ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

268th Session
Geneva, March 1997
Committee on Technical Cooperation TC

Address by Ms Mary Chinery-Hesse, Deputy Director-General,
at the opening of the Committee on Technical Cooperation

18 March 1997

Madam Chair,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the meeting of the Committee on Technical Cooperation in November 1996, the Committee requested and obtained an additional meeting for a discussion on a number of points it had raised, including the functioning of the Committee itself. That is the genesis of the discussion the Committee will have this morning, in the all too brief time allotted. As you would have noted, there is no working paper to refer to: there are just my brief opening remarks which I trust will lend some structure to the debate.

After consultations, we arrived at the conclusion that the short duration of the meeting would not offer an opportunity for a meaningful debate on the issues that would need to be raised if extensive technical documentation had been prepared for the Committee's consideration. Additionally we discerned a problem in identifying topics that would be of significance equally to all tripartite constituents, for the same reason. This meeting is albeit extremely important in the light of the agenda item before the Committee. Other issues I wish to comment on during this meeting relate to the evaluation of the Active Partnership Policy, and also possible items to be put on the agenda of Committee's meeting in November.

As members will recall, the Committee last November decided to look at its role, the way it should fulfil its mandate, and the impact it should have on the deliberations of the Governing Body and on the strategic orientations and policy guidance to be provided to the Office. It was felt that with the many changes which had taken place in the global economy, as well as in the landscape of technical cooperation which continues to evolve, a single meeting in the year did not offer enough opportunity for members to comment on the thrust of the Office's technical cooperation programme. Information and data given by the Office were felt in many cases not to be current enough to represent the dynamics of the situation, and not to offer a strong enough basis for providing guidance for future action, so needed to enable us to respond more effectively to the challenges of a changing world environment, and to address the concerns expressed by our constituents in a more focused manner.

The Office welcomes the increased interest of the Governing Body in this aspect of its work, expressed on so many occasions. We continue to value the input of our constituents on our work in this area to ensure that we remain relevant, constituent-led and, in a large measure, demand-driven. You, the members of this Committee, constitute the sounding board for this purpose. Our success in the technical cooperation field can only be judged in terms of its impact at the country level; and you live the reality and are therefore in a position to reflect whether our interventions have hit the mark.

It should be noted, in considering this matter, that the Governing Body at the present session has before it a paper(1) which proposes further increases in the frequency of Committee meetings, and which, if approved, would enable this Committee to meet at both the March and November sessions. There does not therefore appear to be any further need for this meeting to discuss the issue of frequency.

At the Committee's meeting in November, I reminded members of the terms of reference established for the Committee at the 256th Session of the Governing Body in May 1993. I think it bears repetition, for ease of reference. The following principal six functions were identified:

I deem it important also to recall at this stage highlights of the strategy for technical cooperation approved by the Governing Body at its 261st Session, which determines the main thrust of our activities, in order to establish an improved ambience for your discussion. The strategy basically emphasized the need for governments, workers, employers and the ILO to create an alliance at the national level to identify and solve problems in the world of work. The main building blocks are the strengthening of national capacity and improving the ILO delivery system. In this connection, the importance of developing the capacity of all our social partners for the review, diagnosis and solution of problems was given the highest importance.

The strategy also advocated closer linkages between international labour standards and operational activities. It established the importance of the Active Partnership Policy as the flagship of our approaches in the technical cooperation field. It underlined the need for the ILO to interact, taking into account of our comparative advantage and special niche in the world of work, and above all, our core mandate issues, with other major players in the development arena, including the other agencies of the UN system and the Bretton Woods institutions. It enjoined us to ensure that a growth regime that is based on increased productivity and efficiency will at the same time respect the values enshrined in international labour standards, and that hard economic initiatives are tempered with active social policies. It demanded that we improve the quality of our services by applying the lessons of our past activities through the establishment of an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism. It finally proposed that we install a dynamic resource mobilization strategy so that, once the needs of our constituents are translated into operational packages, they would be appropriately funded by broadening the range of donors, bearing in mind the stiff competition for scarce resources. We have been reporting to the Committee on progress in implementing this strategy through the main report we have issued for the meetings of the Committee, which endorsed the strategy and submitted it for adoption to the Governing Body.

I should also perhaps draw attention to the major areas where the technical cooperation strategy has allowed us to participate. These include:

The Committee has always acted as a very important policy guide for the Office in all matters pertaining to technical cooperation. It is not easy to single out the most significant past discussions in this Committee, but I would wish to mention as one example the discussions which established the criteria for the use of the regular budget for technical cooperation.

The importance and quality of past guidance provided by the Committee can also be seen in the discussion which has several times taken place on the various policy shifts in technical cooperation activities within the UN system. These are shifts that have often been generated in the various UN fora, for example, through UN General Assembly resolutions. The ILO has been able to meet efficiently or even anticipate the impact of these changes. In its turn the Office and its staff have been able to make use of the Committee's deliberations by conveying the views of the Governing Body to the various international fora in which operational issues are discussed.

