Helen Clark: Statement to the Annual Meeting of the UNDP Executive Board

04 Jun 2015

Mr. President,
Members of the Executive Board,

I am pleased to welcome you to the UNDP segment of the 2015 Annual Session of the Executive Board.

We meet in exciting times for development with major UN processes taking place this year which will set priorities for a generation. But we also meet in challenging times, with a significant number of crises demanding the attention of the international community. Throughout, UNDP must also ensure that it performs well in delivering on the Strategic Plan agreed by its Board. In my statement today, I will comment on:

•    UNDP’s engagement in the response to a number of the crises currently affecting development and in the renewal of global development agenda;

•    UNDP’s 2014 Annual Report on the Strategic Plan; and

•    the UN development system reform agenda.

UNDP’s role in response to crises and disasters

Let me begin with our work in Nepal, where the 25 April earthquake claimed over 8,600 lives and left 16,000 people injured. Over half a million houses were either destroyed or severely damaged, and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people have been shattered. Another serious quake followed on May 12th.
UNDP and the overall UN system reacted quickly. Our main focus has been on helping the Nepalese authorities respond to the needs of the affected communities through emergency livelihoods support, debris management, and co-ordination of what needs to be done.
We have trained volunteers in the safe demolition of housing damaged beyond repair, and in environmentally sound debris removal, sorting, and recycling. We set goals of training around 5,600 community members to do that work and for providing temporary housing before the beginning of the monsoon. Building earthquake-safe homes needs to follow.
We are supporting micro enterprises, mostly those run by women, to start up again, and estimate that we can reach many thousands of families with this assistance.
We are part of the Post Disaster Needs Assessment, led by the Government and supported by the UN, the World Bank, the European Union, and other development partners, including the Asian Development Bank and Japan’s JICA.

In the recovery, we are committed to helping Nepal address underlying vulnerabilities which exacerbated the impact of the disaster. Development planning in Nepal, as elsewhere, needs to be risk-informed to reduce the impact of future disasters.
Strong international support for Nepal is critical – both for the ongoing relief, and for early and longer-term recovery. With the annual monsoon season now beginning, there is no time to lose on ensuring that immediate needs are met.

The people of Syria continue to have their lives turned upside down by conflict: more than 220,000 have been killed. Nearly four million are refugees in other countries, and another 7.6 million are internally displaced – taken together, these numbers comprise around half the Syrian population. Two-thirds of the population now lives in extreme poverty, and half are unemployed. The impact on neighboring countries has been very significant too.

Two updated response plans were prepared: the Syria Strategic Response Plan (SRP) and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP). The international community convened in Kuwait to pledge against these plans.

The resilience-based approach inherent in the plans is recognized by many partners as essential in meeting needs generated by the crisis in the sub-region. The Resilience Development Forum anticipated in the 3RP is planned for later this year in Jordan, and will be a good opportunity to take stock of financing instruments, capacities, and resources, and to bring in new partners, including the private sector and investment funds. We are giving strong backing to the national response plans in the sub-region.

UNDP’s resilience-based work includes:

•    helping to create thousands of emergency jobs in Syria and supporting the removal of over 150,000 tons of solid waste. These efforts have directly and/or indirectly benefited more than 2.3 million people.

•    in neighboring countries, we have a range of initiatives – for example, women’s cash-for-work projects in Jordan, an olive packaging and storage project in Turkey, installing a water network in Lebanon, offering psycho-social support and legal aid for women and girls in Iraq, and providing job opportunities and vocational training for youth in host communities in Egypt.

Now to Yemen, where ongoing conflict has hugely increased needs for humanitarian relief, and deepened the pre-existing development challenges.

UNDP is refocusing its programming to meet immediate needs at the community level, including by placing more emphasis on restoration of livelihoods and basic social services. We are supporting the capacity of Yemeni partners for documenting human rights violations and to provide assistance to victims. In close collaboration with the Office of the Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, we stand ready to support an inclusive and Yemeni-led political dialogue which could pave the way to peace and resumed development.

In the Central African Republic, UNDP is providing critical support to the newly formed transitional government. An important element of this work has been the re-registration and audit of all civil servants and security sector employees, and setting up a salary payment system for them. UNDP, the World Bank, and the Peacebuilding Support Office were then able to help start salary payments again.

UNDP supported the local consultations leading to the Bangui Forum on National Reconciliation on May 15th, where more than 600 participants discussed the root causes of the conflict and the preparations for the upcoming elections. I note that the election process is still significantly underfunded. UNDP is committed to support the Government to deliver quickly on the commitments made at the Forum, including through social cohesion programmes and creation of employment opportunities for youth and women at the community level.

