Helen Clark: statement at the Annual Session of the Executive Board

26 May 2009

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Statement by Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme On the Occasion of the Annual Session of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA

Mr. President,
Members of the Executive Board,
Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Introduction

It is a great privilege and honour for me to have joined UNDP as the new Administrator.

At the outset, let me thank the Secretary-General for nominating me to this position, and for the support he has provided me.  He is a strong ally for UNDP’s development work.

I also thank Ad Melkert, Associate Administrator, for his dedication and commitment to UNDP, and for holding the fort as Acting Administrator before my arrival five weeks ago.

I would like to thank the General Assembly and you, the members of the UNDP Executive Board, for the confidence you have placed in me.

I am grateful to His Excellency Mr. Mohammad Khazaee, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations, for his role in guiding the Board as its President since his election.

I am also appreciative of the hard work of the Vice-Presidents: for the group of African States, Mr. Omary Mjenga from the United Republic of Tanzania; for the Eastern European group, Mr. Dragan Mićić from Serbia; for the group of Western Europe and other States, Mr. Jeroen Steeghs from the Netherlands; and for the group of Latin America and Caribbean states, Mr. William Exantus from Haiti.

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to two of my colleagues: Tegegnework Gettu, the new Director for the Regional Bureau for Africa, and Jordan Ryan, the new Director for the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery.  This is the first Board meeting since they assumed their new roles.

This is also the first time I myself have attended the Executive Board. I look forward to being present at as many sessions of the Board as possible, this time around and in the future.  The Board plays a critical role in guiding UNDP, and I want to engage directly with you.

Over the past few weeks I have been at our New York headquarters, meeting with many staff of the organisation. I have also had the pleasure of meeting with many of you here today in other settings, as well as with a wide range of other partners and stakeholders in the UN system and beyond.

In June I will depart on my first trip as Administrator, to Africa where many of our development challenges loom largest. I will visit governments, UNDP and UN country teams at large, other development partners, and some of those supported by our work in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia.

I come from a background of working on economic and social justice in my own country, New Zealand. I know what a huge difference strong and accountable institutions, a resilient economy, good health and education systems, better social safety nets, and economic and social inclusion and participation make to the prospects of our peoples. These issues are very important to me, and have been throughout my time in public life.

Globally, the resources, the technology, and the knowledge exist now to improve the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable. Our challenge is to muster up the political will and the resources, and to support the strategies and actions required, to make the much needed improvements a reality.  

Where we are today; where we should go

This is a difficult time to be pursuing our development mission, as our world experiences the deepest global economic recession it has faced in decades. Alas, those least responsible for the crisis stand to bear the brunt of its impact over the longer term.

The recession is adding to the stress which very high food and energy prices had already imposed on many countries, pushing as many as 200 million people into extreme poverty between 2005 and 2008. At the same time, we face the huge climate change challenge, related to the world’s current unsustainable use of natural resources.

These global problems reflect our interdependence, and they require global solutions. That is why we need a multilateral system which reflects the realities of the 21st century. That system should not only help deliver improved living standards for the poorest and most vulnerable, but also should ensure that their voices are heard at decision-making tables.

The United Nations family should be the vehicle which drives that action and provides that voice. UNDP can be a leading contributor to making that happen.  

How we collectively handle the global recession is a case in point.

Developed countries have been impacted, some severely, but for the most part they have had tools at their disposal to address the crisis. The longer term effect of the recession on developing countries is potentially much more devastating.

With families facing shrinking livelihoods and job losses, and with governments confronting slumping revenue, and consequently cutting back on spending, many fear that there will be a reversal of gains which had been made towards meeting the MDGs.

UNDP has been responding to requests from programme countries for support in analyzing the impact of the crisis; designing policy responses – including on how to protect the most vulnerable; and facilitating resource mobilization. It is critical that we work especially closely with the Bretton Woods Institutions at this time.

At the top of my overall priorities is sharpening UNDP’s focus on poverty reduction and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. In today’s circumstances, this is challenging, but it is also critical that we keep this focus on the near medium term. The MDGs are at the very heart of UNDP’s mission, and are clearly central to the strategic plan approved by the Executive Board.

Based on current trends, while some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa will meet some MDGs, they are unlikely to meet them all by 2015.  As a result of the global recession, it is estimated that about three-quarters of Sub-Saharan countries could see an increase in the number of people living in extreme poverty during this year.  

I came to New York in 2000 as New Zealand Prime Minister to sign the Millennium Declaration, along with the leaders of most other Member States. 2015 seemed a long way away then – but now there are only six years left to the date set for achieving the MDGs. So, we need concerted action. When our global community sets goals and targets, we have a duty to work together to meet them.

