Helen Clark: Meeting of Resident Co-ordinators/Representatives

13 Dec 2010

Remarks by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
on the occasion of the Regional Meeting of Resident Co-ordinators/ Resident Representatives from UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Monday 13 December 2010, Kiev

I am delighted to join you at this regional meeting of UN Resident Co-ordinators/UNDP Resident Representatives from the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

I thank Pavlo Klimkin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, for taking time out of his busy schedule to join us today.

UNDP and Ukraine have a longstanding partnership, and we are proud of our support to the Government and people of Ukraine in meeting their development goals.
 
I was able to go yesterday to the Chernobyl-affected zone in the west of the country, and gain a greater appreciation of the issues and challenges there.

Tomorrow evening I will travel to Crimea, where we are active – not least on the needs of returning Crimeans and on multi-ethnic co-existence. Our community based projects there aim to improve livelihoods and promote social inclusion.  Elsewhere in Ukraine, we are also actively working with rural communities on their most pressing development needs.

I am also encouraged to see programme initiatives on energy efficiency. This region contains some of the most carbon-intensive economies in the world. UNDP and partners in the UN system can be at the forefront of supporting countries to pursue more sustainable development paths, and also to adapt to the climate change which is already occurring.

The latter flows naturally from our work over many years in many countries on disaster risk reduction. Following the floods in 2008 in Western Ukraine, we supported the Ministry of Emergencies in the preparation of a national disaster risk reduction policy. Our ability to mobilize expertise in these areas will be needed increasingly in the years ahead.

What will be important overall will be to support programme countries to integrate adaptation and mitigation strategies into overall national development strategies so that they also work to promote poverty reduction, growth and development.

In the bigger picture, this RBEC region is still experiencing institutional transitions. In this process, UNDP as a neutral third party, a facilitator of knowledge exchange, a promoter of sustainable development and with its ability to convene stakeholders has much to offer.

Along with whole UN Country Teams, we have to position ourselves strategically to support the developmental transformations our partner countries seek to make.

UN Development Assistance Frameworks and our country programmes will need to be more strategic, relevant, and higher in quality. If we are focused, and have the capacity to respond to countries’ changing needs, we will be more effective in helping them achieve their development goals and the internationally agreed goals.

I now turn to how the region has been faring through the global crisis and its prospects for meeting the MDGs.

Many RBEC countries saw incomes drop and unemployment rise in the 1990s. By 2008, though, most had met or exceeded their pre-transition levels of income per capita, and unemployment had been reduced or stabilized. Some impressive progress towards the MDGs was being made.

Between 1999 and 2005, for example, the number of people living on under $1.25 a day in the RBEC region dropped from 24 million to 17 million. In the European CIS countries, the extreme poverty rate is close to zero.

In the Human Development Index, a number of countries in this region are placed in the "very high" or "high" human development categories.  The region overall is said to have a fairly egalitarian distribution in education, health and income.

In most of the region, continued advances have been made on the empowerment of women.  In the transition countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, women are close to parity in education attainment and in representation in the workforce as a whole. While there are generally relatively few women in parliaments, the numbers have been increasing over the last decade.

Investments in women and girls have helped drive progress on reducing child and maternal mortality rates in the region overall.

There are still challenges, however, in meeting MDGs 4 and 5, and progress towards the MDGs overall is uneven between and within countries.

Large pockets of poverty remain, especially in Central Asia and the south Caucasus, where around nineteen per cent of the population lives in extreme poverty.

The 2010 global Human Development Report calculates that three of the former Soviet republics have worse adult mortality rates today than they had in 1970. Premature male mortality in particular is a serious problem in some countries.

Reversing these trends is not helped by the onward march of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the number of people living with HIV has almost tripled since 2000.

The global recession had a significant impact on the region last year, with GDP declines in the developing and transition economies, on average, of 6.5 per cent. That is greater than the decline in other developing regions of the world.

This year these same economies in the RBEC region are projected to rebound with 4.3 per cent growth. Their unemployment rates, however, are above pre-crisis levels, and the benefits of the turnaround have been unevenly felt across regions, sectors, and communities.

Continuing contraction, or only very limited growth, is expected in the new European Union Member States and in the Western Balkans this year. They will go into 2011 with larger national debts to service, which will limit the investments needed in human development and other priority areas.

In January UNDP’s Executive Board directed us to integrate the ILO’s Global Jobs Pact into our work, to promote job creation as central to recovery strategies.

I know that many of our country offices already support employment-related programmes, - for example in Bulgaria, where support has been given to help start-up businesses get access to advice and mentoring services; in Bosnia, where together with ILO we are helping unemployed young people get productive and decent work; and in Turkey where we are developing the capacity of small scale producers to access new value chain opportunities.

At UNDP, we must always have a strong equality focus in our work– seeking to reach those at the end of the road who have yet to see the benefits of growth and development elsewhere reach them.