Eighteen months after the outbreak of hostilities in South-Sudan, the crisis there remains unresolved. Over two million people have been displaced and close to 4.6 million people are experiencing emergency levels of food insecurity – the highest since independence. UNDP’s work continues to focus on livelihood support for IDPs and voluntary returnees. As part of the new development assistance strategy to be finalized this year, the UNCT will strengthen its work on early recovery, resilience, and coping capacities for vulnerable populations.

In Mali, UNDP continues to work with MINUSMA in support of rehabilitation in the North, including through rebuilding public infrastructure and supporting training for the police, gendarmerie, and National Guard.

Supporting livelihoods is another vital part of our work there. In Timbuktu, one of the three regions hardest hit by the conflict, our Faguibine project is supporting over more than 6,700 farmers in poultry farming and rice and vegetable cultivation, resulting in a thirty per cent increase in production since 2013. Livelihood opportunities have also been created for more than 2,500 women, and UNDP has helped rehabilitate water access points  benefitting more than 90,000 people.

In Nigeria, UNDP provided electoral support in the lead up to the presidential elections, including for strengthening the capacity of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the National Human Rights Commission, and supporting the National Peace Committee. Nigeria is to be commended on the professional conduct of the elections and on the country’s first peaceful and democratic transition.
In February I visited Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and witnessed first-hand the devastating impact of Ebola on lives and livelihoods. Since then Liberia has been declared Ebola-free. Case incidence in Sierra Leone is now low, but new cases continue to be recorded. It is to be hoped that with intensified efforts, the outbreak in Guinea can also be stopped soon.

Stop and treat has always been the top priority of the Ebola response, but in recent months, attention has also focused on recovery from Ebola’s serious impacts on societies and economies. In that, it will be important to address the drivers of the fragility which contributed to the crisis, including by building resilient institutions and improved services, and by prioritizing human development overall.

UNDP has been designated to lead the UN system’s efforts on Ebola recovery, with our ‘Ebola Early Recovery and Resilience Support Framework’ underpinning our work. As part of this, we have provided the three countries with technical assistance as they develop their National Ebola Recovery Strategies, and we continue to support the sub-region wide effort. The Ebola Recovery Assessment, on which UNDP was a co-lead with the African Development Bank, the EU, the UN, and the World Bank, was done to provide input into government’s planning.

With the draw-down of UNMEER, UNDP will work closely with all partners in the three UN Country Teams to ensure there is no gap in co-ordination of the Ebola response and recovery. We will support governments to lead the overall co-ordination and Resident Co-ordinators to lead UN co-ordination in-country.

2015: A Once in a Generation Year for Development

As I’ve said on a number of occasions, 2015 offers a once in a generation opportunity to set a transformational agenda for development through global agreements on financing for development, the post-2015 development agenda, climate change, and disaster risk reduction.

Sendai Framework for Action

The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) took place in Sendai, Japan, in March, and its outcome – the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 – was an important step forward. We were pleased that UNDP’s key message: ‘if it isn’t risk-informed, it isn’t sustainable development’ was widely featured.

In Sendai, UNDP announced the development of its new 10-year global programme, ‘5-10-50’. This programme will to be launched in early 2016 and aims to support fifty countries over ten years in their efforts to pursue risk-informed development.

Financing for Development

The Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD), to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in July, will be critical in setting out pathways for development financing.

Meeting ODA commitments and directing that funding where it is most needed is vital. As well, international public finance beyond ODA is needed for investments in areas like communicable disease control, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and science, innovation and new technologies.

But to raise the trillions of dollars required for development, including for meeting the SDGs, effective domestic resource mobilization is indispensable. Aid needs to be catalytic in unleashing capacities for that, including in tax system design, and in the enabling environment for investment, trade, and borrowing. There is also the opportunity in Addis Ababa for concrete commitments to be made on tackling problems like tax evasion and avoidance and illicit financial flows – these are major constraints on raising domestic resources. The new financing framework also needs to emphasize risk management.

Post-2015 Development Agenda

UNDP is well placed to support implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals expected to be agreed in September. We will draw on our fifty years’ development experience; the role we’ve played on the MDGs – globally and locally; our focused Strategic Plan which reflects our unique mandates on poverty eradication, governance, environment, crisis prevention, and recovery; our global presence; and our co-ordination role in the UN development system.

