Rebeca Grynspan: Speech on the occasion of the launch of the report “Towards a life of dignity for all – 10 years of strategic UNDP-EU partnership”

Feb 19, 2014

Speech by
Rebeca Grynspan, UN Under-Secretary-General and   UNDP Associate Administrator
On  the occasion of the launch of the report
“Towards a life of dignity for all – 10 years of strategic UNDP-EU partnership”
European Parliament

I am honoured to be here at the European Parliament, along with Mr. Frutuoso de Melo, Director General of DEVCO, to launch the first-ever report on the partnership between the European Union and the UN Development Programme. I thank all those present for taking valuable time aside to attend this session.

By upholding democratic values, promoting human rights, and extending social protection to its citizens, the European Union serves as a role model to so many countries around the world.
Because we share the same objectives – and maybe in a deeper sense not “objectives’ but the same values of respect and dignity of every human being, of justice and shared prosperity, and care for the planet, the European Union is also a natural – and important – partner to UNDP, and to the UN overall in advancing peace and security, human rights and human development,

Ten years ago, in 2004, UNDP and the European Commission signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement, which outlined (and I quote) "the shared goal of establishing the solid foundations for peace and recovery from crisis and to promote the Millennium Development Goals, particularly, the fight against poverty".

Since then, our partnership has come a long way: the European Union is a significant funder of our work, as well as of development overall.

However, our partnership goes well beyond financing. It also adds significant value at the level of international policy and norms and helps translate these into actions on the ground that help improve the lives of those that need it most, the poor and vulnerable around the world.

National ownership and strong international partnerships are the guiding principles of the UNDP-EU partnership. We know from experience that National ownership is key as is supporting and building the national capacities of countries, their people and institutions. And we also know that by working together, we can achieve so much more than by working alone.

The report we are launching here today is the result of extensive consultations with close to one hundred UNDP Country Offices, as well as EU and UNDP colleagues here in Brussels and elsewhere.

It gives an overview of the breadth and depth of our partnership and provides valuable snapshots of how it has contributed to development results at country level.

The report reveals that in the last decade, UNDP and the EU have successfully worked together in 115 countries across the world – helping to deepen democratic governance, promote human rights and fight discrimination, address vulnerabilities, prevent or recover from conflict and natural disasters, and address climate change.

Our partnership has indeed helped us forward the common aim of moving “towards a life of dignity for all” – which is also the title of the report.

Allow me to share with you some of the report’s highlights:

In the last decade, UNDP and the EU have worked together to support 98 countries to advance good governance, deepen democracy and build more inclusive societies.

Electoral support is a very important area of focus, and over the past ten years we supported 53 countries with their electoral cycle, countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Georgia, Indonesia, Liberia, and Mali. Our support has contributed to strengthened national capacities and ownership of the electoral process, free and fair elections, and the increased participation of women, both as voters and candidates.

In Armenia for example prior to the project, women comprised barely nine per cent of representatives in local government. We offered support to women interested in running for local public office, to those elected, as well as those working in local government administration, Out of the 128 women who received such support, 84 (66%) were elected in the local elections.

Our partnership has adopted a so-called “Electoral Cycle Approach”, based on which we provide support before, during, and after elections. This work has benefitted greatly from having a joint EU-UNDP Task Force on Electoral Assistance .

The EU-UNDP partnership has also actively supported parliaments around the world - an area that UNDP has a vast experience in, having provided support to one in three national parliaments worldwide. Through our co-operation we have provided assistance in Africa, the Arab States and  South Asia, in constitutional, administrative and institutional reforms, as well as capacity building in the areas accountability, and public oversight, and the drafting of policy frameworks in support of for example, renewable energy and climate change mitigation.

The EU and UNDP have also partnered together to support countries prevent and/or recover from crisis and conflict. This includes disaster risk reduction, conflict prevention and peace building, and recovery and rehabilitation. As highlighted in the report, support in these areas has been extended to over seventy countries over the past ten years, out of which over thirty are fragile countries.

For instance, in the field of disaster risk reduction, we helped 28 countries – including Haiti, Kazakhstan, and Nepal - to put in measures to be better prepared for natural disasters, thereby helping them to be more resilient in the face of future shocks and prevent loss of lives and material damage.

