Helen Clark: Report to the Second Regular Session of the UNDP Executive Board

Sep 5, 2012

Report of Helen Clark UNDP Administrator
to the Second Regular Session of the UNDP Executive Board
New York, 5 September 2012 at 10 am


Mr. President,

Members of the Executive Board,

Colleagues and friends,

I am pleased to welcome you to this second regular session of the UNDP Executive Board.  

Ahead of us is a busy period here at the UN in New York, with the QCPR negotiations ranking high among many important issues to be tackled by Member States. UNDP also looks forward to making contributions in support of the High Level Meeting on the Rule of Law at the General Assembly next month.

The programme for the Board this week follows the normal procedure for the second regular session. Many of the issues to be discussed and the decisions to be taken have important implications for UNDP’s work and particularly for the development of the next Strategic Plan.

In my statement today I will:

  • Comment on the development context in which UNDP is operating, including on the outcome of Rio+20, work on the post-2015 development agenda, and the QCPR process;
  • Note the work being done on the next Strategic Plan, and the process around that and the integrated budget and programming arrangements, and;
  • Update you on transparency and accountability issues and on the funding of UNDP.

In line with our willingness to innovate and communicate, I am pleased to announce that this session will be live webcasted and tweeted. We are also doing our first global Twitter Marathon – over fifteen of our Country Offices as well as Regional Centers are tweeting today with the hashtag #UNDPinAction about results of their projects from the last twelve months.

The Overall Development Context


As I have noted on previous occasions, 2012 presents a number of significant opportunities for building the development agenda.

High among those was Rio+20, the outcome of which has received mixed reviews. The frustration of many – both in governments and civil society - is understandable to me.

As I noted at the Executive Board meeting immediately following Rio+20, however, no outcome at all from the Summit had seemed a possibility prior to its commencement.

In the end the outcome document was comprehensive in its coverage of the issues to be addressed to achieve sustainable development. While light on firm decisions, it certainly is consistent with the “triple win” approach to policy design which UNDP has been promoting, and we applaud the emphasis given to the social – or people-centered - dimension of sustainable development.

Action in the following areas seems important to UNDP following Rio+20:

  • The outcome document noted the UN Secretary-General’s “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative, and expressed Member States’ “determination to act to make sustainable energy for all a reality”. UNDP has a key role to play in taking the initiative forward in the 55 countries which have signed to it to date.
  • In Rio the Secretary-General issued an ambitious challenge to achieve “zero hunger” in his lifetime. This can only be achieved by comprehensive and cross sectoral approaches of the kind advocated in UNDP’s 2012 Africa Human Development Report on food security and of the kind practised through the application of the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF). The latter is proving to be a useful tool for addressing the obstacles to overcoming food insecurity in Africa. At the SG’s request, UNDP is also working with others in the UN system to design a response to the challenges posed by current food price increases.
  • The Rio+20 outcome calls for “broader measures of progress to complement GDP in order to better inform policy decisions”. It tasks the UN to launch a “programme of work in this area building on existing initiatives” to develop such measures.

Drawing on 21 years of experience of compiling the Human Development Index (HDI) – itself a broader measure of progress – UNDP will contribute to this work. We are also exploring how the HDI itself could be adjusted to reflect sustainability concerns.

  • Many ‘triple win’ approaches were showcased at Rio+20. Sharing experience and best practice on these, including through South-South co-operation and the work of the Rio+20 World Centre for Sustainable Development, is a task to which UNDP is fully committed.
  • Rio+20 was positive in emphasizing the importance of phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and thereby encouraging the use of clean fuels. Abolition of these subsidies also releases significant funding back into the coffers of governments for more productive purposes. Among these should be effective social protection which mitigates the impact of subsidy removal on the poorest. UNDP and other UN system actors have considerable expertise to share in the design of social protection.
  • The scale of voluntary commitments – amounting to half a trillion dollars – made at Rio, the presence of tens of thousands of non-state actors, and the engagement through social media of millions of people made this a UN Summit like no other. Going forward, that enthusiasm needs to continue to be mobilized around concrete actions for a more sustainable future, and the voluntary commitments made need to be monitored.
  • Rio+20 also launched a process for establishing sustainable development goals, which should be consistent with the global development agenda beyond 2015.  Work on the goals will be guided by an open working group, to be established by the General Assembly.