We are working on an implementation strategy for the whole UN Development Group. Known as MAPS, it will through:

•    mainstreaming: support countries to ‘land’ the agenda by reflecting it in national development plans and policies. We have extensive experience in doing this with the MDGs from an early stage.

•    accelerating: support countries to accelerate progress on key goals and targets. We have gained invaluable experience from implementation of the MDG Acceleration Framework in more than sixty countries.

•    policy support: make policy and technical expertise readily available from across the UN system to governments at all stages in the implementation process. For UNDP, this would, in particular, be in the areas of poverty eradication and sustainable development pathways, governance, and resilience.

UNDP’s support to the Paris Climate Conference

The success of global efforts to tackle climate change will have a huge bearing on whether the objectives of the post-2015 global development agenda can be met. The poorest and most vulnerable people and countries bear the greatest burden from the impact of climate change – and have contributed least to the problem.

We are working to support a positive outcome from COP21 in Paris in December. UNDP has a $1.3 billion climate-related portfolio, and has knowledge and experience across all areas of the negotiations. We were pleased to co-host an event with France and Peru here in New York a few weeks ago on climate finance.

We are assisting countries to prepare their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), as we have assisted participation in all the mechanisms under the UNFCCC.

We are delighted to be in the first group of seven organizations to be approved as accredited entities of the Green Climate Fund. On an almost daily basis we are getting requests for support from countries on GCF matters. We are already working with the most climate-vulnerable countries to design concept notes and proposals to be submitted to the Fund for its first allocation round.

Annual report on the Strategic Plan: development results and institutional performance for 2014

Let me turn to my 2014 Annual Report to the Board on the Strategic Plan. This report differs in two important ways from its predecessors:  

•    For the first time, programme and institutional performance is measured through the Integrated Results and Resources Framework (IRRF). The IRRF translates the Strategic Plan into milestones and targets, allowing for systematic monitoring of progress and achievements, and strengthened accountability; and

•    It includes a “Report Card”, which provides a snapshot of UNDP’s development and financial performance against 2014 milestones.

Together, the IRRF and the Report Card demonstrate UNDP’s strong commitment to providing a focused, results-driven, and evidence-based analysis of our work.  

The Annual Report also consolidates our reporting on QCPR implementation with our reporting on strategic plan results, demonstrating UNDP’s commitment to ensuring delivery on the QCPR. An annex on that has been added, providing updates on progress made against relevant indicators in the Secretary General’s QCPR Monitoring Framework. We have set up an internal mechanism to ensure that we are actively monitoring QCPR implementation.

Development Performance

In this first year of implementation of the current Strategic Plan, evidence-based reporting is as much a learning exercise as a reporting one. Progress on achieving the seven outcomes of the Plan was good, and we judge that we met or exceeded most of the 2014 milestones set.

Helping countries to eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities continued to be at the heart of our work last year. Job creation and strengthening livelihoods was a critical part of that. We supported the creation of almost one million jobs in 77 countries, and helped over eleven million people in 94 countries – half of whom were women – to benefit from strengthened livelihoods. Over 2.1 million women directly benefited from interventions designed to reduce or eliminate barriers to women’s economic empowerment.     

We supported the development and implementation of the MDG Acceleration Framework in 44 countries last year. This work is very focused on the unfinished business of the MDGs, with countries very keen to make progress on poverty eradication, food security and nutrition, lowering maternal mortality, and meeting other key targets.
To help address the needs of the most vulnerable, UNDP assisted 55 countries improve access to social protection last year. Our Fiscal Equity Project helped governments in Latin America to with tax and social reforms which are designed with financial sustainability of social protection systems in mind.

Last year we worked in 98 countries to promote low-emission and climate resilient growth and improved natural resource management. With our support, 39 countries are now implementing comprehensive plans for low-emission and climate-resilient development objectives.  In order to scale up action on climate change adaptation and mitigation, UNDP supported 21 countries to access climate finance last year.

On the democratic governance pillar of our work, support for electoral processes continues to loom large. Last year, our electoral work supported more than eighteen million new voters being registered in 21 countries, including nearly four million in Afghanistan.  

We make every effort to ensure that gender equality is factored into all aspects of our work on elections. In Iraq, for example, with UNDP’s support, reduced registration fees were introduced for women-only political entities and women candidates. More than 2600 women came forward to be candidates, a 44 per cent increase from 2010.

