Helen Clark: First regular session of the UNDP Executive Board

Feb 2, 2012

Mr. President, 

Members of the Executive Board, 

Colleagues and friends,

Let me begin by congratulating the Permanent Representative of Sweden, H.E. Mr. Mårten Grunditz, from the group of Western Europe and Other States, on his election as President of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board.

I also congratulate the new Vice-Presidents on their election: for the group of African states, Mr. Tarik Iziraren, Counsellor,  Permanent Mission of Morocco; for the group of Asian and Pacific states,  H.E. Mr. Yusra Khan, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Indonesia; for the group of Latin American and Caribbean States,  Mr. Eduardo Porretti, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Argentina; and for the Eastern European States group, Ms. Candida Novák Hornakova, Third Secretary, Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic.

Allow me also to thank most sincerely the outgoing President, Ambassador Edita Hrdá, the Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic, for her stewardship of the Executive Board and commitment to UNDP over the past year. My thanks also go to the outgoing Vice-Presidents for their support - His Excellency  Michel Tommo Monthe, Permanent Representative of Cameroon; Mr. Takeshi Osuga, Minister from Japan; Mr. Nojibur Rahman, Minister from Bangladesh; and His Excellency Carlos Enrique García González, Deputy Permanent Representative from El Salvador.

We meet here following what has been a particularly transformative and challenging year for our world.

At our previous sessions I have emphasized the extraordinary dynamism and complexity of the times in which we live.

I have highlighted how global challenges from the lingering effects of the economic and financial crises to high food prices, the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, and ongoing war and armed violence hamper development.

I have emphasised that while there has been significant global progress on poverty reduction and human development, the benefits have not been universally felt.  

As we meet, another food security crisis is unfolding in the Sahel region. Chronic levels of vulnerability have left the region facing recurring and deadly food shortages - including most recently and severely in 2010. It is forecast that this year the region will be particularly hard hit, with at least ten million people in six countries needing food and nutrition assistance in the months ahead.

The UN is working to bring its humanitarian and development work together in the Sahel, including through joint advocacy, resource mobilization, and concerted support to UN Country Teams in the region.  Valerie Amos, the UN’s Emergency and Humanitarian Co-ordinator, and I are working closely on this and plan to visit the region shortly.

In my remarks today I will:

  • reflect on the past year, and on what this year holds for development;
  • provide you with an update on the process being followed on the design of the next UNDP Strategic Plan; on the second review of the programming arrangements; and on UNDP’s internal change agenda;
  • underline the importance of the UN development system working together for results and;
  • discuss the progress we are making on transparency and accountability.

Looking back at 2011 – a year of both new beginnings and challenges


For the Arab states region, 2011 will be remembered as a year of uprisings and transition for many.  At the request of the Secretary General, the UNDG’s Regional Directors’ Team developed a comprehensive strategy to guide our response to the current wave of change, and is committed to working under that common platform on advocacy, policy, and joint programme action. 

Major transitions and reforms have been initiated in many Arab countries, and elections have taken place, or are being scheduled, in a number. UNDP, along with partners, has contributed to the process through electoral support in both Tunisia and Egypt, and is currently working to support the holding of the early presidential election in Yemen, scheduled for February 21.

Beyond elections, we are focusing on broader issues of governance and inclusive growth, and the empowerment of youth and women.  For example:

  • In Tunisia, UNDP has been supporting inclusive national dialogue on issues from transitional justice, to fighting corruption, and building civil society engagement. Prior to the elections, we organized workshops for over 160 women candidates;
  •  in Egypt, our programming has been focusing on support for building the capacity of key transitional institutions, such as the National Council for Human Rights, the Ministry of Local Development, and the Social Contract Centre;
  • in Yemen, we have been responding to the immediate needs of the people, including through the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan, and leading the finalization of the UN Joint Stabilization Plan which outlines the UN’s support going forward.


In Libya, the UN has been working with transitional authorities to identify priority actions for building capacity and ensuring a peaceful transition. UNDP is working closely with the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to ensure a timely response. An amended country programme document for Libya will be presented to the Board at the second regular session in the autumn.Until then, I seek the authority of the Executive Board to approve on a case-by-case basis, priority projects which are in line with the overall (integrated mission) mandate of UNSMIL.

In all these countries our ability to respond rapidly has been greatly helped by our crisis response mechanisms, such as the SURGE facility, ensuring that our support can be both timely and responsive to new circumstances.

