Helen Clark: Second regular session of the UNDP Executive Board

Sep 6, 2011

Statement of Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Second regular session of the UNDP Executive Board
New York, 6 September 2011

Madam President, 

Members of the Executive Board, 

Let me begin by expressing how deeply shocked and saddened all at UNDP are by the attack on the United Nations Headquarters in Nigeria. Many lives of UN colleagues and Nigerian citizens were lost. Our thoughts are with those who died and their families, and colleagues at this difficult time. We are grateful for the support of the Government of Nigeria and the international community following the attack.

The UN Country Team in Nigeria has shown tremendous courage in dealing with this tragedy. Despite the considerable loss of life, injury, and trauma, much of the work of the UN in Nigeria has been able to continue, as demonstrated by staff continuing aiding those affected by heavy flooding in parts of the country. Such dedication from our staff is one of the many reasons why I am proud to be UNDP Administrator and to be leading the organization as it works to transform itself for ever better performance and service to the peoples of developing countries.

In my comments today I will focus on the following areas:

  • the overall development context in which we are operating,
  • the sequence of events leading to the finalization of UNDP´s next Strategic Plan,
  • co-ordination of the UN Development System,
  • UNDP´s internal change agenda,
  • transparency issues, and,  last but not least,
  • UNDP´s resources and the budget before you.

These are exciting times for UNDP as we move forward on our organizational improvement agenda, and on supporting developing countries to tackle head on the huge challenges which many currently face.

Work of this kind requires passion and commitment from all at UNDP, and in the field often great personal courage as well. With the Board´s strong support for our work, we are empowered to work to our utmost to help bring about lasting and beneficial change for all whom we serve.

Overall development context

The attack on the UN in Nigeria reminds us that the development context in which we work is extremely challenging in many places. I shall comment here on just a few.

On the other side of the African continent, the countries in the Horn are witnessing the worst food security crisis in almost twenty years, and, in the case of Somalia, the world’s first famine of this century.

The magnitude of human suffering is great: millions of people in the region are facing severe food shortages. Children are disproportionately affected, with child mortality reaching alarming levels.

The impact of the drought has been exacerbated by high food prices and limited coping capacity of vulnerable populations. Access problems for humanitarian assistance have also been a challenge in Somalia, as have been the influx of refugees into neighbouring countries and the overcrowding of refugee camps. Donors have already committed 1.4billion dollars for the humanitarian response, and clearly more is needed.

Over and beyond meeting the urgent humanitarian needs, it is critical to address the root-causes of recurrent hunger crises by investing in longer term measures which help build the resilience of affected populations. There has all too often been insufficient support for this kind of development work, leaving communities badly exposed to loss of life and livelihoods when disaster strikes.

As the United Kingdom´s Secretary of State for International Development said in his recent written statement to the House of Commons, “We cannot avoid droughts, but we can avoid famines…In the long run, investing more effectively in reducing poverty and building resilience is not only better value for money than emergency relief, but will help those affected to break out of the cycle of disasters.”

UNDP brings expertise to the tasks of early recovery, building resilience, and adapting to the ravages of extreme climatic conditions.

  • In Somalia, in spite of the security and access challenges, we have been able to work in Mogadishu and in some of the districts most seriously affected by the famine. We are rehabilitating essential agricultural infrastructure, including building shallow wells, boreholes and water pumps; rehabilitating water channels and water harvesting structures; and creating short term jobs.  We expect that our recovery efforts will benefit hundreds of thousands of people. But more can be done with more support, and more needs to be done.
  • In Kenya, we are working with UNHCR, to support host communities facing additional stress from both the drought and the influx of refugees from Somalia.  We are also scaling-up existing programmes to bring quick wins and bridge to longer term development. This involves emergency work schemes for rehabilitating community infrastructure, and support for income diversification.


  • Beyond the early recovery response UNDP is also supporting throughout the region the strengthening of national capacities for Disaster Risk Reduction and Livelihoods Recovery. These efforts are critical and need to be supported.

