Helen Clark: Statement to the First Regular Session of the UNDP Executive Board

26 Jan 2015

Mr. President,
Members of the Executive Board,
Colleagues and friends,

I welcome all present to this first regular session of the UNDP Executive Board for 2015.

Let me begin by congratulating H.E. Mr. Fernando Carrera, Permanent Representative of Guatemala to the UN, on his election as President of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board.

I also congratulate the new Vice-Presidents on their election: for the group of African States, H.E. Mr. Kelebone Maope, Permanent Representative of Lesotho; for the Asia-Pacific group, H.E. Mr. Durga Prasad Bhattarai, Permanent Representative of Nepal; for the group of Western Europe and other States, H.E. Mr. Hiroshi Minami, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan; and for the Eastern European States group, Mr. Sahak Sargsyan, Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of Armenia.

Allow me also to thank most sincerely H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations and the outgoing President of the Executive Board for his committed leadership of the Board in 2014.

As well, my thanks go to last year’s Vice-Presidents for their valuable support – H.E. Mr. Tuvako Nathaniel Manongi of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mr. Jonathan Viera of Ecuador, Mr. Boyan Belev of Bulgaria, and Mr. Vincent Herlihy of Ireland.

Today I also welcome Magdy Martinez-Soliman, Director of the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support (BPPS), and Izumi Nakamitsu, Director of the Crisis Response Unit (CRU), to their first meeting of the Executive Board as Assistant Secretary Generals.

At UNDP, we see 2015 as a huge opportunity to advance the global sustainable development agenda.

The MDGs run their course at the end of the year, and UN Member States are due to agree in September on the Sustainable Development Goals which will guide global development priorities for the next fifteen years.

Alongside this are other critical processes and events: the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March, in Sendai, Japan; the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) in July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and the UN climate change conference in Paris, France, in December.

The combined outcomes of these major processes are a once in a generation opportunity to set a transformational global agenda for sustainable development.

In my statement today:

– I will update the Board on UNDP’s efforts in response to current crises around the world, and on our support for the important global development discussions taking place this year;

– I will report on the implementation of UNDP’s Strategic Plan and our efforts to make the organization ever more focused, results-driven, effective, and efficient; and

– I will introduce the paper on UNDP’s engagement in direct budget support; reiterate our commitment to transparency and accountability; and comment on the current priorities of the UN Development Group.

Tackling crises and building resilience

2014 saw tremendous volatility and turmoil around the world. In September I briefed you on UNDP’s work in response to many current crises. Through our work on early recovery we aim to support countries to move from the relief phase to recovery as quickly as possible.

Almost four years into the crisis in Syria, nearly 200,000 people have been killed, close to seven million are internally displaced, and more than three million have fled to neighboring countries. The fighting has drastically rolled back the country’s human development and pushed over three-quarters of the population into poverty – 4.4 million people are estimated to be living in extreme poverty.

UNDP’s work in Syria takes place in the context of the Syria Strategic Response Plan, and offers emergency livelihood and other support with a focus on the most vulnerable, including female-headed households and people with disabilities.

Host communities in neighboring countries have struggled to cope with very large numbers of refugees. I witnessed the pressure last September, during my visit to Lebanon with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres. We visited joint UNDP-UNHCR initiatives designed to help the local economy and create jobs, and we are both strong advocates for support for the neighbouring countries.

UNDP is involved in similar work in Jordan, which, like Lebanon, has one of the highest numbers of refugees per capita in the world; in Iraq, which faces a complex overlap of refugee and internally displaced people crises; and in Turkey and Egypt which also host large numbers of Syrian refugees.

We urge all our partners to put their full weight behind the Syria Strategic Response Plan for 2015 and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) which were launched in Berlin in December.

UNDP remains heavily engaged in Central African Republic’s efforts to move forward from profound crisis. Examples of our work include electoral assistance and support for inclusive political dialogue; and joint work with MINUSCA, the peacekeeping mission, to fight impunity and maintain basic law and order, including through assistance to the government’s Special Investigations Unit and to the Special Criminal Court.

