UNDP head vows to support innovation in Croatia

21 Jan 2013

image UNDP head Helen Clark studies solar-power bicycle on visit to Croatia (UNDP/Inia Herencic)

ZADAR/OTOČAC – The UN’s highest-ranking development official vowed to support Croatia's efforts to realize its potential not just as a tourist destination but also as a centre for innovation at the signing for two new project agreements between Zadar county and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Since 2007, UNDP and its partners have implemented projects worth USD 12 million in Zadar county, in local development, biodiversity and energy efficiency.

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark also visited Otočac on the town's annual day and received a medal for UNDP's long-term contribution promoting development in the Gacka River Valley.

“Zadar county was a partner in diverse projects which are in line with Millennium Development Goals set by the UN General Assembly in 2000, from providing support to creating new jobs to strengthening the economy in less developed areas,” said Zadar county Prefect Stipe Zrilić. “This should promote more even development across Zadar county, which is our main goal.” Zrilić signed two agreements with UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton covering energy efficiency and renewable energy and the certified training of beekeepers.

“The agreement on beekeeper training is part of a larger effort by UNDP to provide farmers with the knowledge, skills and certification they need to compete on the EU marketplace. UNDP has organized training for hundreds of farmers in such fields as sheep and goat breeding; vegetable cultivation; and cheese production,“ said Vinton. “Zadar county has also been the site of such innovations as the provision of certified training to the unemployed in the installation and assembly of solar hot-water and photo-voltaic power systems, and some 100 solar technicians have so far completed the course.”

The visit to project sites in Zadar and Lika-Senj Counties marked the start of a four-day visit to Croatia, where Clark will preside at the annual regional meeting of UNDP Resident Representatives from Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, which brings together 70 top UN officials from more than 24 countries.

During her discussion with the Prefect, Clark emphasized UNDP’s focus on helping local communities work together to apply for and manage EU funds, and pledged UNDP’s resolve to do all it can, in big projects as well as small ones, to support county efforts to realize its potential not just as a tourist destination and a producer of fine wine, olive oil and seafood, but also as a center for innovation.

“I have had a chance yesterday to pay a brief visit to Zadar and its surroundings, and I am profoundly impressed by the potential of this region – its natural beauty, its architecture, and its diverse and colorful cultural heritage,” said Clark.

Clark later paid a visit to the Zadar county Solar Education Center, which was created with UNDP support to help train local technicians to meet an expanding demand for renewable systems. This is one of many innovations developed in Zadar that I am sure other countries would be keen to replicate,” commented Clark. “The sort of partnership and community engagement that our people experience here in Zadar is the true secret of sustainable development. It is only when all the people involved have a say that development projects bear fruit.”

Later in the day, Clark participated at a ceremonial session of the Otočac Town Council, where she received the Medal of the Town of Otočac “for UNDP’s major contribution to the development of the Croatian Center for Indigenous Species of Fish and Crawfish in Karstic Waters, as well as its long-term continuous contribution to the development of the entire territory of the Town of Otočac.” Clark noted that the Center was an excellent example of how promoting environmental protection and biodiversity – here through the restoration of native species of trout and crawfish – could be an engine for growth and “green jobs.”

Clark continues her stay in Zagreb, where she meets with President Ivo Josipović, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Vesna Pusić and Minister of War Veterans Predrag Matić Fred.

Reflecting the priority that UNDP puts on fighting violence against women, Clark will attend a signing ceremony on 21 January for a new USD 175,000 project to address the needs of victims of wartime rape and other sexual violence. The agreement will be signed by Vinton, Minister Matić and the President of the Women in the Homeland War Association Marija Slišković, together with Swiss Ambassador Denis Knobel, as Switzerland is providing part of the funding.

Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme in April 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. With the rank of Under-Secretary-General, she is the third most senior official in the United Nations system. She is also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all UN funds, programmes and departments working on development issues.

Prior to her appointment with UNDP, Helen Clark served for nine years as Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving three successive terms from 1999-2008. Throughout her tenure as Prime Minister, Helen Clark engaged widely in policy development and advocacy across the international, economic, social and cultural spheres.

For press inquiries:

In Zagreb: Ida Mahečić Bajović, UNDP Croatia (+385 1 23 61 625 / ida.mahecic@undp.org)