Navigating a Path Forward on the Reform of the UN Development System

In this paper Bruce Jenks and Lisa Orrenius argue that the UN Development System needs to be driven by finding solutions, not redrawing organisational charts.

Publication details

Title:Navigating a Path Forward on the Reform of the UN Development System
Type:Development Dialogue Papers
Author:Bruce Jenks and Lisa Orrenius


Churchill once famously said that ‘democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others’. Applied to the UN Development System (UNDS), one would have very good reasons for believing that the highly decentralised character of the UNDS provides the worst form of governance imaginable except for the principle alternative that is commonly proposed: a highly centralised organisation.

The objective of UNDS reform has sought to conquer fragmentation through centralisation, but centralisation will not yield world class integrated policy services, quite to the contrary.  To align the UNDS to the challenges identified by the 2030 Agenda requires a reconciliation between the strength that lies in having diverse assets with the need for strategic focus. The objective of reform must therefore be to identify those specific elements that would enable solutions—that is solutions that are achieved by leveraging a range of assets which can be combined across the system.