The situation in South Sudan continues to be very challenging. Our work with the National Platform for Peace and Reconciliation and other partners aims to expand the space for grassroots-level dialogue aimed at fostering peace and reconciliation, complementing the official peace talks at the leadership level.

We are working with the UN peacekeeping mission to begin the slow process of re-establishing law and order and building trust, through programmes such as community policing and emergency call centers. As well, as part of an early recovery pilot for Internally Displaced Persons, we support emergency employment and entrepreneurship training, and have financed the building of small stalls and sheds in markets to help small traders get established. Our support for strengthening the justice sector and core governance functions has continued, including through the IGAD knowledge and skills transfer initiative which has resulted in around 200 civil servants from neighbouring countries working in South Sudan government bodies to build and supplement capacity.

In Mali, we work with MINUSMA to support state authority in the North, including through rebuilding public infrastructure, such as courthouses and administrative offices, and training police and justice and corrections officials. UNDP has also helped establish the Mali Climate Fund, which will fund disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation at the local level.

In Ukraine, work with IDPs and communities directly affected by the crisis has been at the center of our response. We work closely with UN partners to facilitate humanitarian and early recovery support. Together with the European Union and the World Bank, we have recently prepared a Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment in Donbas region which defines priority needs, including infrastructure rehabilitation, recovery of basic social services, and community reconciliation in areas controlled by the Government of Ukraine. We are also working closely with the Government in Kiev to support their medium- and long term reform agenda.

UNDP has been working in Yemen on constitutional development, national dialogue, support to the electoral commission, and, in the South, on transitional justice. Local governance and poverty reduction also feature in our work, including through an innovative youth employment programme. The crisis in Yemen has deepened very recently. We very much hope that there can be a return to political dialogue around the country’s future, and are at the service of Yemenis to help in any way we can.

The catastrophic impact of Ebola on Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, is now well known. More than 8,600 lives are estimated to have been lost, and close to 22,000 people have been infected. Women have been infected disproportionately. It is encouraging, however, to see that case incidence continued to fall in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone during the last reporting period (the week ending 23 January).

I will brief you in more detail on UNDP’s Ebola response at our High Level Event on Ebola Recovery on Thursday. We have played a full part in the efforts to stop the outbreak, and are the designated lead for the UN system on supporting recovery from the Ebola crisis. In parallel with the continued response to the health emergency aimed at “getting to zero” infections, this is also the time for planning how to build back better.

Our efforts in response to all crises – whether caused by war and conflict, natural disaster, deadly disease outbreak, or any other factor – always aim to build the foundations for development, and build resilience to future events.

This approach has proven its worth time and time again. A good example is the Philippines, where, following the destructive Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), UNDP worked closely with the authorities and development partners to strengthen national preparedness for and resilience to disasters.

Our joint efforts contributed to the Philippines Government’s impressive preparations for Typhoon Hagupit last December –from which there was a low death toll. Any death from a disaster is a tragedy, and all possible efforts must continue to be made to save lives and communities.

Mozambique and Malawi, have experienced appalling flooding this month. UNDP is supporting national counterparts with early recovery, and is working with OCHA to co-ordinate the work of the two UN Country Teams to provide effective relief. These efforts build on our many experiences with disaster response and recovery, including in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia just last year in the aftermath of devastating floods.

2015 – A Critical Year for Global Action on Development

International processes this year are scheduled to produce agreements on the post-2015 agenda; a new framework for disaster risk reduction; financing for development; and on tackling climate change.

The outcomes of each of these processes will be more powerful if there are synergies between them. It is widely accepted that eradicating poverty, building resilience, and reducing carbon emissions must go hand and hand. I urge all Member States to take a whole-of-government approach to all of these negotiations to get mutually reinforcing outcomes from them.

In March, at the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, in Sendai, Japan, Member States are due to agree on a new framework for disaster risk reduction to succeed the Hyogo Framework for Action. The new Framework needs to be even more ambitious, actionable, and suited to the needs of countries. At UNDP we believe it is critical that it recognizes the central importance of risk governance and management, and the need to build that into the operations of governments at all levels.