Last year also marked a new beginning for the people of South Sudan, with independence for the new state formally achieved on 9 July.

At this Board session, we will present a draft Country Programme Document for South Sudan for 2012-2013. It has been drawn up in partnership with the Government, and is aligned with the four strategic areas prioritized in the country’s Development Plan. It covers reintegration of ex-combatants, supporting the Government’s Medium-Term Capacity Development Strategy and pro-poor development policy, and providing technical assistance to improve health systems and services for HIV/TB. UNDP will work closely with partners, including the UN Mission in South Sudan, to support South Sudan at this critical stage of its nation-building.

Although 2011 was a year of new beginnings for some, it will also be remembered as one of great challenges and, in some cases, huge devastation.

Natural disasters crippled many communities in 2011, causing nearly 30,000 fatalities and estimated record economic losses of USD 366 billion, including from the effects of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan; the floods in Pakistan, Thailand, Colombia, and El Salvador; the typhoon in the Philippines; and the earthquakes in Turkey and in my own country, New Zealand.

In the attack on the United Nations Headquarters in Nigeria, lives were lost, and many were injured. I travelled to Abuja shortly after our last Board meeting, to give support to UN staff, and to thank the Government of Nigeria for its prompt and ongoing support to the UN in response to the tragedy.

2011 was also particularly challenging for the countries in the Horn of Africa, which witnessed their worst food security crisis in over twenty years, and, in the case of Somalia, the first famine of the 21st century. The situation in Somalia remains grave, and continued attention and commitment from the international community is essential.

Looking ahead at 2012 – the year of opportunities

Looking ahead to 2012, there are many opportunities to advance the development agenda.

Last week, at the General Assembly, the Secretary General set out his Action Agenda for his next term in office – a plan to “build the future we want”.

The Secretary General’s five imperatives for his second term are sustainable development; preventing conflict and managing the effects of natural disasters; building a safer and more secure world, including by adherence to principles of democracy and human rights; supporting nations in transition; and empowering women and young people.

The UN’s efforts overall all must help meet the immediate needs of people, build the resilience of communities, and strengthen the institutions required to advance and sustain human development. Through its mandates across crisis prevention and recovery, governance, and the three pillars of sustainable development, UNDP can play a significant role in the areas prioritized by the Secretary General.

Important multilateral processes of recent months are helping to drive the direction of development co-operation. These processes include:

  • The Intergovernmental Conference on Delivering as One. Held in Montevideo in November, the meeting demonstrated that this approach has momentum among programme countries and development partners. Programme countries continued to tell us in Montevideo that Delivering as One has delivered development results; strengthened country ownership and leadership; given governments greater access to the broad range of expertise and resources of the UN; and made the UN development system more effective, efficient, and accountable. Around thirty countries are now implementing Delivering as One, and many more have been inspired to adopt elements of the approach.


As I noted in my address to the Joint Boards meeting here on Tuesday, the Secretary-General has prioritized support for a second generation of Delivering as One in his five year Action Agenda, calling for a focus on managing and monitoring for results, and ensuring increased accountability and improved outcomes. The evaluation on the Delivering as One pilots is now awaited, but there can be no question that the UN needs to co-ordinate its development work closely to maximize the development impact of what we do.

  • Just weeks after Montevideo, development stakeholders from 160 countries assembled at the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. There they agreed on steps to enhance mutual accountability; make aid more predictable and transparent; strengthen national capacities to manage development, including through a ‘New Deal’ for transition and post-crisis countries, and expand South-South and triangular co-operation. The ‘New Deal’ offers a unique opportunity for the international system, bilateral donors, and countries in special development situations to work together, and UNDP will embrace that opportunity.


While the Busan Conference was not a UN meeting, nonetheless the breadth of participation and endorsement of the outcome document makes its proceedings of considerable interest to our work. The Plan for a Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation which emerged signals the determination of development actors from across governments, multilateral and bilateral development partners, civil society, NGOs, and the private sector to get sustained development results. It also paves the way for new development partnerships.

UNDP has been asked to play a role in the follow up to Busan. In keeping with our mandate and in consultation with member states, UNDP will work closely with its UNDG partners to improve country-level mutual accountability frameworks, strengthen national delivery systems, and help member states make better use of the UN Development Co-operation Forum to advance global co-operation for development effectiveness.

  • At the Durban Climate Change Conference, held in December, governments agreed on a way forward for the international negotiations.  Agreement reached around the Green Climate Fund was also a step forward in developing the international climate finance architecture. 


