Helen Clark: Statement to the UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board

Jan 19, 2010

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


It is a pleasure to be able to present a formal statement to the Board for a third time.

I would like to begin by congratulating His Excellency Mr. John Ashe, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda, on his election as President of the UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board. I also congratulate the following on their election as Vice-Presidents for their respective groups: For the group of Western Europe and other States, Ms. Claude Lemieux (Canada); for the group of African States, His Excellency Mr. Atoki Ileka, Permanent Representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and for the group of Asian and Pacific states, Mr. Muhammad Ayub (Pakistan), and for the Eastern European States, Mr. Farid Jafarov of Azerbaijan.

Let me also take this opportunity to warmly thank the outgoing President of the Executive Board, His Excellency Mr. Mohammad Khazaee, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations. Many thanks also to outgoing Vice-Presidents Mr. William Exantus (Republic of Haiti), Mr. Jeroen Steeghs (Kingdom of Netherlands), Mr. Dragan Mićić (Republic of Serbia) and Mr. Omary Mjenga (United Republic of Tanzania), for all their hard work over the last year.

As well, let me extend a warm welcome to Rebeca Grynspan, who will be assuming her role as Associate Administrator of UNDP at the beginning of February. Most of you already know Rebeca, as she served as the Assistant Administrator and Regional Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean since March 2006.

With Rebecca’s impressive experience and strong management track record, both in the UN system and in government in Costa Rica, I am confident that she will play an invaluable role in helping me to lead UNDP, to bring about the changes we seek, and deliver development results where they matter most.

Update on Priority Work areas for UNDP since the last Executive Board Meeting

Since the September meeting of the Executive Board, UNDP has been paying particularly high attention to the two huge and interlinked agendas of climate change response and MDG achievement.

As I said to the joint meeting of this board with those of UNICEF and WFP on Friday, UNDPs core message at the Copenhagen Climate Summit was that the new agreement to be negotiated must be a good deal for both development and the environment.

Development goals will not be attained if the one planet on which we all dwell has its climate fundamentally altered – nor will the gains which have been made be sustained.

That is why climate change is a huge development challenge – with its adverse effects already being experienced most by the poorest and most vulnerable people.

As the UN’s largest development agency, and with a specific mandate and significant programming on the environment, energy, and sustainable development, UNDP has a vital role to play in driving the climate agenda forward at the country level and through global advocacy. While the climate agreement negotiation process goes on, we have work to do.

As you know, together with our partner agencies we are actively supporting programme countries to adapt to those climate change impacts which are already inevitable; to pursue low carbon growth and access to energy strategies; to reduce emissions from deforestation; and to ensure that these efforts are at the very center of national development plans.

To support priority adaptation activities in 75 countries, UNDP has leveraged more than $ 800 million over the past three years from multiple sources, including from Japan, Australia, Norway, and Spain, and from funds managed by the Global Environment Facility. Adaptation activities have already commenced in thirty countries, and are expected to get underway in the remaining 45 in the next few months. Our interventions include helping to strengthen the capacity of twenty African countries to adapt to climate change with generous funding from Japan.

Through the UN-REDD programme, in partnership with FAO and UNEP and in close collaboration with the World Bank, UNDP is also helping forested developing countries prepare national "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation" strategies, put in place monitoring, reporting, and verification systems, and support the full participation of indigenous peoples and other communities who depend directly on forests for their livelihoods.

For developing countries, the level and accessibility of the funding made available for climate change adaptation and mitigation are critical. The carbon finance available up until now has not been so easy to access by small and least developed countries. UNDP has a role to play in supporting the building of capacity to access that finance

We have also established an MDG Carbon Facility, which creates partnerships with the private sector to channel carbon finance towards low-carbon, sustainable development projects. Initial results are encouraging with emission reduction projects established in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Central Asia, and with steps being taken to expand the facility to more countries.

Over the past 15 years, UNDP-GEF projects have evolved from supporting technology demonstration projects to supporting policies, institutions, and public financing instruments which help stimulate private investment in environmentally-friendly and climate-friendly technologies and practices.

Around forty per cent of GEF’s resources are currently implemented through UNDP. For each of the last three years, UNDP has mobilized around $300 million from GEF, and about five times this amount each year in co-financing from other sources.

These are resources which we manage and utilize well. In two recent studies, GEF’s independent evaluation office rated UNDP as the best performing GEF agency in terms of quality of supervision.

Another key relationship for us on climate and broader environmental issues is with UNEP. Executive Director Achim Steiner and I have directed our senior staff to work on a strategy to ensure that our two organisations enhance the synergies between us and avoid duplication. With our complementary mandates, it is vital that we forge the strongest possible working relationship.

