Helen Clark: Presentation of the Julia V. Taft Award for 2012

Jun 11, 2012

Remarks by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
at Presentation of the Julia V. Taft Award for 2012
to the UNDP Country Office in Tunisia
Washington, D.C
The Top of the Hill, Reserve Officers Association Building
Monday 11 June 2012
5-7 p.m.


My thanks go to the US Friends of UNDP for organising this Julia Taft Award Ceremony, and to the family of Julia Taft and the many friends of Julia and of UNDP here tonight, including  from the diplomatic corps,  Congress, and the Administration.

As tonight’s award is recognizing UNDP’s Country Office in Tunisia, it is appropriate that many of those who support our work there - including representatives from Tunisia itself, the United States, and other partner governments - are represented here this evening.

I express my particular appreciation to the UNDP’s American friends and supporters for their tireless efforts to support UNDP’s work, including through this annual Julia Taft Award Ceremony.

While I myself did not know Julia Taft, I wish to acknowledge the reputation she earned as a decisive and principled leader with a clear vision. Serving as the first Assistant Administrator for & Director of the Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery at UNDP from 2001-2004, Julia Taft was instrumental in leading United Nations recovery efforts work in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, and Liberia. Her work did much to build UNDP’s capacities for and shape our approach to crisis, response, and recovery.

Julia’s legacy lives on in the work of the Bureau she created at UNDP. Our staff work in some of the world’s hardest-hit crisis areas, endeavoring to bring hope to affected communities, help establish the rule of law, support democratic transitions, and restore livelihoods.

The award which bears Julia’s name is made to a UNDP Country Office which demonstrates, as she did, the impact which dedication and teamwork can have in challenging locations—helping to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable people, and contributing to building a more democratic, prosperous, peaceful, and resilient world.

I am very pleased that work of UNDP Country Office in Tunisia is being recognized through this award, and that the UNDP Resident Representative in Tunisia, Dr. Mohammed Belhocine, and members of his staff are with us, together with Kamel Jendoubi, who is President of the body which organized Tunisia’s first free elections. It will mean a great deal to all staff in the Country Office to receive this acknowledgement of their work.

After the uprising which led to the fall of the regime in Tunisia in January 2011, a number of other states in the region also experienced tumultuous events. Many people have risen up to claim their rights and demand reform of political, economic, and social systems.

People around the region have called for justice and dignity, for the right to have input into the decisions which affect their lives, and for their human rights to be respected. They want the opportunity to work, to be educated, to have decent services, and to have governments which are honest, responsive, and accountable.

Over the past decade, UNDP has published Arab Human Development Reports which identified from the outset significant development deficits in the region across governance, living standards, women’s empowerment, rule of law and human rights, access to education and other services, and in human security overall.

Today, in a number of countries in the region there are opportunities to address these deficits. Leaders have been replaced in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, and all four countries are now in various stages of transition - each following its own path. Other nations are also implementing reform programmes.

Drawing on its unique mandate and capacities in crisis recovery and governance, UNDP is working with a range of stakeholders across the region engaged in these transitions.

Some countries have asked for UNDP’s support with national dialogue and constitution-making processes; others have sought technical assistance for electoral processes. We are also involved in revitalising anti-corruption efforts, helping build the rule of law, supporting civil society and civic engagement, and boosting economic recovery.

Transitions from authoritarian to democratic governance are challenging. To begin to respond to the aspirations of the Tunisian people, that country’s transitional institutions had to experiment with norms and practices for which there was no local experience.

In Tunisia, development partners had only small, if any, footprints prior to the change of regime. Responses and capacities to support the transition had to be developed rapidly

UNDP’s Country Office in Tunisia rose to the challenge, positioning itself to respond to the historic events.

Our people supported Tunisia’s Independent Elections Commission, which oversaw the Constituent Assembly elections held last October. We were delighted to see 76 per cent of registered voters turn out to vote in the country’s first free elections since independence.

We have also been providing technical assistance for the creation of new legal frameworks which guarantee freedoms and liberties for civil society and political parties. We are supporting the reform of public administration, including in developing the capacities of the country’s new Anti-Corruption Commission. We are also supporting initiatives for local economic development and youth employment.

Our response in Tunisia was not only rapid; it was also highly relevant. We are helping Tunisian stakeholders address many of the very issues which the uprising wanted tackled.

As change occurred in other countries in the region, UNDP in Tunisia was able to share its experiences with other country offices which were also seeking to respond rapidly.

At UNDP’s global headquarters in New York, we are delighted to see the Tunisia Country Office recognized through the Julia Taft Award for its contribution to supporting the democratic transition in Tunisia. My warm thanks go to all UNDP staff who have supported this work.

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