The post 2015 development agenda

Devising this agenda is no simple matter, with a number of work streams contributing to it. UNDP will contribute in a range of ways, including through its role as co-chair with UNDESA of the UN System Task Team on the post-2015 UN Development Agenda.  The first report of that Team, titled “Realizing the Future we Want”, has been made available by the Secretary General. It provides early input to Member States’ consideration of the SDGs and the post-2015 development agenda, as was requested in the Rio outcome document.  

The report recommends:

  • “a vision for the future that rests on the core values of human rights, equality, and sustainability”;
  • organisation of the agenda along four key dimensions which are consistent with the Millennium Declaration and on which goals could be built: (1) inclusive social development; (2) inclusive economic development; (3) environmental sustainability; and (4) peace and security;
  • the identification of ‘development enablers’, with ample space for national policy design and adaptation to local settings, and;
  • a truly global agenda with shared responsibilities for all countries.

In recent weeks, the Secretary General has announced the membership of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons he has established on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The panel has been mandated to develop a bold, yet practical, vision to present to Member States next year. The Secretary General accepted UNDP’s offer of space for the secretariat of the panel, as well as our management services to get the team up and running.

UNDP is also working with the whole UNDG on:

  • inclusive consultations in more than fifty countries on what the post-2015 agenda might look like to ensure broad participation;
  • at least nine thematic consultations on issues ranging from governance to food security, which are important in framing the post-2015 development agenda, and;
  • preparing discussion and position papers to inform and stimulate the debate.

As I noted earlier, the process is complex. It is UNDP’s objective to build links across the various work streams, so that the many moving parts of this giant puzzle are informed by each other and can come together around a post-2015 development agenda which truly reflects a common vision for the future. 

The Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review

Negotiations on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) in the coming months take place against the background of Rio+20 and discussions on the post-2015 development agenda. The Secretary-General’s report on the QCPR is a useful resource for Member States in developing the resolution.

I believe that in today’s very challenging global environment, an effective and results-oriented UN development system, responsive to country needs, is more important than ever. Many of those challenges were well summarized by Christine Lagarde of the IMF pre-Rio+20 when she referred to the toxic combination of falling incomes, rising inequality, and ecosystem degradation. We can add to that the ongoing war and armed conflict limiting the development prospects of many. We in the UN development system have a unique role to play in addressing these challenges. The QCPR must give us the mandate and support we need to play that role.

I hope that Member States will take this opportunity to reaffirm the UN development system’s unique role and comparative advantage, based on our normative and operational mandates. We support countries to translate – through their own national contexts - the values, principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations into reality for their peoples. Our universality, legitimacy, political neutrality and convening power give us unique strengths.

The QCPR should also support strengthening national ownership of development, including by drawing on the experience of the Delivering as One pilots, the relevant lessons of the Independent Evaluation of it, and the outcomes of the recent Tirana and Montevideo High-Level Intergovernmental Conferences.

At UNDP we fully recognize the growing importance of South-South and triangular co-operation and of Southern-led approaches to development, including through capacity building and knowledge sharing.  Across the system it is important to embrace the growing diversity of development actors, and find ways to work alongside them, in line with national priorities. Our existing co-ordination mechanisms must be put to greater use to foster collaboration across and within countries. In this regard, the UNDG’s Regional Teams are constantly working to support UN Country Teams in their country-level operations.

The instruments and structures available to the UN development system, with its many separate lines of accountability, funding, and governance, do pose challenges to the way we work.

UNDP is working closely with partner organizations in the UNDG on better ways of dealing with these challenges, in order to empower the UN development system to deliver more coherently, effectively, and efficiently.

Full implementation of the Management and Accountability System will be important, along with simplification of country programming instruments and approval processes; harmonization across UNDG organizations of policies and systems, audit and costing criteria, and reporting formats; improved working relationships between peace and security, humanitarian, and development actors at the country level; and a sustainable and predictable funding base for UN operational activities for development, including through increased core funding and more flexible, less fragmented, higher quality, non-core funding.

As manager of the Resident Co-ordinator system, UNDP is committed to ensuring the system’s efficiency and effectiveness. It is important to empower Resident Co-ordinators to be leaders, innovators, and facilitators of UNCTs, and to ensure mutual accountability between RCs and UNCT members. The QCPR can be helpful in this regard.

