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

Sep 9, 2013

Report of Helen Clark UNDP Administrator to the
Second Regular Session of the UNDP Executive Board
United Nations, New York

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.   

This session marks an important milestone for UNDP. Over many months this Board has been actively and constructively engaged in the process of developing UNDP’s new Strategic Plan, and today we have before us the final draft for your approval.

In my statement today, I would like to:

-    Reflect briefly on the importance of our work to support both MDG acceleration and progress on the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals;

-    Discuss the new UNDP Strategic Plan, update you on the funding of UNDP, and introduce the integrated budget estimates for 2014-2017;

-    Emphasize our commitment to transparency and accountability; and

-    Underline the importance of the UN Development Group working together to achieve results.

A call for MDG acceleration

With fewer than 850 days to the 2015 target date, accelerating MDG progress is a big priority for us all. While the MDGs have been successful in galvanizing action for improving the lives of many hundreds of millions of people, significant gaps and challenges remain. The UN General Assembly’s one-day Special Event on 25 September will enable Member States to recommit to MDG acceleration. It could also be an opportunity to give further consideration to the process leading up to 2015.

A UNDP – World Bank side event on the margins of the UN General Assembly on September 24th will also focus on the concrete steps which can be taken to accelerate MDG achievement. Leaders from a number of the more than 45 countries now employing the MDG Acceleration Framework will speak on their countries’ experiences of speeding up progress.

As 2015 approaches, reporting on movement towards MDG targets will be of great interest. Since 2001, UNDP has been the scorekeeper of MDG progress at the country level. Since then, in collaboration with UN Country Teams (UNCTs), we have supported governments to produce more than 400 national and sub-national MDG reports. In doing so, we have helped countries to internalize the MDGs in their national planning and resource allocation systems.
Now UNDP is launching a ‘One country, One MDG report’ initiative to produce a round of national MDG Country Reports leading up to the end of 2015. I hope that partners will be able to lend financial support to this initiative.

Towards a post 2015 development agenda

The experience of and the lessons learnt from the MDGs should underpin the elaboration of a post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals.

During our last Board session, I referred to initial findings from the global conversation facilitated by the UN development system on what citizens around the world would like to see in a renewed agenda. Tomorrow, we will be launching the concluding report of this global conversation with the Secretary-General.  Well over one million people have contributed their views, in 88 national consultations; eleven thematic consultations; and through social media, mobile phones, and the on-line MY World survey.

There has been a consistent call for a future agenda which can finish the business of the MDGs and build on their successes to reduce inequalities and eradicate extreme poverty worldwide. At the same time, people also propose that the next agenda should go further in addressing the underlying causes of deprivation, injustice, and insecurity, and tackling emerging issues and challenges in an integrated way. The importance of honest and effective governance has also been highlighted.

This feedback is broadly consistent with the important report of the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Post-2015 and has contributed to the ongoing deliberations of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals. At UNDP we will work to support Member States to agree on a single, universal, and coherent development agenda and sustainable development goals beyond 2015. We will also do our utmost to ensure that people’s voices, views, and ideas are brought to the debate.

Changing with the World - The UNDP Strategic Plan 2014-2017

At this meeting we are pleased to submit for your approval the final draft of the next UNDP Strategic Plan.

This document signals UNDP’s determination to become more focused, results-driven, effective, and efficient. In developing the plan, we have been mindful of the importance of keeping it consistent with the outcome of the QCPR, and other important guidance, such as the Outcome Document of Rio+20.

The draft plan proposes a clear vision focused on reducing poverty in ways which simultaneously reduce inequality and exclusion. This communicates clearly to our organization around the world that our work must be designed to help us contribute to the fulfillment of that vision.

This plan contains considerably fewer outcomes than its predecessor did. That will help ensure that our programming is more focused and that the results being sought are clearer.
Poverty eradication cannot be achieved by any single actor nor by any single policy or institutional intervention. To make progress on poverty rates in ways which are sustainable, UNDP can and does support countries to tackle the causes of poverty, including a lack of jobs, livelihoods, and of fair access to natural resources; gender inequalities; a legacy of conflict or disaster; and to build effective governance. We work to support countries to address these issues in ways which do not sacrifice the environment.  

