Rebeca Grynspan: Management Response to Regionalization Evaluation

02 Feb 2011

Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Population Fund

Rebeca Grynspan – UNDP Associate Administrator
Management Response to Regionalization Evaluation


Allow me to start by expressing our appreciation for this evaluation of UNDP’s contribution at the regional level. It is particularly relevant and timely given the need to consolidate what we have learned from our regionalization strategy and plan next steps.

It is clear that in our complex and interdependent world, countries can be much more effective if they work together to take advantage of development opportunities and address development challenges, many of which transcend national borders. The recent economic crisis, and the constraints it has put on development resources, has made this all the more important. To tap regional cooperation to improve the lives of their people, we have seen many examples of very effective and successful regional and sub-regional efforts around the globe. UNDP has over the years adapted its structures and policies to support these efforts and help countries make the most of the opportunities that emanate from ideas and know-how coming not only from individual countries but also regional and sub-regional perspectives.

One of the instruments we have used has been regional programmes and regional cooperation frameworks, which, you, the members of the Board review and approve. Additionally, in response to the need to be “closer” to where the “action is” the idea for UNDP Regional Service Centres emerged. Following successful pilots in three regions, we introduced in 2008 a corporate approach to regionalization and Regional Service Centres. The aim was threefold:

(i)    First, to bring policy advice closer to country offices - making  them more effective development partners;
(ii)    Second, to make better use of internal and field-based knowledge to achieve development results grounded in good practice; and
(iii)    Third, to reduce the transaction costs of communities of practice that can bring external and internal practitioners and experts together to build and exchange development know-how.

The evaluation indicates that different regions are at different stages in meeting these objectives and that more work is needed to ensure that Regional Service Centers truly become “hubs” that draw on:

•    the collective strength of UN partners;
•    the expertise housed in UNDP’s practices; and
•    the knowledge and experience of our national and regional partners.

Nevertheless, the evaluation confirms that UNDP was able to generate significant development gains through regionalization. I take this opportunity to summarize some of the progress achieved as well as some of the remaining challenges. Allow me to try and divide these findings into three big categories:

1.    The programming and analytical work we undertake through regional projects;
2.    The support provided to Country Offices; and
3.    The synergies and complementarities between the two; between regional programming and country support. 

Starting with the first, it is clear that UNDP’s regional work has produced many substantive contributions but let me refer in particular to our analytical work. Thirty nine regional and sub-regional Human Development Reports have been produced thus far making valuable contributions - informing efforts to achieve the MDGs and human development. Regional MDG reports prepared by UNDP, the UN and regional and sub-regional counterparts, have also helped countries identify regional opportunities that are helping them chart the road to 2015.

UNDP, of course, does not and cannot act alone. In this respect we are pleased that the evaluation recognizes UNDP’s contributions to strengthening the coherence, effectiveness and efficiency of the UN development system at the regional level, including through our leadership of regional directors’ teams. Our engagement at regional level is improving the way the UN system addresses cross-cutting issues, promoting joint programming, and reducing both duplication and gaps in UN support for national priorities. The evaluation recommends more interaction with regional commissions to further sharpen the UN’s strategic focus. This is something we are actively pursuing.

I go now to the second category of findings focused on country office support. UNDP acknowledges that effectiveness gains cannot be achieved without addressing internal efficiency. Regional service centers can help support country offices and improve UNDP’s internal efficiency in at least four areas:  

First, Regional Service Centres can concentrate expertise to a degree not possible in each individual country office. This expertise can then be leveraged for the benefit of each country in the region. 

Second, Regional Service Centres facilitate innovative and informed country support in fast-moving and multifaceted areas such as climate change. With more experts in one location, UNDP is better able to follow a fast-moving and complex agenda - identifying regional and global opportunities, exploiting cross-practice synergies, and making connections between countries.

Third, Regional Service Centres enable highly contextualized regional and sub-regional support grounded in in-depth regional knowledge.

And fourth, Regional Service Centres can reduce the transaction costs for the UN and national and regional counterparts, including through lower travel and communication costs. By leveraging countries’ geographical proximity, cultural ties, and common languages, the UN can more easily help countries learn from each other, interact and draw on external expertise.

The third and final category of findings reflects on the synergies between regional programming and country support. We recognize that more work needs to be done to ensure that work at regional and sub-regional levels is imbedded in country priorities. This is prioritized in our agenda going forward.

Drawing on these findings, the evaluation provides evidence-based recommendations that elaborate how UNDP can further improve effectiveness. Efforts in some of the highlighted areas are already underway or planned. Allow me here to note in particular UNDP’s five point agenda of ongoing and future work:

First, building upon the success of a pilot initiative in Asia Pacific, UNDP will establish corporate criteria for what constitutes a regional or sub-regional perspective.  Our experience points to three types of development concerns that justify a regional approach, when demanded:

(1) issues that transcend national borders;
(2) common problems that allow countries to enjoy economies of scale when jointly developing solutions; and
(3) challenges that national governments prefer to address as regional public goods.

When deciding the best place to manage programmes and projects, UNDP will consider the potential for adding value, the appropriateness of a regional entry point, and the location of key counterparts.

Second, UNDP is committed to producing the highest quality programmes so we are currently revising the quality assurance process for regional programme documents’ to better reflect the needs and inputs from stakeholders.

Third, UNDP is conducting a structural review to consider - amongst other things - how regional and global efforts can be further focused on achieving country-level transformational development results.  We expect the review to help facilitate on-going efforts to fine-tune the balance of advisory and other resources we maintain at global, regional and country levels.

In relation to this, I know Board members have asked how we allocate regional resources under the programming arrangements. Let me clarify that the allocation of regular resources to the regional programmes is based on a Board approved formula:  9% of the total programming resources is dedicated to all Regional Programmes. These resources are distributed in proportion to the TRAC resources managed by each region.

Fourth, to improve reporting and maximize development impact, UNDP is taking steps to standardize management systems and tools across the regions. Efforts are under way, for example, to systematize the way UNDP makes its advisory services available to country offices, including a common system for tracking requests expected in mid 2011. 

Finally, UNDP will continue to fine-tune its business model to ensure our country, regional and global efforts are interconnected –enabling the seamless flow of opportunities, knowledge and ideas.  We are also ensuring that UNDP is flexible enough to adapt to regional priorities and has the critical capacities in place to meet the needs of our national counterparts.

UNDP’s regional approach has come a long way and there is still significant work to be done. We gratefully count on your support, guidance and commitment to our ongoing efforts to strengthen development effectiveness at the regional level.