In Pakistan for example, after the 2010 floods, we were able to support about 5.5 million people through the restoration of livelihoods, community rehabilitation and resilience building in around 4,000 villages. Temporary employment benefitted 1.3 million people, 40 percent of them women (which, by the way, has become our norm in these type of programmes).
Lessons learned indicate that our partnership has also helped to bridge the gap between relief and development by laying the foundations for long-term and sustainable development.  The inclusion of early recovery as part of humanitarian work, has been an important recognition of these contribution.

The fact that we are present in countries before, during and after and consequently in both the immediate crisis recovery period and the more long-term reconstruction and development phase, makes UNDP uniquely position to bridge the transition between the two.

With UNDP and the EU being strong advocates for sustainable development, we are natural partners when it comes to the field of environment and energy. There is certainly a large potential to expand our partnership further in this field.

We already work together to help countries to address climate change, and to extend access to energy and water services, boost energy efficiency, and sustainable management of land, forests, biodiversity and other resources.

For example, within the framework of the joint UNDP - UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative, we have worked together to help 24 countries mainstream poverty-environment linkages into national development planning. Through the UNDP-EU partnership, we are also supporting 25 countries to carry out nationally driven climate change mitigation actions.

A good example of our collaboration in this area is the recently established CLIMA EAST programme, through which climate change mitigation and adaptation in Russia and Eastern Neighbourhood countries is being supported. Looking ahead, the CLIMA EAST programme is strengthening the resilience of vulnerable groups to climate change, and is piloting replicable 'firsts' such as the first-ever permafrost peatlands project in Northern Russia.
Looking ahead, the Clima East programme is estimated to reduce the emission of approximately 170,000 ton CO2-equivalent per year in total.

As you can hear, and see from the report, the UNDP-EU partnership has made a difference around the world.

Saying that, however, it is also important to be aware of the needs to keep pace with a challenging development landscape and the ever evolving needs and demands of our partner countries.

So, building on the forward-looking section in the report, let me highlight few areas where we see scope to do just that.

Firstly, while efforts are on-going to accelerate progress on the MDGs, the world is simultaneously discussing how to address developmental challenges in the post-2015 era. Both UNDP and EU are active partners in this policy dialogue that will shape the future development agenda. I am certain the outcome of these processes will deeply influence our future cooperation.

Second, IN this context, we believe there is room to better integrate our work on poverty reduction and the MDGs with that on the environment and climate change.

As was highlighted at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, advancing on all of these fronts is critical – it cannot be a matter of either/or. We need to overcome the discourse of the “trade offs” and move towards a positive agenda. In this spirit, we at UNDP advocate for ‘triple-win’ policies and programmes, which many countries are already employing and which are designed to advance economic, social, and environment objectives together.

We also need to shift to a holistic approach, where climate change mitigation and adaptation thinking is incorporated into national and sub-national development goals and planning processes. The partnership between UNDP and EU could play an important role in supporting countries to do this, be it through finance, capacity building, or technology transfer.

As a very significant provider of development assistance, with its cutting-edge green technologies, and with its commitment to promote inclusiveness at home and abroad, the EU has a critical role to play, as has the wider UN-family. UNDP, with its wide experience in these areas, its convener role, extensive country presence, and its co-ordinating function within the UN system, is an important entry-point for supporting developing countries making their economies both green and inclusive toward sustainable development.

Thirdly, In the area of sustainable energy, we can certainly intensify our common efforts, particularly through joint programming with the wider UN-family and other partners under the umbrella of the UN Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative.

Last but not least, reflecting the fundamental importance women’s advancement for sustainable human development progress, and given this is an area of high priority for both the EU and UNDP, we could also explore how we can further collaborate in this area, within the wider UN-family.

These are only a few ideas of how our already strong partnership could be deepened even further. We have listed others in the report– including in the areas of disaster-risk reduction, post-crisis reconstruction, and local governance and territorial development.


As emphasized earlier, the report we are launching today clearly demonstrates how the UNDP-EU partnership can advance human development around the world and make a difference where it matters the most.  

It also tells a story that progress is possible and that development assistance and partnerships matter.

I look forward to our discussions on how we can ensure that our partnership continues to evolve and deepen in the years to come – so that it stays relevant, influencing the future agenda to eradicate extreme poverty, fight inequality and promote peace in the framework of sustainable development.

In closing, let me thank EU partners around the world for making our partnership so successful. We at UNDP are very grateful for your support and, will do our utmost to live up to your trust and expectations.

I would also like to thank Antonio Vigilante, and his staff here in Brussels, as well as UNDP staff around the world, for their hard work and dedication.

UNDP Around the world