The highest priorities for our work will differ between countries in response to national demand, in line with the principle of country ownership reaffirmed by the QCPR. We aim to be equipped to work with member states to create sustainable development pathways which meet their own development needs and goals.

UNDP cannot be an expert on all the development issues which need to be addressed in each country. The issues perpetuating poverty are interrelated and must be tackled from many angles and by a range of actors. It is important for UNDP to be world class in the areas where it has a comparative advantage and collaborate with others in areas where it has not.

The plan makes it clear that South-South and triangular cooperation will be cornerstones of our work.  Our involvement with these modalities has been growing. Now we need to ensure that our systems are fit for purpose for this work. Many of the potential solutions to policy challenges in the South have already been implemented by others in the South. UNDP can be a powerful partner in sharing experience and technologies across countries and regions.

Our draft plan encourages UNDP to provide thought leadership on the overarching issue of how to transform economies so that they boost growth in ways which are both positively biased towards the poor and economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable. It recognizes the importance of the creation of sustainable jobs and livelihoods. This is of huge importance to many countries where persistently high rates of unemployment, particularly among youth, impede human development.

The Plan also recognizes that rapid rates of urbanization across the developing world need to be factored into our thinking. Poverty is no longer a predominantly rural problem. We must extend our work accordingly, while continuing our support for sustainable livelihoods in rural areas. In partnership with agencies like UN-Habitat, we can also contribute to making cities sustainable and livable – indeed this is exactly the theme of the latest ground-breaking China National Human Development which I co-launched in Beijing last week with UNDP’s national partners.  

The plan emphasizes that building resilience is fundamental to sustaining human development. Whether that is created by better planning, better governance, creating more diversified economies, expanding social protection, disaster risk reduction, or building infrastructure for peace will depend on each country’s circumstances. All countries live with risk – the essence of development is building the systems to adapt and mitigate, so that countries can continue to transform and progress.

Support for democratic and effective governance will continue to be central to our work – and it must be continually updated. New technologies, increased citizens’ expectations of being heard, and the pace of change are putting pressure on governance systems worldwide. It is also clear that it is not only the formal structures and processes of democratic governance which matter, but also how effective those governance processes are in delivering services to the poor and excluded – ultimately that will determine whether increases in human development can be achieved and sustained.

Eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development goals are difficult to achieve in countries affected by conflict or its aftermath. Support for those states will continue to be a very high priority for UNDP.

The plan recognizes UNDP’s responsibility as the lead agency in coordinating the UN development system as a whole. I will comment on our important role in driving UN reform later, but note for now that this is a very important pillar of our work.

The improved focus of the draft plan has led to its accompanying results framework being much tighter than in the past. As such, it will provide the basis for better and more integrated reporting to the Board. As well, for the first time, we are able to provide the Board with projections on the link between estimated resources and proposed outcomes.

These figures, by necessity, are projections rather than firm budgeting figures, as the final allocation of resources to outcomes is determined through decisions taken by each programme country about its priorities and the type and amount of funding available. The targets set in the results framework, however, will be connected to the resources which we are projecting will be spent.

I take this opportunity to thank most sincerely all our Board Members for the time and effort you have devoted to helping us to produce a quality draft strategic plan. Once agreement on it is reached, we can open a new chapter in the history of UNDP.

To deliver on the plan we are committed to making the organization more effective and more sustainable. The Plan acknowledges the need to re-examine the structure of the organization to ensure that it is fit for purpose and makes the best use of the resources entrusted to us.  

To that end, we have been working on restructuring proposals which we can move to finalize once the plan is endorsed. The thrust of the changes will be to ensure that we have more of our resources focused on improving delivery at the country level; that we remove duplication of functions within the organization and that functional accountabilities are clear; that we take better advantage of potential economies of scale in transactional services; and that our staff profile is aligned fully with what we need to deliver in a cost effective and efficient way.

