Helen Clark: Annual Meeting of the UNDP Executive Board

Jun 25, 2012

Statement of Helen Clark UNDP Administrator
Annual Meeting of the UNDP Executive Board
Geneva, 25 June at 10am

Mr. President,

Members of the Executive Board, 

Colleagues and friends,

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the 2012 Annual Session of the UNDP Executive Board in Geneva.

This Board meeting takes place in the midst of a series of high-level conferences and events. Rio+20 has just concluded; the Fifth Intergovernmental Conference on Delivering as One is about to begin; and ECOSOC and the Development Co-operation Forum follow immediately thereafter. I therefore especially acknowledge the commitment of our Board members and the representatives of other member states in being at this annual meeting.

In my remarks I will:

  • reflect on the opportunities for advancing the development agenda this year;
  • comment on UNDP’s 2011 performance, results, and funding status; and
  • highlight the important progress we are making on transparency and accountability.

 Advancing the Development Agenda

In my speech to the Board in January, I referred to 2012 as being a year of many important opportunities for advancing the development agenda, with the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development ranking high amongst them.

The UN development system worked jointly to support preparations for the conference, assisting countries to identify and analyze their sustainable development concerns, the challenges they face, and the issues they would like to prioritize following Rio.

I was one of the many thousands of people in Rio de Janeiro for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development and related events – the largest ever UN gathering.

Much has been said and written about the outcome of the conference, with global NGOs and civil society representatives in particular expressing great disappointment.

Overall I am inclined to see the outcome document from Rio+20 as a glass more than half full. In the current polarized context, a possible outcome was no outcome, which would have been disastrous given the enormous challenges across all pillars of sustainable development. We face the toxic combination of what Christine Lagarde recently described as the risk of falling incomes, environmental damage, and social unrest, unless the world adopts more sustainable approaches.

In an important speech in January, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil said "Not only is it possible to grow and to include, protect, and conserve at the same time, but also truly equitable and sustainable human development requires that we do so."

At UNDP we strongly agree with the President. We are committed to building on the comprehensive outcome document from Rio+20 to support developing countries to do just that.

We are advocating triple win approaches which advance policies across the strands of sustainable development simultaneously. On Friday, we announced with the Government of Brazil the creation of the Rio+ Centre – a World Centre for Sustainable Development to be based in Rio de Janeiro. Its aim will be to facilitate research, knowledge exchange, and international debate about sustainable development. It will bring together a broad international consortium of partners, with many Brazilian partners already on board.

Twenty first century development work must be about linking people with ideas, innovation, and best practice and building capacity for transformational change.  In sustainable development and triple win policies, there is much to link to, including through South-South co-operation. The new Centre aims to be an important hub of expertise for driving sustainable development forward.

Post-2015 Development Agenda

Rio+20 also had an outcome relevant to the post-2015 development agenda. Member states agreed to set up an intergovernmental process to work on defining Sustainable Development Goals. UNDP will be pleased to contribute its expertise in support of the working group to be established by the General Assembly. We will also support the High Level Panel to be established by the UN Secretary General, and the extensive programme of national and thematic consultations now rolling out with the support of the full UN Development Group.

The MDGs have helped to generate support for development efforts, enable diverse actors to find common cause, and guide development frameworks and national budgets to adopt people-centred policies.

To build on this success, the post-2015 development agenda needs to be focused, time-bound, measurable, and easy to communicate. It should set goals and targets across the three pillars of sustainable development, and prioritize the unfinished business of the MDGs. Ambition needs to be higher. We cannot be satisfied with reducing extreme poverty by half. It needs to be eradicated. 

UNDP and UNDESA, as co-chairs of the Secretary-General’s in-house post-2015 Task Team, have delivered a report to the Secretary General on behalf of the UN development system, including the IFIs, and the OECD. The report, which I understand will be released soon, sets out principles and enablers which could underpin a post-2015 development framework.