UNDP will be building on all these platforms and our other climate-related efforts to achieve demonstrable results. This will be captured in measurable form in the action plan, to which I will revert shortly.

Progress on the MDGs

With the clock ticking fast towards 2015, serious challenges remain to meet a number of the MDGs on time, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and in least developed countries generally. This gets to the very heart of the Strategic Plan approved by the Executive Board.

While there is globally a large menu of proven strategies and interventions to draw on, UNDP must continue to bring new ideas and innovative approaches to the table to help countries maintain traction towards meeting the MDGs.

In Africa, we have already supported 23 countries to prepare and implement MDG-based national development plans and to strengthen the MDG-focus of their national poverty reduction strategies. This is a major priority for our relatively new network of economists in 45 African countries.

Since taking office I have instructed UNDP to scale up our efforts on the MDGs. It is not a matter of doing more of the same. Things need to be done differently if the goals are to be met.

UNDP has been developing an MDG “breakthrough” strategy to help all countries accelerate their progress. It involves working with programme countries to identify the barriers to progress, and then designing and implementing programmes to address them.

This must be a joint effort with our other UN development system partners. Together we can assist countries to identify MDG sectors where progress is weak, scale up implementation of proven initiatives, and prepare and apply actions to overcome bottlenecks.

Unwavering national commitment to meeting the MDGs, coupled with sound public investments and policies, are critical to this endeavour. So is ensuring sufficient, predictable, and well co-ordinated financing for development.

Scaling up the expenditure of ODA on achieving the MDGs is feasible in-country, from both developmental and macroeconomic perspectives. The “Gleneagles scenarios”, which UNDP in collaboration with the IMF and others have helped prepare, demonstrate that. Work is underway on further Gleneagles Scenarios in African countries.

The MDG Summit in September is a major opportunity to galvanize renewed commitments to reach the goals. UNDP will be working closely with development partners around the world to build the political momentum for that, and to assemble the analytical and evidence base to show how the MDGs can be achieved if the political will and the resourcing is there.

It will be important that the MDG Summit has a strong gender focus. Where we see progress towards the MDGs lagging the most is often where the needs and status of women and girls are accorded low priority. I am in general, emphasizing the need for all of UNDP’s interventions to maintain a strong emphasis on empowering women.

Our work on promoting better governance is also highly relevant to MDG progress. Overall, efforts to reduce poverty and tackle tough environmental challenges are likely to be more sustainable when governments are responsive, transparent, and accountable to their citizens.

Our interventions in areas such as legal empowerment of the poor and the rule of law; combating corruption; strengthening government capacity; supporting national human rights and electoral institutions; making decentralization effective; and ensuring that parliaments play their role of scrutiny well are all important, and underpin sustainable development progress.

Our associated funds and programmes - UNCDF, UNIFEM, and UNV - all also have tremendous knowledge and skills in their particular related areas, and carry out vital work around the world.

Meeting partners’ expectations

Advancing our development agenda means working with all our partners and contributors to development, and effecting the necessary changes to ensure that UNDP is even more fit for purpose.

Over the past nine months I have prioritized meeting with many government counterparts, travelling to every region in which we work, and meeting with virtually every Resident Co-ordinator/Resident Representative and numerous Country Directors.

This has been an extensive process, giving me good insights into our global operations, and into how we can perform even better across the 166 countries where we operate. What has been learned during this time informs the change process on which we are embarking.

Both as a stand-alone development agency and as leaders and co-ordinators of the UN development system, UNDP has a tremendous amount to offer.

Our unmatched global presence; our support to countries and communities in good times and bad; and our wide-ranging development experience, networks and knowledge are all assets which we can apply even more effectively to supporting programme countries to meet their development goals.

Programme countries, however, increasingly expect us to support them with access to world-class technical and policy advice and capacity development assistance tailored to local circumstances. If we are to be effective in supporting their transformation, we will need to transform ourselves.

The Strategic Plan approved by the Executive Board takes UNDP in this direction, by urging us to focus on interventions with system-wide impact. Over time our country offices will need to review their current capacity mix and make changes to enable us to meet the expectations of programme countries. In many places we are too heavy on traditional programme management skills and too light on the capacity needed to contribute to system-wide transformation.

In this context, we will need to improve further our human resource management.

Our recruitment processes will need to be streamlined, to ensure that they can help us to get the right people in the right place at the right time.

We need better workforce planning and ongoing professional development of our staff.

Over the next few months I will be preparing an action plan to intensify our implementation of the Strategic Plan. A number of key organizational issues will need to be addressed.

