Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Programme evaluation of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services


UN-DESA’s role has been less clearly defined. The Department operates in crowded territory, with responsibility for development shared within the United Nations system with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and a range of specialized agencies. While it has sometimes been described as the United Nations think-tank on economic and social issues, the Department is not the only entity to fill such a role. One area of potential overlap with other entities of the United Nations system is capacity-building.

The Department’s impact is felt the most when it focuses on its areas of greatest strength. What differentiates the Department, and remains the source of its comparative advantage, is its support for the policy and normative work of the intergovernmental bodies, the global scope of its work, its convening power and its role as analyst rather than advocate.

Within such a complex Department, fostering coherence is an ongoing management challenge. Opportunities for cross-divisional collaboration and complementarities have not been fully exploited. Where such opportunities have been seized, the benefits have been acknowledged by staff and stakeholders, but a more systematic approach to the identification of such synergies is needed.

Intellectual leadership was not always supported by effective management practices. Staff concerns about the transparency and consistency of decisions and the quality of consultation and communication within the Department have been noted in previous OIOS reports and were again evident in the current evaluation.

OIOS recommends that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs:

• Further sharpen its strategic focus;

• Improve coordination with partners;

• Develop a Department-wide publication and outreach strategy;

• Strengthen internal coordination and communication.

OIOS also offers the following questions for consideration by the Committee for Programme and Coordination:

• Further clarification of the Department’s mandate on policy coherence and coordination;

• Alternative placement of the post of Assistant-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs;

• Establishment of a “Chief Economist” title.

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