to work more closely with UN agencies.]

e) And finally, the One UN provides us with an opportunity to become “One UNEP” and to present a more coordinated support to countries and regions through the one channel of our regional offices.

While the main action is at the country level, we must not overlook the regional level. The regional level has been gaining more importance as development activities have in the recent years become increasingly country driven and needing regional level coordination.

As I mentioned earlier, UNEP has traditionally emphasized the regional level in its work and has six regional offices. However, a UN-system wide coordination of operational and normative environmental work has been lacking. The High-level Panel provides guidance in this regard by recommending that the UN entities at the regional level should be co-located for more coherence at that level.

In the One UN process, the role of Regional Directors’ Teams is particularly emphasized The participation of non-resident and specialised agencies in these regional teams will be important for ensuring the wholehearted and long-term engagement of all of us.

But here the momentum of the idea of delivering as one is beginning to overtake the putting in place of the new systems. The Regional Directors Team in Asia and the Pacific, originally comprised of only the ExCom agencies, has invited UNEP to participate in its discussions and deliberations. This simple act has enabled us to increase collaboration and bring about greater cohesion to our work.

It is often as simple as providing the right fora for sharing information and gaining trust, and I am happy to report that in this region we are already well on our way.


Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude with a few personal thoughts.

UN system-wide coherence is more than just a bureaucratic exercise. It is about making fundamental changes to the way our institutions work separately and collectively, so as to be able to deliver better to those that need us the most.

The degradation of the environment and the destruction of ecosystems are already threatening the health and livelihoods of communities – often the poorest and most vulnerable – all over the world.

We must rise to this challenge collectively and quickly, putting aside all traditional notions of agency competition and rivalries.

The High-level panel report is not the first to call for more coherence in operational activities of the UN. But it may well be the most convincing to date.

The international community is facing a unique fork in the road for both the UN, and for the environment.

Unique in that the UN and its member states are more ready for reform than ever.

And unique in that the planet’s ability to support its people is under more pressure than ever before.

It is within this context that UNEP has fully committed itself to delivering as one for the people’s of Asia and the Pacific and the rest of the world.

Thank you.




Further Resources

UN Secretary General's Message to Regional High-Level Consultation on UN System-Wide Coherence

'Delivering As One'
Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence (pdf - 438KB)


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