Gina Casar: Speech at the Staff Retreat of the UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa in Ethiopia

Feb 23, 2015

H.E. Madam Joyce Hilda Banda, former President of Malawi;

Colleagues,

I am very pleased to join the opening of the first staff retreat of the Regional Service Centre for Africa, here in Debre Zeyit. I welcome the opportunity to participate in a retreat titled: “Working as One, UNDP in Africa”.

It is a title that tells us a lot about UNDP’s approach to delivering its human development mandate. It tells us that we see ourselves NOT as individuals on a quixotic mission; nor as separate units, bureaux, centres, or offices struggling on our own, against all odds.

It tells us that we see ourselves as part of a united UNDP – an interlinked organisation working together, across geography or affiliation, relying on each other and pulling together our individual strengths to deliver what deeply matters to each of us and to the people we serve: sustainable human development.

And finally, it tells us that we work IN Africa. We do this so we can collaborate with African Regional Institutions. We do this so we can better understand and come to terms with local challenges. We do this so we can connect with the like-minded individuals and groups which will multiply our impact on the ground.

As a Regional Service Centre, you become the link holding together UNDP in Africa. You enable global and regional opportunities to benefit our Country Offices and the people in need. You ensure evidence and voices from the ground are heard in regional and global fora.

This first staff retreat is of particular importance for the Regional Service Centre for Africa. It is the first retreat after the merger of the regional centres in Johannesburg and in Dakar, and the relocation of staff accompanying the structural review.

This new Regional Service Centre for Africa is indeed new:
• one out of every two posts are new;
• two out of every three colleagues are new; and
• three out of four colleagues are on a new assignment.

This retreat is a chance for colleagues to get to know each other and to look with new eyes on the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead – for UNDP, for Africa, and human development more broadly.

As you know, this year is a critical year for global action. In 2015, the world will reach its target date to achieve the MDGs. In September, World Leaders will gather at the UN Headquarters in New York at a Summit to adopt the global development agenda that will take over where the MDGs leave off.

In March, at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, countries will be asked to sign on to a new, post-2015, framework for disaster risk reduction. In July, right here in Addis Ababa, delegates at the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development will set out to agree on a new framework to finance development, including to implement the new post-2015 agenda. And finally in December, the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris will agree on a plan to tackle climate change.

Africa’s voice should and must be heard in Sendai, here in Addis, at the UN in September, and in Paris in December. Colleagues here have a big role to play to make this happen. The African Common Position on Post-2015 has been a bridge between a narrow, ODA-centric vision of the SDGs, and an agenda that is too broad to become a driving force for development planning.

In Member State deliberations in New York, UNDP is supporting the African common position in the same way we have supported proposals by Western Europe or Latin America when they were particularly helpful to move debates forward.

In any event, the outcomes of this year’s key Conferences are expected to be broader and more transformational than the MDGs – reflecting the scale and scope of the global challenges. This will make their implementation far more demanding on developing countries, and put pressure on already stretched national institutions and systems to address complex and interconnected development challenges.

Against this background, it is imperative that UNDP is fit for purpose and lives up to its responsibilities - to deliver coherent, effective, and efficient support to programme countries, as they transition from the MDGs to the SDGs and pursue a development path that promotes environmental sustainability and strengthens the resilience of countries to external shocks, while reducing poverty, growing prosperity, and tackling injustices and inequalities everywhere.

In the post-2015 world, UNDP’s relevance to the countries it serves is highly dependent on its ability to Work as One - across bureaus, locations, and thematic clusters - to Deliver as One.

In a world of growing challenges, vulnerability and shrinking budgets, we cannot afford to not stand together. To work in isolation or let geography stand in the way of harnessing the many strengths in our single UNDP team would be doing a dis-service to the people and human development mandate we serve.

UNDP is committed to de-centralising its functions and strengthening the role of its regional service centers to ensure UNDP delivers on its Strategic Plan, providing relevant, timely and high quality support to partners on the ground.

As you know, last year was a year of change for UNDP. Many of the changes were meant to enable us to deliver on our new Strategic Plan. At headquarters and across central and regional bureaus, we have broken entrenched silos and relocated staff in regional hubs and global centres. We have also adjusted our internal planning tools, beginning with our annual business plan, to support delivering on the Strategic Plan. Corporate systems for capturing evidence and analysis have been revamped, including the creation of a knowledge base of lessons learned from evaluations. What we learn must guide how we design our programmes and projects.

The five Regional Bureaus and four Central Bureaus are expected to work together to provide better and more integrated assistance to partner countries in all areas of our work – from crisis response to early recovery, from effective and inclusive governance to sustainable development, and ad-hoc country support.

Most of the changes made under the structural review are now in place. Our structural changes must now be accompanied by changes in the behavior and approaches of colleagues, in the business processes of our units, in the way we communicate with one another, and the way in which we work across the organisation. These changes hinge on all of us here.

The work planned for your retreat is critical to foster such change and lay the foundations to enable UNDP to work as One in Africa. I encourage you to use your new-ness as an advantage and lay a strong foundation and a clear direction for the months and years to come.

I welcome the UNDP teams and colleagues who came from Addis, Dakar, Nairobi, and New York to work in the coming days. I know that this is not an easy endeavor, but figuring out to Work as One in Africa is all the more necessary if we want UNDP to remain relevant.
In conclusion, I wish you the very best for a productive retreat, and I look forward to hearing the results, and seeing the strong and dynamic team in Addis succeed to deliver as One UNDP in Africa.

UNDP Around the world