Achieving the MDGs in this region requires us to work with our partners to provide continued support for women’s empowerment, more inclusive and sustainable growth, equitable delivery of better social services and social protection, and increased economic opportunities for marginalized and vulnerable groups – such as people living with disabilities and Roma.

Through our reports and our work on the ground in Central and Southeast Europe, UNDP is playing an important role in tracking and addressing Roma exclusion. We are also participating in the design of the European Strategy on Roma Inclusion.

A critical priority in this region is combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Most HIV infections here are linked to injecting drug users, and those infections are easily preventable where societies permit effective responses. Stigma, discrimination and legal challenges to human rights in some places, however, continue to undermine efforts to lower HIV infection rates and to target resources to those individuals most at risk of HIV infection - like men who have sex with men and drug users - who are often left in the shadows and marginalized.

As a co-sponsor of UNAIDS, we must work closely with other partners in the UN system and beyond to address the policy constraints to scaling up universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care, and support. The eminent Global Commission on HIV and the law which UNDP has launched and is servicing will help identify where the next moves need to be.

Over the past year, the Bureau of Development Policy developed and then piloted the MDG Acceleration Framework to help countries identify constraints on MDG progress, and then devise appropriate solutions. One of the pilots was in Tajikistan, where the Framework was used to help the government and development partners refine and operationalize the national strategy to expand small-scale and renewable energy in rural areas, and to develop a medium-term action plan through to 2015.

The Acceleration Framework is now being picked up by a significant number of Country Teams, and I personally see it as a very useful tool for progressing MDG achievements.

From Georgia in 2008 to Kyrgyzstan this year, this region has also seen a number of complex crises and humanitarian emergencies.

In response, UNDP has emphasized solutions which bridge the gap between short-term emergency assistance and longer term development programming. We have focused on making cash-for-work programmes sustainable, and on reducing food insecurity by helping poor rural households to feed themselves.

It is essential that the work we do in nations which have experienced traumatic conflict helps bring a peace dividend, prevent relapse into conflict, and lay foundations for longer term recovery and stability.

I commented earlier on our role in reducing the risk of natural disasters. The severe flooding in Pakistan and the extreme heat and widespread fires in Russia this year are potent reminders of the serious implications climate change and environmental degradation can have.

A number of major cities in this region – among them Almaty, Ashgabat, Tashkent, and Yerevan - are located in seismic regions capable of earthquakes on the scale of what Port-au-Prince experienced earlier this year. 

With respect to our governance mandate, the 2010 Human Development Report notes that dramatic regime changes in Eastern Europe and Central Asia account for much of the increase in the number of democracies around the world over the last four decades.

Challenges, however, remain. Governance indicators produced by the World Bank and others, for example, indicate that corruption remains a serious problem in parts of the region.

Our work to strengthen justice sectors, boost parliamentary scrutiny and support civil society, build effective public administration, and develop national ombudsman, electoral, and human rights institutions is so important.

In carrying out our development work, we need strong partnerships across agencies in the UN Development Group. This is where your dual role as Resident Co-ordinators comes in.

A lot more co-ordination goes on in the UN development system than it is given credit for. It is driven at the country level by the UN Country Teams, led by you, as Resident Co-ordinators, and is supported by the UN Development Group at the global and regional levels.

The most advanced co-ordination is to be found in the eight Delivering as One pilots, which include Albania in this region; in those countries which have voluntarily adopted this approach, which include Kyrgyzstan and Montenegro; and in a host of other countries which are benefiting from the MDG Achievement Fund generously supported by Spain.

The message from the outcome document of the Hanoi conference of pilot and self starter countries in June was that “Delivering as One is the future for UN development activities.”

We are making the lessons learned from the pilots available to those countries which are interested, while we await the independent evaluation of them and further consideration of the approach by the General Assembly.

As bilateral donors reduce the number of countries in which they themselves are active, contributions through the UN development system and its infrastructure are an obvious way of maintaining broader engagement. It is up to us and our sister agencies to show through the quality of our work and the results we get that we are worth funding.

Looking ahead, there are a number of opportunities for UNDP in the region to build new and innovative partnerships for development.

The European Union is the biggest source of technical assistance and development grants in this region.  UNDP is well positioned – with its country presence and ability to mobilize expertise – to strengthen our EU partnership. The EU has long counted on us to support reform agendas in countries aspiring to become members of the Union, and also sees us as an important partner with it in its developing Eastern Partnerships.

It is also important for us to engage with development partners beyond our much valued traditional OECD/DAC donors. Russia and Turkey in this region are significant contributors to development co-operation, and I have no doubt that we will find new ways of working with them beyond their borders, as we will with the newer EU member states who are in the early stages of their development co-operation work..

In these opening comments, I have sought to offer only a brief overview of some of the broad challenges and issues affecting us in the RBEC region, Much more detail about these and other issues will be covered in the next four days.

I wish you all a very constructive meeting, and I thank each one of you for all you do on behalf UNDP and the UN development system.