Helen Clark: Putting Resilience at the Heart of the Development Agenda

16 Apr 2012

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Humanitas 2012 Visiting Professorship in Statecraft and Diplomacy
Putting Resilience at the Heart of the Development Agenda

Cambridge, United Kingdom
April 16, 2012

Introduction

It is a distinct honor to be selected as the 2012 Humanitas Visiting Professor in Statecraft and Diplomacy. I would like to acknowledge the generous support of Angelika Diekmann which made this Humanitas Chair possible, the members of the Standing Committee, and the hosting institution, Pembroke College.

As UNDP Administrator and Chair of the UN Development Group, I am delighted to come to Cambridge and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH) to share perspectives on how to shape the 21st Century development agenda.

In this, the first of two lectures, I will explore why it is important to put building resilience at the heart of that agenda. In the second lecture, tomorrow, I will speak about the background to the UN’s Rio + 20 Conference on Sustainable Development in June and the issues it must confront.

Taken as a whole, the world’s population today is healthier, wealthier, and better educated than ever before. As the 2015 target date set for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, the world is within reach of seeing every child enrolled in primary school, and many fewer lives are being lost to poverty, hunger, and disease.

The MDGs have to a large extent been successful in generating political leadership, broad partnerships, and civic engagement for development. Preliminary 2010 data now available from the World Bank suggest that the MDG targets of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and of those without access to safe drinking water by 2015 have already been met.

The MDG targets on achieving gender parity in primary education and reducing child mortality are also close to being achieved. The total number of children out of school fell by one third during the last decade – from 106 millionto 67 million.

Progress has been made on key environmental objectives. Global conventions on climate change, biodiversity, and desertification, all a legacy of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, have come into effect.

Yet, beyond these achievements, disconcerting realities stubbornly persist. Many people still live in extreme poverty, even where economies are rapidly growing; over twenty per cent of the world’s population lives in states which are considered fragile and highly vulnerable to a range of shocks; global economic and financial systemsremain volatile; armed violence and organized criminal networks are a growing source of threats to human security in many countries; and our planet is under immense stress as climate-related disasters increase in frequency, scale, and scope in rich and poor countries alike. Nearly forty per cent of the global landmass is already degraded due to soil erosion, reduced fertility, and overgrazing. The stress on it will not lighten on current patterns of use and as the world’s population increases from its current level of seven billion people to a projected almost nine billion by 2040.

The threats to our world and to development are thus real and imminent. Our political, social, economic, and technological tools and our policies need to step up urgently to address these challenges. 

The UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Global Sustainability recently issued a report, Resilient People, and Resilient Planet: A Future worth Choosing with a similar exhortation: “We need to change dramatically; beginning with how we think about our relationship to each other, to future generations, and to the eco-systems that support us.” Further it stated that “continuing on the same path will put people and our planet at greatly heightened risk.”

The Panel urges a focus on sustainable development as an “extraordinary opportunity” to enhance human well-being, further global justice, strengthen gender equity, and preserve the Earth’s life-support systems for future generations.

Among its recommendations the Panel calls on countries to build up and enhance resilience by strengthening social protection systems, disaster risk reduction, and adaptation to climate change.

In my view, however the report needed to go further, and to establish building resilience as being at the very heart of the sustainable development agenda. Sustainable development also needs to be sustained development.

At UNDP, we see development challenges in the 21st Century as different in nature, scale, and scope from those of the past. If our world is to be one in which poverty is eradicated, and inequality reduced; and where growth is inclusive and production and consumption do not break planetary boundaries; and if we are to be effective in combating the effects of climate change; we need to look beyond our traditional interventionist logic to harness the agency of people, their communities, and institutions. It is this logic which has led UNDP to encapsulate its mission statement in the simple phrase: Empowered Lives, Resilient Nations. This speaks to both means and ends. Empowered people can build resilient nations.

A resilience-based approach offers a comprehensive basis and theory of change for achieving sustainable development.  While we move forward and invest in sustainable development, it is critical that we look at what has been achieved so far, and make sure that those development gains are protected. People and infrastructure, communities and institutions, must be equipped to withstand external shocks, whatever they may be.

In Singapore recently, I spoke on the importance of governance for sustainable development, pointing out that the latter is neither attained nor sustained if the quality of governance is poor. That could be the case either because a state’s institutions lack capacity or are undermined by corruption and abuse of authority, or because the state itself is so fragile that it cannot give effective guidance on policy of any kind.

