This article analyses the progress of the agenda committed to tackle the fragmentation of the UN system to better understand the process of institutional change in International Organizations. Focusing on changes undergone by the UN's country-level presence, the case study of the voluntary implementation of Delivering as One initiative (DaO) in Mozambique and Vietnam demonstrates how common plans, joint programs and pooled funds have promoted better divisions of labor and settled divergences among UN entities. This has fostered the national ownership of UN country-level activities and developed the nexus of humanitarian-development agendas. Pilot countries and donors resorted to selective incentives for the engagement of UN bureaucracies, who, especially at headquarters, remained resistant to reforms. Reform was subject to incentives and constraints that were introduced and manifested unevenly across spaces and over time. It lost momentum both in Mozambique and Vietnam following the pilot phase, when donors’ engagement faltered, but had more enduring effects in the latter, where the government’s greater capacity to engage in favor of reforms supported the compliance of UN country offices. This indicates the United Nations Country Teams (UNCT) consolidation amid institutional changes based on layering institutional innovations alongside extant structures, overcoming conflicts of loyalties.
- The UN and donors alike should diversify and balance investments on reforms, focusing on the enactment of pillars behind United Nations Country Teams (UNCT) cohesiveness beyond the RC system, investing strategically and in an integrated manner on common plans, pooled funds, common back office, and the harmonization of business.
- The new Resident Coordinator system should abide by no-size-fits-all and national ownership principles. Vertical decentralization is needed to avoid a top-down approach of the new generation of UNCT.
- UNCT should embark on a joint assessment of its comparative advantage to decide on their division of labor to move forward Agenda 2030 in any given country.
- UNCT should tailor its activities through meaningful and strategic United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks that reflect system-wide visions, thereby mitigating the negative effects of earmarked funding.
- Member states should engage with reforms by offering selective incentives in return for compliance, such as contributions to pooled funds to fund joint programs, empowering RCs and national governments to oversee their allocation alongside UNCT.