Helen Clark to engage global community on development challenges

16 Jul 2009

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark (right) attends a women's luncheon in Geneva. (Photo: UNDP)

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark spent much of the past ten days in Geneva, participating in a wide variety of intergovernmental meetings, speaking with heads of UN organizations and engaging with representatives from several partner governments from the North and the South. Three common threads permeated most of her discussions:

1) More aid is needed to shield the poorest countries from the financial crisis (or at the very least the aid that has been promised should be delivered);

2) more emphasis should be placed on developing agriculture so that countries can feed themselves; and

3) the climate change deal being negotiated for Copenhagen could bring enormous development dividends for poor countries, which could then be spent on helping them both develop sustainably and adapt to the changing environment.

The first task on Miss Clark's Agenda in Geneva was a keynote statement at the Second Global Review of Aid for Trade at the World Trade Organization on 6 July. While acknowledging that aid for trade to low income countries is growing faster than other forms of assistance, Miss Clark pointed out that the bulk of this aid is being provided to very few countries. While all aid is indeed welcomed, she said still more should be provided to the poorest countries to enable them to build their capacity to compete in local, regional and global markets.

In the opening statement at a special segment of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) focusing on the impacts of the financial and economic crises on sustainable development, Miss Clark told government delegates that the economic crisis is causing misery and hardship for millions of people around the world. "Those least responsible for the crisis, the poorest and the most vulnerable, stand to bear the brunt of its effects," she said. "To deal with the challenge, and avert a humanitarian catastrophe, it is absolutely critical that donors maintain or even increase current levels of support."

If the international community is to honour its commitments to achieve the MDGs by 2015, Miss Clark said more Official Development Assistance is needed now, adding: "ODA pledges already made, including those year after year at the G8, must be met, if not augmented, to support low-income countries through the current crisis."

Also while in Geneva, Miss Clark met with UNDP Geneva staff in a town hall setting. As the second largest UN center in the world and the first for development, humanitarian and human rights issues, UNDP maintains an office in Geneva to establish and enhance strategic partnerships with a variety of stakeholders, including UN bodies working on health, human rights, migration, trade and refugees. UNDP also has located in Geneva most of its support to help developing countries prevent or recover from conflicts and natural disasters.