Helen Clark: Statement at the UNDP/UNFPA Luncheon Event

Jun 2, 2009

Statement by Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme on the Occasion of the Luncheon Event of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA on the Global Financial and Economic Crisis - UNDP's response to the financial and economic crisis

Mr. President,
Dear colleagues and friends,

The economic crisis is severely affecting economies and societies all around the world, but the impacts are more severe and will last longer in countries with large poverty, inequality and vulnerability.  The food and fuel crises are still fresh in the minds of families in poor countries.

Developing country growth is expected to fall to 1.6% in 2009, and recovery is expected to be sluggish.  Foreign investment is stagnating or falling; unemployment is rising; and many migrants from developing countries are returning home and are no longer able to provide those much-relied upon remittances from abroad.

The longer the crisis goes on, and the broader and deeper it becomes, the more we fear reversals in human development and from the gains made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The full human development impacts of the global recession may not be recognised quickly, and they may be difficult to measure.  Experience in previous crises, however, suggests falls in GDP could lead to significant increases in infant deaths.  The increase in infant mortality can be expected to be much higher for girls than for boys.  As well, a generation of children deprived of sufficient nutrition or years of schooling may never reach their full potential.

Developing countries are responding to the crisis in different ways. South-south and regional co-operation should be encouraged as countries search for ways to navigate through. UNDP can support that networking and the search for relevant best practice. 
All parts of the international community can and should play a role in addressing the crisis, including the UN system.  Earlier this year the UN system agreed to focus its response to the crisis around food security, trade, a greener economy, a global job pact and a social protection floor.  

The challenge now is to operationalise that response as quickly as possible.

UNDP and the World Bank were specifically asked by the UN Chief Executives Board to develop a response mechanism, and the elements of that have now been agreed.   The core ideas are that the approach taken in each country must be driven by that particular country’s needs,  and that the UN system and the World Bank must work together to support countries developing their responses and to mobilize resources.

The UN system and the World Bank are also working together to finalise a “Global Vulnerability Alert”, which will use real time data to assess the extent of vulnerability in particular countries or populations.    This will provide the evidence needed to determine specific and appropriate responses.

Obviously time is of the essence.  I am advised that by September both the response mechanism and the “Global Vulnerability Alert” should  be agreed, allowing country responses to be developed before the end of the year.

It is essential that this timeline does not slip, as the effect of the crisis on developing countries is expected to be greater in 2010. 

In the meantime UNDP is continuing to work to support countries to tackle immediate problems arising from the crisis.

At the country level, we are helping governments to assess and monitor the human development impacts of the crisis, and to identify appropriate policy responses.  For example:

• In Cambodia, UNDP is providing support to the government to identify options for establishing social safety nets and how they might be implemented. 

• In Mauritius, UNDP has helped the government prepare its own stimulus package, including by building on an existing project on pro-poor budgeting. 

• In Pakistan, UNDP is helping the government to explore whether to put in place a comprehensive Employment Guarantee Scheme.

• In Paraguay UNDP is helping the Social Cabinet identify policy responses to the crisis.

Meanwhile, here at our New York in Headquarters, UNDP is working to ensure that our country offices have access to the people, tools, and resources they need to support governments through the crisis.  We have initiated an on-line knowledge platform which gives governments access to advisors, global experts, consultants, and peer practitioners to support the development of responses.  We can link countries with each other, so that they can share experiences and learn from their respective responses. 

We are also compiling the country experiences, so that we can communicate to the world how the economic crisis is affecting people in developing countries, and what support is needed.

Throughout this crisis and beyond we must work closely with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, whose resources are vastly greater than our own. An example of the way we can work together can be seen in Moldova, where UNDP and the World Bank are doing a joint study of the impact of the crisis on remittances.

It should also be noted that the G20 Summit committed $1.1 trillion to revive the world economy. Only a negligible amount of this under current settings, however, is destined to reach the least developed countries. This is a matter which the United Nations system could pursue further with the G20 prior to and at its next summit in September.

In the wider context, the economic crisis shows how important UNDP’s ongoing long term development work is.  Our work on poverty reduction and the MDGs, crisis prevention and recovery, democratic governance, and the environment and sustainable development helps build the vital capacity which will make nations, economies, societies, and communities more resilient to shocks. 

At the top of my overall priorities is sharpening UNDP’s focus on poverty reduction and the Millennium Development Goals. In today’s circumstances, this is challenging, but it is also critical that we keep this focus on the near medium term. The MDGs are at the very heart of UNDP’s mission, and are clearly central to the strategic plan approved by our Executive Board.

Working together, and alongside others in the UN family and other stakeholders, UNDP can make a difference for the better, support developing countries through this crisis, and meet our common development goals.

Thank you.

UNDP Around the world