A United Nations Resident Coordinator is the highest United Nations official and the chief of UN diplomatic mission in a country (except when there is a mission of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations or similar, in which case the Special Representative of the Secretary-General is the highest official). It confers the same rank as an Ambassador of a foreign state. The resident coordinator is the designated representative of the UN secretary general and leader of United Nations Country Team of agencies such as UNICEF, WHO, WFP or UNFPA.
The function was previously most often performed by the Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme.. However, following reforms of the UN development system that came into effect in 2019, the UN Resident Coordinators are employed by the United Nations Secretariat and report directly to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The Resident Coordinator (RC) system encompasses all organizations of the United Nations system dealing with operational activities for development, regardless of their formal presence in the country. The RC system aims to bring together the different UN agencies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of operational activities at the country level. Resident Coordinators, who are funded and managed by UNDP, lead UN country teams in more than 130 countries and are the designated representatives of the Secretary-General for development operations. Working closely with national governments, Resident Coordinators and country teams advocate the interests and mandates of the UN system while drawing on the support and guidance of the entire UN family.
Coordinating development operations promotes more strategic support for national plans and priorities, makes operations more efficient and reduces transaction costs for governments. This helps the UN to be a more relevant and reliable partner for governments.
The RC's role in the country is multifaceted, and his or her responsibilities include:
Ensuring the coordination of all UN operational activities; Assuming leadership within the UN system; Assuming the UN Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) role in case of an emergency and coordinating country-level response to humanitarian crises; Encouraging and facilitating stronger coordination and coherence for UN activities, and promoting the UN global agenda, including the UN reform agenda, at country level; Responsible for all common UN projects and initiatives designed to reflect corporate UN priorities, and are jointly implemented by all UN agencies represented in the country; Reporting on an annual basis to the Secretary General.
The Resident Coordinator system (RCS) encompasses all organisations of the United Nations system (UNS) dealing with operational activities for development at country level regardless of their formal presence. The RCS facilitates the alignment of the UNS operational activities for development with national plans and priorities, to improve the effectiveness of the UNS overall contribution and coordination with other sources of development assistance.
Within the RCS, the Resident Coordinator (RC) is the leader of the United Nations country team (UNCT) and as such plays a central role at the country level in making possible the coordination of UN operational activities for development. The RC is the designated representative of – and reports to – the Secretary-General (as chairman of the Chief Executives Board/CEB) through the UNDP Administrator in her/his capacity as chair of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG).
The management of the RCS is anchored in UNDP; however, it is owned by the UNS as a whole and its proper functioning is participatory, collegial, and based on consensus and mutual accountability. The RCS has agreed (through the ‘Management and Accountability System of the UN development and RC System, including the “functional firewall” for the RC System’, and relevant implementation plan) to a long-term vision for a Resident Coordinator who: “has an equal relationship with, and responsibility to, all UNCT member agencies”; “has all the leadership qualities required to be an excellent team leader who can represent the whole UN development system effectively”; “is empowered by clear recognition from each agency of his/her role in strategically positioning the UN in each country”; and “be supported, as required, with access to agencies’ technical resources as agreed with the agencies Representatives balancing available resources with tasks to be performed”. However, the RC is also the UNDP Resident Representative (RC/RR), and as such s/he remains accountable for UNDP business in accordance with the Management and Accountability System . In addition, the RC ensures that the interests of non-resident agencies are adequately represented, especially when s/he is leading the UNCT in developing their corresponding United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).
The RC is accredited by letter of the Secretary-General, usually to the Head of State or Government. The RC acts on behalf of the UNS in an impartial way, strategically positioning the UN in each country. S/he leads and coordinates all operational activities for development in the country in support of national priorities and capacity-building in the context of internationally agreed treaty obligations and development goals, including the MDGs, and places the UN centrally in development and international cooperation in the country.
All representatives of UNS organisations at the country level report to the RC on matters related to the working of the UNCT and implementation of the jointly agreed UNCT work programme derived from the UNDAF and/or the equivalent post-crisis development plan. The RC is accountable to the UNS at the global level, with inputs from the regional directors teams and designated managers from headquarters – including to the RC’s performance appraisal – through the UNDG Chair, to the CEB. The RC is also accountable for ensuring that the UNCT are kept fully informed on interactions s/he has on behalf of the UNS with the Government, donor community and other development partners.
While the primary responsibility for coordinating humanitarian assistance rests with national authorities, the RCS is responsible for supporting national efforts. If international humanitarian assistance is required and a separate Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) position is not established, the RC is accountable to the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) for the strategic and operational coordination of the response efforts of UNCT member agencies and relevant humanitarian actors (national and international humanitarian organisations, bilateral actors), in support of national efforts. The UN ERC may choose to designate the RC as HC, in consultation with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, if the situation so requires.
If a Special Representative of the Secretary-General is appointed, the RC/HC will normally function as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General under his/her overall authority, with responsibility for the coordination of development and humanitarian assistance, including early and longer-term recovery, in the context of RC/UNCT consultative arrangements (as per the SG Guidance Note on Integration). In locations where there is no resident SRSG or Special Envoy, and in the event of a significant deterioration or evolution of the political situation in the country, the RC liaises with the Department of Political Affairs for support.
The RC will normally be appointed as the Designated Official (DO) for UN Security by the SG, unless the SG appoints a more senior UN official who is resident in the country, on the advice of UN Department of Safety and Security (DSS). In implementing this function the RC/DO reports to the Secretary-General through the Under-Secretary-General of DSS.
In locations where the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) has a UN Information Centre (UNIC) but no DPI Director, the RC will usually assume the functions of the Director of the Centre, in accordance with DPI terms of reference for RCs serving as UNIC Directors.
This RC job description is derived from the UNDG terms of reference for the RC, the UNDG guidance note on RC and UNCT working relations, the UNDG dispute resolution mechanism for UNCTs, and the ‘Management and Accountability System of the UN development and RC System, including the “functional firewall” for the RC System’ (and its corresponding implementation plan) - which all provide guidance and appropriate information. This job description acknowledges and incorporates where possible the best practices and experiences emerging from the Delivering as One pilot countries, in which local arrangements for the role of the RC may apply. It is envisaged that over time lessons will be drawn upon and incorporated into this job description from mutually agreed mechanisms (for example, the recent General Assembly Resolution A/RES/62/277 ‘System-wide coherence’).
- "Resident Coordinator System". United Nations Development Group. Retrieved 2013-05-30.
- "UN development system reform 101". United Nations Development Group. Retrieved 2020-08-13.
- UN RESIDENT COORDINATOR GENERIC JOB DESCRIPTION: see www.undg.org