The work of the UNDG and the UN Task Team’s report will also be available as substantive contributions to the SG’s High Level Panel on Post-2015 and to the General Assembly-mandated working group.

UNDP will host a UN-led Secretariat on the Post-2015 agenda, designed to help the various processes move forward in a co-ordinated way.


While the post-2015 development agenda is being designed, the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) provides a timely opportunity to assess the role of the UN development system.

Since the 2007 Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review, we have seen:

  • a fast changing geo-political and global economic landscape;
  • the growing importance of a wider range of actors, both state and non-state, in development co-operation;
  • more countries in crisis and/or transition;
  • important development progress, but also continuing challenges, including rising inequalities and damage to eco-systems.

UNDP, along with other UNDG members will be strongly encouraging member states to seize the opportunity presented by the QCPR, to ensure that the UN development system is well placed to be effective in this changing development context.  We see the system having a lot to offer through:

  • its universal presence in developing countries and its commitment to results;
  • its legitimacy and convening power;
  • its normative responsibilities, including its commitment to human rights-based approaches and equity, including gender equality and;
  • its capacity, when well co-ordinated, to support countries to tackle complex and cross-cutting issues.

The UNDG has jointly identified what it believes would be the elements of a successful QCPR, including:

  • ensuring that the UN development system is fit for purpose in the wide range of country development contexts;
  • positioning the UN development system to support country-level implementation of global agreements, such as the direction coming from Rio;
  • establishing an even stronger results orientation;
  • equipping the Resident Co-ordinator system with the necessary tools for effective country-level co-ordination;
  • increasing the flexibility and national ownership of common country programming and instruments;
  • providing a long-term and predictable funding base for UN operational activities for development; and
  • making further progress on simplifying and harmonizing business practices, recognizing the considerable savings which can be made.

To this end, the ASG Advisory Group of the UNDG is working on further reform of elements of the Resident Co-ordinator system, including programming instruments, the next generation of reformed business practices, and options for covering the costs of the Resident Co-ordinator and UN Country Team function.

The QCPR will also set the context for the UNDG to shape the strategic priorities its sets for the UN development system’s work. Those priorities can be renewed when the direction of the QCPR is clear.

I must stress the importance of member states’ support for the UNDG’s own ongoing efforts to reform the way it does business, and my hope that the QCPR will affirm and encourage us to go further and faster to deliver the best support we can to programme countries.

Delivering as One

An important input to the QCPR will be the experience to date with Delivering as One.

The recently released Independent Evaluation of Delivering as One is the main item for discussion in Tirana. It reviews the experience of the eight pilot countries, and concludes that Delivering as One has:

  • contributed significantly to strengthened national ownership and leadership;
  • shown that the UN can respond to the unique different needs and priorities of countries across a range of development contexts;
  • enhanced programme countries’ access to the expertise and resources of the broader UN system;
  • improved support on cross-cutting issues and challenges;
  • often reduced transaction costs to national development partners.

The Independent Evaluation does identify issues to be addressed, including the need for strengthened accountability and incentives; enhanced monitoring and evaluation; harmonized reporting of results; streamlined governance procedures to reduce duplication and transaction costs; and further simplification and harmonization of programming instruments and business practices. The UNDG is committed to addressing those issues.

That said, predictable and sustainable funding for the Resident Co-ordinator system is essential to ensure that the system can deliver in a coherent, effective, and efficient manner.

As called for by ECOSOC in 2011, the UNDG is reviewing how the extra-budgetary support currently provided by donors can be funded in future, including through cost sharing by relevant UN agencies.

Systematic cost-sharing across the system cannot be implemented over night. The review will identify options for interim arrangements until future arrangements can be fully implemented.

UNDP Strategic Plan Process

UNDP is committed to working with the Executive Board to develop a Strategic Plan which is focused and results-oriented.

In accordance with the roadmap we are following on developing the Plan, not only will there be regular informal consultations with the Board, but also we plan to establish an “advisory group” of member states and other stakeholders to accompany us through the process.