For the Green Climate Fund to succeed, developing countries need to build the capacity to access its resources, and through them be able to catalyze other larger funding for low-emission, climate-resilient development. UNDP is well equipped to step up its already considerable portfolio of work on readiness and preparatory activities in this area.

A high priority for UNDP in 2012 and beyond continues to be acceleration of MDG progress.

The MDG Acceleration Framework we developed, and which the UNDG endorsed, is being rolled out in a growing number of countries. More than thirty will have developed their acceleration action plans and be in the process of implementing them by the end of this year. 

In Niger, for example, the Government is working to address the drivers of food security, using the Acceleration Framework, through a cross-sectoral approach involving land titling, irrigation infrastructure, support for small farmers, and reducing the vulnerability of marginalized people through strengthened social protection systems.

As we continue to press ahead on the MDGs, UNDP is also actively engaged in the process leading to Rio + 20 (UN Conference on Sustainable Development) in June; in the broader discussions on the post-2015 development framework; and in the preparations for the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review.

Each of these processes is of fundamental importance to UNDP and the UN development system as a whole, as they will shape the way we operate and work together to deliver development results in programme countries.

With a world population of seven billion which is expected to grow by a further two billion by 2050, Rio+20 must focus on how to promote green and inclusive growth within the boundaries of our planet’s ecosystems.

Initial discussions on the zero draft of the Rio Outcome Document started last week here in New York. The Secretary General of the Conference, Mr. Sha Zukang, called for a robust outcome, which is strong in both commitment and action. UNDP supports that ambition.  

Sustainable development must put people at its centre. As the 2011 Human Development Report asserts, greater environmental sustainability cannot be achieved without greater equity.  Rio+20 can focus on the drivers of both, like sustainable energy access for all, which the Secretary General has made a very high priority.  

Sustainable development does not occur in the abstract in global fora; it must be built, brick by brick, in countries and communities. The outcome from Rio must drive change at the community, country, and global levels, to ensure that a green and inclusive economy reduces poverty, inequality, and ecosystem degradation.  

UNDP is supporting developing countries’ preparation for Rio. Support is being provided to 72 countries – both through UNDESA-UNDP joint efforts, as well as though UNDP-specific efforts.

The UN Development Group as a whole stands ready to play an active role in the implementation of Rio+20’s outcomes. Achieving greater sustainability requires links to be made across policy fields, and UN Country Teams can help drive that coherence. We hope that the important role of Resident Co-ordinators and UNCTs will be explicitly recognized in the final outcome document.

Rio+20 can also help build momentum around the post-2015 development framework. The Secretary General has asked UNDP and DESA to lead consultations on that. By engaging governments and civil society, we can contribute to building a single, integrated, post 2015 development framework.

In Rio member states could agree on principles and parameters which will inform the post 2015 framework and on broad goal formulations in key areas like energy. We welcome the move towards Sustainable Development Goals.

The outcome of Rio+20 should also flow into the General Assembly’s deliberations on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) later this year.

The QCPR will provide important guidance to the UN development system as we adapt our activities to the shifting development co-operation landscape, and work to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and relevance of our work.  The QCPR can position the UN development system to support the transformational change developing countries are seeking.

In a resource-constrained environment, we all recognize the importance of making every development dollar count. The QCPR can reaffirm the importance of achieving results and seeing best practice infuse our work.  It can also recognize that our system needs a critical mass of core funding to support the strategic planning and approaches which help maximize the effectiveness of what we do.

In giving guidance for the future, the QCPR should build on lessons learned in our work to date.  The independent evaluation of the Delivering as One pilot exercise will inform that discussion. The final report of the evaluations will be submitted to the President of the General Assembly at the end of June, in time to inform the ECOSOC deliberations in July.

As I said to the Joint Board’s Session on Tuesday, I believe that the QCPR can affirm the relevance of the UN development system; acknowledge the unique contribution we can make, drawing on the depth and breadth of expertise across the funds and programmes; and exhort us to overcome bureaucratic barriers to collaboration. In this way the QCPR can also support the Secretary General’s vision for a second generation of Delivering as One, recognizing that through joined up efforts we will get more results and represent good value for money for those who fund us – both programme countries through cost-sharing and all who support our core, thematic, and individual project funding.

Towards UNDP’s Strategic Plan for 2014 to 2017

The new Strategic Plan should affirm UNDP’s position as a leading development organization committed to delivering development results in programme countries. An inclusive and participatory process to prepare the plan will be followed.

