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Helen Clark: Annual Statement to the UNDP Executive Board

Mr. President,

Members of the Executive Board,
Colleagues and friends,

Welcome to the UNDP segment of the Executive Board’s 2016 Annual Session.

Let me begin by thanking Member States for making UNDP’s 50th anniversary Ministerial Meeting in February such a success. It was a testament to five decades of partnership that close to 160 countries were represented at the meeting, including 85 at the ministerial level or above. The feedback from the meeting was an important boost to UNDP in this big year of rolling out major global agendas and responding to the crises affecting many millions of people around the world.

In my statement today, I will:
•    Highlight important developments for UNDP since our January meeting;
•    Brief you on the support UNDP is giving to implementation of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs;
•    Introduce the Midterm Reviews of UNDP’s Strategic Plan and the Institutional component of the Integrated Budget;
•    Report on our work in response to crises and give you updates on our support for South-South Co-operation and on the evaluation function;
•    And, as we prepare for the QCPR this autumn, I will emphasize UNDP’s commitment to improve UN coherence.

Highlights since the last Executive Board meeting

o    Two weeks ago, UNDP participated in the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul.

Across our statements, we emphasized that to honour the 2030 Agenda’s commitment to ‘leave no one behind’, major efforts must be made to work more effectively across the humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding spheres. The Commitment to Action, signed by UNDP and seven other agencies, and endorsed by the World Bank and IOM, commits us to that objective.

Other initiatives launched in Istanbul included:
•    the commitment by UNDP and partners to establish a Global Risk Platform to bring together risk, vulnerability, and threat analysis initiatives into one global community of practice, with the goal of offering an evidence-base to make humanitarian action and development risk-informed;
•    the launch of the Connecting Business Initiative to link the private sector better to work before, in and after emergencies;
•    a Global Preparedness Partnership, which will support initially twenty of the most climate-vulnerable countries – the V20 – to achieve by 2020 a minimum level of readiness against future shocks; and
•    a Grand Bargain between major donors and implementers of emergency aid on a new ways of working which will optimize the impact for people caught up in crises and disasters.

Addressing the issues associated with mass movements of people looking for opportunity and security was high on the WHS agenda. UNDP is committed to working with humanitarian partners to address the needs of refugees, IDPs, and host communities in ways which serve longer-term development needs. We will bring this message to the Summit on Migration and Displacement here at the UN on 19 September.

o    Global efforts on climate change were also relevant to the WHS agenda with its focus on disaster risk reduction. UNDP welcomes the signing of the Paris Agreement by more than 170 countries here in New York on 22 April.

The Agreement may well come into force sooner than was envisaged, stepping up support for adaptation and investment in transitions to green economies. UNDP will continue to be heavily involved in supporting programme countries on this, including on turning the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions into action on the ground.

o    In my reports to the Board, I have consistently emphasised the importance UNDP attaches to transparency and accountability. We were therefore delighted to be recognized in April for the second year running as the world’s most transparent aid organization by the NGO Publish What You Fund.  As a leader among nearly fifty agencies, representing 98 per cent of aid flows, we will continue to advocate universal adoption of the International Aid Transparency Index (IATI) standard.

o    We were also very pleased that UNDP’s leading role in the global consultation process on the post-2015 development agenda was recognized by a recent independent evaluation. The overall conclusion was that UNDP was instrumental in bringing the UN development system together to support an unprecedented level of engagement of a wide range of stakeholders in the design of the SDGs. This contributed to the adoption of an ambitious agenda of global relevance.

Realizing the ambition of the 2030 Agenda

Supporting roll out of the 2030 Agenda is a top priority for UNDP, working within the framework of the MAPS (mainstreaming, acceleration, and policy support) approach agreed by the UNDG, and on the basis of the common principles to guide the UN’s support to SDG implementation agreed by the UN Chief Executives Board for Co-ordination (CEB).

UNDP has specific thematic expertise to offer, not least around poverty eradication; reduction of inequalities; democratic governance; the environment, energy, and climate change; disaster risk reduction; gender; health; and our work in fragile contexts.

We will promote support for programme countries to access finance for sustainable development, and to find the right mix of funding, technology, and assistance to drive national progress on the SDGs.