Building resilience for sustained and sustainable development benefits from governance which is active, effective, honest, fair, and also, in my opinion, responsive and representative.

I speak from a deep conviction that resilience is development. When I reflect on the history of my own country, New Zealand, a dominant theme has been its quest for security. Indeed a prominent economist, Dr. W. B. Sutch, gave that precise title to his 1942 work on New Zealand’s search for social and economic security.

As a small nation, far distant from all its major markets except Australia, and dependent on export returns from commodities whose prices fluctuated considerably, New Zealand put in place a social protection system after the Great Depression which prevented its people ever again experiencing outright destitution.

Around the world, other nations too were building such systems – from the United States and Scandinavia, to Britain after World War Two. While some have been better maintained than others, overall they have succeeded in maintaining higher levels of social cohesion and human development than would have been possible otherwise.

Not all developed countries, however, retained systemic resilience to economic shocks. The era of deregulation and poor oversight by supervisory institutions then exposed not only their own economies, but also the global economy, to a massive shock, from which there has been no full recovery. As the report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission set up by legislation in the United States reported: “The crisis was the result of human actions and inaction, not of Mother Nature or computer models gone haywire…a crisis of this magnitude need not have occurred.”

Before I reflect therefore on why building resilience needs to be at the forefront of the development agenda in developing countries today, I am emphasizing that systemic resilience to shocks is critical for nations at all levels of development, unless they are prepared to see years of human development and progress wiped away when adversity strikes. This was a lesson we all should have learned from the Great Depression.

Let me now delve a little more into the thinking underlying resilience-based approaches, and highlight some of the key guiding principles for them. I will provide some examples of how UNDP works to build resilience, and of our emphasis in particular on building resilient communities and institutions. I will conclude with suggestions for the way forward.

Resilience: The Concept and its Key Principles

I understand that the concept of resilience developed in the discipline of psychology, in relation to how individuals cope with stress and adversity. Such coping may result in an individual “bouncing back” to a previous state of normal functioning, or the experience of exposure to adversity may produce a “steeling effect” which leads to better functioning than might have been expected otherwise.

For UNDP, achieving resilience is a transformative process which builds on the innate strength of individuals, their communities, and institutions to prevent, mitigate the impacts of, and learn from the experience of shocks of any type, internal or external; natural or man-made; economic, health-related, political, or social.

In development circles, the concept of resilience has arisen mainly in discourse on disaster risk reduction. That often leads to the term being used interchangeably with that of adaptation. Yet they are not the same.  Let me explain why.

UNDP sees adaptation as a process of responding to changed circumstances or to specific anticipated events. Resilience, on the other hand, implies the inherent capacity of a system to deal with any external shock, no matter how well anticipated or surprising it is.

Adaptation features prominently in the agenda around tackling climate change. The frequency, scale, and transnational nature of climate-related disasters are increasing. Thus, building the capacities of countries to adapt to the impacts of those disasters is seen as a realistic complement to ongoing national and global prevention and mitigation measures. 

Note the emphasis here is on ‘realistic’.

The United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) itself identifies adaptation as a second best response option to mitigation.

A key weakness of the adaptation approach, however, is its implicit assumption that threats and consequent impacts are inevitable. This can detract from a focus on prevention. 

If one were to apply an adaptation approach to shocks like conflict and armed violence or those of an economic nature, it becomes even more problematic.    

It would never be accepted as reasonable just to adapt to the menace of armed violence and conflict. Everywhere such acts occur, they set back development, make progress difficult, tear societies apart, and undermine legitimate government.

As well, armed violence diverts resources away from poverty reduction and into the security sector.  In Guatemala alone, armed violence cost the equivalent of 7.3 per cent of the GDP in 2005, far outstripping the country’s spending on either health or education.

We can apply similar logic to economic shocks. If we only adapt to their onslaught, rather than addressing their underlying causes, then we are surely missing the point.

Clearly, therefore, there is a need to go far beyond adaptation, and to build the systemic capacities of society both to prevent and to ameliorate the adverse consequences of shocks.

The first priority must be prevention, complemented by explicit efforts to reduce societal vulnerabilities and a commitment to maintain the integrity of communities, institutions, and ecosystems. These are the very foundations of resilience.

