Helen Clark: Statement to the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA

Sep 1, 2010

Remarks by Helen Clark
Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme
On the Occasion of the Second Regular Session of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA

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

It is a great pleasure to be with you for the third Executive Board session this year.

Advancing the Development Agenda

The next few months will be especially important ones for promoting internationally agreed development goals, with the high level meetings scheduled on the Millennium Development Goals and on climate change being of particular significance for development.

  • The Forthcoming MDG Summit

In three weeks, the MDG Summit will get underway. This is a not-to-be missed opportunity for Member States to agree on an action plan to drive progress towards reaching the Goals by 2015.

At UNDP, we believe that there is a range of tried, tested, and proven policies which, adapted to national contexts, will ensure progress where there is the leadership, political will, capacity, and resources to implement them.

What is important now is for all development stakeholders to focus on what works, and support replication of proven interventions tailored to national circumstances. We also need to innovate and bring fresh ideas to the table. 

This is especially important given the impacts of the economic crisis on the poorest and most vulnerable, as well as the funding constraints facing developing countries, donors, multilateral organizations, and other development practitioners alike.

A little over two months ago in Geneva, I briefed the Board on UNDP’s International Assessment of what it would take to meet the MDGs by 2015.

I highlighted the eight priority areas which should ideally form part of action plans for the next five years to accelerate progress towards the MDGs.

In July, our International Assessment was welcomed by the G8 leaders’ meeting in Canada, and was referred to positively in their Muskoka Declaration. 

To drive action on the ground, UNDP has been piloting an MDG Acceleration Framework, together with other UNDG agencies, in a number of countries. The aim is to speed up progress on MDG achievement.

A number of the pilots are being concluded, and we will showcase some of the results at the UNDP side event during the MDG Summit. 

UNDP has been participating in a number of high profile MDG-related events in recent months, including in Indonesia, Spain and Turkey, and at the African Union summit in Uganda.

This is all part of our ongoing effort to ensure an action-oriented outcome from the MDG Summit.

It is to be hoped that Member States will agree on a concrete agenda which reflects both the evidence of what works and includes bold initiatives in the priority action areas UNDP has identified.

  • Climate Initiatives

Looking further ahead, the next rounds of climate talks will get underway in Tianjin in October and Cancun in late November. It remains our hope that progress will be made for both the climate and development.

UNDP’s work on climate obviously has a strong development focus. We seek to promote climate-resilient development in which fighting poverty is consistent with the preservation of our ecosystems.

Consistent with that approach, the Associate Administrator signed a landmark agreement on behalf of UNDP with the Government of Ecuador in early August. It establishes the Yasuni ITT Trust Fund, which has been set up to receive contributions in support of Ecuador’s decision to forego indefinitely extraction from the Yasuni ITT oil fields, which are located in one of the most biodiverse regions of the world.

The initiative aims to protect that biodiversity, along with the livelihoods, rights, and cultures of the area’s indigenous peoples. It also aims to avoid the emission of over 400 million metric tons of CO2 which would result if the resource were to be exploited.

Ecuador is seeking contributions to cover fifty per cent of the income it is foregoing —$3.6 billion over a 13 year period— to finance renewable energy and social development projects.

Contributions to the Yasuni initiative will be administered by UNDP, by combining a Management Services Agreement with our multi-donor trust fund mechanism.

A Government-led Yasuni Fund Steering Committee will be established, and will include representatives of contributing countries and civil society. The funding it approves for programmes will be passed directly to national entities, in accordance with national budgetary and accountability frameworks, provided they are consistent with UNDP’s financial regulations and rules.

This is a good example of how fresh thinking combined with strong partnerships can advance sustainable development.

  • Crisis Prevention and Recovery

Recent disasters such as the severe flooding in Pakistan and China, and in Niger and its neighbourhood following serious drought, and the extreme heat and widespread fires in Russia are potent reminders not only of the kinds of serious implications climate change and environmental degradation can have, but also of the importance of disaster risk reduction and preparedness.

The people of Pakistan are very much in our thoughts now, following the devastating monsoon flooding which has left millions in need of humanitarian assistance and affected millions more. 

The emergency response plan launched by the UN and Pakistan almost three weeks ago appealed for some $460 million for the first 90 days to support priority needs such as food, water and sanitation, shelter, and medical care. Working together, UN agencies are supporting the Government and people of Pakistan to respond to the immediate needs of the affected communities.

UNDP has helped district disaster management authorities to evacuate populations from affected areas, and to set up district disaster resource centres to monitor the situation and disseminate information on the availability of disaster-related resources.