UNDP helps expand access to justice by supporting the provision of legal aid. More than 370,000 men and over 390,000 women accessed such services in 29 countries last year. We helped bring more than 10,000 sexual and gender-based violence cases to formal justice systems.  In Sierra Leone, for example, as a result of a partnership we have with civil society, more than 1100 victims of sexual and gender based violence got legal aid, and settings of Saturday Courts which we’ve supported have led to significantly reduced case processing times. We have also worked through the UN Global Focal Point arrangement with DPKO and other UN entities to strengthen access to justice for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

The promotion of universal access to basic services was another important focus of our work last year. In 84 countries we supported governments and civil society to advance the recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law. Our vital role on HIV in partnership with the Global Fund resulted in 1.4 million people receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment, and 22 million people being reached with HIV-related information.  

A critical pillar of our work is to help countries lock in development gains by building greater resilience to shocks.

Last year we were working in 72 countries on building resilience to disasters, including on the design and/or implementation of disaster reduction and adaptation plans. In Sri Lanka, for example, UNDP supported the government to launch a comprehensive disaster management programme, transforming the way disaster risk reduction is planned and implemented in that country.

When crises did erupt, UNDP’s job is to respond swiftly with early recovery programming, focusing on strengthening local economies, employment, and livelihoods. Last year, around 5.7 million people in 21 countries mired in or recovering from crises benefited from strengthened livelihoods, and over 135,000 people were employed in emergency jobs in sixteen crisis-affected countries.

In the epicenter countries of the Ebola outbreak, we helped strengthen government payment systems to ensure that Ebola response workers were paid for their efforts. Across the three countries, UNDP supported the governments in paying over 49,000 out of the 69,000 known Ebola response workers. Through these efforts, many of those who were beyond the reach of the traditional banking sector also gained access to financial services.  

Institutional Performance and Resources

2014 was a year of significant internal reorganization, aimed at making UNDP fit for purpose for its new Strategic Plan and the post-2015 agenda. Our structural changes placed more staff capacity closer to programme countries. Through a strengthened regional presence, Country Offices now have readier access to streamlined programme support services.   

To put the Strategic Plan on a solid first-year footing, we made big efforts to boost our data collection and analytical capacities; introduced new programme and project quality criteria, including rigorous social and environmental safeguards; and mainstreamed the use of evaluations in programme and project design and results reporting.

Since the Annual Report was released, we have updated audited figures for development expenses. These stood at $4.57 billion, which was a slight increase on the 2013 figure of $4.49 billion.

Continued support for UNDP’s core budget is important in supporting us to perform at a high level. While non-core funding for UNDP remained healthy, we saw a decline in overall core contributions in 2014, exacerbated by unfavourable exchange rate movements for a number of key currencies.
Core resources are critical in ensuring that the priorities of the Strategic Plan are advanced. Last year, ninety per cent of core programme resources went to low-income countries. Seventy four per cent went to Least Developed Countries (LDCs).  For every $1 of core resources invested in LDCs and LICs, UNDP leveraged another $5; in Middle-Income Countries, for each core dollar spent, UNDP leveraged $25 in other resources.

$5.45 million of core funding was allocated to the immediate Ebola response. Core funding also supported around three-quarters of the costs of the UN Resident Co-ordinator system.  As well, it helped us ensure high standards of quality assurance, and transparency.

We are grateful to all Member States who provide core resources to UNDP. The bulk of that resourcing does come from a relatively small number of countries. We are working hard to expand that base, and aim to increase the number of countries contributing to core funding from the current 56 to one hundred by the end of 2017. This is part of our broader funding strategy which we look forward to talking to Board members about in more detail at the September Board session.

Internally we are working to ensure that core funding does not carry costs of delivery which should be borne by projects, in line with previous Board decisions.

In 2014, UNDP actively promoted South-South and Triangular Co-operation and mainstreamed it in 469 projects across 133 countries.

The new UNDP strategy on South-South and triangular co-operation will be finalized this summer, focusing on a number of issues:  first, given the growth of South-South co-operation, acquiring better information on what is happening, and making it available to bodies such as the High Level Committee; second, promoting South-South and Triangular Co-operation throughout the UN development system;  third, setting-up a ‘marketplace’, partly based on an IT platform, which will not only let potential partners reach agreement on specific projects, but also source financing, technical, and other assistance, and access the implementation capacity of UNDP and others; and fourth, where requested, strengthen national capacity for managing South-South and triangular co-operation.

Complementing our work to mainstream SSC in UNDP is our hosting of the UN Office on South-South Co-operation. We are committed to supporting its important functions, and have ensured that its budget is safeguarded.