Since the Millennium Declaration was signed, many significant aid commitments have been made. Notably, the G8 at its Gleneagles Summit in 2005 agreed to a set of landmark pledges. That included a promise to increase annual ODA by US$50 billion by 2010, with half of it earmarked for African countries. Those pledges were reconfirmed by the G8 in 2007 and 2008. Yet, at this time, the pledge to Africa remains unfulfilled.

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark addresses the members of the UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board at the annual session held at UN headquarters in New York. The current Executive Board President, H.E. Mr. Mohammad Khazaee (Islamic Republic of Iran), is at her left.
It was indicated to the Executive Board last year that concrete proposals were being developed to show how the extra ODA pledged at Gleneagles could be applied to help reach the MDGs. UNDP has worked with partner governments in Africa, the African Development Bank, the IMF and the World Bank, to develop specific “Gleneagles Scenarios”. These “worked scenarios” demonstrate that the scaling up of action in these countries towards achieving the MDGs is feasible, from both developmental and macroeconomic perspectives.  This approach has been approved by the MDG Africa Steering Group and by the African Union.

The Scenarios have now been completed with and for an initial set of six African countries, and are almost complete for a further four. Their publication is imminent.

It is to be hoped that this year’s G8 Summit in July could now mobilize the resources, which were previously pledged, to support the implementation of the Gleneagles Scenarios which have already been developed and will be developed. UNDP will continue working with its partners to develop Scenarios for all African countries. It is vital for the credibility of pledges made that action follows the availability of serious and credible scenarios for scaling up ODA as Gleneagles envisaged.

I also believe it is critical to draw the work being done on addressing the climate change challenge into the centre of the way in which we think about development. The truth is that the brunt of the negative impacts of climate change will be borne by some of the poorest countries and people in the world.

We need a new deal for development which is sustainable in every sense and tackles both energy poverty and poverty overall. To this end, UNDP must step up its work this year to support developing countries achieving an outcome at Copenhagen in December which is consistent with designing a sustainable path out of poverty and for achieving the MDGs.  The deal to be sealed at Copenhagen must be a development deal too.

What could be achieved at Copenhagen, including through finance mechanisms being worked on, has significant implications for development.  These mechanisms could become a major new and additional source of development financing, complementing, and at some point possibly even surpassing the significance of ODA. A new development paradigm could be in the making.

The Annual Report

UNDP’s core strengths lie in its strong presence around the globe; the leading edge it brings to development thinking; the capacity building, capacity development, and upstream policy advice it can provide in support of national development strategies; the resource mobilization it can support around those strategies; and the co-ordinating role it plays on behalf of the UN’s development family.

The spirit and substance of our work is captured in the document before you: the first Annual Report on the new Strategic Plan. It is a reflection of the work of UNDP together with that of our associated funds and programmes, the UN Capital Development Fund, UNIFEM, and UN Volunteers, which all provide valuable complementary expertise.

The annual report process is an important accountability mechanism. All members of the Board want to be well informed about how we have performed against the goals and targets which you have set for us.

The Board last year requested UNDP to include in its reports analytical information about strategic results, including programme and project results. Inevitably at this early stage what you have before you are largely reports on process and on inputs into development.

In terms of accountability, I believe we should be able to be very clear to the Board in the future about what we do, how much of it we do, what actions we have taken, and what those activities cost.

Because the core of our contribution to development lies in capacity building and capacity development, however, reporting on its actual outcomes is a much more complex matter, and in many areas may well take a decade or generation to assess more fully. UNDP is not a super-NGO, and our Strategic Plan specifically directs us away from small scale projects without country wide impact and also away from infrastructure projects which do not support capacity building.

Over time, however, with well designed interventions in support of programme countries’ national development plans, there will be measurable indicators of achievement in country. But of course the progress that is made depends on many actors working together – the programme countries and the wide range of other organizations contributing to development.

Capacity development aims at long term and sustainable transformation. UNDP’s investments in it will pay huge dividends over time. Our job in the administration of UNDP is to demonstrate to you, our Executive Board, that the resources mobilized for UNDP are well directed and accounted for, and oriented to achieving the very best results for development.  Over the next few months, UNDP will continue to refine the outcome indicators on which it is realistic for us to report.

This annual report shows what our levels of activity were with programme countries in each area of the four key goals established in the Strategic Plan. It reveals that two-thirds of UNDP expenditure occurred in the areas of poverty reduction and the MDGs, and democratic governance.  