The outcome of Sendai should assist Governments in making the linkages between risk-informed development, and preserving development gains. We expect the document which will emerge to pay close attention to the means of implementation, for which Member States should be able to count on the co-ordinated support of the UN Development Group and UN Country Teams.

A good outcome from the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa in July is essential for implementation of the post-2015 agenda. As that agenda is expected to be broader and more transformational than the MDGs were, so too do we need to think more broadly about development finance. While Official Development Assistance (ODA) remains critical, it can support only a fraction of the finance required for sustainable development. Domestic resource mobilization, loans, investments, and other mechanisms, including climate finance, will contribute the lion’s share of what is required. The private sector needs to be part of the discussion on financing for sustainable development, as it already is on climate finance.

Moreover, financing for development cannot be considered only in the context of ‘stable times’: the new normal is a world of insecurity and unpredictability. How to manage risk better should also feature in Addis Ababa. Consistency and complementarity between financing for sustainable development and climate change action is important too.

Member States are now engaged in formal negotiations on the outcome of the Special Summit on Sustainable Development next September. The proposal of the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals; the feedback from the UN-facilitated global consultations; and the ideas advanced by the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel and other processes have all laid the ground for a global development agenda with significant legitimacy, engagement, and reach.

The Secretary General’s Synthesis Report, ‘The Road to Dignity by 2030’, proposes six “essential elements” for outcomes which would reinforce and communicate the post-2015 agenda’s core commitments. It also outlines an architecture for monitoring and accountability, and suggests a technical review of proposed SDG targets to ensure clarity and measurability.

Ultimately, the success of the post-2015 development agenda cannot be separated from global efforts to tackle climate change.

The Lima Call for Climate Action agreed in December has laid the foundation for a global deal on climate change to be struck in Paris. It is critical that countries make ambitious national commitments, and that progress continues on capitalizing the Green Climate Fund.

As the largest implementer of climate change projects in the UN system, with a portfolio of $1.3 billion in more than 140 countries, UNDP will continue to support developing countries’ efforts to tackle climate change in practical ways, and we will use our experience in doing that to contribute in any way we can to a successful outcome in Paris.

Overall, UNDP is well placed to support programme countries to deliver on the global agendas due to be agreed in 2015. Our expertise and experience across poverty reduction, MDG implementation, governance, and crisis prevention and recovery, along with our knowledge networks and co-ordination role within the UNDG, make us particularly well equipped to help countries deliver integrated sustainable development solutions required to meet the SDGs.

Strong focus on implementing the UNDP Strategic Plan

2015 is the second year of UNDP’s current Strategic Plan. Last year, many of the changes necessary to enable our organization to deliver on the new Plan were put in place.

At the headquarters and across central and regional bureaux, we have been breaking down silos and relocating staff in regional hubs and global centres. Most of the changes arising from our structural review are now in place.

The change in structures is accompanied by bedding in new behaviours, business processes, and development. The culture change required will be facilitated by a new and comprehensive internal accountability framework, consistent with UNDP’s accountability framework approved by the Board. This will enable everyone in the organization to see where accountability for processes lies, thereby reducing duplication and improving efficiency.

All country offices, regional bureaux, BPPS, and the Crisis Response Unit (CRU) have been required to review and realign their programmes with the new Strategic Plan. Staff from three-quarters of all Country Offices have been trained to implement the realignment, and staff in the remaining offices will be trained by the end of the first quarter of 2015.

This has been an analytical exercise, not a mechanical one. Offices have reviewed the focus, design, and management of their programmes and projects, and then adjusted them so that their contribution is both measurable and well aligned with countries’ needs and the Strategic Plan. Big efforts were made last year to lay stronger foundations for tracking our performance against the Strategic Plan. The five Regional Bureaux, BPPS, CRU, and the Bureau of Management are working together to provide better assistance across the board, from crisis response to early recovery and longer term programming advice and country support.