Resourcing for development results

I will now comment on UNDP’s integrated budget estimates for 2014-2017.
The integrated budget estimates cover the same four-year period as the strategic plan. This is a change from the previous practice of presenting two-year institutional budgets and four-year programming arrangements frameworks.
This approach acknowledges the links between development and institutional results at the country, regional, and global levels, and the associated resource requirements. The approach to the integrated budget estimates has been harmonized with UNFPA, UNICEF, and UN Women. We have estimated the available resources for the duration of the Strategic Plan at $24.3 billion. Planned expenditures stands at $22.6 billion, of which $20.1 billion, or 88.8 percent, are allocated for development results.

The annualized programming resource base is proposed to increase from $540m per year for 2014-2015 to $600m per year for 2016-2017, both because of an expected rise in income and because of a significant lowering of the institutional component of the budget. The latter is partly due to the phasing out of transitional measures related to the implementation of the new cost recovery methodology. The real reductions to the institutional component amount to $173.5 million in 2014-2015 compared to 2012-2013, followed by an additional $66.4 million in reductions in 2016-2017. As a result, and as called for in the QCPR, a greater share of resources is able to be allocated directly to achieving development results.
The Board has already approved the shielding of the programmatic lines for TRAC-1 and the support to the Resident Coordinator system. In addition, the current proposals cover the shielding of key programme lines: TRAC-3, the Human Development Report Office, and the UN Office for South-South Co-operation. The proposals also include a programme resource line for UNCDF.
The integrated budget prioritizes UNDP’s support for UN coordination. It dedicates $88 million in regular resources each year to fund the backbone of this function, and our share of the additional $33 million which is to be cost-shared across the UNDG. The cost sharing formula takes into account the size and scope of the contribution of UNDG organizations’ to development.
I am also pleased to confirm that UNDP’s financial statements for 2012 have been given an unqualified audit opinion. This is especially significant as it is the first audit since we adopted the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).
In line with my preliminary reporting at the Annual Session in June, total contributions to UNDP in 2012 amounted to $4.74 billion, a slight drop from 2011. Total expenses were $5.26 billion, which, while representing a decrease from 2011, still utilized accumulated surplus from previous years. Regular resource contributions were $846 million, but $49 million relating to 2012 were received after the end of the financial year. That will be recorded as revenue in 2013. Current projections suggest a further decrease in total contributions to core resources this year, as a result of exchange rate movements and reductions by some partners.
The balance of unexpended resources at the end of 2012 fell to $4.3 billion, reflecting the deliberate utilization of unspent resources. Following the adoption of IPSAS, UNDP is now able to recognize the full extent of its liabilities within its balance sheet, which I am pleased to say continues to have a positive net position.
Contributions to UNCDF grew to their highest level yet at $55 million in 2012. Its total expenses for 2012 were $51 million. In line with IPSAS, separate financial statements are now prepared for UNCDF. It has also received an unqualified audit opinion.
As I have emphasized on many occasions, a stable and critical mass of “core” resources provides the bedrock funding for UNDP. We remain especially grateful to all contributors to our core resources.

Commitment to Transparency and Accountability

UNDP has now assumed a new role as the host of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), leading a consortium which includes UNOPS, Ghana, Sweden, and the Development Initiatives NGO in the UK. This new role puts UNDP at the forefront of global efforts to increase transparency in development cooperation, including through efforts to develop further the IATI common standard for publishing information about aid spending.  

In accordance with the common standard, we are continuing to increase the transparency of our own work by delivering expanded information on our financial flows and projects at open.undp.org. We have also clarified our Information Disclosure Policy to ensure that transparency is at the heart of the way we work. At the end of my statement today we will be showing a short film on how the open.undp.org transparency portal works.

As this Board knows well, a major step towards increased transparency and accountability was taken with your decision to disclose internal audit reports publicly. Disclosures began in January, and as of now 89 reports have been published on our public website.

Driving UN Reform

UNDP works collaboratively with the wider UN development system to make it more coherent, effective, and efficient. High priority is being given to implementation of the 2012 QCPR resolution.