At the same time, we are working to ensure that there is as seamless a transition as possible between the relief period and early recovery. Families and communities need support to rebuild their lives and livelihoods as quickly as possible. It is unfortunate that this component of the international response to complex emergencies is all too often poorly funded.

Given the unfolding disaster, the ninety day emergency response plan is currently being revised by the UN system, and will be ready by mid September. It will take into account new and continuing relief needs, as well as early recovery needs.  To this end, the interagency community restoration cluster, led by UNDP, is finalizing an assessment on overall early recovery needs.

UNDP has already developed a $40 million early recovery programme which will be launched soon.  It focuses on restoring community infrastructure, basic services and livelihoods; and cleaning-up flooded villages and homes, including through cash-for-work initiatives related to waste removal. But this is only a first step. Much more will need to be planned for and funded to help give the affected communities a fresh start.

We are also working with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank on the long term recovery and reconstruction damage needs assessment, which we hope will be ready by October.  

The Country Programme Document for Pakistan 2011-2012 will be presented to the Board tomorrow. It has been designed to be a flexible instrument, and it can accommodate UNDP’s support to the implementation of the existing Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan, the Post-Conflict Needs Assessment, and now, also, our response to the floods.

Moving forward, UNDP will redouble its efforts in Pakistan on the vital work of early recovery and on strengthening Pakistan’s disaster preparedness.

Given the immense damage to agriculture, livestock, infrastructure, housing, and the environment, it is crucial that the international community provides the Government and people of Pakistan with the support they need to recover from this terrible disaster and tackle other pressing development challenges.

UNDP also continues to accord very high priority to recovery in Haiti.

The Government of Haiti created the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission for a period of eighteen months following the 12 January earthquake.

Its aim is to co-ordinate and oversees recovery and development efforts in Haiti.

Half of the IHRC’s members are Haitian, and half are representatives of donor countries and international organizations.

As the President of the Board informed you in his 5 August letter, President Préval of Haiti invited the UN to participate in the IHRC.  The Secretary-General designated me to represent the UN on the body.

At UNDP we do appreciate the support received from Members of the Board, through the Bureau, for our participation in the IHRC on behalf of the UN as a full voting member.

We have been working to ensure that the bylaws of the IHRC fully protect the special status of the intergovernmental organizations participating in its work, including our privileges and immunities.

Two weeks ago the Associate Administrator participated on my behalf in the IHRC meeting. $220 million worth of UN post-earthquake recovery initiatives were approved, including more than $80 million worth of UNDP programmes. This paves the way for us to mobilise the resources not yet secured, and to increase the support we give to Haiti’s recovery.

We will keep the Board apprised of our participation in the IHRC. 

  • 2010 Human Development Report

On 4 November I will be launching the 20th anniversary edition of the global Human Development Report together with the Secretary-General in New York.

The Report advances development thinking in new and important ways, with some significant innovations in the measurement of human development. 

We hope that this Report will generate constructive debate and discussion as its predecessors have, and that it will be of interest to development scholars and practitioners alike.

Moving ahead with change in UNDP

I said in June that I would keep the Board regularly informed on how we are moving forward with the business action plan, which aims to consolidate UNDP’s performance as a leading development organization and as the manager of the Resident Coordinator system.

I am pleased to report that there has been progress in a number of areas, even though very little time has elapsed since I last addressed you.  I would like to update you on progress in five areas related to priorities in the action plan.

  • Central to the action plan is a very strong focus on results.

The Board has been briefed in the past on the opportunities offered by the development of 90 new UN Development Assistance Frameworks over the 2010-2012 periods. Through DOCO and the various UNDG mechanisms, much work is being done to prepare UN Country Teams to make the most of them.

It is also critical for UNDP itself to see that its country offices are well prepared for the UNDAF process, and to infuse the UNDAFs with a clear results focus which flows through to the country programmes and all activities pursued subsequent to them. 

To that end, the regional bureaux in UNDP have been improving the quality assurance and oversight support they provide to country offices.
Almost two thirds of countries covered by the Regional Bureau for Africa, for example, will be formulating new UNDAFs and country programmes over the next 18 to 24 months. The Bureau therefore convened a UNDP-specific workshop for regional service centres and country offices in late June to brief them thoroughly on the new UNDAF guidelines and to strategise about the UN and the UNDP priorities which should be reflected in them. 

The Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific will convene a similar workshop in October.  Other regional bureaux have already conducted training or initial orientation sessions for relevant staff members.

These initiatives will improve the contribution which UNDP makes to the development of UNDAFs and should lead to more focused, well-positioned, and transformational UNDP assistance in line with country-led development agendas.

This is especially important for the emphasis which must continue to be placed on MDG achievement and sustainable development.

  • Also central to the action plan is to secure UNDP’s reputation as a world class, knowledge-based development organization, contributing to transformational change.