These initiatives, along with the strengthening of quality assurance processes, including our social and environmental standards, will lead to demonstrable improvements in the results we help achieve and on which we report.

We have also adjusted our internal planning tools, beginning with our annual business plan, to support delivering on the Strategic Plan. We believe we are breaking new ground in the UN development system with these annual plans. They will follow what we are calling “critical pathways” which will help us sequence and manage our work to meet our commitments under the Strategic Plan.

During this Board session, we are presenting a new resource mobilization strategy, to help us fulfill our mandate.

Its main objectives are:

1. to mobilize a critical mass of resources to protect our core revenue and reverse its downward trend, and increase the proportion of our funding which is only minimally-earmarked. Core resources remain critical for our ability to operate strategically, prioritize support to countries most in need, ensure quality programming, promote coherence through the Resident Co-ordinator System, and respond to crises and to emerging needs and opportunities.

UNDP currently has 55 donors contributing to core resources. We are launching a ‘Core 100’ campaign to achieve our goal of having one hundred core donors by 2017. We ask for Board support in helping us reach this target.

It is important to acknowledge that countries contribute to our funding base not only by providing core contributions, but also in other ways, including by hosting policy centres, giving rent support, engaging with us in South-South and Triangular Co-operation, and assisting Country Offices through GLOC and government cost-sharing. We are working on how to present a consolidated view of all such contributions more publicly.

2. to adopt a more co-ordinated approach to mobilising non-core resources for policy and programme activities, in order to ensure full coherence between these efforts at country-level and the overall corporate goals reflected in the Strategic Plan.

3. to diversify our resource base, not only by drawing funds from a wider range of governments, but also from beyond governments – for example, by piloting online digital fundraising from individuals and by updating our strategies to engage the private sector and foundations. Some sister UN agencies are more advanced than UNDP is in broadening their funding base in these ways.

The success of our resource mobilization links directly to our capacity to improve results, corporate performance, transparency, and accountability.

Let me emphasize that UNDP recognizes the value of the resources which each partner brings and respects the different ways of contributing to our work. I thank all partners who contribute to the resource base of the organization. UNDP looks forward to continued engagement with Member States on the resource mobilization strategy, including on proposals for increasing core contributions, and through structured dialogue, to ensure that we have the resources we need for successful implementation of the Strategic Plan.

Active promotion of South-South and Triangular Co-operation

As called for in the Strategic Plan, UNDP is fully committed to engagement with South-South and Triangular Co-operation being a core way of working for the organization. We see these as extremely important instruments for advancing human and sustainable development.

Central to our engagement is UNDP’s hosting of the UN Office for South-South Co-operation, the role of which we highly value. In line with the outcome of the High-Level Committee on South-South Co-operation, last May, we continue to implement measures to strengthen the Office. Consistent with the 2013 Board decision on the Integrated Budget, we continue to shield the funding allocated from programme resources to the Office from any reductions or cuts in UNDP core resources. We have supported the establishment of an inter-agency mechanism on co-ordinating UN development agencies’ support to SSC – the Task Team on South-South Co-operation of UNDG’s Sustainable Development Working Group.

UNDP’s global and regional programmes have prioritized support to South-South and Triangular Co-operation; the modality has been fully integrated into the guidelines for UNDP’s Country Programme Documents; and we have revised our project modalities to make us more flexible in promoting such programming.

As we are scaling-up our support to South-South and Triangular Co-operation, we see both growing demand and enthusiastic support from all partners. Responding to this, we are developing a comprehensive, corporate strategy on SSC which aims to take these efforts even further.

UNDP engagement in direct budget support

In response to Executive Board Decision 2013/3, we are presenting to you at this meeting the Report on Direct Budget Support. It covers the extended pilot period 2008-2014, and is based on UNDP’s experiences in Burkina Faso and Nepal.

Although direct budget support is not part of UNDP’s core business, we recognize that it is an important development finance instrument which embodies elements of national ownership, transparency, and harmonization. Those attributes flow from its use of national public finance systems for disbursement, after UNDP’s careful assessment of capacity and internal controls, and the national selection of priority sectors to be funded.