We will work with programme countries to monitor, learn, report, and apply lessons learned in SDG implementation, building on our experience with the MDGs. We will actively promote partnerships for data, including through the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. Within the UNDG, UNDP is co-leading preparation of guidelines for national reporting on the SDGs.

Currently UNDP is supporting all fifteen programme countries which are preparing for the first voluntary national review of SDG implementation at the High-Level Political Forum. We have also taken care to reflect our support for SDG implementation in the thirty Country Programme Documents due to be adopted this year.

As we begin to prepare for the next UNDP Strategic Plan after this Mid-Term Review, our goal will be to give a very prominent place in it to the contribution UNDP can make to the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

Mid-term review of the Strategic Plan

The Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the Strategic Plan reaffirms UNDP’s commitment and readiness to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Considerable effort went into the MTR exercise, including active consultations with Board Members. There has been positive feedback on the process and content of the Review. I am also encouraged by the work done with UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women, and WFP to harmonize standards and methods for performance measurement.

This MTR demonstrates notable improvements in both the quality and depth of UNDP’s analysis of its performance.

  •  There is now greater transparency in our development report card. For example, we have indicated the proportion of Country Offices which have met or exceeded their milestones and how they performed on gender issues. As well, we are pleased to be the first among UN funds and programmes to use statistical analysis to identify key factors driving development performance, and to measure the alignment of our programmatic work with the Strategic Plan and test its contribution to development results. We have also presented our first institutional report card, looking at performance on management and operational issues.
  •  Greater focus for UNDP’s work was an objective of the current Strategic Plan. We can now show that our work in programme countries is aligned well with our Strategic Plan, matching intent with action to a much greater extent than before.
  •  On development performance, the MTR shows that, two years into implementation, UNDP has made solid progress in delivering results. Indeed, 84 per cent of development outputs met or exceeded their 2015 milestones, and the remainder fell only marginally short.  No output has fallen below the sixty per cent threshold deemed to constitute a performance risk.

The review demonstrates that UNDP is present, active, and making a difference on key development issues around the world. We have, for example:
•    helped to register 68 million new voters in 37 countries;
•    improved livelihoods for 18.6 million people in 115 countries;
•    ensured better access to energy for 2.5 million people in 45 countries;
•    supported 53 countries to implement MDG Acceleration Framework action plans;
•    created close to 147,000 emergency jobs; and
•    assisted 43 countries to prepare their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) in the lead up to the Paris Climate Conference.

On institutional performance, almost two-thirds of the indicators reveal solid progress. Let me highlight some of the achievements:
•    the 2017 target for the management efficiency ratio was met two years ahead of schedule, as was the target of achieving a fifty per cent share of women among all staff;
•    72 per cent of planned actions in our QCPR Action Plan had been implemented by the end of 2015, and as of now, this has risen to 87 per cent;
•    87.5 per cent of project outputs and 92 per cent of programme expenditures were linked to Strategic Plan outputs at the end of 2015;
•    new quality standards for programmes and projects and new social and environmental safeguards have been rolled out; and
•    as I have already mentioned, UNDP was ranked number one on the Aid Transparency Index, for the second year in a row.

Overall, the MTR concludes that UNDP’s institutional backbone is more robust: the organization is more open and transparent; our headquarters have been reorganized successfully; operating costs have reduced significantly; more staff and support services have been located in Regional Hubs closer to the Country Offices they serve; programmes are being designed to higher standards; and monitoring and evaluation have improved. Overall, the MTR shows that investments in boosting institutional performance are having a positive impact on development results.

More broadly, the MTR reveals that our Strategic Plan is well aligned with the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. We had worked hard to incorporate the direction being taken on the SDGs in the Open Working Group into the Strategic Plan back in 2013, and this has borne fruit. The vision which the Board adopted for the Plan – to help programme countries achieve the simultaneous eradication of poverty and significant reduction of inequalities and exclusion – remains valid.

The MTR also points to aspects of our performance which need to be improved. UNDP will take follow-up action, including on getting a better understanding of how resources link to results. And, although gains have been made on gender equality and women’s empowerment, we have to move beyond targeting towards more transformative interventions to ensure that women are not just beneficiaries, but also valued agents of change.