Drilling deeper, we see that of the 34 outcome areas in which we work, there were ten where we had both very high demand and high expenditure. They accounted for just over $2.6 billion, or 64%, of expenditure in 2008, and included:

•    strengthening capacities for MDG-based planning and monitoring;
•    support for justice system reform and the rule of law.  
•    strengthening capacities to reduce, mitigate, and cope with the impact of violent conflict and natural hazards; and
•    enhancing national capacities to mainstream environmental priorities into development planning.

These areas will be prioritized for future reporting on the actual impact of what we do. In these and so many other areas, UNDP is engaged in work which is potentially game-changing for programme countries.

Let me now comment briefly on some of our activities in 2008 within each of the four key goals of the Strategic Plan.  

Goal One: Poverty Reduction and the MDGs:

 
In many countries across our five regions, we contributed to the design of MDG-based national development strategies, macroeconomic policies, debt sustainability frameworks, and public financing strategies.  Two examples:

UNDP supported the Government of Ecuador to develop a national development strategy which not only aims to meet the MDGs, but also additional development targets.  The MDGs have also been reflected in other planning processes in Ecuador, like that for sustainable tourism.

In Niger, UNDP has been partnering with stakeholders to help local authorities meet the MDGs. Some of those authorities as a result have already taken measures to boost primary education enrolment.  

Goal One in the Strategic Plan also requires us to work to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS on human development, which we do in many ways together with our partners. The Plan directs us to support integrating responses to HIV/AIDS into poverty reduction strategies, MDG-based national development plans, and macroeconomic processes. Last year, only eleven programme countries requested our support in this area. I would think there is considerable potential to do more.

It is a particular concern that where MDG attainment is lagging most is in the area of maternal health. At the global level, maternal mortality decreased by less than 1 per cent per year between 1990 and 2005 – far below the 5.5 per cent annual improvement needed to reach the MDG target. It is critical that we in UNDP in our co-ordinating role in countries and through UNDG  work with governments and other organizations  within and beyond the UN family to improve the health of women.

Goal Two: Fostering Democratic Governance:

The report outlines UNDP’s considerable activity on electoral support in nineteen countries. In Bangladesh, for example, UNDP supported the registration of over 81 million voters, 51 per cent of them female, in an election which achieved 87 per cent voter turnout.  Our work supporting the Bangladesh Election Commission was important in helping to bring about this very high level of participation.

I am pleased to say that UN Volunteers have been helping our election work. Hundreds of them are right now working in sixteen countries - from Afghanistan to Timor Leste - providing advice to local electoral authorities, and helping with voter registration and civic education at the community level.

In Burundi, UNDP’s programme to strengthen the justice sector is helping reduce the average processing time for cases awaiting trial, thereby enhancing local accountability. A strengthened justice sector plays a critical role in enabling the peace to be upheld.

In the coming months and years, effective delivery of basic services will become even more important in alleviating the effects of current crises. As indicated in this report, in 2008 UNDP supported 89 countries to strengthen national, regional, and local governance and service delivery capacities. But we can do more to enhance local governance in particular. This is so important for making poverty reduction sustainable.

Goal Three: Supporting Crisis Prevention and Recovery:


With demand from sixty countries and expenditures of over $227 million in 2008, UNDP is a leader in the area of conflict prevention, disaster risk reduction and recovery.  Overall, this work aims to support foundations being laid for longer term development.

Last year technical support was provided by more than forty UNDP offices in high disaster-prone countries, including Armenia, Belize, China, Haiti, Jordan, Malawi, and Pakistan.

Early recovery co-ordination mechanisms were established in 28 countries. In Myanmar, which was heavily hit by Cyclone Nargis, more than 150,000 people benefited from emergency relief and early recovery support for livelihoods, shelter, water, and sanitation.

In Kosovo and Timor-Leste, UNDP programmes supporting recovery from crisis also aim to improve gender equality and to protect and empower women. In Somalia, UNDP launched a sustainable livelihoods programme last year which, in its first five months, provided 12,000 beneficiaries with short-term employment opportunities, working on projects like rural access roads. Combined with skills development training, these activities can contribute to building stability there.  

Goal Four: Managing Energy and the Environment for Sustainable Development:


UNDP works to support the scaling up of assistance to countries dealing with a range of environmental threats, including that of climate change.  For example, using financial support from the Global Environment Facility and associated co-financing, UNDP manages a biodiversity portfolio of projects worth $2 billion. These have, for instance, helped establish 127 newly protected areas covering ten million hectares in fifty countries. This is roughly equivalent to two and a half times the total surface area of Switzerland. Because land and livelihoods are so intimately connected, ninety per cent of these projects have significant components focusing on poverty reduction.

