|Natural Resources Development in the Sahel: The Role of the United Nations System (UNU, 1986, 95 pages)|
|3. The agencies of the United Nations system and their programmes|
The United Nations Development Programme is the driving force in the United
Nations for improving social and economic conditions. As the largest
organization for multilateral technical co-operation, it is currently
responsible for approximately 5,000 projects of technical co-operation
throughout the world. Operating on five-year cycles, using estimates of available funds called "indicative planning figures", UNDP's total expenditures are around $670 million per year. In addition, UNDP is responsible for a number of special funds and organizations, including:
- the Capital Development Fund,
- the Revolving Fund for Natural Resources Exploration,
- United Nations Volunteers,
- the United Nations Sudano-Sahelian Office,
- the Trust Fund for Assistance to Colonial Countries and Peoples,
- the Special Fund for Landlocked Developing Countries,
- the Fund for Population Activities,
- the United Nations Financing System for Science and Technology for Development, and
- the Energy Account.
Each of these, except the Trust Fund for Assistance to Colonial Countries and
Peoples, is involved to some extent in activities affecting the countries of the
Sahel and is
discussed individually below.
UNDP plays a key role in the implementation of UN activities. In almost every country in which it operates, UNDP has a field office that serves as the administrative base for all UNDP projects. In general, the UNDP office also serves as an umbrella for the field activities of all the other agencies of the UN system. Even if the larger agencies such as FAO or Unesco have a sufficient number of field activities to justify their own country offices, the head of the UNDP office (" Resident Co-ordinator") is supposed to be the leader among equals and ensure co-operation among agencies.
Project execution is covered in detail in chapter 5, but at this point it is worth noting that most of UNDP's country projects are not executed by UNDP itself but are contracted out to the UN agency deemed to have the relevant technical expertise and experience. Only a relatively small proportion of UNDP projects are executed in-house by the Office of Project Execution. This in large part explains why UNDP can be regarded as the driving force for technical assistance activities in the United Nations and why its funding levels have repercussions throughout the entire UN system.
UNDP was not the original channel for technical assistance; in the earliest years of the United Nations the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance was the main channel for development aid. In 1959 a Special Fund was created to carry out projects that would lead to (1) further capital investment (e.g. natural resource surveys and feasibility studies), (2) strengthening educational institutions, (3) strengthening applied research centres, and (4) providing assistance in development planning and for programme execution. By 1966 a total of $583 million had been committed by the Special Fund, while the Expanded Programme for Technical Assistance was carrying out 2,500 projects at a total annual cost of $50 million (UN 1968). In 1965 the General Assembly decided to combine these two agencies into the United Nations Development Programme, and that integration took place over the next few years as the old projects were phased out.
UNDP, now carrying out both technical assistance and preinvestment work, continued the past policies of simply approving projects on an ad hoc basis as they were proposed. In 1968 UNDP commissioned a major study by Sir Robert Jackson on the capacity of the UN development system (Jackson 1969). Many of his conclusions are reviewed in chapter 5, where development projects are discussed in a more general way, but in short he strongly criticized UNDP for being slow and unwieldy, for not making best use of its resources, for not properly evaluating and following-up its projects, and for a lack of co-ordination and general principles on which to base operations. In large part because of these criticisms, a number of important changes were instituted.
The most important of these was an effort to allocate UNDP funds more fairly, both among sectors and among countries. To do this, UNDP began in 1972 to draw up five-year plans for each country, detailing how UNDP funds were to be used by sector. Even though contributions are made on an annual basis, efforts also began to be made to estimate the amount that should be available for a given five-year period for each country: the indicative planning figure (IPF). Initially the IPF was closely related to the aid received in previous years, but it was realized that the least-developed countries weren't as able to prepare competitive project proposals, so UNDP's resources tended to be directed towards the middle or even upper tier of developing countries. Hence, additional funds were made available to those countries designated ieastdeveloped, most seriously affected, and subject to drought. For the second programme cycle (1977-1981) the expected programme funds were allocated on the basis of a complex formula including such variables as income and population. For the third cycle (1982-1986) there was a further shift towards emphasizing low-income and otherwise dis advantaged developing countries (UNDP 1981).
Initial plans for the third cycle called for 14 per cent annual growth in funding, which would have resulted in some $6,700 million being available over the period 1982-1986.
This seemed feasible since contributions increased 16 per cent in 1979. In 1980, however, growth slowed to 3 per cent, which represented a decline in real terms. Consultations with governments indicated that a more realistic target for 19821986 would be $5,100 million (UNDP 1981), which would still represent an annual growth rate of 8 per cent. Then, in 1981, for the first time in UNDP's history, there was a decline in contributions of 6 per cent, from $821 million to $804 million. (Exchange rate fluctuations were said to have caused a drop of $77 million in voluntary contributions [UNDP 1982h].) However, at the same time the momentum of programme implementation continued, resulting in a 10 per cent increase in expenditure in 1981 and a net deficit of $133 million. This shortfall, which was much larger than expected, reduced UNDP's reserve to $71 million, with nearly 60 per cent of this being in non-convertible currencies (UNDP 1982g).
Income in 1982 recovered to approximately $825 million, but expenditures are still predicted to exceed income by over $20 million. Since then income has remained at a relatively stable $670 million to $680 million. Thus, total resources over the period 1982-1986 are more likely to fall in the range of $4,000 million. Programme expenditures under the indicative planning figures are being held to an annual level of $550 million, a reduction of nearly 40 per cent in project activities. In view of the weakness of the world economy, the deficit of most national governments, and the strength of the US dollar, pledges to UNDP are remaining relatively static. This results in a decline in real terms in technical assistance to developing countries. Expenditures are currently being held to 55 per cent of the original planned IPF figures for 1982-1986.