To maximize the impact of the QCPR, it would also be helpful if Member States explored ways to extend its applicability across the UN development system, and to ensure better monitoring and reporting on its implementation.

As Chair of the UNDG, let me emphasize that the Group stands ready to support Member States throughout the QCPR process.  We will also look to the QCPR as we develop the next strategic priorities for the UN development system, an exercise which I look forward to leading later this year.

The Next UNDP Strategic Plan

The QCPR – along with the Rio+20 outcome and the post-2015 discussions - will also be instrumental in shaping UNDP’s next Strategic Plan.

Over the past twelve months, work has been undertaken on developing a more robust and focused results framework. Over the period of the next Plan, managing for results and reporting on them should take a qualitative leap forward, by being more straightforward and strategic, by being embedded more rigorously in country-level work, and by being driven by a much greater emphasis on quantitative and qualitative data and evidence.  Pilots are already underway to test relevant ideas, with the aim of having this work able to support the next Plan.

Work is also progressing on designing a properly integrated resource plan and budget, which will allow the Board not only to see the connection at the macro level between resources and results across the entire organization, but also to have a common terminology between the various agencies the Board is supervising.

Underpinning all of the above, we are institutionalizing an internal corporate Strategic Planning system to enable us to work much more as ‘One UNDP’, integrating activities and results across the global, regional, and country levels.  This will help us to assess our performance in a more timely fashion, take early corrective measures where necessary, and respond much more quickly to potential opportunities or challenges. 

This year is seeing the first test run of key aspects of this system – our Annual Business Plan, redesigned unit work plans and revamped reporting – and we are encouraged by early signs of greater cohesion, focus, and linkage.

We have also developed a new internal management and decision making tool – the integrated Resource Management Framework.  This will provide us with a regular, real-time overview of our complete resource envelope, strengthening the link between the organization’s resources and Strategic Plan result areas.   

Furthermore, efforts to ensure that our country presence remains “fit for purpose” are progressing.  Pilots are being conducted on various changes which could be made in country offices in the future. For example, the Bosnia country office has begun to review ways of improving project costing, and the Ghana country office is looking at how to improve monitoring and evaluation processes. Work will begin soon in several countries on the clustering of country-level services in service hubs. Together with additional reviews on monitoring and evaluation, such as in Sudan, and on costing methodologies in Kenya, all this work will inform the development of prototypes for more agile, consistent, and efficient business models for our presence at the country level. We also continue to make improvements in procurement and human resource management. 

This is important for ensuring that UNDP will be able to deliver on the expectations of the next Strategic Plan.

The Plan must also be set in the context of current and anticipated future development challenges. The world has changed a great deal since agreement was reached on the last Strategic Plan, and the pace of change is quickening.

The outcome of the Rio+20 conference and of the work to be done on the post 2015 development agenda signal the emergence of a sustainable development paradigm which will have goals broader than the existing MDGs.

It is important for UNDP to be able to give global leadership on how to make development progress truly sustainable. Such development needs to be inclusive and empowering of all parts of societies.  It will require capable institutions, and national and local resilience to shocks. It will require models of growth which are ecologically sustainable.

At UNDP, as we scan the horizon of what is likely to impact on development, we are struck by the high degree of volatility and risk which exists and is likely to persist; by the increasing stress felt in national and international institutions and in societies; and by the impressive examples of development progress which exist alongside significant development setbacks. A striking example is the mobile banking and communications revolutions in Africa, while food insecurity there persists at significant levels and is worsening in some places.

To achieve sustainable development, all countries need to lift their capacity for integrated decision making. Connections between discrete policy areas need to be made and bridged if sustainable human development is to proceed. The MDG Acceleration Framework has given us many practical insights into how to work across sectors for sustainable results.

UNDP itself needs to be clearheaded about where its added value lies and the areas in which it can make the most substantial contribution. Deciding on what those areas are must be informed by a good understanding of the issues which are likely to confront developing countries over the period of the next Strategic Plan and beyond.

The challenges will vary from country to country.  Just because two countries are in the same income category does not mean that the challenges they face are the same.  Our next Strategic Plan must envisage a UNDP which is more flexible in how it configures its Country Offices, is more nimble in responding to changed circumstances, and is even more responsive to the needs and aspirations of programme countries.

Our objective is to have a zero draft of the next Strategic Plan available by early next year. We look forward to constructive discussions with Board members around the options as we go forward, including at the November workshop on the Plan.