Resilience-based sustainable development also invokes the agency of people, institutions, and systems. It calls for developing the agency or capacity of the poor to overcome their conditions. It draws on local knowledge and expertise, and the resilience of those who are vulnerable. It is about building the capacities of societies to prevent, resolve, learn, and grow.  It is about the replenishing and regeneration of innate capacity.

Operating Principles of Resilience

Resilience-based sustainable development should be guided by our adherence to certain core principles. While many of these are current in today’s development discourse, they have much stronger meaning when applied through a resilience-based lens.

Let me discuss five of those principles:

  • Resilience-based sustainable development demands respect for context-specificity.  The resilience of any system or organism cannot be built if there is a lack of understanding of the properties with which it is constituted. No two systems or organisms have exactly the same properties.       

International development circles have talked a great deal about respect for context-specificity, but evidence of a serious commitment to it is often lacking.  If the aim really is to foster resilience, then continuing to pay lip service to this principle while promoting templates and best practices from afar will not do. Development initiatives need to be based on deep and genuine analyses of context, and not on cosmetic needs assessment exercises.

  • Resilience-based sustainable development requires respect for national ownership. Traditional donor-recipient relations are being challenged, and need to be replaced with respectable partnerships where developing countries are in the driver’s seat.  Resilience is a consequence of experience and learning; it is about attaining the capacity for self-organization and self-renewal. None of that can be achieved if development partners attempt to do the work for countries and communities, rather than accompanying them as they undertake the hard work themselves. This was a clear message delivered by developing countries at the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness late last year.   
  • Resilience-based sustainable development must be comprehensive in nature and requires integrated responses to complex challenges. It is about how to guide progress across complex and dynamic institutional, social, and eco-systems, including across national borders. 

That report of the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Global Sustainability reaffirms that integrated policy making, planning, and budgeting are powerful tools for driving coherence across institutions and societies. That is vital for systemic resilience.

The need for more strategic and coherent planning in fragile states was also raised at the Busan Forum, and efforts are being made to achieve that.  UNDP, as the manager of co-ordination of the UN development system, is active in these discussions, particularly with the g7+ - a group of countries which have acknowledged their own fragility, and have entered into a New Deal with international partners to support their transformation into capable and resilient states.

So many 21st Century shocks have profound economic, social, demographic, and political implications beyond the state boundaries within which they initially occurred. A comprehensive response requires cross-border and regional strategies – and, in the case of the global economy, effective multilateral action too. 

The complicated situation in the Sahel now – sometimes referred to as a perfect storm – is an example of a challenge, which requires cross-border and cross-sectoral responses. The UN’s Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, Valerie Amos, and I recently visited Niger to show our joint commitment to designing an integrated humanitarian and development response to the region’s food insecurity problems, compounded as they are by underdevelopment and by instability in a number of countries. Putting resilience at the centre of that approach also allows for a closing of the old divide between the humanitarian and development responses.

  • A fourth principle: Commitment to innovation and learning. To renew out of adversity, a culture of learning must be embraced. Empowering people with knowledge and the capacity to mobilize can overcome or significantly mitigate adversity, notwithstanding great scale and magnitude.  This must be at the centre of a resilience-based, sustainable development paradigm. 

In Mozambique, UNDP and other actors stepped up awareness raising, formulation of policies, and building institutions for resilience to natural disaster.  Such investments pay dividends, as I am well aware from the extensive risk reduction measures in my own country, which is vulnerable to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and a wide range of extreme weather events. I will come back to other such examples shortly.

  • A fifth and final principle is long-term and strategic engagement.  Resilience-based sustainable development requires international support which is not ‘quick and dirty’, but ‘incremental and enduring’. Supporting nations to become more resilient is a long-term endeavor.   Short-term, “projectized” development support does little to build resilience. Through UNDP’s continued universal presence in developing countries, we demonstrate commitment to the principle of long-term engagement.

Long-term strategic engagement on resilience by development partners is also assisted by targeting and spending resources wisely, rather than by spreading them thinly in a scattershot way.  An agreed division of labor between international donors is important in getting enduring and transformative engagement.  We all need to be part of building and embracing multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Resilience-based Sustainable Development in Practice

As I indicated earlier, UNDP sees building resilience as a multidimensional and transformative process, and seeks to strengthen individuals’, communities’, and institutions’ capacity to mitigate the impact of natural disasters, violent conflicts, and other shocks, as well as to self-renew from these adversities. Let me now refer to examples of where resilience has been built and how it enables societies to cope.