In about ten days, I will be having a retreat with UNDP’s senior managers to chart a pathway forward to make UNDP an ever more responsive, relevant, and efficient organization and leader of the UN development system.

A strong focus on results

One of the issues I will be discussing with senior managers is how we measure and capture in a compelling way the upstream services we provide, bearing in mind that UNDP’s interventions are based on long-term plans linked to outcomes pursued jointly with our partners.

The Executive Board has sent clear signals that it expects a robust analysis of UNDP’s contribution to nationally owned results. Throughout my many years in government in the past, I have always kept my eye firmly on the end goal, and underscored the importance of delivering results and communicating achievements.

I am committed to providing Member States with a clear picture of what we do, what actions we have taken, what those activities cost, and what results they have helped deliver.

At the June session of the Executive Board, UNDP will deliver an analytical report on results in line with the Strategic Plan. We will be using a series of informal meetings with Board members, beginning shortly, to tell you more about our results analysis.

The report needs to capture the breadth of our results in each of our four focus areas, and provide an in-depth analysis of UNDP’s work in selected top priority areas, including the MDGs and climate change.

The report should also mirror the vision I am communicating inside UNDP : that we must demonstrate our continued relevance to programme countries – whatever their development status; show leadership within the wider co-ordinated UN system; and improve our own effectiveness and efficiency.

Evolving relationships

The number of middle-income and net contributing countries continues to grow. Among them are many which not long ago were themselves net recipients of development assistance. Some are quickly gaining prominence as thought and action leaders on issues affecting the entire international community.

Rigid classifications of ‘programme’ and ‘donor’ countries will need to give way to partnerships which are inclusive of more types of relationships.

UNDP is taking stock of its relationships country by country. The future will see us more actively involved with the development co-operation initiatives of the South, including through triangular co-operation. Some nations of the South are now explicitly seeking our support in developing their own co-operation programmes.

In November, I was in Korea, where UNDP’s country office has just closed. Korea has for several years now been an OECD member, and has just joined its Development Assistance Committee. This calls for a different kind of relationship with UNDP. There, I co-signed with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade two agreements which will form the basis of our development co-operation going forward. The first establishes the Korea-UNDP MDG Trust Fund, which will support poverty reduction and climate change initiatives in the context of the MDGs. The second creates a UNDP Seoul Policy Centre for Global Development Partnerships which will replace our long-standing country office presence.

In December I attended in Nairobi the High-level Conference on South-South Co-operation. It is well recognised that the strategy, policy concepts, skills, and technical expertise which can be exchanged through South-South co-operation are in many cases those most suitable to meeting the development challenges faced by others in the South. UNDP has a critical role to play in facilitating that exchange and transfer of knowledge.

Six weeks ago in India, for example, UNDP helped to organize a conference which shared practical experience from Latin America with Asian countries already undertaking or considering cash transfer programmes.

This makes it more critical than ever that we improve our knowledge management. We have vast stores of development knowledge and information, across our workforce and in the monitoring and evaluation of our work. This needs to be able to flow more seamlessly around the organization, across countries and regions, so that it is accessible wherever needed and relevant.

Our new web-based system, “Teamworks”, is currently being used and tested by over 2,200 UNDP staff and partners, and will be launched officially in 2010.

“Teamworks” will support country offices and teams to share the knowledge they have, find new knowledge relevant to them, and connect with peers, advisors, and experts wherever they are located. Fundamentally it brings our knowledge sharing capacity into the 21st century. It will support us to deliver quality policy advice, improve our cost effectiveness, and help us retain the knowledge and experience accrued by staff, partners, and consultants.

Security of UNDP Personnel

It is imperative that we do everything possible to protect our personnel and our property. This is of primary concern to me. Each and every attack our personnel have suffered is one too many. The devastating earthquake in Haiti also draws our attention to the degree of seismic and other natural disaster risks to which we may be exposed. I have asked our Bureaus of Management and of Crisis Prevention and Recovery to review those risks and report on what action needs to be taken. They are working on this now, and we will inform the Board on the implications.

Around the world UN personnel work in many challenging and often extremely dangerous environments. This dedication needs to be matched by a commitment from all Member States to fund and support us to provide the appropriately safe and secure arrangements in those circumstances. Nor do I believe that it is acceptable for the many extraordinary security costs we face to have to be met from the scarce resources mobilized for our development and humanitarian work.

