Helen Clark - United Nations Development Group Meeting

Jun 2, 2009

Colleagues, Friends


This is the first meeting I have attended as the Chair of the UNDG. I am so pleased to see so many colleagues present, both in person and by voice from Europe and Nairobi. We have an extensive agenda in front of us today, so let me without further ado declare the meeting open.

Let me begin by saying that it is a huge honour for me to be a part of the UN family, and to support the tremendous work being undertaken across the UN development system.

Since I arrived at UNDP, many representatives of Member States have made it clear to me how much importance they place on the UN’s development system coming together to deliver strategic, relevant, and focused support to countries in order to get development results on the ground. It is, therefore, wonderful to meet with you as critical players in the team which is making this happen. I look forward to working with all of you on the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

My predecessor Kemal Derviş was very committed to his role as Chair of the UNDG. It is important to me that I follow on in prioritizing this work.

I also take this opportunity to recognize the Heads of the UN organizations which make up the UNDG, and its Advisory Group, for their deep commitment to the UN’s development agenda.  One of those heads, Ms. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, is with us today.

Furthermore, I would like to thank Annika Söder for her dedication and commitment in the past year as UNDG’s Vice-Chair.

I am appreciative of the role which the UNDG Advisory Group has played over the past year in advising my predecessor on a number of critical issues related to the management of the Resident Co-ordinator System, including the historic Management and Accountability System. The Chair of the Advisory Group at ASG level, Hilde Johnson, is to be commended for bringing the group together to help progress critical items for full UNDG review.

I also recognize how much of the work of the UNDG is done through its five Working Groups. Thank you to all in the working groups for driving and supporting positive change, both at headquarters and at country levels.

As Chair, I will want to ensure that UNDG provides the best support it can within the UN Chief Executives Board (CEB) structure. I look forward to working closely with the chairs of the High-Level Committees on Management and Programmes –Josette Sheeran and Juan Somavia respectively.  

The role of the UN Development Operations Co-ordination Office (DOCO), led by Debbie Landey, is very important in supporting and advancing UNDG priorities, and I will be calling on their advice and good offices often.  

Co-ordination for what: The Millennium Development Goals

At the top of my overall priorities as Chair of UNDG is making faster progress on poverty reduction and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In today’s climate of global economic and financial volatility and fragility, this is going to be challenging, but it is also an opportunity for the UNDG to step up to the plate and deliver concrete results.

I came to New York in 2000 as New Zealand Prime Minister to sign the Millennium Declaration, along with the leaders of most other Member States. 2015 seemed a long way away then – but now there are only six years left to the date set for achieving the MDGs. So, we need concerted action. When our global community sets goals and targets, we have a duty to work together to meet them.

And the challenges are huge. Based on current trends, while some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa will meet some MDGs, they are unlikely to meet them all by 2015. We must make every effort to target our support to those who most need it at the country level. In this regard, I am very pleased to note that a High Level UNDG Task Force on the MDGs has been set up to examine the way the system can further advance this critical global agenda.

Delivering differently to achieve the MDGs: Delivering as One Pilots

To deliver results, we need the right kind of capacity at each level of our organisations, and a commitment to work together. Already we see in the Delivering as One pilot countries, and in others where agencies are forward leaning, a different and more effective UN development system at work.

Our first agenda item today is to review the recently completed 2008 Stocktaking Synthesis Report for the eight pilot countries. It is encouraging to note the progress being made in several critical areas. The pilot countries themselves are ensuring strong leadership. We, the UN family, are increasingly aligning ourselves, as we must, with national priorities and reform agendas as called for by the Aid Effectiveness agenda.  The pilots have shown that we need to review our capacity to deliver the kind of results countries now want to see.

The pilots at their best show how we can be more strategically focused and inclusive in responding to country-led agendas. The ‘One Fund’ approach improves the UN’s long term planning and funding predictability, while the ‘One Office’ results in more cost effective common services and increasingly harmonized business practices. The Management and Accountability System, the Resident Co-ordinator Job Description, and the Resident Co-ordinator /UN Country Team Dispute Resolution procedures should empower the UN leadership on the ground.