UNDP has also been working with officials from a cross-section of ministries in twenty countries on the implications of the Bali Road Map negotiations for a new international climate change agreement on their countries’ future development. In the remaining months leading up to the Copenhagen Conference, we will need to reach out even more widely to support a development agenda being articulated there.

UNDP’s activities across the Strategic Plan’s four goals all have in common a strong focus on capacity development. This is what we do best: under the principle of national ownership, we support countries to articulate development priorities, and we invest in the abilities of their people, institutions, and communities to advance human development and achieve results.  

Gender Equality Work

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are very important goals in their own right, and also as a means for realizing all the other MDGs.

More of UNDP’s programmes now reflect gender dimensions. We provided support to the governments of 22 African countries to incorporate gender needs assessments as planning and costing tools. We have also helped increased women’s political participation.  Working with women leaders and government counterparts, UNDP supported the establishment by Turkey’s Parliament of a “Woman-Man Equal Opportunities Commission”. This national body is charged with reviewing and ensuring that all laws are gender equitable,  and that women have legal recourse when their rights are violated.

Together with other partners, including UNIFEM, UNDP is supporting a number of initiatives on sexual-based violence. For instance, UNDP’s work in the eastern DRC has helped give women survivors of sexual violence access to free legal aid.  

Our corporate Eight Point Agenda for Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality in Crisis includes providing justice and security for women, involving women in all peace processes, and promoting women as leaders of recovery.

But there is a long way to go in this work. Empowered by Security Council Resolution 1820, which states that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide”, we and the whole UN family have a strong mandate to combat sexual violence against women in conflict zones.

Real shifts in gender equality and women’s empowerment will only come about when there is a critical mass of supportive policy makers and appropriate legal frameworks. I come as the first female Administrator of UNDP. It goes without saying that gender equality is important to me and must be pursued as a core value across our organization.

I am pleased that within UNDP all managers are now having a portion of their performance assessed against their efforts on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Following your request, we are also taking steps to improve our tracking of gender equality initiatives. We have already successfully piloted the OECD DAC tracking approach in 17 countries; the next step is to apply it across the board.

South-South Co-operation

A series of steps have also been taken to strengthen South-South cooperation. An Electoral Knowledge Network, for instance, allows institutions from the South to engage with their peers elsewhere on questions related to the administration of elections.  The UN Capital Development Fund is helping expand access to financial services to 525,000 low-income people by providing incentives for southern-based microfinance institutions to enter underserved markets.

Developing countries have many lessons learned and useful technologies which can assist other developing countries meet their challenges. It is important that these are shared more widely.

UN Reform and why it matters

The global recession makes this a difficult time for development. But out of crisis also comes opportunity to look at fresh ways of doing things and to innovate. That is what we at UNDP must do as we pursue the goals set down in our Strategic Plan and as we support the ongoing process of UN reform so that we truly can deliver as one.

Since our ability to support governments may be impacted by the international recession and constrained resources, there is an even greater imperative for the UN family to work together.  

UNDP has heard the calls of Executive Board members and Member States for a more coherent, effective, and efficient UN development system.

Such a system can better support national partners to address the many challenges they face. We cannot be effective working as a disparate set of agencies, without a coherent programmatic and operational approach.  

So we must keep our eye on the end game – better delivery and better results – not co-ordination and reform for their own sake.

As Chair of the UN Development Group, I pledge UNDP’s full commitment to working constructively with all our partners in the UN family, and also to building the very best relationships we can with the widest possible range of stakeholders in development – civil society, donors, the IFIs, and all other contributors. And, of course, our most important partnerships must be with the governments and peoples of the countries in which we work. 

The UNDP Strategic Plan reflects our dual role. We are a programmatic and operational development agency. We also manage the Resident Co-ordinator system on behalf of the UN system as a whole.  

The UNDG’s Management and Accountability System, and its corresponding Implementation Plan, are the first written agreements on how the integrated UN development system should function.  They outline a concept of accountability for the UN development system overall and for the Resident Co-ordinator system more specifically, so that we can better fulfill our commitments to national partners.  

Within the UNDG we are now working to ensure that all agencies implement their commitments under the agreements. We need your continued support to ensure progress.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with the Resident Co-ordinators and Resident Representatives from the eight Delivering as One Pilot countries, and also from Papua New Guinea, a “self-starter”.  I was impressed with the progress that the governments and UN Country Teams of these countries have made in delivering as one.  I also want to acknowledge the importance of the MDG Achievement Fund supported by Spain as a major catalyst for promoting coherence and joint programming at the country level.