This Committee has also traditionally played its role by ensuring that the operational recommendations included in resolutions adopted by the International Labour Conference are followed through. Perhaps the Committee will wish to resume this role in relation to the regional meetings. In recent years the operational issues arising from regional conferences have been reported directly to the plenary of the Governing Body.

As I have stated earlier, our reports were judged by Committee members during the November Session to focus too much on the post facto situation. The guidance we seek from you at this time relates to the modalities for ensuring that your vision is reflected in our future work. We offer the following suggestions.

We believe it would still serve a useful purpose for us to continue to submit to you an annual report on technical cooperation. The Committee's meeting during the Governing Body's November sessions would be the appropriate time to draw up a balance sheet of the previous year's operational activities, and I would therefore suggest that the annual report be maintained for that meeting. The report is necessary because it gives a global overview of where the ILO stands in the "development market", and because it normally contains facts and figures which facilitate interpretation of the substance. We can, if you endorse this, alter the format of the quantitative information so that the data can be presented in a modern, graphically more interesting way, with the emphasis on data which illustrate significant trends and tendencies at the regional, subregional and country levels. We will make an innovative attempt to quantify the value of technical cooperation provided by the ILO, including the regular budget for technical cooperation, and the staffing resources dedicated to technical cooperation in the field structure and at headquarters, as well as the extrabudgetary resources. Such a format would enable the Committee to draw conclusions as to what shifts and adjustments should be made to conform better to perceived priorities and areas of emphasis.

In order to render the document more pithy, we could handle the reporting on the Active Partnership Policy and Resource Mobilization separately.

As members requested during the November 1996 meeting, we would attempt to better integrate in the text of the report lessons learned from past experience, current problems and possible strategies for the future. As I in fact assured you, the report would then include more country-level data and analyses of the impact of the ILO's programmes on its constituents, action taken in major thematic areas, and trends for the future. The first modified reporting format would in that case be used for the November 1997 presentation.

The March Session could instead be the opportunity for a substantive and in-depth evaluation of selected technical cooperation programmes. The current structure of the Committee meetings has forced us to discuss the evaluation topic in only a cursory manner, since it is normally treated at the end of a long and exhausting day when diminishing returns have set in. The importance of feedback from you, our constituents, cannot be overemphasized, and this would be our opportunity to tap the contribution of representatives of both beneficiaries and donor partners to enable us to fine-tune our programmes. My proposal, therefore, is that we prepare a substantive document on evaluation for the March session, and that the debate on evaluation be given the time it properly deserves.

If you agree, the selection of the subject-matter for evaluation can be left to the Officers of the Committee to decide, but I do have a suggestion to make in this regard. In order to assess the impact the programmes of the ILO would have made on a specific situation and in order to understand whether the ILO's approach does in fact respond to the complex issues and multi-sectoral development problems our interventions have to address, the evaluation document could on occasion focus on a different sub-region on the basis of the selection of a cross-cutting theme covering a group of countries within the same subregion. This could relate to a theme of relevance to, for example, a generic group of countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam, or the countries in Africa grouped as the "pays de l'Entente". The evaluation could review the original intentions as expressed in the country objectives, and the types of services actually provided and as set out in the work plans of the multidisciplinary teams, including an impact assessment of success and failure. We would like to have your views on this matter.

Issues of resource mobilization could also be put on the agenda for the November Session, and this would offer an opportunity to monitor the resource mobilization strategy which would be presented to the November 1997 meeting of the Committee.

Traditionally, there is a paper on developments in the UN system's operational activities which the Office could continue to prepare for your consideration for the Committee's meeting in November.

The Committee has not been able to devote enough time to the reports of the Joint Inspection Unit referred to it. In view of the interest demonstrated in these reports by members during the meeting in November 1996, maybe more time should be allotted to this subject-matter. We suggest it continue to be placed on the agenda of the November meeting.

There are other relevant activities that the Office undertakes which would be of interest to members and for which we can develop documentation for the information of this Committee. For example, we are currently preparing a series of dynamic and targeted training workshops for headquarters and the field structure on the analysis of selected programmes and projects intended to make a qualitative difference in our performance at the country level and which have attracted considerable donor attention.

The first such training activity will take place on 11 April 1997. It is in the form of a staff seminar on approaches and methods of delivery in technical cooperation for staff who are directly involved in designing technical cooperation programmes, or in providing technical advice to our programmes and projects. The seminar will examine the distinctive approaches used in several large multi-donor and multi-sectoral programmes the ILO has been implementing for a number of years and which have had to respond to fast-changing social and political environments. We will attempt to analyse their technical, institutional, financial and administrative strengths as well as weaknesses to enable us to improve the quality of similar programmes in future.