It is estimated that a total of US$85 million is required during the 2010-2011 biennium to meet United Nations mandated security costs, of which $58 million is earmarked from regular resources. In the event of unforeseen funding requirements for meeting mandated security costs during 2010-2011 – especially in the wake of the last year’s attack on UN accommodations in Kabul – the budget proposal includes my request for exceptional authority during this biennium to disburse, if needed, up to an additional $17.4 million in regular resources, - that is an additional 30 per cent on top of the $58 million projected.

Being global and acting locally

To be a global organization which is responsive to the specific needs of developing countries, our objective at headquarters, and in the regional and policy centers, must be to provide the best possible support to our very large network of country offices.

They are on the frontline of development– and we need to help them achieve results in a timely fashion, including through the rapid disbursement of resources, and through the support of our global programmes and knowledge networks.

I will therefore be looking again at how well our headquarters and regional levels are able to give effective support to country offices and programme countries.

Countries in Crisis

The demand for our services, both in the wake of conflict and of natural disaster, has expanded in recent years, and expectations of what we can achieve are high. In 2008, 83 UNDP country offices carried out work linked to crisis prevention and recovery, and that figure is likely to have risen in the past year.

Across the globe - from Haiti to Sudan; from Liberia to Georgia; from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Somalia; and from Iraq to Afghanistan - UNDP plays a crucial role in supporting a swift transition from relief to recovery – and through the Resident Co-ordinator function to co-ordinate with other agencies which can play a role. Our skills will be greatly needed in Haiti in the difficult months and years ahead.

Overall, our early recovery programming will remain focused in areas such as the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants; livelihood generation; the restoration of the rule of law; strengthening national and local capacities for the peaceful management of conflict; combating sexual and gender-based violence; and the reduction of disaster risks.

We are putting in place faster track procedures through which UNDP can more quickly provide the level and type of enhanced and flexible support needed – whether that be strategic, programmatic, operational, or human resources – to those countries where the challenges, opportunities, and stakes are especially high. These procedures are being used in our response in Haiti right now.

We will also continue to work very closely with our colleagues in the UN Secretariat and in the UNDG agencies, and with other multilateral and bilateral actors, to provide coherent support for peacebuilding in the aftermath of conflict.

Driving UN reform

More generally, real development gains can be made if UN agencies are better co-ordinated in their partnerships with programme countries - and indeed with bilateral and other donors on the ground.

Late last year, I met for the second time with the UN Resident Co-ordinators from the eight “Delivering as One” pilot countries. There, and elsewhere, important efforts are underway to improve the UN’s ability to be a highly effective and relevant development partner.

From the intergovernmental meeting in Rwanda in October of the pilot and self-starter countries, the outcome statement said that, for them, there was “no going back to doing business in the manner prior to the Delivering as One initiative”. They are convinced of its merits.

The meeting in Rwanda launched the country-led evaluations of the pilots. These, together with the independent evaluation of the pilots as a group which is to be carried out, will be critical in charting the way forward for UN reform.

The rollout of some ninety new UNDAFs over the next three years presents a good opportunity for the UNDG organizations to work together strategically in support of national development priorities.

All Resident Co-ordinators and Country Teams have been asked to make a step change in the relevance and quality of the next generation of UNDAFs; to review ongoing UNDAFs; and to ensure that the right capacities are in place at the country level to deliver on the UNDAFs. This will be especially important for the focus required on climate change response and the MDGs.

Within the UN Country Teams, we must support each other’s mandates and embrace joint programming. We each bring different skills sets to the same table.

Towards this end, the WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, and I have agreed to get our top officials working on how we can work more effectively at the interface between crisis and recovery, moving beyond the current ad hoc, country level co-ordination towards a more strategic approach.

I mentioned earlier that the Executive director of UNEP and I are driving a process to ensure that our complementary organizations work well together.

Similarly, as the current Chair of the Committee of Co-sponsoring Organizations of UNAIDS, UNDP is working with other UN agencies and the Executive Director of UNAIDS to strengthen our joint response to the AIDS epidemic.

UNDG agencies have also worked with the Deputy Secretary-General to prepare the report on the composite entity on gender requested by the General Assembly.

The new entity should not relieve other parts of the UN system of their responsibilities for promoting gender equality. Rather, working through the Chief Executives Board and the UNDG at the global level, and the Resident Co-ordinator system at the country level, it will ensure clarity as to the roles and responsibilities of each part of the system, and support a more coherent and scaled-up UN response to advancing gender equality.

Overall, UNDP must continue to provide leadership and direction to make the UN system as efficient and effective as it can be with greater impact at the country level.

A budget to deliver results

To make that happen, and to get UNDP even more fit for purpose in the other ways I have mentioned, we need an adequate and predictable base of regular resources.

I am well aware that donor countries face difficult financial circumstances as a result of the international recession. But it is so important for donors to continue, and even strengthen, their current commitments, as many have, so that development progress is not reversed.

