Strengthening Business Practices in a Delivering as One Country

  • 19 April 2010

Strengthening business practices, removing bottlenecks and promoting further harmonization of operations were the focus of UNFPA Deputy Executive Director Mari Simonen’s mission to Hanoi, Viet Nam. The visit was part of a joint mission undertaken by the High Level Committee on Management (HLCM) and the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) to gain a more in-depth knowledge of the priority bottlenecks in business practices.

The UNFPA team in Viet Nam present a comprehensive overview of the work performed in programme, communications and advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, and operations to DED Mari Simonen. Photo: UNFPA

The last in a series of missions to two of the eight Delivering as One pilot countries—the other visit was to Mozambique—and one “self-starter” country—Malawi—the Viet Nam mission focused on how operations can best support the achievement of development results.

More specifically, it reviewed how to address country-level bottlenecks in business practices, identify fast track system-wide solutions and look at further areas where efforts can be made to increase operational effectiveness of the UN system on the ground.'

Addressing such bottlenecks is not only a benefit for the Delivering as One Pilots, but can help all UN Country Teams and is in line with the request for harmonization that the member states made through the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review.

A string of high level meetings in Viet Nam—with the UN Country Team (UNCT), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UN Donor Group, among others—revealed many areas of progress, as well as some key challenges within the One UN framework. The six pillars of the One UN Initiative in Viet Nam include One Plan, One Budget, One Leader, One Set of Management Practices, One UN House and One Voice.

“Since its inception, the One UN Initiative in Viet Nam has made tremendous progress, thanks to the strong leadership of the Resident Coordinator and the UNCT, as well as the dedication and commitment of all staff,” said Mari. The establishment of the One UN Communication Team and plans for a One Green UN House, for example, are widely recognized as two of the key successes in Viet Nam.

Dubbed a ‘pilot within a pilot’ by Bruce Campbell, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam, for its progressive nature within the Delivering as One pilot, the communications team is indeed an example of an innovative way of working together.

“We have 16 professionals, with different skill levels, from five agencies, working on one team and speaking with one voice,” explained Bruce. “So for every event that requires high-level advocacy, every major policy engagement, and everything having to do with the press or media, our voice is louder and our messages are stronger.” Streamlined business practices of the communications team, such as harmonized contracts and a common PAD system—all members of the team use the UNFPA PAD—also contribute to its success.

As for the One UN house in Viet Nam, come January 2012, all staff members from all 16 UN agencies based in the country’s capital will be sitting in the same, green, UN House. “That delivers two strong statements,” said Bruce. “One is that we will literally be working physically together, with many staff co-located according to thematic priorities, and the other is a reflection of the UN’s strong commitment to addressing environmentally friendly office space. It will be the first completely green building in Hanoi.”

In programme areas where the agencies have decentralized authority, the country team sees greater harmony, synergy, productivity and results. But when it comes to business practices, there are some notable challenges.

A lack of dedicated capacity for change management for business practices, limited integration between operations and programme, and the perception of UN-Reform work related to business practices harmonization as “add-on”, for example, are areas that can be improved.

These challenges are recognized and many are being addressed at the country level. “We’ve embarked on a change management strategy for the country team and for the country office,” said Bruce. The country team is also working towards a harmonization of common services, such as one travel agency and a common IT platform, which would make daily work more efficient and cost-effective.

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