We have selected as case studies the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), ACOPAM which has been operating in sub-Saharan Africa for about 18 years, and employment creation programmes for crisis-affected countries, such as the programme that has been operating in Cambodia since 1992. We expect some tangible outputs from this seminar, such as indications for training modules for use at the field level, and the establishment of interdepartmental ad hoc problem-solving working parties. I am sure a brief report on this staff seminar and any other developments of such nature can be placed on the agenda of the November meeting. It will give a good indication of the efforts we are making internally to improve our performance.

For its meeting in March the Committee could choose to focus on a separate report on the implementation of the Active Partnership Policy. This would be the time to debate other aspects of our work which also have a bearing on the Active Partnership Policy. We could assess at this time whether greater efforts are being made not only to consult, but also to involve constituents at every stage of country-level activities. We have received information that symposia, seminars and similar meetings in the regions are not always fully tripartite. The Committee would have an opportunity to reflect on such matters. The involvement of our constituents in the definition of the country objectives has been one of the most encouraging aspects of the Active Partnership Policy. In a number of countries, national tripartite committees have been set up to oversee the implementation of the country objectives, and some of them have entered into the field of resource mobilization, taking up contacts with local representatives of donors, including the major international finance institutions on our behalf. We should be aiming for increased involvement of the ILO's constituents in the planning and implementation of technical cooperation programmes by establishing the appropriate mechanisms to ensure the full involvement of ministries of labour, and of the employers' and workers' organizations, at each stage of programme development.

The March meeting could also be an opportunity to discuss some of the major challenges facing the ILO in technical cooperation and which can best be dealt with through the launch of global programmes that are, however, firmly rooted in the development of good quality products delivered through country-level action programmes. The Programme and Budget proposals for 1998-99 include several such global programmes. We invite you to advise us as to the role you would want to play in monitoring the technical cooperation aspects of these important programmes.

This then is how the distribution of agenda items should look according to the suggestions I have made to you:


  1. Annual report on technical cooperation.
  2. The ILO's resource mobilization strategy.
  3. Operational developments in the UN system.
  4. UN Joint Inspection Unit report.
  5. Internal measures taken to enhance the ILO's technical cooperation programme.


  1. Report on the implementation of the Active Partnership Policy.
  2. Impact assessment/evaluation paper on ILO technical cooperation.
  3. Information on the development of new global programmes.

I indicated I would touch on two other topics. Both relate to requests made by the Governing Body to the Director-General in respect of the technical cooperation programme. The first calls for an evaluation of the Active Partnership Policy in the course of 1997, and invites the Officers of the Committee to designate a tripartite working party in order to review the results of this evaluation and to communicate the outcome of this joint exercise to the meeting of the Committee. Our target is for the results to be put before the Committee at the November Session. We are in consultation with the Officers of the Committee in order to establish the necessary parameters for this tripartite evaluation.

As the first stage of this evaluation, the Office is organizing a workshop of ILO officials, made up of the major players in the Active Partnership Policy, for an initial assessment of the first five years of implementation of the policy. The preparatory work in this regard is far advanced and has been developed through consultations with the field structure. The workshop will be held at the end of April. We will be testing in the first instance the extent to which this partnership has helped to forge closer working links with our constituents and whether tripartism has been strengthened, whether there has been an improvement in the analytical capacity of the Office in terms of diagnosing problems and providing policy advice and solutions, and whether the Office has managed, while dealing with the particular needs of our constituents to maintain the overall unity of the Organization. We intend to look more closely at roles and responsibilities and whether the field office structure has succeeded in discharging its major responsibility under this policy for operational activities, especially through the formulation, in consultation with ILO constituents, of country strategies. We will determine additional action which should be taken to improve the effectiveness of, and guidance offered by, input from the technical structure at headquarters in support of the Active Partnership Policy. Finally, we will assess whether the policy has made our resource mobilization efforts more successful. The results of this Turin workshop will be available for the tripartite evaluation.

Our discussions with the Officers of the Committee focus on the methodology that should be adopted for the tripartite evaluation, and I am sure they will keep the groups informed of the final details. The Office stands ready to give maximum support to this exercise.

The other request made to the Director-General by the Governing Body in November 1996 was for the submission to the Committee of a report containing proposals for an innovative strategy designed to enhance the resources available to the technical cooperation programme. I am happy to announce that this document is at an advanced stage of preparation. It takes a fairly broad view of resource mobilization, placing it in the context of today's competitive world of technical cooperation and including issues such as relations with specific donors, marketing aspects, improving communications and the image of the ILO and the quality of the products packaged by the Office for resource mobilization purposes.

I will refrain from anticipating the conclusions of the discussion on the functioning of this Committee, and therefore will not make any suggestions on the likely definitive agenda for its meeting in November 1997, beyond the indications I have already given in this brief statement. We will as usual hold consultations with the Officers of the Committee after the meeting.

I wish you happy deliberations.

1. GB.268/4: Review of the functioning of the Governing Body.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.