UNDP is working hard to extend its donor base. The implementation of our Strategic Plan could be at risk if voluntary contributions fail to meet the targets approved by the Executive Board.

The biennial support budget provides funding for the operational backbone of UNDP. The budget estimates for the 2010-2011 biennium are prepared in a results-based format: They reflect a more coherent classification of management and development activities and associated costs; and they underpin the implementation of the Strategic Plan.

I would like to acknowledge the advice we received from the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, whose report on the budget estimates is available for your review. My colleagues from our Bureau of Management here today will be happy to address your detailed questions on these.

It is critically important to recognize that biennial budget outlays cannot be categorized simply as overhead costs. The policy, knowledge sharing, and advisory functions provided by UNDP country offices are a fundamental and integral part of the value UNDP adds. Reducing overhead is a goal we share, but it is not synonymous with reducing the biennial budget.

The budget proposal is based on advancing the three-pillar approach approved by the Executive Board in September.

First, it reflects efforts to ensure that stakeholders have confidence that all resources are being used appropriately. Accountability and transparency are critical, and we will spare no effort to monitor our performance, and deliver and report on results.

Second, the budget proposal demonstrates that in these difficult times UNDP is committed to making the best possible use of the resources available to it and to rationalizing operational costs. We have been able to reduce the regular resource component of the budget by $69.7 million, or 8 per cent of the gross 2008-2009 biennial support budget.

This was accomplished through a combination of the following actions:

• Elimination of redundant and/or non-essential services and activities, including reduced spending on discretionary activities;
• Identification of lower-priority functions and activities which could be reduced or eliminated;
• More cost effective post management, including freezing posts; and
• Maximizing the use of other available resources.

Savings are proposed to be made through the better use of information and communication technology - for example, through video conferencing to lower travel costs; use of lower-cost locations for meetings; and reductions in consultancy and temporary assistance costs.

These proposed volume reductions have served to offset more than 75 per cent of the estimated $91.5 million in non-discretionary cost increases we face to finance UNDP structures, functions and activities during 2010-2011.

During the 2010-2011 biennium, we will continue to take measures to drive efficiencies from top to bottom through the organization. We will pay particular attention to:

• Integrating cost containment and efficiency gains both in regular and extra-budgetary resources as an ongoing process of reducing costs;
• Strategically using and funding ICT in support of streamlined business processes, reporting requirements, and knowledge management;
• Clarifying and confirming the size and funding of UNDP’s base structure, bearing in mind the different sets of skills required in least developed, middle income, and crisis country offices, for example;
• Improving human resource management so that staffing needs are comprehensively planned for and effectively met.
• Reviewing and validating the cost recovery policy and the contribution of such resources to UNDP’s funding, and providing specific guidance on implementation support services.

Taking appropriate action in these areas will keep downward pressure on costs and ensure that UNDP is a flexible and responsive provider of quality development, co-ordination, and management services.

The third pillar of the budget estimates is a proposal for several modest strategic investments in line with the priorities I outlined above amounting to $28 million in regular resources. These include strengthening investments in meeting the MDGs and enhancing national capacities to respond to the implications of climate change, with a special focus on Africa; enhancing South-South development activities; boosting crisis prevention and recovery-related development interventions; and sharpening our knowledge management and sharing tools and systems.

Taken together, these proposals result in a 2010-2011 regular resources funded budget of $823.3 million, in net terms. In nominal terms, this is 5.8 per cent higher than the net budget approved for the last biennium.

In addition to the above, the present budget estimates reflect $77.5 million in special purpose activities for funding from regular resources. Of this total, $72.4 million relates to General Assembly-mandated activities, inclusive of the $58 million in United Nations-mandated security costs to which I referred earlier, and $5.1 million relates to capital investments.

Should the funding which has been envisaged in the budget not materialize, I can assure you that we will take steps to make sure that UNDP does live within the resources it has available.

I remain committed to working closely with UNFPA and UNICEF, especially with respect to continued harmonization efforts leading to the submission of agency-specific integrated budgets from 2014 onwards. In this regard, we are well-served by the four broad classifications of activities and costs which the Executive Board approved in decision 2009/22 as part of the methodology and approach for the 2010-2011 UNDP budget estimates.


With sufficient resources, the right staff, broad and innovative partnerships within and outside the UN development system, and a strong focus on supporting our country offices, I am confident that UNDP can deliver better results more effectively and efficiently.

I look forward to working with you all to make this happen, and thank all Members of the Board for their support in helping to sustain and guide UNDP.

UNDP Around the world