Firm Commitment to Transparency and Accountability

At this annual meeting, it is important to recall that last year UNDP was ranked as the most transparent aid organization in the world by the Independent Aid Transparency Initiative index.

We continue to work on ensuring that information about UNDP’s activities, funding, results, and stories is open and more accessible than ever. We are also in the process of improving the appeals process for our Information Disclosure Policy.

Our public disclosure of internal audit reports continues to demonstrate that UNDP’s work is subject to extensive and independent scrutiny.

To date UNDP has publicly disclosed a total of 326 internal audit reports. Fourteen were partially redacted, as they contained sensitive information on safety and security for UNDP personnel and IT access.

The information on the overall implementation status of recommendations per audit report, indicates that UNDP continues to respond promptly to internal audit recommendations in order to address any shortcomings noted in internal audit reports.

I take this opportunity to welcome most sincerely the incoming Chair of the Audit Advisory Committee, Sheila Fraser, the former Auditor General of Canada, who will take up her position on 1 July.

A robust evaluation function supports UNDP’s transparency, accountability, and evidence-based programming.
In response to the 2014 independent review, UNDP together with the Independent Evaluation Office, has revised its evaluation policy to refine concepts, streamline processes, and strengthen the utility of both independent and decentralized evaluations. The aim is to enhance quality and accountability, and promote learning in the organization.

The draft Revised Evaluation Policy was tabled for the Board’s approval at this session. We look forward to your constructive deliberations on the policy, and are committed to having an evaluation system which helps us to improve our work.
Promoting UN Coherence
Much attention is being given by Member States and by the UN Development Group to ensuring that the UN development system is fit for purpose for the new development agenda.

Sustainable development requires “whole of government” thinking and action by governments across sectors and silos. The same approach is relevant for the UN development system. We will provide the most relevant and timely support if we are well co-ordinated.

Fortunately the ongoing work to implement the 2012 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy review has helped to drive system wide coherence a lot further. This work has new momentum with the introduction of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which give clear guidance on how UN Country Teams can collaborate better to contribute to getting the development results countries want. These SOPs will underpin the new UNDAFs and country programmes being developed together with programme countries from now on.

Joint UNDG efforts on how to support the post-2015 agenda are being co-ordinated by the Working Group on Sustainable Development which is co-chaired by UNDP. It works closely with the UNDG’s Communications Group, co-chaired by UNICEF and UN Women. A successor facility of the UN Millennium Campaign is being designed to support wider global awareness of the new SDGs when agreed.
South-South and Triangular Co-operation will play an important and growing role in the post-2015 agenda, and working alongside it is a top priority for the UNDG. Our Task Team on South-South Co-operation is guiding and supporting the mainstreaming of SSC across the UNDG and into UN system operational activities.

The UNDG is also implementing a range of reforms at the headquarters level to support common business operations, results management, and reporting, in line with the Plan of Action for Headquarters which was adopted.

The first phase of the ECOSOC dialogues on the longer term positioning of the UN development system concluded with a retreat last week, in which I was pleased to participate. The UNDG has actively supported this process at Member States’ request, providing information about our work, on lessons learned, and on feedback from the country level.

It is clear beyond doubt that Member States see the UN development system as a key partner in the implementation of the new development agenda. This is why support for our capacity to do our job is so critical.

Delivering on the new development agenda requires us to keep moving further and faster down the path of system-wide coherence. It requires a shift in emphasis from representational presence to mobilizing the expertise and support countries want, and always with a clear focus on results.

The ECOSOC Dialogues are also facilitating a valuable conversation around funding, governance, and accountability. Ultimately our shared objective should be delivering more effective and efficient support to the countries and people we serve. I must emphasize again that restoration of core funding would enable us all to be more strategic, more focused, and more catalytic in meeting country needs.

As the dialogue moves into its second phase in the latter half of this year, consultations at the country-level could be helpful. The UNDG would be happy to support such a process.

Recommendations of the Joint Inspection Unit

As in previous years, the JIU has prepared a number of reports which I am pleased to bring to the attention of the Executive Board members, together with UNDP’s management responses.

In relation to the JIU Report entitled “Post-Rio+20 review of environmental governance within the United Nations system”, we welcome proposals to improve the co-ordination and aggregate measurement and reporting of resources across the United Nations system organizations working on the environmental dimensions of sustainable development.


As I indicated earlier in my statement, 2015 presents a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to set a transformational development agenda, and UNDP is fully committed to play its part in making the most of it.

To that end, the continued engagement and support from the Executive Board is essential and much appreciated. We look forward to working closely with you this year and beyond.

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