Since the last meeting of the Executive Board, the new nation of South Sudan has been born, and admitted into the United Nations by the General Assembly as the 193rd Member State. 

A legacy of conflict has long held back South Sudan’s development, and the road ahead is long and challenging.

UNDP’s work there is built on three pillars: inclusive growth and economic development, good governance and state-building, and crisis prevention and recovery. Our office in Juba is becoming a full Country Office for South Sudan, and will fall within our Regional Bureau for Africa.

UNDP is working closely with the SRSG and the acting DSRSG/RC/RR/HC to ensure that the integrated mission draws on the strengths of the existing work of UNDP in the rule of law and peace-building for the benefit of the people of South Sudan.

As the Board is aware, the Government of South Sudan has formally requested UNDP recipient status. It has also requested that a Country Programme Document be presented to the Board on an exceptional basis at the first regular session of 2012.We hope that the Board will agree to these proposed arrangements.

Since we last met, unfolding events in the Arab States region have continued to be prominent in international news reports.

Earlier this year, UNDP evacuated its international staff from and suspended its operations in Libya. Our national staff remained in the country. A number stayed in Tripoli throughout the conflict. I would like to acknowledge their courage during this very difficult time. UNDP´s premises in Tripoli were ransacked after the full evacuation of international staff.

UNDP´s focus on the ground in Libya then shifted to recovery with the deployment of a limited presence in Benghazi, working alongside humanitarian colleagues. At headquarters and through the RC/RR for Libya, we have been working very closely from the earliest stage with the Secretary General´s appointee, Ian Martin, on the design of an integrated UN response for the post-conflict period. As soon as conditions permit, UNDP´s staff will resume working in Tripoli itself.

At UNDP headquarters, a SURGE plan has been approved to boost our engagement and capacity in Libya. It has a budget of around $2.2 million for the first three months, in support of the implementation of an initial $ 24.3 million Integrated Early Recovery/Recovery Programme focusing on (i) economic recovery and reform, and (ii) transitional governance support.  The SURGE plan will need donor support.

This plan is aligned with the overall UN pre-planning process for Libya. UNDP is fully committed to supporting integrated recovery and development efforts in Libya, particularly in the areas of democratic governance, including the rule of law and justice, public administration, and electoral support. UNDP will also play its full part in recovery co-ordination and in contributing to joint needs assessments.

UNDP’s long-standing presence in the Arab States region enables us to respond to new challenges and opportunities there. Our response strategy reflects the specific circumstances, needs, and priorities of each country. In some countries we are able to support the transitions underway to democratically-elected governments. In others, we help governments implement processes of reform, or assist in post-crisis recovery, or support humanitarian colleagues, while also reviewing our own programmes to take account of fast changing circumstances.

In Tunisia, for example, we are working with the Independent Electoral Commission to support the October elections with processes which can ensure transparency, accessibility, accountability, and responsiveness, and help the development of a code of conduct for election observers and accreditation requirements. 

As part of this work UNDP organized a workshop of forty political parties to discuss political party legislation and funding, and a training programme for women candidates took place this summer.

In Egypt, the UNDP Country Office has identified a number of key areas for electoral support, and has been liaising closely with the authorities on these, and on our proposals for supporting security sector reform.

This Board meeting will consider two new Country Programme Documents (CPDs) from the Arab States region: those for Yemen and Algeria.

Consideration of the Yemen CPD was postponed from June so that its contents could reflect the increased complexity of conditions in the country, and better respond to the needs of the Yemeni people in these difficult times. It addresses the structural causes of Yemen’s underdevelopment and instability and developing the potential of the large youth population.We have also drafted our own internal plan to ensure that we can quickly build UNDP’s capacity to deliver at a very strategic level in the context of any political transition.

The Algeria CPD also reflects the latest realities in the country, and includes the way in which UNDP can respond to the reform initiatives announced by the President in April.

The Sequence of Events leading to the finalization of UNDP’s next Strategic Plan

Over the next year and a half, UNDP will be engaged in a number of important internal and external processes which will shape the future of our organization and position us to become an even stronger and more relevant development actor.

