Speaking Notes of UNDP Administrator at Executive Board Meeting

14 Jun 2011

I wish to acknowledge all statements and contributions made following my statement yesterday.

The MTR of our Strategic Plan is an important process—and UNDP has worked hard to bring together information and analysis about our performance.  That effort has been widely acknowledged by delegates.

I wish to emphasise that the preparation of the MTR has been carried out in line with what UNDP understands to be the parameters of the Board’s original decisions on the Strategic Plan.

Those decisions do put limits on the way in which development results can be presented.  That issue needs to be addressed in the lead up to the next Strategic Plan.  It cannot be unilaterally addressed by UNDP management.  It needs the serious engagement of the Board on a new generation of results measurement and reporting.

UNDP management is highly attuned to the need to identify formally what the organisation’s contributions to development are.

Many evaluations and many assessments of development results, country by country, programme by programme, have shown how we contribute to development results.

Therefore, it is not a question of whether or not UNDP contributes to development results.

We would not have the strong support of programme countries for our work — widely expressed at this Board again on Monday — if we made no contribution — or only a minor one – to development results.

Nor would some $5 billion per annum flow through our books every year if we made no contribution, or only a minor one.

The issue before us is a technical one of how we measure what we do.  As I said in my statement yesterday, it is regrettable that that technical issue can sometimes overshadow debate on substance.  Indeed, it can lead to statements as harsh as some we heard yesterday, which tend to dismiss the tireless work of people at all levels of UNDP as if it were of little account.

Clearly, we need better ways of reporting our contributions against expected outcomes and indicators.  UNDP has indicated to the Board that it looks forward to continuing to engage with it in an open and transparent manner on that as we move through the process to the next Strategic Plan.

But the fact that there is not currently agreement on the Board on what the future shape of the results framework should be is not a reason for any implication that UNDP does not make a substantial contribution to development.

I now turn to another set of issues which were raised.

Is UNDP to continue as a broadly based development programme, able to respond to the needs of a broad range of countries — or is it to be a niche organization — co-ordinating, working in fragile states, and focusing on governance ?

Many of us, including me, see our strength residing in the universal presence and broad mandate we currently have.

A number of delegations commented yesterday on UNDP’s mandate, with programme countries tending to support its breadth, and some donor countries tending to want more focus.

The evidence drawn together for the MTR does not suggest that our efforts are scattered, but rather, as I said in my statement, that we do respond effectively to the specific needs and different typologies of countries.

We calculate that around half of our programme expenditure goes to the relatively small number of countries in special development situations - that is, which are in, or emerging from, crisis. This suggests that we do indeed prioritise their needs.

Others have referred to the importance of our work on governance.  It is worth noting that over the first three years of the Strategic Plan governance overall received more programming funding than any other part of our mandate.

In my view, it will be critical for UNDP to maintain its mandate across the MDGs, poverty reduction,and sustainable development.  A narrow focus, or niche role, on crisis prevention and recovery and governance would end our universal presence - as well as depriving a very wide range of programme countries of support which they value from us.

Our role on crisis prevention and recovery, including on transitional governance and rule of law, is vital - but who is to predict where those services will be needed next ?

From our long-term universal presence, we have the strong base from which to respond when circumstances change — as they are changing, for example, in a number of states in the Middle East/North Africa region now, and no doubt will in others from time to time.

What looks stable now may be less stable tomorrow — if there are underlying development challenges.

I have referred on a number of occasions this year in speeches, statements, and interviews, to the combustible combination of economic and social exclusion with large, interconnected youth populations.

Addressing those exclusions, and addressing the hopes and expectations of the world’s largest ever population of young people, will be critical to achieving peaceful transitions and sustainable development.  UNDP has a significant role to play in that, if this Board continues to back the vision of our founders and of today’s senior managers for a universal presence and a broad mandate.

I appreciate the supportive interest which members have shown in our internal agenda for change.  While noting that there is a line to be drawn between governance and management, and that managers must have the scope to manage, I reiterate that UNDP is more than happy to keep Board members informed of our progress on the change process.

The change programme is vital to achieving not only my vision for the organization as a consistently high performing, and accountable one, but also the vision I believe we all share for UNDP.

The cultural and organizational changes required will not be easy to effect in such a large and decentralized organization — and I restate that we have to find the right balance between giving clear direction as a global organization and unleashing innovation and ensuring responsiveness at the country level — but we will give the change programme our very best shot.

I have noted the statements made by LDCs yesterday on the importance of the Istanbul Programme of Action.  I agree that it should inform UNDP’s programming, and also UN Development Assistance Frameworks in the LDCs.

On transparency and audit issues, I have made my view clear:  UNDP must be able to respond to the demand for more openness.

I do want to emphasise that UNDP is all of us – management and the Board.  UNDP management fully supports more access to audit information, but it needs the Board’s approval to take this further. 

The issue is especially pressing for institutional donors, like the Global Fund, and really does need a positive decision from this Board.

Once again, I want to thank all participants in yesterday’s debate for their statements and for their ongoing interest in support of UNDP.

Leadership
Helen

Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme on 17 April 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. 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.

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