In 2000, Mozambique was battered by cyclone-related flooding, which left 800 people dead, half a million people homeless, and disrupted the livelihoods of over one million more. In total more than 4.5 million people were affected.

The destruction of 2000, however, stands in stark contrast to that of 2007, when floods of similar magnitudes again hit Mozambique hard. This time though, the death toll was 29 people and the numbers displaced were reduced to some 70,000 people.

In December 2004, the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami which affected Aceh, Indonesia, resulted in 165,708 fatalities in Aceh Province, constituting some four per cent of a total population of four million people.  In March 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami of similar magnitude struck Japan, the Japanese National Police Agency confirmed 15,848 deaths and 3,305 people missing across 18 prefectures.  The total population of the most affected prefectures – Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki – is 8.6 million, over twice as many people as were in the affected area in Aceh.  Yet the death toll in Japan was only ten per cent of that in Aceh.

Both cases present insights into the notion of resilience.

First, resilience is the capacity to be transformed for the better out of adversity.  It is a process of renewal.  When Mozambique was hit for the second time, the society was much more prepared. Disaster risk had been addressed in a more comprehensive manner. The government had provided leadership and articulated a clear strategic vision. UNDP and others had provided support for institutional, policy, and capacity development. Community and livelihood risk reduction programmes were initiated, and emergency response systems were also strengthened. Donors and the International Financial Institutions supported the development of infrastructure. Civil society organizations and the Red Cross movement worked with local governments and the UN on community-based preparedness.

Thus, Mozambique had moved to anticipate future disaster, and to resolve crises emanating from it. State institutions and local governance structures were better prepared and had more coherent response strategies. Self-help efforts by communities played vital roles in saving more lives than any external intervention could have done. The society took far less time to self-organize and recover. 

The key lesson from this Mozambique experience is that when societies invest time in learning from adversity, they become better prepared to face it in the future.

Second, resilience is about being able to face adversity without losing the essence of a system. Unlike Aceh, where the tsunami had disrupted all vital functions of society, Japan in the face of disaster retained to a large extent its institutional and organizational structure.  The capacity of Japan to rebound from catastrophe is high. 

Third, national and local institutions were co-ordinated and had similar levels of preparedness as they faced the crises in Japan and Mozambique respectively. It is not enough for one institution or one community to be more resilient than others. Building resilience must be comprehensive across all sectors, communities, and institutions.

Why Resilient Institutions and how do we build them?

Institutions – particularly structures and systems of governance – provide frameworks for building resilience. 

For example, rule of law institutions are important – for fighting crime, providing protection to citizens, and reinforcing social contracts.  They enable the environment required for economic recovery in post-conflict contexts by providing deterrents to future violence and a firm foundation for the role the private sector can play.  

When state institutions fail to guarantee access to justice and a functioning public service, and cannot provide an enabling environment in which people can flourish, communities become more vulnerable to the criminal or other violent entities which will fill any void.

The World Bank’s 2011 World Development Report makes a strong case for building resilient state institutions in fragile states, so that access to security, justice, jobs, and livelihoods can be improved.

To build institutional resilience, analytical tools are needed, in order to understand better the relations between institutions and the people they serve, the leaders who manage them, and the institutional environment within which they exist and operate.

Here again resilience-based institution-building emphasizes systems thinking.  It takes the institutional environment as the point of reference.  Institutions will not survive if we focus on their technical development without considering the context in which they operate. 

UNDP works to strengthen the institutions and processes which are needed to build trust, improve responsiveness, and ensure networks or systems of institutions and accountability which can advance resilience and thereby sustainable development.

In El Salvador, as one example, local authorities have improved their capacities to design citizen security and social cohesion plans. This has extended the reach of law enforcement, improved responses to criminal incidents, and involved close co-operation with civil society and communities.

UNDP has supported the establishment of ‘gun free zones’ in twenty of the most violent municipalities in El Salvador. In these zones there has been a twelve per cent reduction in homicides, a forty per cent reduction in assaults, a 21 per cent increase in the seizure of weapons, and a seven per cent increase in theft reports.  In 2011, the programme was extended to an additional ten municipalities. In one, a forty per cent reduction in homicides was recorded in 2011 following targeted interventions.