The preparation of the UNDP Strategic Plan for 2014 to 2017 ranks as the most important of those processes for us. Working together, we can ensure that the new plan guides UNDP’s work as a leading development organization, committed to providing high-quality services and achieving development results.

The Board’s decision on the Mid-Term Review gave important guidance on the direction of the next Strategic Plan, including on the priority to be given to strengthening UNDP’s results frameworks.

The decision also asked for a Roadmap towards the Strategic Plan and for guidance on how that process relates to other initiatives, such as our internal change agenda and the UNDP integrated budget.

The Roadmap will be discussed in greater detail tomorrow, but let me highlight a few points now.

The current Strategic Plan provides the overall framework within which UNDP operates. The essence of our internal change agenda is to ensure that UNDP is focused, efficient, and effective and able to get results within the context of the Plan.

The Roadmap sets out a number of interrelated processes which are relevant to the remaining period of the current strategic plan, as well as to the development of the next strategic plan for 2014-2017.

It includes internal management processes, like the change agenda, and external processes, like the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review.

It contains specific milestones and timeframes over the next two years around which we envisage consultations with the Board. The Roadmap is a living document, which will evolve and improve as we engage together on its development. I count on a strong partnership with the Board on this.

Our objective is to sequence consultations and workshops relevant to the drawing up of the next Strategic Plan, so that they build on each other, and are properly informed by the outcomes of other processes.

The Roadmap envisages the presentation of a draft Strategic Plan to the Board’s annual session in 2013, and the final Strategic Plan to the second regular session a few months later.

This Strategic Plan must build a solid platform for UNDP’s role as the UN’s global development network, advocating for transformational change and connecting countries to knowledge, experiences, and resources to help people build better lives and increase the resilience of nations.

The first key event on the road to the Strategic Plan will be the workshop on constructing results chains, to be held later in the autumn. It will be an expert exchange on results-based management, aimed at informing the structure of our future results frameworks.

The whole process should be inclusive, transparent, and participatory, so that it can best help the future direction of UNDP and ultimately lead to a high quality Strategic Plan for 2014-2017.

On the horizon are also many important international events and processes which can play a critical part in advancing sustainable human development and achieving the MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals. UNDP and the UN development system as a whole are very much engaged in the preparation of these, and it is certain that their outcomes will have an impact on the future of our organization.

For example, in November the intergovernmental conference on Delivering as One will be held in Uruguay. That provides an opportunity for member states to discuss and analyze lessons learned and best practices from those who have embraced this approach, and consider recommendations which can inform discussions on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review.

Shortly thereafter, the High Level Meeting on Aid Effectiveness takes place in Busan. That is an important occasion for renewing commitments to aid quality and results, within the context of a fast changing development co-operation landscape.

Then, in December, it is to be hoped that the UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Durban, South Africa, can maintain momentum in the international climate negotiations.

In June 2012 the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, will be held in Brazil.

At UNDP we believe it is critical for Rio+20 to deliver a global consensus on the sustainable development agenda for the coming decades, and on complementary actions at both global and national levels. Much work is still required for that to be achieved.

Rio+20 presents a unique opportunity to mark the end of what UNDP has long viewed as a fragmented approach to development. Sustainable development can only be advanced if we involve all its three pillars – the social, the economic, and the environmental – in our efforts. UNDP, along with the broader UN development system, can be expected to play an important role in helping implement the outcome of Rio+20.

On Friday there will be a further opportunity to discuss the significance of Rio+20 and its relevance to UNDP´s work.

In June, at Tarrytown, UNDP held a Global Management Meeting to discuss global challenges, the role of the UN development system in supporting countries to tackle them, and how to rejuvenate our own organization to make it as effective as possible. We were pleased that the UN Secretary General and a number of Under Secretaries General were able to address the meeting, along with the Deputy Prime Minister of Laos, Brazil´s Environment Minister, and many other prominent speakers.