As mentioned earlier, the Integrated Resource Plan and related Integrated Budget will serve as UNDP’s comprehensive resource allocation mechanism in support of the new Strategic Plan. The integrated budget will incorporate into one consolidated budget proposal the two current budgetary frameworks which have always been subject to separate approval processes: the institutional budget and the programming arrangements.

The first Integrated Budget will be presented for approval at the second regular session of the EB in September 2013. While we are presenting you now with a proposal for a harmonized framework on cost recovery, it has become evident that more time, analysis, and guidance are required on this complex matter. Based on the guidance received from you, UNDP, together with UNICEF and UNFPA, will continue this process through informal Board meetings and regional and bilateral consultations.

This week you will also consider the third in a series of discussion papers on the programming arrangements. I am optimistic that the Board is now in a position to reach consensus on a preferred TRAC-1 eligibility option and TRAC-1 allocation model.  This is of critical importance as we need also to give attention to other issues related to programming arrangements, in anticipation of your approval of the integrated budget, inclusive of the programming arrangements, at the second regular session of the Board in September 2013.

UNDP Resources

Let me now turn to the issue of UNDP’s resources.

In 2011 total contributions to UNDP and UNCDF were $5.11 billion. This represents approximately a three per cent decrease from 2010, after adjusting for the impact of UNIFEM activities being assumed by UNWOMEN and no longer being included in this report.

Total expenditure was $5.57 billion, representing a decrease from 2010, but above the level of income.

Regular resource contributions rose slightly by one per cent to $975 million last year, after three years of consecutive falls, largely as a result of favourable exchange rates. Current projections, however, suggest a decrease in total contributions to core resources this year, as a result of exchange rate movements, as well as from minor reductions by some partners.

The overall balance of unexpended resources at the end of 2011 continued to fall, to $4.69 billion, reflecting delivery rates in excess of income. Of this total amount, $333 million was in regular resources, $4.30 billion in non-core resources, and $53 million in UNCDF. The majority of these resources have been programmed. Many have multi-year programme budgets, reflecting UNDP’s practice of allocating up-front resources for future years to allow for planned expenditure. It is also important to note that non-core resources are not fungible with regular resources.

As I have emphasized on previous occasions, the ability of UNDP to fulfill its mandate adequately and effectively support the development agenda of partner countries is contingent on having sufficient core funding. A stable and critical mass of core funding allows UNDP to plan ahead, be strategic, and provide predictable and differentiated services across all programme countries.

While severe fiscal pressures continue to be felt in a number of countries, I urge all Member States to support UNDP in reaching its regular resources targets and to commit, as early as possible, to UNDP’s core resources for 2012 and beyond.  Wherever possible, multi-year pledges are particularly appreciated.

Transparency and Accountability

Last, but certainly not least, allow me to emphasize UNDP’s continued commitment to transparency and to being accountable for the contributions we receive from funders.

A huge step in that regard was taken at the Annual Session when the Board endorsed our proposal for public disclosure of internal audit reports. Following that decision, the Office of Audit and Investigations has, since 1 July, been posting the Executive Summaries of all its audit reports on the UNDP website.  We are now preparing for the final step to be implemented in December, which will see the full internal audit reports issued after that date available on the UNDP website.

In line with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), work has continued to prepare the organization for publishing even more detailed information about our work by the end of this year.

The release of the enlarged dataset will strengthen UNDP’s long-standing commitment to transparency and accountability, and help to make our work more easily understood. We will also increase the frequency of publication of our data to quarterly release in late 2013, in line with the IATI standard.

UNDP has continued championing transparency and the merits of IATI with other UN agencies by leading a series of consultations on adopting and implementing these important global standards. As a result, OCHA and WFP have now also joined the initiative bringing the number of UN agencies, funds and programmes adhering to it up to nine.


These are both exciting and challenging times for UNDP and for development co-operation at large.

The many important processes taking place in the coming months and years – happening against a backdrop of an ever changing development landscape – will define the way in which UNDP can best assist programme countries to achieve the transformational and sustainable development results they seek.

We must be ambitious in seizing the many opportunities which exist for advancing sustainable development, and be proactive in addressing the many obstacles and constraints to progress.

The Board has a critical role to play in making our organization as effective as possible and we count on your continued strong support and guidance.


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