Building social protection systems is another important investment in sustainability, as they do shield the most vulnerable from the worst effects of shocks and help prevent irreversible development setbacks. To repeat, these are the steps many nations we now call developed took in the 1930s and 1940s.

During the food, financial, and economic crises of recent years such systems have also made their value clear in developing countries. Studies suggest that pre-existing social protection regimes had a measurable impact in helping the poor cope with the impact of the global economic crisis, for example, by enabling families to keep their children in school.

Mexico has its Oportunidades programme, which is one of the largest social protection and cash transfer systems in the world. It covers around twenty million people in a total population of 110 million. All benefits are paid to the women in receiving households, with additional benefits for women-headed households. Oportunidades also includes a vast kindergarten programme which is of benefit to children and to women wishing to take up paid work; over five million scholarships; and a “payment for environmental services” system which funds mostly reforestation works undertaken by indigenous communities. The thinking behind this last component is that the rest of society should support those who live in and preserve Mexico’s forests.

Oportunidades has been the flag ship of Mexico’s counter-cyclical policies, showing its worth when the financial crisis spilled over the border from the United States. At that time, Mexico suffered a significant loss of jobs and GDP decline of seven per cent. Yet poverty did not increase; severe poverty actually diminished marginally; and the programme improved access to education and to health services. While poor people’s cash income suffered from the recession, their in-kind income increased.

In the UN development system, we contend that basic social protection programs are eminently affordable. The International Labour Organization estimates that the costs of an adequate social protection floor are one to two per cent of GDP.  Yet, currently, only around twenty per cent of the world’s working age population – mostly in middle- and upper- income countries – have access to comprehensive social protection systems.

Building Resilient Communities

State fragility is a function of not only weak institutions but also of social systems under strain.  A resilient state is anchored in a cohesive society. Stark inequalities and inequities undermine that.

Resilient societies are also those with a capacity for tolerance and dialogue which can amicably mediate differences. They exhibit social and civic trust – thus enabling people to feel included and encouraged to work together. 

It takes hard work to establish these attributes in any society. It is even more difficult to do so in those wrecked by conflict and violence.  Yet, without such capacities for tolerance, fragility can overwhelm the institutions and systems of a society.

The course of the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya presented a classic piece of evidence for the importance of building resilience based on social cohesion.  Communities where there was greater cohesion across ethnic groups experienced far less violence than did those without it.  UNDP had been associated with the establishment of local peace committees. Where they were functioning, the peace either held, or was able to be re-established quickly.

UNDP has stepped up its work over the past decade to assist fragile countries to strengthen their infrastructure for peace. That consists of networks of interdependent structures, mechanisms, values, and skills, which, through dialogue and consultation, contribute to conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Aside from strengthening non-violent, problem-solving skills, the presence of infrastructure for peace helps deepen social networks, develops a shared sense of identity and civic engagement, and strengthens democratic values.

A recent example of how such infrastructure for peace helps build resilience comes from Guyana. Up until its 2001 national polls, every national election in the country had witnessed inter-ethnic tensions and violence. Beginning in 2003, the Government of Guyana, with the support of UNDP, launched a comprehensive effort – the Social Cohesion Programme – to strengthen community-level mediation, create a national space for dialogue, and enlist civil society and the media as partners in improving social cohesion. The 2006 election was peaceful, an outcome which the Woodrow Wilson Center attributed to the programme. As Guyana has continued to strengthen its infrastructure for peace, the 2011 election, despite pre-poll tension, was also peaceful.

Another example, just a few weeks old, is provided by Senegal. As Senegal approached national elections in February this year, storm clouds like those which have gathered over other countries in similar circumstances were seen over Dakar. Large numbers of unemployed youth mobilized for political purposes; an incumbent was seen as trying to exceed his constitutional remit; and polarization and tension increased across the political spectrum. Senegal’s resilience, however, won the day. With UN assistance, a platform of women leaders conducted public advocacy for peace, served as intermediaries among political leaders, and amplified at the national level various regional efforts to de-escalate tensions. When the first round of national polling was peaceful, public confidence in the constitutional process in Senegal was restored. Previously quarreling political parties joined hands, and citizen groups stepped up advocacy for peaceful polls. The second round led to a convincing result, which is also a victory for Senegalese democracy.