We are also liaising with partner funds and programmes, so that we pursue harmonized approaches to the preparation of integrated budget and results frameworks. 

The objective is for the next Strategic Plan to have more robust results frameworks, to assist better priority setting and resource allocation.

The new Plan should clearly articulate UNDP’s role as the manager of the RC system, as well as its high value as an operational partner at the country level. 

The Strategic Plan should also reflect broader global and national dimensions of UNDP’s added value: how we help shape the global development agenda and bring it to the national level; and how we leverage our multi-disciplinary mandate to respond to national demand.

It should be cognizant of the range of challenges faced by countries along the development spectrum, and how our business model is configured to respond to them.

The next Strategic Plan should be both ambitious and realistic. The Board and the organization of UNDP must collectively assume a sense of ownership for the priorities set, the focus, and the results.  As the next twelve months unfold, the analytical work from this year’s annual report and next year’s cumulative review of the current strategic plan will inform the new Plan’s development.  

Related to the development of the new Plan, is the Second Review of the Programming Arrangements. Several informal Board meetings and numerous regional and bilateral consultations have been held. I understand that these are narrowing down the number of TRAC-1 eligibility options and TRAC-1 allocation models which were presented to you in February.  It is important to reach agreement on these matters.

Focusing on Performance and Results – The 2011 Annual Report

The 2011 Annual Report analyses UNDP’s performance and results, and, responding to the Board’s call, uses new outcome and output indicators. Our results-based management and reporting systems are becoming more robust, providing a stronger evidence base on which to build the next Strategic Plan.

We thank the Board for its support for our work on results reporting, and especially those who attended the workshop last November and have continued to contribute as members of a peer review group for this work.  

The Annual Report highlights key results from UNDP’s work around the world.

Our work on poverty reduction takes place in all development settings. The MDG Acceleration Framework has now been applied, with the support of governments, UNCTs, development partners, and other stakeholders, in 37 countries. We are determined to make the most of the three years left before the 2015 target date for the MDGs.

Overall supporting employment creation, livelihoods, and effective systems of social protection – all important drivers of poverty reduction and inclusive growth - were high on our agenda last year. We worked in fifty countries to introduce social protection schemes which specifically targeted youth, women, and vulnerable groups.  We also supported the creation of jobs and temporary income opportunities for 1.6 million people primarily in crisis affected settings.

In Somalia, for example, through UNDP funded short-term job-schemes, over 676,000 workdays were generated last year, and tens of thousands of people benefitted from infrastructure rehabilitated by UNDP.

UNDP is also heavily engaged in the Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, seeing energy access as a critical enabler of MDG progress. Our work to convene stakeholders in-country is substantial in many countries – and I expect to report on this further next year.

Together with other partners we worked on food security in 39 countries, including in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. Our focus is on addressing the underlying drivers of food insecurity, and supporting better linkages between humanitarian and development responses. A month ago I launched UNDP’s Africa Human Development Report on food security.

We worked on HIV responses in 46 countries, and have had positive assessments of our programme in recent independent evaluations. More than seventy per cent of the countries reporting on HIV, highlighted contributions to gender results, such as support to female-headed households who lost their source of income, addressing gender-related stigma, and access to services.

UNDP has a unique mandate within the UN development system to work on democratic governance. Demand for our services in this area is strong, with 95 per cent of programme countries requesting support.

We gave electoral cycle assistance in 58 countries last year, where we supported the design of legal frameworks and the professionalization of electoral administration. 85 per cent of these countries increased the number of enrolled voters, and sixty per cent adopted measures to advance gender equality through electoral representation.

In the area of justice, we worked in ninety countries on strengthening institutions. Good progress was observed, including in conflict-affected settings, where, for example, 71 per cent of the countries we supported have increased the number of court cases processed with due diligence, and 43 per cent have adopted policies to tackle armed violence and/or improve citizen security.

In North Africa and the Middle East, UNDP provided electoral training and technical expertise wherever requested, and facilitated exchanges from elsewhere in the Global South with those who had had experience with transitions away from authoritarian rule.