The meeting brought together senior managers from country offices, regional centres, policy centres, liaison offices, and headquarters, who explored what it means for UNDP to empower lives and help build resilient nations in a changing development landscape. There were briefings on the outcome of the Mid-Term Review, the proposed pathway to the next Strategic Plan, and the importance of getting, reporting on, and communicating results.

The Global Meeting brainstormed on the steps needed to make UNDP more strategic, focused, nimble, and consistent in the quality and effectiveness of its work. It was united in seeing UNDP as a solution-oriented, knowledge-based organization with a broad mandate, which can help channel the strengths of the entire UN development system to the benefit of programme countries.  

The UN development system working together for results

To that end, UNDP continues to be committed to driving UN system co-ordination at headquarter, regional, and country levels. The better co-ordinated the UN development system is, the better equipped it is to promote sustainable development across the three pillars.

The UN Development Group itself has been sharpening its strategic focus through three key entry points:

  • In countries developing new UNDAFs- where there was the opportunity to reposition the UN system´s assistance in line with national development priorities. With close to one hundred new UNDAFs to be formulated within a three year period, improving their quality has been a major UNDG focus.


  • In the eight “Delivering as One” pilots and twenty-one voluntary adopter countries, there has been the opportunity to explore and implement enhanced UN development system co-ordination, and share lessons learned and best practices.
  • UNDG as a whole is giving high priority to conflict-affected countries, including through the continued implementation of the Secretary-General’s integration agenda and Report on Peace-building in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict, and by working through the implications of the 2011 World Development Report, and the recommendations of the Civilian Capacity Review. On the latter I have been pleased to work as UNDG Chair on the Steering Group led by USG Susana Malcorra of the Department of Field Support.


A key objective of the coherence agenda has always been to maximize the UN’s ability to deliver, measure, and communicate results.

The Chair of the High Level Committee on Management and I as the Chair of the UNDG commissioned a review to identify common UN results reporting principles.

The resulting report and subsequent follow up will be discussed by UNDG and HLCM Principals at meetings this month, and we look forward to the engagement with our partners on this critical aspect of our work.

The UNDG also commissioned an independent review of the Management and Accountability System of the UN development and resident co-ordinator system.

A group of UNDG Principals joined me in overseeing this process. The recommendations will be reviewed at the meeting of UNDG Advisory Group Principals this month, at which time we will decide on the way forward in a number of key areas.

Organizational Effectiveness

In June I outlined to you the main aspects of our internal Agenda for Organizational Change.

Its objective is to improve UNDP’s capacity to respond to the changing development landscape, and to lift UNDP’s performance from good to great.

The Agenda sees us working to break down the silos within UNDP; streamline and professionalize our processes; improve planning, resource allocation, and risk management; and better demonstrate and communicate the results of our work.

Early on in the implementation of the change agenda we developed a set of internal priorities for the organization, both for the next twelve months and beyond that for the next three to five years.

These internal priorities are fully aligned with UNDP’s Strategic Plan, and are being followed through in operational level planning and programming. 

Allow me to list a few highlights on the implementation of the change agenda:

  • An important first measure has been the revamping of UNDP’s internal decision making structures, where the aim is to make them more focused on key strategic issues and better equipped to quickly respond to changing circumstances. 

Another important step has been the establishment of the Executive Team which reviews support for those countries in special development situations which account for a very significant part of UNDP´s resources. We are already seeing the impact of this team, led by the Associate Administrator, in bringing better integrated support from across our Bureaux to Country Offices.

  • Second, we are making critical corporate investments to help us become more forward-looking and focused across the organization.

These include the development of an improved strategic corporate planning system; a forward looking external relations strategy; multi-year integrated internal frameworks for resource mobilization and resource management; and aligning programme delivery functions under Regional Bureaux.  

All of these initiatives will help us to strengthen our corporate backbone while also maintaining the flexibility to be responsive and nimble. 

  • Third, to ensure that we have the right people, with the right skills, at the right time, the streamlining of recruitment processes is a high priority. Considerable work has been done to identify concrete options to reduce recruitment times substantially. 

Our first target is to finalize a plan by the end of October to reduce the recruitment time for international staff on fixed term appointments by six weeks.

