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3. The agencies of the United Nations system and their programmes

The secretariat and system-wide activities
The United Nations development programme (UNDP)
The United Nations environment programme (UNEP) and the UN conference on desertification (UNCOD)
Other agencies of the UN system



Established in 1945, the United Nations has as its primary concern the maintenance of peace and security. Provisions were made in its Charter for it "to co-operate internationally in solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems and in promoting respect for rights and fundamental freedoms" (UN 1980). To co-ordinate the economic and social work of the United Nations, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was created. A number of specialized agencies such as Unesco, FAO, and WHO were set up to co-ordinate work and establish international links in their specific fields of expertise, but initially technical assistance programmes were relatively limited,

Over the years the number of specialized agencies and other subsidiary bodies has grown tremendously in response to the needs of global co-operation and development as perceived by the General Assembly, and there has been a concomitant expansion of activities in the older agencies. There are now 17 specialized agencies and other autonomous bodies within the system and more than 12 subsidiary bodies (fig. 5). The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the UN system and a brief review of how each body is involved in natural resources development in the Sahel.

In theory there are distinctions between the specialized agencies and the subsidiary bodies with the UN family, but in practice the primary difference is that the subsidiary bodies report directly to the General Assembly as well as to the Economic and Social Council, while the specialized agencies report through the Economic and Social Council to the General Assembly. This distinction is not particularly useful, for within both groups there is a tremendous diversity in terms of size and programmes. The UN family tree is further complicated by the fact that ECOSOC has also created regional subsidiary bodies (e.g., the Economic Commission for Africa) as well as a number of standing committees on topics such as natural resources, science and technology for development, etc. (fig. 5).

ECOSOC is attempting to put some order into relations among the eternally feuding agencies and co-ordinate their respective activities, but this has, for the most part, been in vain. Several approaches have been taken as a means of alleviating jurisdictional conflicts. At the highest level there is an Administrative Committee on Co-ordination, which consists of the heads of each of the agencies, but these contacts appear to be largely a formality. More useful are exchanges among the heads of divisions within agencies, as in UNEP's focal-points network. Agencies often sign mutual memoranda of understanding to facilitate coordination and perhaps define their respective roles, but these are so general in nature as to play little part in the planning and execution of specific programmes.


The secretariat and system-wide activities

The UN Secretariat's main functions are providing the necessary system - wide administrative support and servicing the policy-making bodies such as the General Assembly and the Security Council. The Secretariat also includes a Department of Technical Co - operation for Development (DTCD), which was established in 1978 as part of a wider reorganization and then restructured in 1983. The DTCD's main function is to manage and provide support for technical co-operation activities that are carried out by the United Nations itself rather than one of the specialized agencies; in effect, it could be considered a specialized agency within the Secretariat. In 1983 DTCD was responsible for spending some $112 million on various technical co-operation projects, with just 6 per cent of this amount originating from the regular UN budget. Seventy-one and 10 per cent came from UNDP and the UN Fund for Population Activities respectively; so these technical co-operation activities will be discussed in more detail in the sections on the funding agencies. The remaining technical assistance funds came from a variety of sources, with most of the activities directed towards southern Africa and Namibia.

Natural resources and energy are the two most important sectors of DTCD's programme, accounting for nearly half its total expenditures. Development planning is the next most important sector with 22 per cent of the expenditures, followed by statistics (11 per cent) and public administration and finance (10 per cent). Population was a very imoortant sector. but UNFPA's shift from basic data collection and analysis to emphasizing maternal and child health has substantially reduced DTCD's technical assistance operations in that area (UNDP 1984e).

FIG. 5. The United Nations system. The large circles represent the principal organs of the United Nations. The small open circles represent other United Nations programmes and organs, whose governing bodies report directly to the principal organs (representative list only). The small solid circles represent specialized agencies and other autonomous organizations within the system. (*UNIDO is in the process of becoming a specialized agency.)

The work of DTCD's Division of Natural Resources and Energy consists of sectoral research, technical co-operation, technical assistance, and the facilitation of co-operation. Often it works closely with the regional commissions under ECOSOC. its activities are grouped under the sub programmes of energy; minerals; water; and surveying, mapping, and cartography. The sub-programme on energy has been increasingly important, particularly since it is responsible for following up the UN Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy in addition to its earlier work on energy exploration, energy planning, etc. Water has traditionally been one of the strongest areas within the Secretariat, and the focus here has been on shared water resources. In particular the division has been active in regional planning studies for the Senegal, Logone, and Gambia river basins. The sub-programme on minerals has been concerned with various aspects of mineral-resource development. Activities reiating to surveying, mapping, and cartography constitute a much smaller part of the division's work and consist primarily of organizing conferences, providing limited technical assistance, and doing some printing of maps. In the future the unit hopes to strengthen its capability in remote sensing and provide assistance as needed to governments.