Both Guyana and Senegal have been able to avert potential turbulence by investing in institutions and fora which mediate tensions and provide space for dialogue and inclusion.

UNDP and a wide range of other development partners also work to build social resilience, through collective action, collaboration, and partnerships in communities.

Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) is an excellent example of this kind of approach.  It reaches over eight million beneficiaries in 300 food-insecure districts, providing cash and food in return for work done by communities on environmental conservation, water source protection, and terracing. Through the programme, the calorie intake of recipient households has increased by nineteen per cent, with many faring better during the 2008 drought and high food price conditions than did households not in the programme. Significant community assets have been created as well, which have had a positive impact beyond the household level. Public works projects take place under the programme each year, with the bulk of investments focusing on soil and water conservation, rural feeder roads, and selected projects in natural resource management and social services. The legitimacy of local government authorities has been strengthened by their involvement in setting the priorities for these initiatives.

The design of resilient social systems needs to be informed by sound social and institutional assessments and analyses.  It is important to know how, where, and why groups interact, or don’t interact, and which incentives might encourage interaction. The impact of interaction on productivity, social cohesion, and sustainable development needs to be understood.

Stepping up a resilience-based approaches to Sustainable Development

The notion of the environmental or global commons and of systems thinking has been somewhat successfully promoted through the sustainable development paradigm.  That must continue. 

Pursuing a resilience-based approach to sustainable development however, will mean significant changes to current global development paradigms and the tools we use. The power to design pathways to development needs to shift downwards to those who know the context intimately – the communities themselves.

The number of voices championing resilience as a policy instrument for sustainable development is growing. The United Kingdom is one of those champions. 

Last year, the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, invited me to co-chair with him a Political Champions Group, to promote a resilience-based response to climate and natural disaster related crises.

DFID’s new “Building Stability Overseas Strategy”, aims to embed promoting resilience in all its overseas humanitarian and development support programmes by 2015.

Other humanitarian and development actors, including Australia, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and the World Bank, have developed or are developing, their own resilience-based strategies for sustainable development.

In the United Nations, the Secretary-General’s second-term five-year Action Agenda includes taking action to build the resilience of communities and nations experiencing food crises, strengthening resilience to external economic and financial shocks, and strengthening the resilience of communities in emergency settings, including actions taken within a more robust humanitarian system. 

Conclusion

Resilience cannot be built overnight.  It takes time. The impressive reduction in climate disaster-related mortality in countries like Bangladesh and Mozambique has taken a decade or more of continued effort. Even so, there are aspects of disaster risk reduction there which will require much more work in the years to come, including in Bangladesh on seismic risk.

Planning cycles for development partners have tended to be short term.  Working with developing country governments, they do need to engage for the longer term to build resilience. 

Funding over a five to ten year time frame at the country level is paramount.  UNDP’s work on resilience continues to be compromised by a lack of sustained funding, even in modest amounts.

Applying a resilience lens to all aspects of development, including poverty reduction, governance, conflict prevention, peacebuilding and statebuilding, requires additional research, thinking, testing of concept, and new forms of partnerships. But applying it is critical for meeting the challenges of our world.

Resilience-focused approaches offer opportunities to build development from the bottom up, from a concern and a deep respect for the people who are the most resilient in the face of crisis – those who are facing and confronting it.

Resilience also offers an opportunity to seek synergies between the work of the UN system and other development actors. The challenge is to draw on our comparative advantages, while committing to more integrated and coherent responses, especially in this time of limited resources. 

If resilience is to be integrated in development agendas, political commitment, at national, regional, and global levels, to invest in development guided and judged by the principles I have outlined today will need to be reached. 

The Rio + 20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June can set the direction for such development for decades to come, just as the landmark Rio Earth Summit did in 1992.

But commitments at Rio must be followed by actions.  Already in the Political Champions Group, we have emphasized the urgent need to invest in resilience-based programmes, and to match early warning with early action. 

Committing to building resilience offers a way for people everywhere to be equipped with the capacity to cope, to act and to rise to the daunting development challenges of the 21st century. It is our best chance of locking in progress made to date, and advancing equitable and sustainable human development.

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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