Clark: Julia Taft Award Ceremony recognizing UNDP Afghanistan

Jun 21, 2011

Remarks for Helen Clark
On the occasion of the Julia Taft Award Ceremony, recognizing UNDP Afghanistan
21 June 2011, 6:00pm

My thanks go to the United States Committee for UNDP for organising this Julia Taft Award Ceremony, and to the Embassy of Canada for hosting this event again.

Tonight’s award recognizes the UNDP Country Office in Afghanistan, and so it is appropriate that many of those who support our work there – including Afghanistan itself, the United States, and Canada - are represented here this evening.

I also express particular appreciation to the US Committee for UNDP and its Chair, Ken Wollack, for their tireless efforts to support UNDP’s role, including through this annual Julia Taft Award Ceremony.

While I myself did not have an opportunity to meet Julia Taft, I do wish to acknowledge the reputation she earned as a decisive and principled leader with a clear vision for her work.

The award which bears her name is made to a UNDP Country Office which demonstrates, as Julia Taft did, the difference which dedication and teamwork make in challenging locations - helping to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable people, and contributing to building a more democratic, prosperous, and peaceful world.

I am pleased that the UNDP Country Office in Afghanistan meets this description, and that the UNDP Resident Representative ad interim and Country Director in Afghanistan, Manoj Basnyat, is with us this evening. It will mean a great deal to all in the Country Office to receive this award.

UNDP’s Country Office in Afghanistan delivers the largest UNDP programme anywhere in the world. In doing so, staff face two key challenges which will be familiar to many in the room. The first is the low, although slowly improving, capacity of national and local institutions. To improve the lives of Afghans, local government and national institutions need to be able to implement programmes effectively and deliver essential services.

Unfortunately the second challenge, deteriorating security, often precludes UNDP being where it would like to be in the country to support capacity building and programme delivery. Recently access has become even more constrained, with higher levels of insecurity in what have been the relatively safe areas of the north and west of the country.

The UN itself is also a target of violent and deadly attack. It has been hit by suicide attacks four times since 2009 – with the last occurring in Herat, a location considered relatively safe until recently.

Let me mention here just a few examples of UNDP’s on‑going programme in Afghanistan.

  • With contributions from partners, we have worked to develop the capacity of the Afghan Independent Election Commission to organize free and fair elections. The leadership role which the Independent Election Commission was able to play in organizing the 2010 parliamentary elections was the outcome of significant growth in its capacity and confidence.

  • With huge contributions from partners, UNDP helps Afghanistan maintain its national police system – an indispensable instrument for establishing the rule of law. As a result, the Ministry of Interior is moving from paying salaries in cash to paying electronically. Seventy-eight per cent of the police force there can now be paid through electronic transfers to individual bank accounts. I thank our partners for supporting our work with the Afghanistan police since 2002.

  • UNDP also works to strengthen the capacities of provincial, district, and municipal governments, so that they can over time assume full responsibility for delivering services.

  • Then, through small grants, UNDP helps fill a critical gap for former combatants returning to their communities, offering them a bridge between the support provided for their first ninety days at home and when the longer term reintegration programmes kick in.

At UNDP, we are proud of the work our colleagues do in the very challenging circumstances of Afghanistan. We are delighted to see the Country Office recognized through the Julia Taft Award.

I now ask the Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Ajay Chhibber, to say a few words, before we watch a video and move to the formal awards ceremony.

UNDP Around the world