I would also note that funding is falling short for four out of the seven Strategic Plan outcomes. As well, core resources are reaching only 85.5 per cent of target at this mid-point of the Plan.

Declining regular resources do impact on the extent to which UNDP can invest in improving its development effectiveness, and limit the scope for strategic and forward-looking investments. If core funding continues to fall, the current protection provided for the programme budget will need to be reviewed.

The overall MTR picture is of a dynamic organization, performing well despite a volatile funding environment, with a mission and work programme strongly anchored in the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. UNDP is committed to maintaining a high level of performance throughout this Strategic Plan period, and beyond.

The Midterm Review of the Institutional component of the Integrated Budget for 2014-2017

As requested by the Board, the Midterm Review of the Institutional component of the Integrated Budget for 2014-2017 is being presented at this session in conjunction with that of the Strategic Plan.

The MTR shows that UNDP made significant progress towards achieving the objectives of the Integrated Budget. In addition to reaching the target of an 8.1 per cent management efficiency ratio, other achievements include:
•    the proportion of regular resources spent on institutional costs falling, from 42 per cent in 2012-2013 to 38 per cent in 2014-2015. The share of regular resources for programme activities increased correspondingly from from 58 to 62 per cent;
•    within the smaller institutional budget envelope, the proportion of management costs has fallen significantly from 62 to 49 per cent over the two bienniums; and,
•    the shares of development effectiveness and United Nations co-ordination activities within the institutional budget have increased (to 21 and 25 per cent, respectively).

These objectives were achieved in an environment of significantly reduced contributions to regular resources, exacerbated by the strengthening of the US dollar. As a result, core funding decreased from $896 million in 2013 to $793 million in 2014 and $704 million in 2015.

The impact of the reductions can be seen in both the Programmatic and Institutional components of the Integrated Budget. On the Programmatic side, the cuts affected items not shielded by Board decisions. On the institutional side, only areas deliberately shielded by UNDP Management were protected from significant cuts.

Accordingly, regular resources channeled to programme countries through TRAC-1 and TRAC-3 were maintained, as were programmatic resources to UN co-ordination activities, the Human Development Report office, and the UN Office for South-South Co-operation.

Similarly, institutional budget resource allocations with respect to UN co-ordination activities were protected, reflecting the high priority UNDP gives to its stewardship of the RC function, and allocations for oversight functions faced relatively lower reductions. The institutional budget of the UN office for South-South Co-operation was protected.

Protecting these budget lines, however, meant significant reductions in other areas, including to regional and global programmes, and overall management activities.

Nonetheless, taking into account actual performance for 2014-2015, UNDP’s financial resource plan for 2014-2017 remains within the financial framework approved by the Executive Board in 2013, albeit at a reduced level of regular resources. As well, despite a drop in core contributions, by way of deliberate decisions to contain spending in 2014-2015, UNDP met the three month liquidity levels mandated by the Executive Board.

Let me highlight that reversing the fall in regular resources is a top priority for UNDP. Core funding remains the bedrock of our support to programme countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, and to the coherence and effectiveness of the UN development system.

We are grateful to those Member States which have contributed to regular resources for 2016, and encourage those who have not yet done so to make early payments. Most importantly, we encourage those countries which have not traditionally contributed to Core resources to consider doing so. We warmly welcome the decisions by Cuba and Romania to contribute this year, and the decisions by Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Italy, and Saudi Arabia to increase their contributions.  We urge other Member States to follow suit.

During 2016-2017, UNDP will continue to act to reduce the impact of any further potential adverse change in resource levels, to ensure that it delivers on its Strategic Plan and the 2030 Agenda.

We will continue to focus on increasing effectiveness and efficiency; leverage our new funding windows which were launched in March; adjust spending levels according to needs as well as available resources; accelerate implementation of all aspects of the cost-recovery policy; and reinvigorate GLOC collection, while at the same time maintaining our support to the United Nations co-ordination function.

Now, a brief update on UNDP’s work in countries experiencing significant pressures at this time.