As noted at July’s ECOSOC session, progress on critical reform initiatives has already been made:

1.    We now have agreed UNDG Standard Operating Procedures for the Delivering as One approach, with an associated action plan to simplify and harmonise rules, policies, and procedures in programming, reporting, finance, human resources, and other administrative services.

A revised headquarters approval procedure for Country Programme Documents (CPDs) will also make the process more streamlined.

We are developing a “Delivering Results Together Fund”, which will be firmly focused on results and performance-based allocations and which should increase the predictability of funding of UN programmes in Delivering as One countries.

2.    On business operations reform, a pilot of a fully integrated business service centre for the UNCT in Brazil was recently launched, promising potential efficiency gains of up to USD 2.3m per annum over time in procurement.

In thirteen countries, we are piloting system-wide, multi-year, strategic business plans to support the implementation of UNDAFs.

3.    On the functioning of the RC system, it is worth noting that the diversity of the body of Resident Coordinators in terms of geographical and gender representation and system-wide participation is at an all-time high.

The selection, training, and appraisal of RCs must be rigorous. The RC Assessment Centre needs to assess a range of competencies – including that of providing development leadership – a skill which should not be taken for granted in the assessment process. The position of the RC as a leader of the UNCT has been strengthened in line with the QCPR.

4.    Finally, the new funding modality for system-wide cost-sharing of the Resident Coordinator system begins in 2014, and ensures broader system-wide support for coordination.
Overall, the UNDG is progressing well on the range of reform issues identified in the QCPR, including on the preparation of a comprehensive QCPR monitoring and reporting framework which will bring together the UNDG Action Plan for QCPR implementation and the DESA QCPR matrix.

The Joint Meeting of the Executive Boards in January will be an opportunity to take stock of reform progress and challenges at the headquarters level.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Debbie Landey, Director of the United Nations Development Operations Coordination Office (DOCO) for her commitment and service to the UN development system. Debbie has been a key driver of the many UN reforms undertaken by the UNDG since 2008, and has led the realignment of DOCO with its functions and available resources.
Debbie is retiring after 35 years’ service to the United Nations, including having served as Resident Coordinator in two countries, Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, Deputy Assistant Administrator of UNDP’s Bureau of Management, and Director of UNDP’s Office of Human Resources.

I sincerely thank Debbie for her distinguished service and for all the support she has provided to me in my role as Chair of the UNDG and to the UN development system over a lifetime career.

Sitting also with us today is a senior UNDP manager who is familiar to many Board members. For the past eight years, Olav Kjørven has been with UNDP in New York, first heading the Environment and Energy Practice of the Bureau of Development Policy, and then becoming the Bureau’s Director. Olav retires from this position at the end of this month.

Olav is an exceptional leader, who shows at all times passion, dedication, and commitment to the values of the UN and the aspirations of UNDP. His energy and drive are legendary. He has helped UNDP apply development theory to development practice and to lead on the big development debates. He has been a staunch proponent of UNDP’s commitment to sustainable development and of integrated approaches to achieving the MDGs and other goals. His leadership has been instrumental in ensuring that the voices of people around the world could be heard in the post-2015 debate. In all these ways and more, Olav has helped to make UNDP a stronger, more relevant, more substantive, and innovative organization. On behalf of all our staff, I thank Olav for his dedicated service.

Since our last Board meeting, two new Bureau Directors have been appointed – Abdoulaye Mar Dieye for Africa, and Haoliang Xu for Asia and the Pacific. I am sure all Board members will want to wish them well too.


As I noted at the beginning of my statement, this meeting is an important milestone for UNDP. By approving the new Strategic Plan, the Board can provide UNDP with a strong foundation from which to respond to the development challenges of the 21st century.

By building on our organization’s strengths, the plan will enable us to remain a partner of choice, helping countries to achieve the simultaneous eradication of poverty and the significant reduction of inequalities and exclusion in ways which are sustainable. I thank Board members once again for their support to us in delivering a quality draft strategic plan and integrated results framework for approval, and I look forward to your comments.
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