Next month will see the official launch of the new Teamworks knowledge-sharing platform.

Through Teamworks, UNDP can contextualize and share the accumulated knowledge of its staff, the many thousands of others who work on its progammes, and its external partners.

  • Improving our effectiveness and efficiency is critical for lifting UNDP’s performance. Procurement and recruitment processes have been overly bureaucratic and slow, and we are acting to improve them.

The measures we are adopting aim to strike a better balance between oversight and timely action.

In accordance with audit recommendations we have introduced new guidelines governing how contracts are awarded. These are expected to reduce significantly the time needed to buy goods and services without diminishing transparency and accountability.

High-volume procurement contracts, which were previously reviewed by up to three different committees, will now only be reviewed by one. This will avoid duplication of effort and create time savings for the organization —without in our view compromising the quality of the assessment.

UNDP’s fast track policies to accelerate delivery in challenging and other pressing circumstances have now been put into practice in sixteen country offices across all five UNDP programmatic regions. They remain available to all country offices as needed, especially when responding to emergencies and ongoing crisis. 

We are also taking other steps to ensure that we are better prepared to respond swiftly where time is of the essence.

Among them are measures to enable the speedier deployment of personnel needed to reinforce a country office’s capacity in a crisis. And to help country offices collaborate more easily with select non-governmental partners, such as international and national NGOs, particularly when crisis arises, we are starting a process of pre-preparing long term agreements with such partners.

We will also shortly be signing a new agreement with the World Food Programme to bolster our collaboration in supporting countries to move from humanitarian response to recovery.

  • Work has been completed on three major initiatives to help in the selection, development, and retention of the staff who can best meet the evolving needs of UNDP. 

Candidate pools for key positions are being created, covering in the first instance the positions of Country Directors, Deputy Country Directors for programmes and operations, and their headquarters equivalents. The candidate pools may be expanded to other areas in time.

They will help us to improve succession planning, and they could reduce recruitment timelines by at least four weeks. That means that critical positions will not lie vacant for so long in the future.  Where we can draw from the pools, the need for interviews will be eliminated. They have been taking as much as half a day of four senior managers’ time for a single position.

Further to what I said in June, a new simplified staff performance management system has now been developed.

It will promote more effective performance dialogue between managers and their staff, and reduce the time taken for each individual performance assessment by over 50 percent, freeing up many valuable hours for senior management to apply elsewhere. 

It will also ensure better alignment between individual work plans and UNDP corporate objectives, enhancing the organisation’s results focus.

The Leadership Development and Management Skills Programme, which has been approved, will help build the leadership and managerial skills, competencies and abilities of national and international UNDP staff at different levels.  Through a mix of online and in-person courses, it will train staff on issues such as strategic leadership and people management. The first cohorts will begin the programmes shortly.

  • Building the strategic partnerships which UNDP needs to perform effectively in the years ahead is also a key part of the action plan.

We have been reaching out to major emerging economies which are active in development co-operation, to look for synergies between their work and our work and mandate.

At the end of July, the Minister of External Relations of Brazil and I signed a partnership agreement. It formally establishes UNDP as a partner of Brazil in international development co-operation, while also reinforcing the importance of UNDP’s work within Brazil. More such agreements are expected.

UN Development Co-ordination

On UN development coordination, the UN Development Group’s work is being guided by its strategic priorities for 2010-2011.

These emphasize the importance of supporting national achievement of the MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals, including by developing high quality UNDAFs which are closely aligned with national development priorities.

They also cover the important task the UNDG has undertaken with the High Level Committee on Management (HLCM) to increase country-level operational efficiency.

The joint UNDG-HLCM high-level mission on harmonization of business practices recently completed its fourth country-visit, to Albania, following visits to Mozambique, Malawi, and Viet Nam earlier this year.

From its recommendations has come an implementation plan aimed at improving the operational effectiveness of the UN development system on the ground.  It will be presented for endorsement at the first joint UNDG-HLCM meeting later this month, which I will co-chair with Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme and Chair of the HLCM.

This issue of harmonisation of business practices was one of a number of important topics covered by the recent General Assembly resolution on system-wide coherence.

So was the establishment of UN Women. That was an important milestone in the UN’s ongoing efforts to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment around the world.

UN Women can help magnify the impact of the UN’s work on gender equality. It will need to work closely with other UNDG members at the global, regional, and country levels to ensure that there is clarity on the roles of different parts of the UN system on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

UNDP and other UNDG agencies have been actively supporting the Deputy Secretary-General as she has led the process of establishing UN Women, and we will continue to do so.

