Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme in 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. She is also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group.
Helen Clark: Speech at Opening of UNDP Global Management Meeting 2014
It is wonderful to see UNDP’s leadership from around the world assembled here at Tarrytown, New York, again.
I am fortunate to meet many of you at our regional cluster meetings, on my visits to the programmes you lead and the countries you serve, at major conferences, and, on occasion, when you visit New York.
But it is a rare treat to have us all together for a global meeting, where we can brainstorm, strategize, be energized by each other, and prepare ourselves to meet the challenges the world sets us and those we set ourselves.
Let me acknowledge from the outset the invaluable work led by everyone gathered here, and recognize especially those who are working against great odds in strife-torn countries from South Sudan and Central African Republic to Syria and beyond. We stand in solidarity with you and all our staff, and with the people of those countries who are at daily risk to their lives and see their communities shattered. We also recognise the incredible work done by UNDP to support countries’ recovery from trauma – including most recently through the massive recovery effort we have been involved with in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan.
Last time we met in Tarrytown, it was in the early summer of 2011 – so, why, you might ask, are we meeting in the depths of winter in February 2014?
The answer is simple: we have work to do.
• We have a new Strategic Plan and we must align both our programmes and our structures with that Plan.
• We must innovate in how we deliver.
• We must be able to get results, report on them, and communicate them.
• If we can get those things right, we will continue to be a viable, successful, leading development organisation which is a partner of choice for programme countries and funders alike.
The video we’ve just seen imagines what our world could be like in 2020.
Our challenge is to understand what our role is in creating a better 2020 than today’s 2014 – and to act on that understanding.
In the process of drawing up our new Strategic Plan, we spent a lot of time surveying our changing world, and what the emerging and the persistent challenges mean for the work of our organisation. We looked outwards – not inwards – at the trends and the needs, and then at where we could best make a contribution.
The result of all that work is the new Strategic Plan which was approved by our Executive Board in September.
It is significantly different from the previous plan.
• In the first place, it’s more focused – or maybe I should say it is focused. It has only seven outcome areas. The last one began with 34.
• It also proposes that we approach the way we do development quite differently. It sets out clearly what we believe should characterize a good UNDP programme, what sets that apart from what the World Bank or an NGO can provide, and how we can offer programme countries the most effective support for achieving their development objectives.
• It underlines the importance of managing for, reporting on, and getting results.
Delivering well on this new Plan will require every single unit of our organisation to understand the changes we need to make and to embrace those changes.
That is where everyone here comes in.
Everyone here is a leader – in our country offices, our regional service centres, our policy centres, our liaison offices and our HQs staff – wherever located. How each of us addresses the challenges and the opportunities facing us in UNDP in the coming years will determine how successful we are.
How will we tell whether we have been successful?
• For me, the first measure of success in implementing our plan will be the extent to which we can demonstrate the impact we are having on development. That means managing for results, achieving those results, and reporting and communicating them well.
• The second measure will be the perceptions of our partners that we are a “can do” impact-oriented organisation and a partner of choice. Any perception of being a leaden footed, slow moving bureaucracy must change. We must be able to change as the environment we face changes, and we must be a recognized leader in helping countries identify both their challenges and the solutions.
• If that is our reputation, we will continue to attract very substantial funding for the mission in our strategic plan – which without doubt addresses some of the biggest challenges in 21st century. A Plan which seeks to contribute to sustainable development, better governance, and greater resilience is highly relevant to today’s and tomorrow’s global challenges.
• Third, at the end of this Strategic Plan period UNDP should be recognised internationally as a top global thought leader on development – because it not only understands and can articulate the challenges, but also has widespread practical experience in helping find solutions to them.
• Fourth, success can be measured by the extent to which our staff are fully engaged in what we are doing, and when we are widely seen as one of the best development organisations in the world to work for.
• Fifth, we will be measured by how successful we are in providing leadership to the UN development system as a whole. Can we bring all the parts of the system together to deliver more effectively? Will we be recognised by our sister organisations as a collaborative organisation which helps the whole UN development system work more effectively?
Over the next few days, we will address all these issues. Please take the opportunity both to question and to contribute. Put your iPhones and iPads away! We need each of you engaged as leaders in moving our great organisation forward.