  •  UNDP is supporting Ecuador to recover from the devastating April earthquake. Additional staff from countries across the region have been deployed to give technical advice; prepare a Post Disaster Needs Assessment; oversee debris management, emergency employment, and livelihoods initiatives; and promote resource mobilization and public awareness activities.
  •  In Syria, UNDP operates under the new Country Programme (CP) approved by the Board in January. Our efforts focus on strengthening livelihoods for the most vulnerable and, to the extent possible, on rehabilitation and recovery. Approximately 760,000 people in seven governorates benefited – directly and indirectly – from UNDP’s work in the first quarter of 2016. With DPA, we are co-chairing the UN Post-Agreement Planning Working Group under the Inter – Agency Task Force on Syria.
  •  In Jordan, UNDP focuses on job creation and ensuring sustainable livelihoods through the establishment of micro businesses, business training, and emergency employment – both for refugees and host communities. Over one thousand young people in twelve municipalities have been specially targeted this year. UNDP has also begun working with the authorities on preventing violent extremism.
  •  In Lebanon, important initiatives include programmes to prevent violent extremism, and on justice and the rule of law – for example to support municipal police to mitigate tensions between refugees and host communities, to improve access to court services, and to manage overcrowded prisons and detention centers.
  •  In Iraq, the Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization (FFIS) has been extended until the end of 2018 and its budget has increased to $550M. During the first quarter of 2016, the National Steering Committee approved an expansion of UNDP’s work to support thirteen cities freed from IS control to rehabilitate local infrastructure and strengthen livelihoods. Around $200M has been pledged for our work in Iraq but only $80M received. We urge donors who have not yet disbursed to do so as quickly as possible.
  •  UNDP is supporting Somalia to achieve its Vision 2016, including through support to the electoral process. This process, together with steady progress on the constitutional review and state formation, would mark major milestones in Somalia’s ambitious peace- and state building agenda which has been backed by UNDP since 2013. UNDP is also supporting the development of Somalia’s National Development Plan which is anchored in the 2030 Agenda, and is working to address protracted displacement in the country.
  •  In Libya, UNDP is working with the UN political mission (UNSMIL) to implement the Libya Political Agreement (LPA) and support a new Government of National Accord (GNA). In April we launched a Stabilization Facility for Libya, with the Presidential Council, UNSMIL, and international partners, to provide quick peace dividends aimed at building trust and support for the political process and the GNA by rehabilitating infrastructure, supporting local businesses, building capacity of local authorities, and supporting local mediation processes.
  •  In Yemen, UNDP is working at the community level to promote dialogue and conflict resolution, and to support community resilience through the delivery of basic services, restoring livelihoods, and creating employment opportunities for youth and women – for example, through cash-for-work initiatives in solid waste management and rubble removal.
  •  In the Central African Republic, we were heartened to see the constitutional referendum and national elections unfold with relatively few security incidents and high levels of participation, and were pleased to support these processes. They pave the way for establishing inclusive institutions and kick starting economic and social recovery from the trauma of recent years in the country.

We will continue to promote peace consolidation in CAR through programmes aimed at reducing community violence, restoring state authority, and promoting justice and reconciliation. We are also supporting the Government in its strategic planning leading to the donor round table planned for November in Brussels.

  •  In South Sudan, the inauguration of the Transitional Government of National Unity on 29 April is an opportunity to put the country on a path back to peace and development. UNDP is partnering with UNMISS and sister UN Agencies to support implementation of the Peace Agreement, including by supporting the Transitional Government, legislative and institutional reforms, constitution-making, and establishing the rule of law. Furthermore, UNDP is working with partners to develop an operational framework on stabilization and early recovery, which will focus specifically on vulnerable populations. The Board will be considering a new Country Programme Document for South-Sudan at this session.
  •  The 2015-2016 El Niño has put sixty million people in need of assistance in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and Central and South America. In all affected regions, UNDP has been contributing to the response – for example, in East Africa, by supporting regional co-ordination through the Emergency Co-ordination Center, and in Ethiopia by assisting the development of an Early Recovery Strategy and Framework. We are also planning for sustained support beyond El Niño, as many of the same regions are likely to be affected by La Niña which generally causes the opposite weather effects.

South-South and Triangular Co-operation

UNDP’s support for South-South and Triangular Co-operation has been steadily growing. In 2015 Country Offices supported 689 new South-South partnerships – up from 469 in 2014. We have been developing a corporate strategy on South-South and Triangular Co-operation to expand these efforts further, and there has been a lot of consultation on it with Member States. We are committed to taking forward the decisions relevant to UNDP of the 19th Session of the High Level Committee on South-South Co-operation (HLC-SSC) held last month.