At our last meeting, I presented to you the proposed road map to the next Strategic Plan, which the Board requested in its decision on the Mid-Term Review of the current plan.  A number of steps in line with that road map have now been taken.

For this year’s Annual Report, UNDP will apply the new fourth output indicator presented in the MTR consistently across all outcomes. This will enable us to communicate UNDP’s specific contribution under each outcome more clearly. We will also use the new corporate outcome indicators which were presented at last year’s mock-up for the next annual report.

Responding to the Board’s request, UNDP has also completed a redesign of its internal data collection and analysis systems, focusing, among other things, on improving the evidence base of our results data.  We are currently receiving the results-oriented annual reports from the Country Offices which are using these new indicators, and are excited about the new sources of evidence which will underpin the analysis, monitoring, and reporting of UNDP’s contributions to development results. We have begun strengthening country office and regional bureau capacity for results-based management, monitoring and evaluation, and programme design. While more remains to be done, the next Annual Report will provide significantly more analysis and reflection of evidence on how UNDP contributes to results.


In preparation for the next Strategic Plan, a two-day workshop on results chains was convened in New York. UNDP is grateful to the Government of Norway for collaborating with us on this effort, and to the fourteen member state experts – representing all regional groups – who provided their insights and experiences in addressing the methodological challenges faced in designing results chains. We now have a useful set of criteria to guide our work, and an active peer review group which will accompany us through the technical design process for the next development results framework.

The momentum provided by the workshop for more rigorous results-based management, together with our internal change agenda, and follow-up work on last year’s Board decision on the MTR are enabling us to make meaningful progress on our results chain.

The road map to the new strategic plan foresees a series of informal consultations, beginning in March. We look forward to discussions with member states about the substantive future focus of UNDP, based on an understanding of what current pressing and emerging development challenges are. The new Strategic Plan should capture the essence of how UNDP can best support programme countries in meeting these challenges.

The second review of the programming arrangements

Closely related to the development of the new Strategic Plan and our internal change agenda is the review of programming arrangements, which is on the Board’s agenda today.

The review looks at options for improving UNDP’s ability to respond to the needs of the broad spectrum of programme countries, with their diverse challenges. 

The objective of this second review is to commence refining current programming arrangements. It should lead to a more flexible and transparent framework from 2014, for allocating regular programme resources to support Board-approved country programme documents, in line with country demands and the Strategic Plan.    

UNDP has had extensive consultations with the Board on the programming arrangements. Today we seek your affirmation of three key principles:

  • progressivity in weighting the allocation of regular programme resources towards low income and least developed countries;
  • predictability in the timely receipt of adequate levels of annual voluntary contributions and;
  • universality in terms of a global programming presence for all eligible countries.


I have been briefed on the discussions on Middle Income Countries which took place at the Joint Boards’ meeting on Monday, from which I take three main points:

  • UNDP’s engagement in Middle Income Countries cannot come at the expense of low income and least developed countries – neither in terms of allocation nor physical presence;


  • If we are to effectively address poverty in the world, tackle global or regional challenges, and promote South-South co-operation, we cannot disengage from Middle Income Countries; and
  • We need to continue our discussion on how UNDP’s support to Middle Income Countries can be more effective and aligned with responses to the diverse development challenges these countries face.


These three points are central to our continued discussion with the Board on the programming arrangements. Based on your guidance, we will further analyze and develop the preferred options for detailed consideration at the second regular session this year.

Organizational effectiveness

UNDP’s internal Agenda for Organizational Change is
driving change in the organization with a focus on: 

  • Developing and rolling-out measures to improve country office and global operations through streamlined processes and increased flexibility;


  • Introducing systems to ensure that UNDP operates as a forward-looking organization, with clear strategic priorities where it can demonstrate impact and continuously adapt to changing circumstances.

At the last Board meeting I spoke about the new internal medium-term strategic priorities we were setting. We are now operationalizing those priorities through the rollout of a strengthened corporate strategic planning system, including the development of the 2012 Annual Business Plan. It will enable UNDP to do business in a more strategic, forward looking, and results-oriented way. The development of performance agreements for all Bureau Directors will also bolster a stronger corporate culture with strengthened accountabilities.

We are making significant reforms to business processes, particularly in human resource management and procurement:

  • The first phase of recruitment reform was operationalized in November.  The recruitment time for international fixed term appointments has now been reduced by a minimum of six weeks, and it is now possible to conceive of recruitment being completed within a few weeks.  The first phase of an e-recruit system will also be put into practice by the third quarter of 2012.