In this room today, you, our assembled leaders have world-leading development expertise. As an organisation we must apply that expertise to designing more innovative solutions to the major development challenges confronting our world.
This week’s programme is very much about stimulating the innovative and lateral thinking which will enable us to do that – and thereby to deliver on an ambitious Strategic Plan. Whether we are discussing the new products and services needed for the new and not-so-new development challenges, or new ways of fund raising, new ways of developing and aligning our programming to the strategic plan, new ideas on office management, new approaches to leadership, or new ways of interacting with others in UN Country Teams, we all need to share and contribute our ideas to make this meeting a success.
Our new Strategic Plan is very clear about what the vision for UNDP is. It spells out a vision which relates very clearly to our long-term commitment to human and sustainable development.
That vision is to help countries to eradicate poverty, and to do that in a way which simultaneously reduces inequality and exclusion, and avoids wrecking the ecosystems on which all life depends.
Having stated our vision, our plan then rests on three pillars:
• How we do development
• How we engage through partnerships, and
• How we improve our institutional effectiveness.
Achieving the results we have set out in the plan requires us to move on all three of these parts at once and at every level of the organisation.
• On how we do development:
The evidence is clear that economic growth does not necessarily translate into poverty reduction, and that poverty reduction may be achieved while inequalities rise. In the time span of the MDGs, extreme poverty has been halved, but inequalities in many countries remain at persistently high levels. What must characterize UNDP’s approach is a strong commitment to inclusive and sustainable growth and development which doesn’t leave whole countries and communities lagging far behind. Poverty eradication and the reduction of inequalities must both be specifically targeted – they won’t magically fall out of growing GDP.
Our Strategic Plan establishes that our programmes must target those who are poor, those who are affected by the sharpest inequalities, and those who are excluded from the mainstream of community and national life. To do that, we need to understand who and where those people are, and how they can be reached. For example, all developing countries are steadily urbanizing. We need to factor that into our policy approach, so that we are relevant to the challenges confronting both the rural and the urban poor.
Our plan reiterates our commitment to ensuring that those who are expected to be the beneficiaries of our work are also involved in the design and implementation of them. Ownership and participation are key factors in the long-term sustainability of development gains.
The truth is we haven’t always factored into our programme design what is expected to happen when our engagement ends. Will the gains be locked in? UNDP has always been about building the capacity of countries and communities to continue with their own development, but have we always achieved that? Now we are committing to being much more explicit about building exit strategies into our programmes so that their legacy can endure and be built on.
Aligning our existing programmes to expectations like these in the new plan, and designing programmes which can achieve the outcomes specified in the results framework associated with the plan, will be the focus of tomorrow morning’s work. Let me underline that it is hugely important that all our programmes are aligned now to the new strategic plan, rather than sitting and waiting for new country programme documents to be adopted. We must show results in the first half of the strategic plan period – not just at the end. This is essential for building confidence in our ability to deliver on the plan we have signed up to.
• On revitalizing our partnerships: this is critical for a for a number of reasons. Obviously broadening our resource base is one objective, but also we must learn to see partnerships as being about much more than money. Development challenges are complex – they defy solution by any one set of actors.
• In the first place, we need to strengthen our ability to co-operate and act jointly with other parts of the UN system across the board. Our relationships within the UN Development Group are vital – and so is our ability to interface with key secretariat departments. We have a big stake in the success of our associated programmes – UN Volunteers and the UN Capital Development Fund. In recent months, good progress has been made on the alignment of their strategic frameworks with our strategic plan.
Strengthening our capacity on South-South & Triangular Co-operation is also essential. In the past, our systems have not been conducive to supporting this – and that needs to change fast. At the heart of our work is the exchange of knowledge and experiences – in which South-South & Triangular Co-operation is also playing a growing role. We are not only expected to facilitate South-South Co-operation – we want to grow our role as a facilitator of this form of development co-operation.
• On improving our institutional effectiveness, everyone here is aware of the extent of the change which is taking place at UNDP headquarters and the regional service centres, on top of the many other changes which have been taking place in our corporate practices and systems.