The system-wide coherence resolution also encourages the Secretary-General to proceed with the independent evaluation of lessons learned from the Delivering as One pilots.

Building on the country-led evaluations which were presented at the intergovernmental meeting on Delivering as One in Hanoi in June, the evaluation is expected to take twelve months to complete.

It is not only in the Delivering as One countries, however, that we are seeing increased coherence to deliver better results.

The 2009 Synthesis of Resident Coordinator Annual Reports will be released shortly.

It provides more examples of steps which UN Country Teams around the world are taking to improve their co-ordination and help countries meet their development goals.

Another UNDG initiative has been to launch a review on the extent to which the outcomes and outputs agreed in the Management and Accountability System’s Implementation Plan have been achieved.

The review will be undertaken by independent consultants, and should be completed by the end of this year. A senior group of UNDG principals will work with me to oversee this exercise and its follow up.

The system-wide coherence resolution also covers the issue of improving the funding system of the UN’s operational activities for development. This brings me to a major item on the agenda of this Board session.

Resources and results

First, I am very pleased to inform you that UNDP is among the limited number of UN organizations to have received an unqualified, or ‘clean’, audit opinion from the United Nations Board of Auditors for the biennium ended 31 December 2009.

This is the second consecutive biennium in which UNDP has received an unqualified audit opinion. It shows that we continue to take the right steps to ensure that we operate transparently. It is also particularly encouraging in light of the upcoming IPSAS implementation. We will continue to strengthen our controls and financial accountability further.

My colleagues will be available to discuss our finances with you in more detail shortly and respond to your questions. For now, let me highlight just a few points.

In 2009, total contributions to UNDP, including UNCDF and UNIFEM, were $5.34 billion. This represents a three percent reduction from 2008. Total contributions in 2009, however, exceeded the targets of the Strategic Plan.

The ratio of regular “core” resources to other resources is about 1 to 4, which is of ongoing concern.

I cannot overemphasise that the ability of UNDP to fulfill its multilateral mandate and to deliver effective capacity-building support for development is contingent upon a critical mass of core funding. That enables UNDP to plan properly ahead, and to adopt flexible and strategic management approaches best suited to helping countries achieve their long-term development goals.

In 2009, core contributions fell to $1.01 billion, short of last year’s target in the Strategic Plan of $1.25 billion.  Current projections suggest a further drop to $0.97 billion this year. That is approximately 30 percent below the $1.4 billion targeted in the Strategic Plan for 2010 approved by the Executive Board, and could drop further.

While the effects of the economic recession continue to be felt across the globe, I urge all Member States to support UNDP and its associated funds and programmes to reach the resource targets set out in the Strategic Plan, and to commit their contributions to UNDP core resources for 2010 and onwards as early as possible.

Multi-year pledges are especially important —it is far easier to work strategically and effectively where there is funding predictability. While always striving for top performance we will inevitably find it harder to meet the Board’s expectations in this regard if our regular resources are kept on short rations.

More broadly, meeting Official Development Assistance targets is also fully in keeping with MDG 8 on global partnerships.

As a result of the active measures taken by UNDP to shift towards lower risk investments, we continued in 2009 to avoid any loss of principal as a result of the economic crisis. These lower risk investments, together with generally lower investment yields, however, do lead to reduced income from these sources.

I should emphasize here, on behalf of the UN system, that UNDP has been providing fund administration services to an ever-growing number of UN multi-donor trust funds since 2004. The total portfolio now amounts to some $4.5 billion.
Over the years, the UNDP office managing these trust funds has continued to enhance the transparency and accountability which are the hallmark of its fund administration services, and in which we take great pride. 

This is best demonstrated by the MDTF Office GATEWAY, a new web-based tool. It provides what is essentially real-time financial information from the UNDP Atlas system on donor contributions received, amounts transferred to participating organizations, and certified annual expenditure reports. It also provides access to a growing number of progress reports and related documents.

I am pleased to announce that the GATEWAY portal, which has so far been working in a beta version, is now fully operational. I invite you to join the Associate Administrator for a launch of the GATEWAY at a noon side-event tomorrow.   


Looking ahead, UNDP will continue to sharpen its tools to support the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people and communities and to help countries meet their development goals.

We will continue to work closely with our wide range of partners within and beyond the UN system to get the maximum coordination possible in development co-operation and to get results.

We are fully cognizant of our responsibilities within the UN development system for promoting system-wide coherence.

With sufficient and predictable resources for development, the appropriate policies, and strong leadership and capacity, we do believe that the MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals can be met.

There is not only a moral imperative to strive to meet them. It is also an important part of our quest to make our planet more just, secure, and peaceful. That is in the best interests of all of us.

I thank the Board once again for its ongoing support for UNDP.

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