Working under our mandate on crisis prevention and recovery, we see approximately 62 per cent of programme countries seek support to prevent crises, help begin the process of recovery following disasters or conflict, and/or respond rapidly when crises do occur. Last year UNDP’s response to these challenges amounted to just over $1 billion.

In 34 conflict-affected or vulnerable settings, we strengthened criminal investigation systems, established legal assistance for local populations, and provided logistical support to mobile court systems and police investigators. In Somalia, mobile courts in Somaliland handled 64 per cent more cases and fifty villages in Puntland were also reached. As well, more than one thousand survivors of sexual- and gender based violence in the country received legal aid.

South-Sudan has been an especially high priority. We provided support for training, logistics, and financial management for the conduct of the referendum on self-determination in January last year, and facilitated the creation of 29 ministries and ten state governments. One of our flagship projects in South-Sudan involved the deployment of 138 civil servants from neighboring countries to mentor South Sudanese counterparts.

On environment and energy we are far and away the largest implementer of programmes in the UN development system, with more than $500 million in annual delivery. In 85 countries UNDP supported with the integration of environmental components into national plans. We are strongly promoting what we call triple win approaches which seek to advance economic, social, and environmental objectives simultaneously. A recent UNDP publication is based on case studies of successful examples of such policies.

In 2011 UNDP supported 140 countries to address the impact of climate change. Of those countries where our offices specifically supported adaptation measures, 93 per cent focused on the scaling-up of climate change projects, and 75 per cent took successful measures to overcome market or institutional barriers to climate change adaptation. As well, 94 per cent of countries we support adopted policies or strategies for sustainable energy.

In 2011 we helped governments and communities establish 67 new protected areas covering over 8.8 million hectares. 109 countries worked with UNDP to implement international waters projects, many of which concentrate on marine and coastal biodiversity.

As outlined in the Annual Report, the midterm review led us to introduce a new output indicator which endeavors to capture UNDP’s contributions to transformational change through four dimensions: awareness, policy, implementation, and resilience. This is a different lens through which to view the outcomes of our work, and will require further data capture, analysis, and refinement.

Overall, the picture which emerges from the Annual Report is of less fragmented and more focused and evidence-based programmes. 

The report shows how UNDP helps countries make progress – often through multiple-win approaches - and supports them in scaling up and ensuring the sustainability of successful development initiatives.  At the same time, we know we must continue to strengthen our approaches to long term capacity development, programme quality and overall focus, and greater consistency of performance across offices. 

We must intensify our results-based management, and work on the organization’s culture, capacities, and systems to that end.  This reporting round has given us greater insights into the strengths and weaknesses of our knowledge and results management and reporting systems, and helps us target where improvements need to be made.

Organizational effectiveness

As I stress continually, UNDP aims to lift its performance from good to great. Our internal Agenda for Organizational Change is about being able to deliver more and better.

With the adoption of our 2012 Annual Business Plan earlier this year, we took an important step towards making our internal business planning more strategic, forward-looking, and results-oriented. That is complemented by enhanced monitoring to enable us to capture whether we are on track, and, if not, to correct course quickly.

We are redoubling our efforts to make our country presence is “fit for purpose”. That means having the right people and functions in the right places, supported by the right systems. To that end, we launched a project in May to develop prototypes for more agile, consistent, and efficient business functions at country level. We hope to be able to report back on the first results of this at the September Board. We have also continued to make improvements in human resources and procurement systems.

The changes we are putting in place over this year and the next will enable us to deliver on our next Strategic Plan in a more transparent, accountable, and resource-efficient manner. Change will be continual – becoming part of the way we work.


We know that many of our largest funders are going through times of serious fiscal constraints, making continually improving the effectiveness of what we do more important than ever. 

In spite of financial challenges, however, many funders have gone to great lengths to maintain contributions to UNDP.

We thank all our funders for their commitment to our work.

