Helen Clark: Closing Speech UNDP 50th Anniversary Ministerial Meeting

Today’s meeting has been about Ministers engaging strategically on the big issues and on the role of UNDP. Thank you all for entering in to the spirit of the meeting – more Davos than General Assembly – and being engaged, and insightful.

A key message came at lunchtime from Erik Solheim: let’s be positive. For despite all the bad headlines in the news media, our world has seen a huge amount of progress. People are living longer and are better educated. They have more income. We have not yet reached the last mile. But it can be done. We have seen countries eradicate poverty. We have seen countries reach many new heights.

My wish for UNDP is that it continues to be proactive, responsive, and relevant as countries define their development journeys. Each country is unique, but if we stick with getting rid of poverty, stick within the boundaries of nature, and continue to lift human development, then we will be on the right track.

By the end of the Agenda 2030 period, most countries will be middle income countries. And so the role of UNDP will change. It will include much more South-South Co-operation and knowledge sharing, and policy advice. We must continue to move with the times. We are not what we were in 1966. What we are today is not what we will be in 2030. But we will still be there, and we will still be relevant.

o Today we heard how UNDP over 50 years has supported countries to navigate through the most difficult times: whether that involved war and conflict, hardships like Ebola, recovery from devastating natural disasters, or tackling violent crime and lawlessness.

It was heartening to hear the President of Togo say in our opening session that “UNDP’s action made the difference at a critical moment in our country’s development”. More than a decade since that critical moment, UNDP continues to be a valuable partner. Many others echoed these sentiments.

o Other speakers highlighted how UNDP’s support for elections, capacity development, and constitutional reforms have been critical to progress. Pakistan noted: “It is easy to set goals. It is difficult to achieve them unless there is a machine to move them.”

o Countries including Latvia and Turkey also reflected on their journeys with UNDP, from being aid recipient countries to becoming donors and partners to other developing countries. UNDP’s partnership with developing countries has been for the long haul.

o Many speakers also reiterated UNDP’s important contributions to the big international development agendas, including through the human development concept, and in the Earth Summit’s Agenda 21, the Millennium Declaration of 2000, and now the 2030 Agenda.

Challenges ahead

While today has been a celebration of past progress, we also asked for realism about the major challenges which lie ahead.

o Many countries highlighted their concerns about sustaining the gains they have made over the last decade. Building the resilience of people, communities, and countries to be able to withstand and prosper amid shocks of all kinds is a priority for all. UNDP will work to integrate risk management into its country support and programming, following the call at Sendai to mainstream disaster risk reduction. Norway described UNDP as being “indispensable” in building resilience.

o Inequality has been highlighted as a challenge by countries at all levels of development. In order to achieve sustainable development all people must be included. Women who make up half the world’s population must be engaged fully. So must the world’s largest ever generation of young people who are looking for a positive future in the workforce and for their voices to be heard.

o We heard many calls for partnerships which are inclusive of the most vulnerable and marginalized people. Addressing inequalities in all forms is an imperative; it is good economics, and it’s an investment in peace and security.

o Preventing Violent Conflict is helped by building more inclusive societies, and reducing vulnerabilities. We have heard your emphasis on investing in peace, reconciliation, and dialogue, and ensuring that the commitment of development partners is sustained.

o Many countries raised the critical issue of water security and scarcity and the management of water resources. This is a potential source of greater tension in the years ahead. UNDP is committed to supporting countries to head off looming crises through improved water governance, and management of shared water resources.

o Many spoke of how environmental degradation is impacting on their ability to move ahead. Combating climate change, achieving sustainable management of natural resources, and managing the risks associated with natural disasters loom large. As Finland noted, protecting the planet and delivering sustainable development is not a choice; it is a matter of survival. Many countries need support to make the shift to the more sustainable production models called for in Agenda 2030, and in the COP21 Agreement reached in Paris.

Today’s discussions have affirmed that these challenges must be tackled with urgency, even in the current constrained global economy. The MDGs were launched in better times. Now all sources of finances must be drawn on – public and private, domestic and international, developmental and environmental.

Egypt noted that “When co-ordinating different funds, synergy is critical. We need integrated programmes playing together as one team”. UNDP plays a role in finding those synergies

UNDP and Agenda 2030

Your assessment today of how UNDP can best support your countries’ efforts to successfully implement the 2030 Agenda fits closely with the vision expressed in our Strategic Plan.

o Today Ministers have said they value our role in facilitating countries’ access to knowledge, expertise, and resources to implement the SDGs. Minister Murah of Sierra Leone called UNDP the “SDG Accelerator”. Our role in supporting countries to pursue risk-informed development has been acknowledged.

o Ministers have also stated how much they value UNDP’s efforts to ensure integration and coherence in its leadership and co-ordinating role in the UN development system. Many of you called for us to play an even stronger role in that, which we are happy to do.

o Special mention was made of our role in fragile countries. Somalia and others made it clear that crisis-affected countries cannot be left out of SDG implementation. UNDP has a key role to play in these contexts.

o The importance of supporting South-South Co-operation has also been raised by many countries, including Panama and Mozambique. Across developing countries, there are countless experiences of positive and innovative policies and best practices. All countries are keen to share their experiences and lessons learned to support SDG achievement.

Ensuring UNDP can meet expectations

UNDP offers its unconditional support to countries. But we need your help too.

In particular, we benefit from a stable and predictable financial foundation to sustain our multilateral character and our partnerships, and to lead the UN development system. That system relies on the backbone support of UNDP’s universal presence in developing countries and its scale.

So we ask all Member States to see investing in UNDP as an investment in the global presence and mandate of the UN for development. So often, leaders say to us: UNDP is the face of the UN in our country. We are respected for our expertise, our political neutrality, and for always supporting national ownership.

Conclusion

This Ministerial Meeting strongly suggests that there is a shared understanding of the road ahead for development and for UNDP as a ‘trusted and strategic’ partner.

We are grateful for your presence, your leadership, and your generosity in thought, action, and commitment to our shared agenda, and for the confidence you have expressed in UNDP. Your inspiration and recommendations will help guide our future work.

In closing, can I express special appreciation to all who have journeyed to New York to help shape our future, and to the team in UNDP led by Michael O’Neill and supported by all UNDP senior managers which pulled together this extraordinary meeting. We are indebted to you all for your contributions – as we are to all our staff around the world who work with dedication to make a difference for people and planet.

Source: EMM