The Delivering as One initiative is now in a crucial phase in terms of implementation, with initial, but important, indications of real development results, as well as of efficiency gains. I am fully committed to working closely with you all to see this initiative through.

UN development assistance over the next 3-5 years: What will it look like

Some ninety countries are now requesting UN development system support through UN Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) over the next three years. We must take this opportunity to ensure that the UN delivers the best possible support to those countries, so that they can realize their national development priorities. Over the coming months you will be looking at how to simplify the UNDAF process to ensure just that.   

On our agenda today for approval is a UNDG strategy on how we will collectively support the UNDAF rollout.  Your work earlier this year developed the “expanded funding window”. That will put resources into countries coming forward on a voluntary basis as they prepare their UNDAFs, and seek to apply some of the lessons learned from the pilots and other countries.

How we work to deliver: Implementing the Management and Accountability Framework

One of the major achievements within the UNDG last year was the development and subsequent endorsement of the Management and Accountability System and its corresponding Implementation Plan. These are the first written agreements on how the UN development system should work better together to deliver results. As you are aware, they outline a concept of accountability for the UN development system overall, and for the Resident Co-ordinator System more specifically.

I understand that the Advisory Group has reviewed progress on the implementation of the System, and that, while some progress has been made, we still need to accelerate our efforts.

It is important that we all follow through on our commitments to implement the System. As members of the UNDG, we must also reinforce our messages on our agreement when communicating with all our stakeholders, and with our teams on the ground.

Delivering differently in Post Crisis Countries:

A huge challenge for our agencies is how we can best support countries which are coming out of crisis.  In my first few weeks here, I have been involved in the discussion around the report of the Secretary-General on peacebuilding in the immediate aftermath of conflict, which addresses how we best provide support in such countries.

Unfortunately, support to Resident Co-ordinators in crisis and post-crisis countries has all too often been inadequate relative to the challenges at hand.

The Secretary-General last year asked UNDG to prepare a standard package to provide support to such countries, through stronger co-ordination capacity for Resident Co-ordinators and UN Country Teams.

The paper you have before you on these issues today is important. When agreement is obtained here, it will go back to the Secretary-General’s Policy Committee. The result I hope will be our teams on the ground getting the support they need.

Policy Committee:

As UNDG Chair, I attend the Secretary-General’s Policy Committee.  

It is important to me that I can represent the interests of UNDG as well as possible. This is no easy task, given that many of the papers submitted are prepared at breakneck speed, or are strictly confidential. That limits the thoroughness of the consultations which can occur.

I would encourage you to send to DOCO any suggestions you have for forward agenda items for the Policy Committee as a whole to consider. While it is the Secretary-General who decides upon the final agenda items, we are able to propose items for inclusion.

Within the constraints under which we work, I am told much effort has been made to consult many of you as possible, both at HQ, and at the field level through the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General or the Resident Co-ordinator.  In several cases in the recent past, UNDG members have led or co-led Policy Committee agenda items. Some other UNDG members have on occasion also been invited to take part in Policy Committee meetings.  But we can still do a better job of consulting.  

I will be circulating (see attached) a short note providing an update on the Policy Committee discussions in which I have participated since my arrival six weeks ago.


We are all working for the UN at a critical moment. Much hard work and many challenges lie ahead. I know that by working together, we are making an enormous difference for the countries and peoples we serve.

As we strive to better support national partners, we will only be fully effective when we work as a coherent UN family. Achieving that coherence is what the UNDG is all about.  We must be driven by our common core values, and not by our special interests.  We must be driven by our desire to see actual development results, and not be burdened in procedural issues. Our strength must lie in our added value as a diverse, yet strong, group.

So we must constantly keep our eye on the end game – better delivery and better results – not co-ordination and reform for their own sake.

As Chair of the UN Development Group, I pledge my full commitment to working constructively with you, and to building the very best relationships we can with the widest possible range of stakeholders in development – whether they be our programme country partners, donors, the International Financial Institutions, and the range of other actors.

We have a shared responsibility, but also a shared opportunity. By working together, I am confident we will also see more shared achievements.

It is now my pleasure to hand over to Annika Söder, UNDG Vice-Chair, to Chair this meeting, as I am leaving to attend a meeting of the very Policy Committee about which I have spoken to you today

Thank you.

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