As we emphasized at the HLC-SSC, we take the recent audit of the UN Office of South-South Co-operation (UNOSSC) very seriously. The new Director of the Office is firmly focused on implementing its recommendations. For UNDP’s part, we moved quickly to expand the scope of our due diligence policy to cover partnerships entered into by the UNOSSC, and have put in place improved support arrangements for the Director.

Let me reiterate that UNDP is pleased to host the UNOSSC on behalf of the UN system. In addition to maintaining its budget, despite the pressures on UNDP core funding, we will work closely with the Office to strengthen its effectiveness in advancing South-South Co-operation. We will also build on our complementary strengths as we move towards implementing UNDP’s draft strategy on South-South and Triangular Co-operation.


Last week, UNDP with the Independent Evaluation Office briefed the Board on a revised Evaluation Policy to be submitted to the Second Regular Session in September. The new draft, informed by extensive consultations with Member States and experts, aims to strengthen the quality and utility of evaluations, and introduces a funding target for the evaluation function.

As the new policy shows, we attach great importance to the role of evaluation as a management tool to improve the quality of our programmes, and to assist organizational decision-making and learning. Country Offices have increased the number of staff dedicated to monitoring and evaluation, and invested more overall in monitoring and evaluation capacities and activity. As well, our new quality standards ensure evaluation results feed into the design, management, and monitoring of programmes and projects.

These measures will ensure that UNDP is an evidence-informed organization and improve the credibility of our results reporting further.

A firm commitment to UN coherence

Fostering collaboration and coherence within the UN development system remains a key priority for UNDP. This is essential for maximizing our support for the 2030 Agenda.

A well-functioning Resident Co-ordinator (RC) system is critical to that, requiring committed leadership, adequate capacity, and proper financing.

UNDP’s role as host and manager of the RC system is firmly grounded in operational realities at country level, which provide the organization with the field-based experience, exposure, and oversight so central to the RC system’s effective functioning. I see no credible alternative to this arrangement, and would hope that this year’s QCPR will uphold it. An integrated development agenda calls for an empowered RC to deliver joined-up results on the ground, and the QCPR should take this further.

UNDP continues to provide backbone support to the RC system, including meeting the bulk of the system’s costs, with the remainder shared by members of the UN Development Group. We regret that funding for the Secretariat’s share of these costs had not yet been secured. I hope that with Member States’ leadership and support we will obtain a more positive outcome on this later in the year.

As reported before, the Standard Operating Procedures on Delivering as One (SOPs) have greatly contributed to improved inter-agency collaboration at country level: 88 programme country governments, almost seventy per cent of the total, have expressed interest in implementing all or some elements of Delivering as One (DaO).

A growing number of UNCTs are now organized around issue-based results groups. The most advanced bring their policy capacities to bear around joint products and programmes. Almost one third of UNCTs are implementing or in the process of preparing, common Business Operations Strategies in support of their UNDAFs.

While the UNDG is firmly focused on implementing the current Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR), we are also looking to a new and strategic QCPR resolution which is focused on system-wide results and guided by the SDGs.

To this end we are supporting Member States to set a vision for the longer-term positioning of the UN development system through the ECOSOC Dialogues.

Many UNDG core messages have been echoed by Member States, including the need for any reform of governance and organization to be designed from the “bottom up” and guided by what enables the UN development system to deliver results on the ground.

Overall, we see considerable scope for building on existing reform initiatives, including through scaling up Delivering as One, based on the SOPs, and increased reliance on common operational services, while also recognizing the unique expertise, operating conditions, and specific partnerships of individual UN entities.

Looking ahead, the UNDG is committed to supporting Member States throughout the QCPR process this fall.


In conclusion, let me assure you that UNDP is fully committed to supporting programme countries to make the SDGs a reality for their citizens.

We will continue to strive for high quality results from our work, and to lead and promote greater coherence and collaboration within the UN development system.

We are grateful for the Board’s backing of our efforts to date, and trust we can count on your continued engagement and support in the future.



Source: United Nations Development Programme