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News & features archive, 2011

Ten lessons learned from the work of UNSIC

22 July 2011 - The United Nations System Influenza Coordination (UNSIC) has sustained the achievements of its first two‐three years, adapted to changing circumstances, and continued to support effective coordination on influenza, as well as more broadly on pandemic preparedness and One Health.

UNSIC has operated effectively at both global and country/regional level, and provided crucial linkages between UN agencies and other non-UN actors at all levels. There are significant lessons to be learned from UNSIC’s light, networked approach to supporting coordination.

UNSIC’s experience offers ten useful lessons for other areas where coordination is needed:

  1. The United Nations is able to work effectively as One UN;
  2. Coordination requires resources but small dedicated teams can be very effective;
  3. Support for coordination requires constant attention to the political climate;
  4. Constant adaptation is required;
  5. Ad hoc approaches are flexible but institutions can emerge and are difficult to close;
  6. Broad consultation and ownership builds broad support but can slow decision making;
  7. Big bureaucracies are slow to change but can learn from good practice;
  8. Working across different levels is important;
  9. Communication builds trust;
  10. Building relationships in advance is essential for crisis response.

The journey has not been smooth, however. Transitioning UNSIC’s functions is proving a major challenge and there are risks to the legacy of its work, with a need to sustain coordination through senior level leadership. Building on UNSIC’s successes, there are opportunities to support and broaden the scope of horizontal working in the UN system ―particularly for global, multi-sector threats, and crises. The major investments made in preparing for an influenza pandemic would not be fully realized if much of UNSIC’s experience on coordination was not institutionalized somewhere within the UN system. The reputational risk to the UN and partners is high if, when a future pandemic strikes, there is a perception that lessons learned during H5N1 Avian Influenza were forgotten and time was lost in reinventing the wheel.

The Animal Production and Health Division (AGA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been a reliable and strong collaborator to UNSIC activities.

To read the final report of the Final Review of UN System Influenza Coordination (UNSIC) from July 2011, click here.

For more detailed information regarding other UN Activities on avian and human influenza please visit the UN Influenza Portal.