1.3.1 RBM in the global UN context


In 1997, the General Assembly recommended the establishment of a ‘better performance yardstick’. Results-based management is not a stand-alone initiative, but forms part of the broader agenda of reforms in the United Nations. Indeed, a central feature of UN reform, as defined in 1997 by the UN Secretary General in his Programme for Reform9, has been to “[…] place greater emphasis on results in planning, budgeting and reporting and shifting the focus of planning, budgeting, reporting and oversight from how things are done to what is accomplished”.

Moreover, these reforms aim to achieve system-wide coherence on major policy and operational matters in the United Nations; strengthen accountability; and improve the impact of the United Nations.

The work on RBM in the context of UN reform is guided by the UN Regulations and Rules Governing Programme Planning, the Programme Aspects of the Budget, the Monitoring of Implementation and the Methods of Evaluation (PPBME) set forth in the Secretary-General’s Bulletin (ST/SGB/2000/8) and updated in 2016 as ST/SGB/2016/6.

United Nations organizations have since been undertaking wide-ranging efforts to integrate RBM in their work culture. RBM is today one of the five core programming principles applied by the UN country teams in the preparation of common country programming documents such as the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).


9 Renewing the United Nations: A Programme for Reform – A/51/950




1.3.2 RBM in UN-Habitat


Results-based management is central to the work of UN-Habitat, from strategic planning to programming, monitoring and reporting, and evaluation. In this regard, UN-Habitat like other UN agencies has been applying Results-based management in planning, monitoring and evaluation at programme level since 2000 in line with ST/SGB/2000/8 and updated in 2016 as ST/SGB/2016/6.

In 2007, the organization adopted RBM as the approach for implementing and achieving the results of its first six-year Medium-Term Strategic and Institutional Plan (MTSIP), as mandated by the Governing Council in its resolution 21/2, which Member States requested the Executive Director “irrespective of the level of funds received, to give immediate priority to the proposed institutional reforms, including further implementation of results-based management….” As part of the process of institutionalizing RBM, (i) UN-Habitat developed a results framework for the MTSIP, (ii) developed an action plan, (iii) a road map, (iv) commenced participatory programme planning, (v) started a programme to build staff capacity in RBM, and (vi) reformed the Programme Review Committee (now Project Advisory Group), a key instrument for ensuring that all projects are results-focused and aligned to the approved strategic framework and biennial work programme and budget, to name a few.

Following the adoption of RBM as the management approach for achieving the results of the MTSIP, UN-Habitat carried out an assessment of the status of RBM in the organization in 2008-2009, and identified gaps and institutional changes needed for the RBM approach. As part of the process of institutionalizing RBM, UN-Habitat developed an action plan and a road map.

The action plan included the following major deliverables:

  1. Refined MTSIP with SMART objectives, indicators, and performance measures;
  2. An RBM framework and strategy for mainstreaming RBM;
  3. A reformed Programme Review Committee (now Project Advisory Group), a key instrument for ensuring that all projects are results focused and aligned to the approved strategic framework and biennial work programme and budget;
  4. Guiding principles and benchmarks for designing performance measurement plan for the MTSIP;
  5. An introductory RBM training programme for all staff;
  6. Guidelines for results-based participatory program planning and budgeting; and
  7. A knowledge management system.

A roadmap for implementation of all these was developed and guided the process up to 2010, when most institutional reforms connected to the MTSIP were completed. Another important recommendation of the review was the restructuring of the organization and the programmatic structure to ensure that they were aligned for effective achievement of the MTSIP results. Implementation of the RBM processes listed above was undertaken after implementation of the MTSIP had commenced. Refinement of the results framework, which was supposed to be the basis of the biennial strategic framework and work programmes and budgets for the six-year period could only be reflected in the documents for the final biennium of the MTSIP, as the earlier documents had already been developed and adopted by the Governing Council and the General Assembly. These were therefore, not fully aligned, which presented a major challenge. As result, the MTSIP and the work programme and budget had to be monitored and reported on separately as they had different logframes. Many lessons learnt from the MTSIP informed the development, operationalization, implementation and management of the second six-year strategic plan for 2014-2019. Everything was done in sequence, so that the results framework of the strategic plan was completed early, and the logframes for the strategic framework and the work programme and budget were replicated from the results framework of the strategic plan.

A six-year performance measurement plan was developed and was the basis for planning, monitoring and evaluation for the six-year period. The reporting burden was greatly reduced as only one report was required to inform on progress made in implementation of the six-year strategic plan and the successive biennial work programmes and budgets, since the two were fully aligned. The organizational structure and the programme were also fully aligned, i.e. seven subprogrammes and seven branches. An RBM capacity assessment (CAPSCAN) undertaken in 2012 concluded that significant progress had been made in implementation of RBM in the organization with over 75% of the staff trained in RBM and significant improvement noted in all pillars of RBM. An OIOS evaluation of UN-Habitat undertaken in 2014 concluded that “UN-Habitat has made measurable progress in its approach to results over time. … in interviews and surveys, staff noted an overall improvement in the culture of results compared to the period of the MTSIP”10

In spite of a few challenges encountered along the way (see figure 6 below), strengthening of RBM in UN-Habitat is a continuous endeavour, and this Handbook exemplifies the efforts deployed by the organization since the Governing Council of April 2007 to implement RBM and strengthen the culture of results.

Inadequate knowledge and skill among staff and management: Ensuring that staff and management have knowledge and skills in RBM is a challenge due to time constraints, pressure of work or little value placed by management on staff having RBM knowledge & skills. Turnover of staff can also mean that the level of RBM competence in an organization is low. Competence in RBM is a function of both training and practice, if RBM skills are not used, they disappear. To address this, there is a need for continuous training, coaching and briefings on RBM.

Lack of alignment of corporate and country level priorities: Country level programming has to respond to national priorities. Balancing or aligning corporate priorities for UN agencies to national ones, takes time and effort and can be challenging to achieve. UN-Habitat is attempting to do this through Habitat country programme documents (HCPDs) but not all countries in which UN-Habitat is working have these.

Poor definition of results: Defining and measuring results at output level is easy, while meaningful definition and measurement of outcomes with SMART and sound indicators is challenging. The definition and measurement of results in normative work is even more challenging. To deal with this, more effort and emphasis should be put into this process, otherwise the organization may invest time, effort and scarce resources on the wrong things.

Attribution versus contribution to results: There are challenges in identifying results achieved through an intervention – attribution. Donors are especially interested in knowing the development results/impact achieved by a recipient organization. The problem is that there are usually many players in a country and the UN is only one; and often the resources invested in the intervention are a small proportion compared to what is invested by the government. Attribution of results can be done at lower level results, but at development results or impact level, UN agencies contribute to achieved results.

Weak culture of results:Building a results culture and fully institutionalizing RBM is the most difficult aspect of RBM. Building a culture of results takes time and requires necessary incentives – however, to a large extent there are no incentives.

Partial implementation of the RBM system: results-based management is a system and for it to be implemented effectively, all elements of the system must work. One of the weakest links is between the results framework and the resources framework. There are often gaps between plans and resources. Strategic plans and biennial plans are rarely fully funded. For results-based management systems to be effective there must also be effective knowledge management (as part of organizational learning) and accountability systems.






Figure 7: Expected Benefits of RBM




10 Evaluation of United Nations Human Settlements Programme: Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, E/AC.51/2015/2



Basic RBM Terminology


11 In UN-Habibat, goals are termed objectives or strategic results 12 IN UN-Habitat, outcomes are termed expected accomplishments