Regional Bureaux are planning for a shift towards more strategic programme management. Central Policy and Corporate Bureaux are looking at how to adapt their work to ensure that their policy, technical, and operational services meet, or exceed, those offered by our peers in other organizations.

The overarching aim is to ensure that UNDP is able to respond to country demands for new products and services, and, thereby contribute more effectively to development results.

An Organizational Change Steering Group has been established, led by the Associate Administrator, Rebeca Grynspan, to co-ordinate the overall change process and make sure that the Agenda is advancing as a whole.  Mechanisms to track progress and report regularly to the Executive Group are in place.

The success of the change agenda will ultimately be measured by how it translates into improved delivery at the country level. Senior managers at the country and regional level are committed and engaged, and the Global Management Meeting was an important opportunity for senior managers from the field to provide direct input.


UNDP is committed to being transparent and to being accountable for all the contributions we receive.

The decision by the Executive Board to authorize the disclosure of internal audit reports to intergovernmental organization donors and to the Global Fund was a very important step forward. We are taking all necessary measures to ensure the implementation of the policy approved by the Board.

As requested by the Board, we have presented with UNFPA and UNOPS, a secure IT solution for remote access, which is expected to make the disclosure process more convenient and efficient.

We welcome continued dialogue with the Executive Board on ways to advance our shared commitment to organizational transparency. I hope that by the end of next year we could reach a consensus on this. My objective as Administrator is to see UNDP disclosing its internal audits on its website, while noting that confidentiality may need to be protected in certain circumstances. We are currently liaising closely with other Funds and Programmes on these issues.

We are also continuously working to increase UNDP´s transparency more broadly. UNDP is a founding member of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and we have committed to full adoption of the common aid transparency standard by 2013, to ensure that we publish financial data and project information in a transparent way which is easy to access, use, and understand.

UNDP´s Resources and Budget

I now turn to the issue of UNDP´s Resources and Budget.

In 2010, total contributions to UNDP, including UNCDF and UNIFEM, were $5.49 billion, representing a three per cent increase from 2009. The increase is mainly attributable to significant funding for programmes in countries with special development situations such as Afghanistan, Sudan, Haiti, and Iraq.

Total expenditure has increased for the last three years. It increased by 8 per cent in 2010 to $5.99 billion, continuing a trend of increased delivery year-on-year.

As I have emphasized before, the ability of UNDP to fulfill its universal mandate and deliver effective support is contingent on our having sufficient core funding. That core funding allows UNDP to operate as a flexible, forward-looking organization, able to focus on long-term effectiveness and sustainability.

In 2010, core contributions to UNDP decreased to $967 million, five per cent below the 2009 level of $1.01 billion. The main reason for that was an overall reduction of contributions. There was also some impact from exchange-rate movements, but the effects of those had been partially offset by hedging activity. The overall reduction required UNDP to act swiftly to reduce planned core expenditure to avoid drawing on its operational reserve.

Current projections suggest a slight increase in total contributions to core resources to one billion dollars this year, largely as a result of exchange rate movements.

The overall balance of unexpended resources at the end of 2010 fell to $5.03 billion – showing an increased rate of delivery. Of this total amount, $283 million was in regular resources, representing the minimum three month threshold of liquidity requested by the Executive Board. Non-core resources constitute the majority of the remaining unexpended resources, or $4.49 billion. Let me be clear: majority of these resources have been programmed and will result in expenditure in future years. It is also important to note that non-core resources are not fungible with regular resources.

While the effects of the global economic crisis continue to be felt in many countries, I  encourage all Member States to support UNDP reach its regular resources targets and to commit, as early as possible, to UNDP´s core resources for 2011 and onwards. Multi-year pledges are particularly appreciated.

UNDP itself is working on an integrated approach to resource mobilization, and looking at the potential of new partnerships for funding.

UNDP is totally committed to exercising fiscal discipline in its own organization. That is reflected in the institutional budget estimates for 2012-2013 which are on today’s Board’s agenda.

