Statement by John F. Sammis, Deputy U.S. Representative to ECOSOC, General Assembly Informal Consultations on System-Wide Coherence

New York, NY
June 22, 2009


Mr. Secretary-General, Co-Chairmen, Excellencies,

The United States thanks you for arranging this meeting to review where we stand on the process of system-wide coherence.  We welcome the progress that has been made, and we look forward to continuing to engage on all three pillars.  We urge you, distinguished co-chairmen, to guide the General Assembly to come to decisions as soon as possible on those areas where consensus is emerging.

One of the areas where the process is closest to the point of decision-making is in the area of gender architecture reform.  As we stated on June 8, the United States endorses in principle the creation of a “composite entity” to serve as a catalyst for the rest of the UN system.  Having listened carefully to other member states, we believe that a consensus is emerging in favor of correcting the weaknesses and shortcomings of the current system by creating a strong, unified voice for women that would, first and foremost, have a strong field presence, be universal in scope, provide coherent analysis and expertise on women’s issues, and work with the rest of the UN family to ensure that gender concerns are adequately taken into account.

The details of the composite entity -- in terms of size, staffing, budget, mandate and functions -- still need to be worked out among member states.  The presentation made earlier this month by Special Adviser Rachel Mayanja was an interesting starting point for a discussion which needs further thought and consideration by member states.  We believe it is vital that the new organization not replicate the shortfalls and gaps of the current disjointed arrangement for dealing with gender concerns.

The headquarters functions of policy analysis need to be streamlined and based on thematic issues.  Policy analysis and research should serve to inform the operational activities at field level, as well as to monitor and evaluate progress on the various commitments undertaken in the Beijing process, through the Commission on the Status of Women and in other intergovernmental bodies.  The composite entity should be organized so that substantive experts’ reports can spread knowledge and analytical insights throughout the system, linking its normative and substantive work.

In the current arrangement, fragmentation results in one set of experts reporting to CSW on a topic, while another, separate division conducts research on the same topic, and yet another writes reports evaluating the gaps that remain.  This fragmentation cannot be continued.  If the composite entity does not correct such problems, we will have undertaken this restructuring effort in vain.  We will work with other member states to re-think the functions, the overall structure of the composite entity, and the staffing and related costs for the composite entity outlined in the June 8 Draft Proposed Organizational Structure for a new Gender Equality Entity.
Most of the member states, including the United States, have clearly stated a need for more vigorous activity at country level.  Therefore, we should look towards the experiences of UN agencies that are present and active at country level for useful models in structuring the composite entity.  An over-emphasis on headquarters activities would be a misplacement of priorities.  Most of the composite entity’s staff and budget should be devoted to making a difference to women on the ground -- in least-developed countries, in middle income countries, in developing countries, and in developed countries.  The composite entity should have the capacity to carry out programming of its own.  Even more importantly, the new entity should be the lead resource for expertise on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and provide this expertise to agencies and programs throughout the UN.

UNIFEM has done much valuable work in the field, but currently has neither the capacity nor the stature within the system to play this role effectively.  The composite entity can build upon some of the organizational structures and expertise UNIFEM already has in place, while also creating space to be a part of the Secretariat.  Setting up a structure that allows for good collaboration and cooperation among all the agencies in the field and within the Secretariat, holding all of them accountable for promoting gender equality, is a key to good results.  We look forward to working with the co-chairmen and fellow delegates to establish a workable mandate for just such a structure.  Our work will need to be further reviewed and refined as the entity gets on its feet.  Nevertheless, we hope it will be possible to adopt a resolution laying out the framework and mandate for a composite entity before the end of the 63rd General Assembly.

Mr. Secretary-General, with the aim of maintaining the momentum that is building towards improving the systemic treatment of women’s issues within the UN, we urge you to look among the leading women of the world and identify qualified candidates for the position of Under-Secretary-General to head the composite entity.  The entity deserves a leader who will be forceful, dynamic and committed, with a strong track record of organizational ability, insight into women’s issues, and the international stature to command attention and respect for the important issues the composite entity will grapple with.  The world’s women deserve no less.

Thinking on the issue of governance is not as advanced as it is on gender, but progress is being made as important questions are tackled.  We will remain engaged with others to ensure that the UN has institutional arrangements for operational activities that lead to effective, productive development results.  Better results on the ground will lead to confidence in the institution, which will, in turn, lead to more funding.  Information and evaluation of the Deliver as One approach should help inform decisions on institutional arrangements.

The United States supports strongly the concept of country ownership over development processes.  But just as there is no “one size fits all” approach to country priority-setting, there is also no “one size fits all” approach to dividing contributions between core and non-core funding.  As Canada so aptly pointed out at our last meeting, different donors have different legislative requirements and different funding windows.  And even so, core contributions have gone up, as have non-core contributions.  Whatever changes may eventually be made in the interests of system-wide coherence, we should we cautious not to set in motion a process that will discourage, rather than encourage, further growth in contributions that benefit not only UN organizations, but the people they serve.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2009/133