Through the 2008 stocktaking reports of the pilot Governments and UN Country Teams, we are seeing the UN playing a stronger role, working together, to provide policy advice and help meet national development priorities.  We are also capturing the positive lessons emerging from the Pilots, with a view to adapting them elsewhere. The UN Development Assistance Frameworks being rolled out over the next years present an opportunity to do just that.  

Managing for Results

Without secure funding UNDP cannot be effective. To deliver on its goals and achieve real results, UNDP needs an adequate and predictable base of core resources.  I will speak briefly on this important topic when I open the agenda item on Funding Commitments later this afternoon.  

For now, I am delighted that the $1.1 billion core income target set for 2008 was met, thanks to the generous support of many of you. It is critically important that, despite very tough economic projections, we can also meet our income targets for 2009 and beyond.  

The current economic circumstances are placing huge pressure on the most vulnerable populations, and UNDP assistance is needed more than ever.  In this environment, we need our committed donors to continue, and even strengthen, their current commitments. We also need to consider how our donor base could be extended. Major geopolitical shifts are underway in our world. These could be reflected not only in the multilateral decision-making architecture, but also in the support structures of agencies like UNDP.

With all of your support, I am confident that we will have the resources necessary to meet the development needs of those we serve.

I also appreciate that in these difficult times UNDP must spare no effort to make the best use of the resources available to it. We will continue to pursue efficiencies and make decisions about what to prioritise.  Stakeholders must have confidence that all resources are being used appropriately. Accountability and transparency must be our guiding principles.

Our budget must be looked at carefully. To make sure we get this right, to fully address your concerns, and to reflect the results of the on-going cost classification exercise, we are requesting the postponement of the Executive Board’s consideration of the 2010-2011 biennial support budget and mid-term review of the 2008-2011 programming arrangements until the January 2010 session.  While delay is not usually desirable, I believe in this instance a better outcome will be achieved if this is agreed.

I am pleased to report that the UN Board of Auditors awarded UNDP with an “unqualified” audit opinion for the financial report for the biennium 2006-2007. It is also worth noting that One World Trust, a UK-based international NGO, ranked UNDP top out of thirty participating organizations on dimensions of organisational accountability.

The first ever Report of the Ethics Office of UNDP has been distributed, and will be discussed at this meeting as part of the segment on internal audit and oversight. We are serious about advancing work in this area, including by maintaining a harassment free environment in UNDP.

The most valuable resource UNDP has is our committed staff.  Our new Human Resources Strategy recognises that for staff to be effective, they need to have opportunities for personal and professional growth.  

Moving ahead, we will build on efforts to date to achieve a balanced and diverse workforce which reflects UNDP’s commitment to geographical distribution and gender equality.  

We will aim to improve inter-regional mobility of staff and their exposure to different types of country offices.

We will also continue to enhance staff capacity at all levels, and make better use of the knowledge we have and continue to accumulate.

I want to thank all UNDP staff for their work in making this organisation the leader that it is. We are fortunate to have very dedicated and committed staff. They provide the very foundation on which our achievements rest.

One of the biggest human resources issues facing us this year is the implementation of contractual reform. Mandated by the General Assembly, contractual reform has significant implications for the way UNDP manages its workforce and for our budget. Unlike the UN Secretariat which is financed through assessed contributions, UNDP must raise its funding from voluntary contributions.  The financial implications of this reform will need to be reflected in future budgets.

The safety and security of staff - many of whom work in exceptionally challenging circumstances – remains a top priority in all UNDP operations.

UNDP and other agencies face increased threats and risks, and have tragically lost colleagues in different parts of the world. We must do all we can to protect our staff who are working to build better lives for the men, women and children whom the UN exists to serve.

The Chief Executives Board recently endorsed a comprehensive plan for an improved system-wide security management system.  Its main concept is “no programme without security”. This means that security costs must be mainstreamed into all activities, or covered up-front before a programme is initiated.

The CEB also concluded that there can be “no security without resources”. It approved a statement – circulated to Executive Board members - calling on Member States to recognise that appropriate and sustainable funding for security is needed to match the new reality.

A large part of the resources the Executive Board approved for UN Mandated Security Measures for 2008-2009 is being used to move or upgrade UNDP premises in the most vulnerable locations. This need will continue through the next biennium.

Conclusion
I thank all Members of the Board for their support in helping to sustain and guide UNDP.

Much hard work and many challenges lie ahead. But I am confident that working together, and alongside others in the UN family and other stakeholders, we can make a difference for the better and meet our common development goals. The poorest and most vulnerable people in our world deserve nothing less.

I will now hand over to Ad Melkert, the UNDP Associate Administrator. Looking ahead, he will address a number of management challenges in more detail.
Thank you.