Interagency pooled funds at the service of UN reform and the SDGs

24 May 2019
Interagency pooled funds at the service of UN reform and the SDGs

Representatives of Member States, UN entities and development specialists participated at a side event at the margins of the ECOSOC Operational Development Segment to share perspectives and lessons learned on inter-agency pooled funds and their role in the funding architecture of the repositioned UN development system.

For 15 years, the UN development system has engaged UN pooled financing as an instrument to promote UN coherence and advance global and national development goals. UN leadership and its Member States have recognized pooled financing as an effective instrument for improving collaboration with and within the UN—a major tenet of the reform process, across all of its pillars. The UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on repositioning the UN Development System (A/RES/72/279) committed to reduce fragmentation to “double inter-agency pooled funds to a total of US$3.4 billion” per year.

The discussions around the Funding Compact have reiterated and further developed this commitment on well-designed and professionally managed pooled funds, including specific commitments on doubling contributions to inter-agency development funds, increasing the number of contributing partners to UN inter-agency funds (from 59 to 100) and setting high capitalization targets for two flagship funds (the Joint SDG Fund and the Peacebuilding Fund).

The discussion was led by a panel of speakers consisting of Ambassador Besiana Kadare, Permanent Representative of Albania to the United Nations; Bruce Jenks, Senior Advisor at the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation; Berit Fladby, Policy Director for UN Development Activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway; and Lisa Kurbiel, Joint SDG Fund Coordinator at the UN Development Coordination Office. Jennifer Topping, Executive Coordinator of the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office, moderated the event.

The event covered different elements and lessons learned for the success of pooled funds:

  • Experience shows that the advantages of pooled funds include: leveraging the UN diverse and unique expertise, providing flexibility to development partners, bringing coherence into the UN System, empowering UN resident coordinators, financing the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, promoting national ownership and allowing new forms of engagement with a variety of partners.
  • Inter-agency pooled funds are central elements of the UN development system repositioning, but should be taken as complement to core resources and other high quality funding, like thematic single agency funds. It is part of a more predictable, flexible and integrated UN development system funding infrastructure.


  • Strong pooled funds at the country level required strong leadership of national governments, while ensuring participation of all development partners in their respective governance structures. Earmarking should be limited to thematic rather than at a project level.  Programme countries are also becoming direct contributors, as shown by the experience of the Albania Acceleration Fund, when the proper set of incentives are in place.


  • A new generation of country-based development funds can serve as instruments to fund the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework. Learning from the experience of the One UN Funds, country-based development funds should be used to fund key UN priorities in the country, leverage other sources of financing and provide integrated approaches to SDGs. Rather than a residual financing instrument of underfunded thematic areas, country-based development funds should be considered a central element for financing joint action.


  • Development pooled funds should be adapted to the different typologies of countries and their respective contexts. For example, Articulation with humanitarian funds, under the leadership of the Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator, offers a great potential for better approaches in the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. They can be particularly important in middle-income countries in leveraging additional sources of financing.


  • Professional administration, design and trustee services are crucial to ensure transparency and accountability. Additional efforts should be put into results reporting and mechanisms to ensure the visibility of contributors, particularly at the country level.


  • Global flagship pooled funds and particularly the Joint SDG Fund, conceived as a financing muscle for UN country teams, are crucial to empower resident coordinators and to accelerate progress toward the SDGs. The fact that 114 countries submitted funding proposals for leaving no one behind and social protection, is evidence of the value of this type of funding.

The meeting was webcast and a recording is available on UN WebTV.

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