A Sustainable Regional UN: Recommendations & mapping of assets for the UNDS Regional Reform

Cepei and the United Nations established an innovative partnership to carry out research and provide recommendations to the UN Development System (UNDS), to define a strategy to take more ambitious measures to streamline and maximize the impact of the United Nations regional presence. In 2017, the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, committed to conducting a review of regional functions and capacities as a first step in better positioning the United Nations to respond to the new demands posed by the 2030 Agenda, at the regional level.

The United Nations reform process is reaching a defining moment. The challenge before the international community is to match the path to Sustainable Development with appropriate reforms of the UNDS at all levels. In this regard, the regional work of the UN needs to become more coherent and efficient by fostering coordination, communication, and collaboration; and better use of its resources and assets.

Within an eight-week timeframe, Cepei visited five regions across the globe. There we carried out consultations with UN staff, governments and experts at the regional level, as well as members of civil society, academia and the private sector, in order to get a broader picture of how the regional UNDS does its work. Over 400 people got involved, and more than 20 multi-stakeholder meetings were convened. Every interview and meeting was conducted under Chatham House rule to allow open debate and frank dialogue.

Many virtual meetings also took place, and there was a revision of documents relevant to this undertaking as well, to draw on to previous exercises, avoid overlapping and to promote coherence.

The empirical evidence, on which the research is based, was gathered through three major sources of information: stakeholder perceptions, internal documents and external analysis. Cepei brought together an interdisciplinary coalition of experts from across the development spectrum to research, analyze, and consult on practical strategies that could be effectively translated into concrete and action-oriented recommendations for the regional UNDS reform process. Using this thorough approach, the researchers looked at the broad spectrum of challenges to work up possible solutions and inputs for UNDS regional reform.

These are the research team’s main findings from our asset mapping, surveys, interviews, meetings and reading. We looked first at the strengths of and opportunities for the UN system at the regional level, and then we summarize weaknesses and threats.


More findings in the full report

For the inventory of the United Nations Development System regional assets we wanted to investigate two things: strengths & weaknesses, and personnel. To do this, we developed two specific research tools that were sent to the appointed UNDS regional focal points. First, a series of four tables to give us information about current personnel by location and seniority (quantitative) of the regional level; information about the main outputs and tools, and opinion about strengths/opportunities and weaknesses/threats of the UN regional entities. Additionally, a survey with eight further questions was shared, giving the researchers more insight into each organization. The information garnered from these surveys was triangulated with copious interviews, meetings and literature/document reviews. Thus, our initial findings were tested and gradually honed. The mapping exercise was a key tool for the regional consultations.

More findings in the full report

We are happy to see that our work has been useful and recognized in the UN Secretary-General´s latest report to member states, as he mentioned that: “we engaged in an innovative partnership with a group of experts from different regions specialized on sustainable development and familiar with the different regional contexts, under the overall coordination of Cepei – a think tank based in Colombia and with strong track-record on the 2030 Agenda. Following visits to all regions and interviews with close to 400 stakeholders, Cepei has delivered rigorous analysis and recommendations that helped inform the work of our IRT”. (A/74/73 -E/2019/14).

Imagen relacionada

UN Secretary-General´s latest report to member states available here


Find the profiles of the core research team here

Find the profiles of the support team here 

All the pictures of our visits to the 5 UN Regions available here

Click on the image to download the report

Available here

Share our report using the hashtag #UNDSReform and tagging @infoCEPEI + @UN 


Resultado de imagen para video icon png orangeVideos



2019 ECOSOC operational activities for development segment | 21 – 23 May 2019 at UN Headquarters in New York

§ Day 1 | 21 May 2019

§ Day 3 | 23 May 2019