The future of the United Nations in Russia
Estelle Winters: Welcome to Highlight! This is Estelle Winters and joining me this time is Senior UN Resident Coordinator in the Russian Federation Frode Mauring. How does the future of the United Nations in Russia look? I believe there are going to be great changes.
Frode Mauring: There is going to be a change, yes. And that has a very natural explanation. We came here in the 90s. Some of us have been here even longer, such as the information center and few others entities as well, but for the most part the UN entered Russia during what you could call a transition phase - a lot of new things, a lot of new practices, and a lot of need for knowledge. Now, 20 years later, there has to be a reconsideration of how we are operating. So, that kind of assistance Russian asked for earlier is no longer needed, because in the course of the Soviet reforms, it started to show itself in terms of economy, jobs, and overall improvements in oil and gas prices - they generated a lot of income for Russia as well. Thus, it no longer needs the aid from the donors and this is what is generating a sort of a new paradigm of partnership with Russia for the future.
Estelle Winters: So, let me get this right: Russia will no longer be aided by the United Nations. Russia will become a donor nation?
Frode Mauring: Russia has already become a donor last year. According to the Ministry of Finance, figures were up to $800 million. This did not start only now - that’s been a process; that has been ongoing. Russia has gained a lot of experiences, while the UN is a kind of being a knowledge broker, facilitating knowledge exchange between Russia and the rest of the world.
Estelle Winters: So, the UN will physically look like what now in Russia?
Frode Mauring: It is not black and white, since there are different United Nations’ agencies here. All depends on whom we are talking about, but basically and gradually, the UN disengages from providing aid to Russia and will, of course, be a partner of Russia. Our presence here will be more limited, not as aid providers, but as knowledge brokers in some areas that Russia itself wants the UN agencies stay here for support. This will be not the traditional ODA - overseas development assistance.
Estelle Winters: You will be leaving?
Frode Mauring: Personally, I will be leaving and will no longer occupy the post of the UN Resident Coordinator here after January, 1st. It is a natural development, because the aid phase is ending with all its consequences. UNDP, for example, will have a local office here to support the implementation of a number of important programs, which will appear as not aid from the UN system, but a kind of a multilateral instrument for global environmental finance. Gradually, the entire UN system will be moving in such a direction. So, we can be here to represent knowledge based on UN standards, conventions and important practices, and at the same time to make sure that the world can get access to valuable Russian experience in these fields.
Estelle Winters: It will all be local staff?
Frode Mauring: Yes, but they will have access to the global network of the United Nations. That’s the difference. That is not only the staff that is here, but the global access as well. You know, you are very lucky to have very talented and experienced staff here. Of course, UNGP will have an office and new staff here starting on January the 1st, but other agencies will have international staff and nevertheless, they will have access to international expertise when required.
Estelle Winters: Really, this is a positive new look.
Frode Mauring: Absolutely. I think we should consider it a positive development. We succeeded in what we came here for, together with Russian institutions. So, this is a success story. When we are able to successfully disengage - that is a success. And here we are not really disengaging, we are reformulating in what way we work with Russia. Certainly, we are not here to be a donor to Russia, but rather a partner, a true partner in terms of knowledge and practices exchange.
Estelle Winters: It is not good bye, it is just au revoir?
Frode Mauring: I would say not even that, because there still will be a presence, we will be still working in areas of mutual convenience as partners, not by UN bringing aid, but by using multilateral financial instruments in terms of global priorities.