• Reforming the UN Development System at Country Level: A Strengthened Collective Offer for the 2030 Agenda

Reforming the UN Development System at Country Level: A Strengthened Collective Offer for the 2030 Agenda

The UN development system (UNDS) should play a key role in assisting governments and national stakeholders within their implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. Since 2018, the comprehensive reform process has aimed at strengthening the UNDS, making it a better partner that provides coherent, integrated support at scale, tailored to national needs.


This research and policy advice project investigates whether and to what extent the reform bears first fruits. It aims at identifying best practices and lessons learnt, and at formulating recommendations for member states as well as UN staff involved in the reform´s planning and implementation process.


We examine the extent to which the reform has been enabling UN Country Teams (UNCTs) to contribute more effectively to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. While progress has been reported on the implementation of reform measures, it is much harder to pin down their impact. We focus on changes in the quality of the collective offer – the support that UNCTs provide in a coherent manner, e.g. through collaboration among several UN entities, drawing on the expertise and capacities of the broader UN family and allowing it to become more than the sum of its parts. Within the concept of collective offer, we focus on the following three areas where the UNDS is uniquely positioned to make meaningful contributions, and which are particularly relevant for the 2030 Agenda: (1) normative work (including Leave no one behind as well as the Human Rights-based approach); (2) SDG integration; (3) cross-border work. The project takes into account that reform implementation is ongoing and that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge not only the work of UNCTs but also has dramatic repercussions across societies, undoing development gains and exacerbating inequalities.


To answer our research question – whether and how UNDS reform leads to a strengthened collective offer at the country level – we consider a broad range of evidence across different levels, including the analysis of official UN documents (mainly the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks and their Common Country Analyses) as well as semi-structured interviews with UN officials and other key reform stakeholders. Our empirical focus is directed at three country-level case studies that we complement with insights from individual UN entities and further country contexts.