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2015/2016  KAN-CCBLV1003U  A consultants approach to UN reform: Understanding, challenging and improving the UN Development System

English Title
A consultants approach to UN reform: Understanding, challenging and improving the UN Development System

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Min. participants 35
Max. participants 50
Study board
Study Board for BSc og MSc in Business, Language and Culture, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Center for Business and Development Studies
    Michael Wendelboe Hansen - Department of Intercultural Communication and Management (ICM)
Main academic disciplines
  • Organization
  • Political leadership and public management
  • Project and change management
Last updated on 17-02-2015
Learning objectives
To achieve the grade 12, students should meet the following learning objectives with no or only minor mistakes or errors: After concluding the course, students should
  • Demonstrate a thorough understanding of UN Development Systems’ objectives, institutional and organizational challenges, and position in a complex multilateral environment
  • Possess in-depth knowledge of international political theories that support and challenges multilateralism, and the ability to critically assign these theories in deliberations on the functionality, relevance and importance of the UN Development System
  • Hold the ability to perform analysis of UN Development System performance based on qualitative and quantitative evidence, and present considerate implication analyses and recommendations for improvement of the UN Development System
  • Manage to critically assess and reflect upon methods, theories, and conclusions in own and others’ work
A consultants approach to UN reform: Understanding, challenging and improving the UN Development System:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Written assignment
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content and structure

Development is usually described as one of the three main pillars of the UN, the others being international peace and security; and human rights and humanitarian action. As distinct from the other two pillars, the various organizations that make up the UN Development System (UNDS) share long-term development objectives and subscribe to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The system undertakes the ‘operational activities’ that account for about 60 percent of total annual UN spending (over US$ 13 billion), employing 50,000 people, a majority of the organization’s full-time staff. In total, the UNDS includes more than 30 organizations, headquarters in 14 countries and about 1,000 representative offices globally.


Managing operations of this caliber is complex. Yet, delivering development impact is even more challenging. This course dives into the current debate on the functionality, effectiveness and impact of the UNDS by applying a descriptive and evaluating approach. First of all, we will explore the history, politics and governance structures of the UN and UNDS to gain a thorough understanding of the systems mandate, structure and role. Secondly, using recent quantitative and qualitative survey material from the FUNDs project (http://futureun.org/en/) and input from UN staff from the UN City in Copenhagen, we will attempt to perform considerate implication analyses of the status of the current system, build hypotheses regarding potential change and present recommendations for improvements using a consultancy tool-box.


The course will consist of 4 intertwined modules:


Module 1: Understanding and analyzing the UNDS:

·         Introduction to the history, mandate, structure and role of the UN in general and UNDS specifically

·         Outline of institutional and organizational challenges facing the UNDS and understanding the systems position in a complex international environment

·         Recap on international political theories and perspectives on multilateralism and global governance


Module 2: Coping with global development challenges

  • The UNDS as a global development actor in an ever expanding field of stakeholders, interests and funds. Applying an analytical framework to understand the transformation that has characterized international development thinking the past 20 years.
  • Understanding the performance of the UNDS – introduction to quantitative and qualitative data pool


Module 3: Analyzing the performance of the UNDS – exploring new insights

  • Introduction to the basic consultancy tool-box, including hypotheses building and testing, quantitative and qualitative data analysis, implication analyses and recommendations.
  • Building on the available performance data, students will be asked to select an area (health, gender, education etc.), an organization (WHO, UNOPS, UNICEF), or a priority area (promoting human rights, enhancing the role of women) which they want to explore and analyze, using the insights obtained in module 1 and 2 and leveraging the basic consultancy tool-kit.
  • A series of 3 work/writeshops of 2 hours will be conducted to support the analytical work. The work will result in students presenting a 5-10 slide PowerPoint that includes I) ingoing hypothesis, II) analysis (based in available data), III) implication analysis and IV) recommendations for the area, organization or priority area

Module 4: Presenting findings to the UN

  • Introduction to presentation tools, including story lining, building persuasive narratives and presenting to “clients”
  • Presentation session in the UN City (TBD). Presentation of findings to relevant UN staff.
Teaching methods
• Faculty: The course will be taught by CBS faculty and advisors from Dalberg Global Development Advisors, all with ample experience working with the UN system. Practical application of theories and methods will be focus of teaching sessions.

• Lectures and discussions. A key prerequisite for a successful experience in this course is active participation. To this end, students will be expected to prepare discussion sessions and take turn on leading various exercises.

• Work/writeshops: Focused working sessions with supervision from expert consultants that will help build cases, narratives, analyses etc.

• Literature: Teaching, assignments and final exam will be based on app. 800 pages of relevant theoretical and practitioners literature.
Expected literature
  • Browne, Stephen (2011). The United Nations Development Programme and System. Routledge, New York
  • Browne, Stephen and Thomas G. Weiss (2014). Post-2015 UN Development– Making change happen? Routledge, New York
  • Burtonshaw-Gunn, Simon A. (2010). Essential Tools For Management Consulting – Tools, Models and Approaches for Clients and Consultants. John Wiley & Sons, UK
  • Charter of the United Nations, 1945
  • Dengbol-Martinussen, John og Poul Engberg Petersen (2005). Aid: Understanding International Development Cooperation. Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, Copenhagen
  • FUNDS Project, Fact Book on the UN Development System. Geneva, FUNDS, November 2010
  • FUNDS Project, Global Perception Survey database (Excel)
  • Murphy, Craig N. (2006). The United Nations Development Programme: A Better Way?. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  • Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, 2005
  • Rorden, Wilkinson, and Thomas G. Weiss (2014). International Organization and Global Governance. Routledge, New York
  • Stokke, Olav (2009). The UN and Development, from aid to cooperation. Indiana University Press, Bloomington
  • UN General Assembly, Independent Evaluation of Delivering as One, Main Report. New York, 2012.
  • Waltz, Kenneth N. (1954/2001). Man, the state, and War. Columbia University Press, New York
Last updated on 17-02-2015