A second unit within the Secretariat concerned with the Sahel is the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), which is one of five regional commissions directly under ECOSOC. ECA, with some 200 professional staff members, is involved in almost every aspect of development, from agriculture to heavy industry, from education to international trade. The overall aim of ECA with regard to natural resources can best be described as giving African countries the capability, either through training or through the provision of experts, to make the best possible use of their resources. In general, however, ECA is not concerned with the technical assistance necessary to exploit a given resource, except on a supervisory basis. Thus, most of the projects concentrate on the development of national policies, resource surveys, the organization of seminars and training courses, and the publication of a variety of materials. The natural resources and energy programme represents only about 5 per cent of ECA's budget, and it includes sections on mineral resources, water resources, energy, and cartography/remote sensing and a small project in marine resources. Outside funds for the natural resources and energy activities are on the same order of magnitude as the core budget (approximately $1.5 million). On a sectoral basis, the planned allocation for funds in 1982/83 was 30 per cent for mineral resources, 20 per cent for water resources, 18 per cent for energy, 25 per cent for cartography/remote sensing, and 7 per cent for marine resources. Most of the extra-budgetary funds are directed towards water resources, with UNDP and the UN Fund for Population Activities accounting for 42 and 24 per cent of all the extra-budgetary funds respectively (UNGA 1981a).

Although the Department of Technical Co-operation for Development and the Economic Commission for Africa are the only two bodies within the UN Secretariat that are directly and significantly involved in resource development in the Sahel, there are a number of other UN bodies that do have an effect on the Sahelian countries by stimulating change on the global or international level. For example, the Law of the Sea conference has helped to trigger the establishment of 200mile exclusive economic zones, and this has greatly benefited both Mauritania and Senegal. Mauritania in particular has rich fishing areas just off its coast, and in recent years substantial outside investment has been directed into the exploitation of these fisheries and the processing of fish.

Another body whose activities may have repercussions in the Sahel is the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). UNCTAD was established in 1964 with its primary purpose being the promotion of international trade, especially for the benefit of developing countries. In addition to being heavily involved in the negotiations on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), UNCTAD has introduced the generalized system of preferences, which is supposed to enhance the export possibilities of manufactured and semi-manufactured goods from developing countries. UNCTAD is also concerned with the burden of debt of developing countries. In this context it is trying to enhance the transfer of resources li.e., development aid} to developing countries and make other changes in the monetary system in order to reflect the goals of the New International Economic Order. It has also attempted to stabilize the prices of basic commodities, such as tin and rubber, through the financing of buffer stocks, but UNCTAD's recommendations have tended not to be implemented because of a lack of financial support. This type of impasse is often used to argue that the major industrialized countries are not willing to back up their words (or UN resolutions) with action. Further to this economic and political work, UNCTAD occasionally serves as an executing agency for UNDP when projects involve the enhancement of foreign trade.

Another system-wide activity that affects the Sahel is the organizing of special conferences, which seem to have proliferated in the last decade. The results of the Conference on Science and Technology for Development held in Vienna in 1979 have already been mentioned, and the 1977 Conference on Desertification is described later in this chapter. Other relevant conferences include those on the human environment (1972), population (1974 and 1984), human settlements (1976), water (1977), and new and renewable sources of energy (1981). Typically, each conference develops a plan of action, and for the first couple of conferences this resulted in the setting up of a new UN body. In the mid-1970s, however, there was a major shift in the willingness of the traditional major donors to set up new UN bodies or to pledge new funds. The lack of support for the approved action plans suggests that the conferences since 1977 have been financial failures. It can be argued, however, that the primary benefit of these conferences is not the funding pledged but the generation of a political awareness, with each country then following up as it sees fit. While the United Nations is continuing to schedule conferences in response to topical issues, as long as the present economic and political climate continues it is unlikely that any significant new initiatives will develop.

In the following sections the work of each of the UN agencies directly involved in natural-resources development in the Sahel will be summarized. A project-by-project listing for each agency would take several volumes, but a brief synopsis will be made of their fields of specialization, type and scale of activity, mode of operation, and current trends. The discussion begins with UNDP, as it is the primary funding body for development assistance, and then goes on to UNEP and UNCOD, followed by the other agencies in alphabetical order.


The United Nations development programme (UNDP)

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.


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