The budget proposes an unprecedented level of $120.1 million in volume reductions, to be achieved through further containment and alignment of costs. This represents a 12.3 per cent decrease from the approved gross budget appropriation for 2010-2011. 

The proposed budget draws on the Executive Board´s guidance on the Mid-Term Review of the Strategic Plan, and is in line with the Board´s decision to approve harmonized approaches for cost-classification and results-based budgeting, within the context of the joint roadmap to integrated budgets for UNDP, UNFPA, and UNICEF.

As well, it reflects UNDP’s change agenda, and supports activities aimed at moving UNDP from being a good organization to a great one.

The volume reductions were achieved in three main ways:

  • First, organizational units were challenged to improve operational effectiveness and efficiency by eliminating redundant and non-essential services and activities, and by identifying lower priority functions which could be reduced, including the freezing of posts. 


  • Second, opportunities for improved alignment of costs were identified at both corporate and unit levels with respect to the use of regular and extra-budgetary resources.
  • Third, we did not factor in any costs associated with the completion of capital and other one-time investments. 


The $120.1 million in volume decreases have been used to offset $31.1 million (3.2 per cent) in non-discretionary cost increases related to inflation and salary entitlements.  They have also been used to provide $40 million (4.1 per cent) for investments in critical areas of our organization to ensure proper accountability for resources, and successful delivery of the results envisaged under the Strategic Plan.

This includes investments in:

  • framing the global development agenda, with an emphasis on accelerating the achievement of the MDGs and preparing for Rio+20;
  • increasing support to transition countries, with a special focus on the need for crisis prevention and recovery, including disaster risk reduction;
  • implementing the change agenda;
  • strengthening strategic human resources management and;
  • enhancing corporate value-added services and accountability, including through implementation of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).


Taken together, these reductions and proposals result in a 2012-2013 regular resources funded budget of $856.5 million, in net terms. In nominal terms, this is a five per cent reduction from the previous biennial support budget.

You have also available to you the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the UNDP institutional budget estimates for 2012-2013. I met with the ACABQ in early July to initiate the formal discussions. 

I am pleased to confirm to the Board that UNDP is on target to meet the 1 January 2012 deadline for adopting the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). Final steps are being taken to establish a Global Shared Service Centre in Malaysia to support country offices to implement and comply with IPSAS. Training is being provided to our staff on the new system, and will also be available to programme countries and members of the Executive Board.

As part of its IPSAS implementation, UNDP is presenting proposed changes to its Financial Regulations and Rules for approval at this Executive Board session.

Going forward, the integrated budget will bring the current institutional budget and the programming arrangements together, enabling much clearer links to be made between them in the next Strategic Plan. It will improve budget transparency and integration, as well as increasing harmonization and comparability with UNICEF and UNFPA.

Based on guidance from the Board and continued good collaboration with agency partners, we remain on schedule to deliver the integrated budget in line with the Board´s expectations.  We will report to you in more detail on progress achieved to date at a joint formal session scheduled for later this week.

Originally a second review of the programming arrangements was to be discussed at this meeting, but in June it was agreed to postpone a formal response until the First Regular Session next year.

An informal note has been prepared to alert Board members to the range of issues which we believe need to be considered in the programming arrangements for UNDP to improve its development effectiveness. Together we need to design a system for these arrangements which will improve the ability of UNDP to meet the needs of a wide spectrum of programme countries with diverse development challenges.


I began by emphasizing the dynamic international environment in which UNDP is operating and some of the challenges which require our urgent attention.

The outlook for development, however, is not gloom and doom.

The times in which we live are also characterized by optimism, self-confidence, and aspiration for a better future in many developing countries.

Emerging economies are showing dynamism and resilience in the face of economic turmoil elsewhere, and numerous low-income countries have been enjoying healthy growth. Growth creates opportunities where it can be harnessed in the service of human development.

UNDP is fully committed to seizing those opportunities and to doing its very best to help developing countries make the transformational change they seek.

In so doing, the backing of this Board is indispensable, and I thank all members again for the invaluable support which you give to our work.


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