Alongside the development of the new Strategic Plan, I commissioned a sweeping review of the state of our headquarters and regional service centres. This is a “once in a generation” review – following on from Mark Malloch Brown’s redesign at the turn of this century.
Over time organisations ossify. When there is a new strategic plan and an emphasis on innovation, an organization has to be rejuvenated to deliver on that.
That’s what the big changes are about. They tackle:
• Duplication of function – there was rather a lot of that.
• The optimal location of staff and services – the sixty per cent in New York and forty per cent in regional and other centres is being turned on its head – that brings more services and staff closer to Country Offices and is more cost effective.
• The top heavy nature of the organisation – we need fewer managers.
• The business design across human resource management, procurement and finance, which currently leads to us being significantly overstaffed relevant to comparator organisations.
These changes are big and bold! They will make our organisation more effective and more sustainable. That is what will guarantee our standing as a leading development organization – notwithstanding the major changes in development funding which are occurring as core funding declines. There are many other funding opportunities for those who are fleet of foot, get results, and are cost effective.
We must think more creatively about where to look for resources. We must ensure that UNDP is the partner of choice for those with resources to expend. We must ensure that our delivery rates with the resources we have are high, so that funders can have confidence that when they entrust their money to us, we will deliver results cost effectively and in a timely manner. You will be discussing all these issues in more depth this week.
Also on our agenda this week is the role UNDP plays in leading the co-ordination of the UN development system. Many of us are double-hatted – at my level as UN Development Group chair; our Regional Directors as chairs of the regional UNDG teams; and our Resident Representatives and Resident Co-ordinators of UN Country Teams – indeed our RRs may wear three or four other hats too!
These dual roles are a balancing act – we do have broader responsibilities. But a strong UNDP is the foundation of a strong UN development system. Our UNDP roles are not just titular – they are vital for the strength of the whole system. And UNDP is an advocate for the system working collaboratively. As a fund and programme with a broad development mandate, we can lead in joining the dots and ensuring that the UN development system offers the integrated support countries need as they tackle complex challenges which span sectoral silos.
Over the past year, the UNDG has been driving a significant reform agenda as well.
For the first time, it has been agreed that the QCPR will be monitored through a single reporting framework with system-wide indicators. This is a significant development and a prerequisite for effective, results-based reporting.
Also for the first time, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN-Women and WFP have each aligned their new Strategic Plans (2014-2017) with the QCPR, both in timing and in content. A number of specialized agencies have also voluntarily done so.
Last year, El Salvador became the 36th country to formally adopt Delivering as One – this means that around one quarter of all programme countries with UNCTs have adopted this approach. Now we must build on the success stories and lessons learned from the pilots, and move to a less process-oriented and more results-oriented second generation of Delivering as One, so that together we can deliver on a sustainable development agenda and goals beyond 2015.
The roll-out of the new Standard Operating Procedures must ensure that Delivering as One 2.0 is firmly focused on results. There is a big opportunity with the roll-out of more than eighty new UNDAFs over the next two years to reposition our system and make it fit for purpose.
For all our plans, strategies, frameworks, and reorganisation to work, for us at UNDP and throughout the UN development system to be fit for purpose for post-2015 and beyond, committed and inspired leadership is needed. All of us in our leadership roles have a responsibility for motivating and inspiring our teams to move UNDP and the UN development system forward.
If we are to continue to be a key driver of the Post 2015 sustainable development agenda, and if we are to remain relevant in a crowded development space, then we must all work smarter, more strategically, be more joined up – including within UNDP, and be agile and able to react rapidly to changing environments.
I have no doubt that we in UNDP are up for this challenge – and within this room we have the people who will ensure we are.
I said earlier in my speech that one of the measures of success for me would be whether UNDP is seen by the next generation as the place where the best young development professionals want to work. We must continually reinvent ourselves to be switched on, dynamic, innovative, entrepreneurial, development actors – having impact, and communicating what we do. Please tweet that now!
Please take the opportunity presented by this global meeting to share your best ideas and innovations; challenge the old ways of doing things where that needs to happen, and propose how we can and must do better.
I now wish us all a happy and productive meeting, aimed at mobilising us all for the successful implementation of the new Strategic Plan and cementing UNDP’s role as a global development leader and co-ordinator.
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