As the paper before the Board explains, while only two UNDP Country Offices have been asked to provide direct budget support in the form of sector financing, we believe that it is an important policy option which should remain at our disposal in response to country demand and subject to the agreed risk safeguards. We are therefore asking the Board to consider continuation of UNDP’s policy on engagement in direct budget support, based on experience gained from the pilot.

Unwavering commitment to accountability and transparency

As the Board is well aware, UNDP is highly committed to transparency and accountability.

We were therefore delighted that the 2014 Aid Transparency Index ranked UNDP as the most transparent aid organization in the world, noting “commendable performance” in our commitment to transparency. We will make sustained efforts to deliver further on our transparency commitments, based on Publish What You Fund’s key recommendations to UNDP: to enhance project information, including tenders, contracts, and evaluations; to complement our Information Disclosure Policy with an independent appeals process; and to continue advocacy and awareness around transparency and open data.

UNDP’s public disclosure of its internal audit reports also demonstrates that our work is subject to rigorous and independent scrutiny.

By 23 January 2015, UNDP had publicly disclosed a total of 298 internal audit reports. Since January 2013, more than 6,500 visits had been registered at the website where the reports are published.

In line with our commitment to accountability, and to ensure an added level of assurance over the funds entrusted to us, a process of proactive investigations has been initiated. Regular briefing sessions with regional bureaux on identified risks have been introduced. Seven new investigation posts have been established to strengthen the investigative function even further.

UNDP is also fully committed to robust and independent evaluations which can help us improve performance and manage for results. Our evaluations must be firmly anchored in and consistent with best practice across development organisations.

The importance of delivering together for results

UNDP pays great attention to its responsibilities and leadership role in the UN development system.

For the next two years, the main focus of the UNDG will be on delivering more coherent, effective, and efficient support to programme countries as they make the transition from the MDGs to the SDG agenda. UNDP’s programming and public advocacy will focus on mainstreaming the SDGs into development planning, accelerating the achievement of goals and targets with multiplier effects, and providing data-based support for measuring progress and assessing development impact.

In the post-2015 world, the UN’s relevance to development, ability to achieve results, cost effectiveness, and reach and presence are highly dependent on our ability to come together across the system and work for results as a team.

Within the UNDG, we are improving the way we plan, design, monitor, and implement together. Lessons learned from our experiences in Delivering as One pilot and “self-starter” countries have informed the development of the new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for delivering better together. These have been agreed across UNDG entities, and have been supported by the Secretary General as the way of working from now on. Since this Board last met in September, all UNDG principals have signed a joint letter to UNCTs which emphasizes the importance of implementing the SOPs.

The whole point of the new procedures is to ensure that together we help get results for the people and countries we serve. With more than eighty UN Development Frameworks due to be finalized in 2015 and 2016, the SOPs provide essential guidance on how to get quality UNDAFs and implement them, and get results which can be evaluated and reported on. The SOPs are flexible, and can be adapted to every national and UNCT context. They are the new way of doing business for all UNCTs.

Putting the Resident Co-ordinator system on a predictable and secure funding basis through system-wide cost-sharing was also one of the major milestones reached in 2014. Member States are keeping a close eye on the implementation of the cost-sharing arrangement, and expect the entire UN development system to be part of it.

Finally, let me thank those countries which provided financial support to the “Delivering Results Together Fund” last year. Resources from the Fund have been tremendously helpful in providing joined-up UN support to countries.


As I have emphasized throughout my statement, 2015 is a big year – for the global development agenda, for UNDP, and for the entire UN development system.

We all have a responsibility to make the most of the unique opportunity which this year and its major development–related processes offer.

UNDP is fully committed to playing its part in making 2015 a launch pad for stepped up efforts to advance human, sustainable, and resilient development for all countries and peoples. We look forward to working with the Board to this end, and thank you once again for your support for our work.

Source: General