UNDP’s overall resources did, nonetheless, decline from 2010 to 2011 - from $5.01 billion to $4.83 billion. Contributions to core resources remained just below $1 billion ($0.975 billion), slightly higher than last year, and those to non-core declined by $188 million.

The high level of non-core funding shows that UNDP remains a partner of choice. That, however, should not detract from the importance of a stable and critical mass of “core” resources which allow the organization to plan ahead, be strategic, and provide predictable and differentiated services across all programme countries.

The fact that the level of core resources was $123 million lower in 2011 than in 2008 is therefore of great concern. The effect which this has on our ability to deliver on core commitments should not be underestimated. Strong core funding continues to be of paramount importance to UNDP.

As I have highlighted throughout my remarks, we are committed to achieving results and reporting on them. We respond to growing numbers of multilateral aid assessments, which we welcome as they provide feedback on our work and often show UNDP’s comparative advantages.

The most recently concluded such review, the Australian Multilateral Assessment, rated UNDP as strong in adhering to high standards of financial management, audit, risk management, and fraud prevention.  Other assessments, such as those of Canada, Denmark, UK, and Sweden, while different in nature and scope, also found UNDP to have many areas of strength, and others requiring improvement.

We are working with an expanding range of development actors in the public and private sectors, and supporting South-South and triangular co-operation. As these partnerships evolve, it is to be hoped that this may also have a positive impact on our funding base.  

At this point, allow me to comment briefly on the UNDP report on the Recommendations of the Joint Inspection Unit of 2011, and take this opportunity to highlight the valued work of the Special Unit for South-South Co-operation which is hosted by UNDP. The Special Unit, with the support of UNDP and the wider UN system, plays an important role in assisting UN bodies in designing and implementing South- South and triangular co-operation initiatives.

Transparency and Accountability

Transparency and accountability are a high priority for UNDP and for me personally as UNDP Administrator.

Step by step, and in close consultation with the Board, we have increased access to internal audit reports for member states and inter-governmental donors.  Sharing critical audit information helps build trust in our oversight systems.

Now it is time for the next steps to be taken. Jointly with UNFPA and UNOPS, we have submitted a proposal to the Board for achieving full transparency in disclosure of internal audit reports.  I sincerely hope that the Board will approve this proposal.

I am convinced that these moves will increase confidence among our stakeholders that UNDP’s activities are subjected to rigorous and independent scrutiny, and that shortcomings are identified and addressed. I am also convinced that openness will strengthen our reputation as an organization committed to getting results and offering value for money.

In moving towards full disclosure, we will do our utmost to ensure that the quality and accuracy of the information disclosed is of the highest caliber. Safeguards will be applied, as in all public disclosure systems, and I have full trust that our Office of Audit and Investigations will properly manage those safeguards.

As a dedicated partner in the International Aid Transparency Initiative, UNDP is committed to publish financial information regularly.

Last year we published our spending for more than seven thousand projects, and launched an open data portal. This year we aim to publish more information, and with greater detail. We will also continue to advocate for the International Aid Transparency Initiative by leading workshops with other multilateral organizations and partner governments on implementing its standards.

Times of hope for Myanmar

Before concluding, let me mention briefly the new opportunities for UNDP to engage in Myanmar. While the recent unrest in the country reminds us that the country faces complex challenges, the reforms underway there are enabling UNDP to move forward with the design of a full country programme. A number of member states have already announced plans to increase their assistance to Myanmar.  UNDP will engage fully to support the reform process with the support of development partners. 


In my remarks to day I have outlined a range of opportunities for advancing the global development agenda, highlights of our work, and our progress on transparency.

MDG acceleration will remain a top priority for us this year, along with supporting the development of the post-2015 agenda, translating the outcomes of Rio+20 into action, contributing to the QCPR discussions and ongoing UNDG reforms, and working on the next Strategic Plan. Countries in special development situations will continue to command a great deal of our attention.

The strong backing of our Board is indispensable to our work. I thank you all in anticipation for your continued support to UNDP.


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