  • Work is under way on broader people capability issues, including workforce and succession planning, empowering and training women for higher level positions, developing career pathways towards senior roles; and developing stronger technical competencies to enable us to respond better to programme countries’ needs. 
  • A package of reforms for procurement was approved in December. It provides for increased delegation of procurement authority to country offices, in line with capacity and performance.


A wider review of business processes gets underway this year, aiming at reducing red tape and delivering quality results at the pace demanded by clients.  Related work on the simplification of project and programme management is expected to yield efficiencies, while maintaining quality standards, early this year.  

In 2012, we will be examining options for more efficient, effective, and flexible business models at country level. We anticipate that the “burden reduction dividend” will free up staff time for higher level analysis, better portfolio management and service delivery and a stronger focus on results – all necessary to lift UNDP performance from good to great.   

The UN development system working together for results

My priority as Chair of the UN Development Group is to implement the agreed Strategic Priorities of the Group, with the overall goal of maximizing development impact in support of achieving the MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals, and supporting states in special development situations.

There is encouraging evidence that the UNDG’s efforts to become more coherent and make the most of its members’ diverse characteristics and strengths, is translating into tangible development results on the ground.

Our reports show that the UN development system’s programmes are MDG-based and reflect the UN’s normative agenda; that we align with national priorities and strategies; that our work at the country level is making a contribution to the national policy dialogue; and that we are showing efficiencies and reducing transaction costs through business practice reform.

Going forward, I am committed as Chair to improving continually the way our system works together globally, regionally, and on the ground. The clear call from developing countries at Busan was to overcome fragmentation among development actors. We in the UN development system should be part of the solution to that problem, not part of the problem. I count on the strong support of this Board and its sister boards to carry this message across the UN development system and through the QCPR.

Transparency and Accountability

UNDP is taking major steps forward on transparency and accountability.

We are actively engaging in the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). As a part of this, last November we published our global development expenditures at the project level. We will publish more information in 2012, to enable partners to understand more easily our financial flows and the value our work brings to development. In recognition of our ongoing efforts, UNDP recently received a “top 10” rating in the inaugural Aid Transparency Index.

Furthermore, as a member of the IATI Secretariat, UNDP has led outreach efforts to promote the use of this new aid transparency standard, which now has been endorsed by more than twenty of our programme countries.

From January 01 2012, UNDP officially adopted the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). IPSAS brings greater transparency and accountability to the organization, enabling us to carry out our mission better.

I thank the Executive Board for their support for our IPSAS implementation process and all staff in Country Offices and at Headquarters, particularly in the Bureau of Management, for their invaluable contribution.

All key staff have been trained in the use of IPSAS. The Executive Board has been engaged through briefing sessions. The necessary changes to UNDP’s Financial Regulations, Rules, Policies, Procedures, and Systems have been made. The Global Shared Service Centre is fully operational in Malaysia to help UNDP offices with IPSAS. We hope to reap the benefits of careful preparation in smooth implementation and a clean audit opinion.

The Board is well aware of my commitment to move to greater disclosure of UNDP’s audit information.

As I advised the Board last September, my objective is, with the Board’s support, to make UNDP’s internal audit reports publicly available. A list of all internal audit reports issued is already available on the UNDP website, so that all interested stakeholders know what has been audited and reported on.

I hope that the series of steps we have taken, with proper safeguards and in consultation with the Executive Board, will lead us to full public disclosure by the end of this year. In order to ensure that all systems are in place by then, we would appreciate the agreement of the Executive Board on the final actions for public disclosure by the annual session in June, rather than waiting until the second session in September. I look forward to working with you towards this end.


2012 will be an action packed year for UNDP and for development. By driving forward our change agenda, our determination to achieve and demonstrate results, and to lead in key areas of development discourse, UNDP will demonstrate its worth as a leading development organization.  We count on the continued support of the Executive Board to this end.

Let me finish by taking this opportunity to introduce to you the Development Advocate - which I understand has been distributed in the room. It showcases the twelve winning entries of UNDP’s first annual storytelling competition.

The objective was to showcase how, through stories about our work with and for people, UNDP and its partners empower lives and build resilient nations around the world.

180 stories came in from Country Offices. Our warm congratulations go to all participants, and especially to the twelve winners.

Thank you.

UNDP Around the world