Helen Clark: Statement to the Annual Meeting of the UNDP Executive Board

Jun 23, 2014

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Statement to the Annual Meeting of the UNDP Executive Board
Geneva, Switzerland

Mr. President,
Members of the Executive Board,

I am pleased to welcome you to the UNDP segment of the 2014 Annual Session of the Executive Board here in Geneva.

This Board meeting is taking place in the midst of very important times for UNDP. The new Strategic Plan is being rolled out across headquarters, regional centers, and country offices, where our programmes are being aligned to the plan. To be able to deliver better on the plan, and to be fit for purpose in a 21st century development context, we are also undergoing organizational change.

As well, a range of global processes are underway which will have important implications for our work – not least the post-2015 development agenda and the UNFCCC climate change negotiations.

In my statement today, I will comment on:

•    the current development context, including on UNDP support to a number of        
     countries experiencing particular difficulties, on our work to promote South-South and
     triangular co-operation, and on our involvement in global processes;
•    aspects of the 2013 Annual Report;
•    implementation of the new Strategic Plan;
•    the proposed Integrated Results and Resources Framework (IRRF), and UNDP’s
     restructuring; and
•    emphasize our ongoing commitment to transparency and accountability and to UN
     system reform.

Update on UNDP’s response to current crises

In January, I began my statement to the Board by commenting on UNDP’s response to the crises in South Sudan, Central African Republic, and Syria, and to the mega-disaster of Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines.

Since then, the affected areas in the Philippines are on the road to recovery. As I witnessed during my visit to Tacloban in March, however, many challenges remain. UNDP remains committed to working with the authorities at all levels and with development partners on long-term recovery and disaster risk reduction in the affected areas.

The conflict in Syria is in its fourth year, with a continuing high toll of death, destruction, and displacement. UNDP’s approach to the crisis in the sub-region is following three complementary tracks:

•    First we are keeping Syria at the center of our response by    
     scaling up our community-based responses within the country
     where we can;

•    Second we are applying a resilience-based approach to our
     work in the sub region to lay the foundation for early recovery
     and resumed development; and

•    Third, we are supporting the national needs assessments and
      response plans of Lebanon and Jordan which are hosting more
      than 1.7 million officially registered Syrian refugees. These
      plans are led by the governments of the two countries, and
      have been developed through extensive consultations with
      development partners and civil society. They provide for
      emergency response, for building and sustaining national
      capacities, and for promoting community resilience. Our
      support for both countries, and beyond, is crucial.

The humanitarian, political, and security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) remains of very serious concern. Protection of civilians continues to be the highest priority for the UN at this time. A complete cessation of conflict is critical for addressing the huge humanitarian needs, and for critical early recovery steps and support for state and nation building. Investment in reconciliation initiatives is needed widely as the violence has impacted on the entire population.

UNDP is working to address the immediate post-conflict needs. We are playing a leading role in the rebuilding of the state administration, including through ensuring the payment of salaries to civil servants, and in the areas of reconciliation, mediation, and early recovery.  The Multi-Partner Trust Fund, established with UNDP support, is a positive step towards ensuring a rapid, strategic, co-ordinated, and coherent response aimed at recovery and longer-term development.

The CAR crisis is having a debilitating effect on neighbouring countries, particularly Cameroon, Chad, and DRC, which are the recipients of an estimated 350,000 CAR refugees.  UNDP is supporting regional analysis of the impact of the crisis and identifying strategic entry points for support. We have recently recruited a regional Peace and Development Adviser to work with the Chad, Cameroon, DRC, and Republic of Congo Country Offices on programming to promote peace and stability in the region, and on engaging national and regional stakeholders in that process.

Since the beginning of the current crisis in South Sudan last December, approximately 1.3 million people have been displaced, and four million are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance. While we can hope that the latest ceasefire and the agreement to form a transitional government might end the bloodshed in the world’s youngest nation, the situation there is very fragile. To begin addressing the many challenges in developing and implementing a comprehensive transition plan for reconciliation and recovery, UNDP has shifted its programming to focus on early recovery, peace building, and reconciliation. Our goal is to support short-term actions for early recovery and stability at the local level which will establish a foundation for long-term social cohesion, effective governance, democratic participation, and the rule of law.

We are following closely, and with great concern, the developments in Iraq, which continue to unfold in unpredictable ways. An already alarming situation of insecurity and displacement in the country has now been compounded by hundreds of thousands fleeing for safety. This is placing strain on host communities, especially in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq which has also been receiving many refugees from the conflict in Syria.

The rapid spread of the insurgency has required UNDP to relocate its staff in Baghdad to Erbil and Amman. Clearly the confusion will have an impact on our ability to deliver on our current programming. Nonetheless, UNDP is working closely with national authorities, UNAMI, and the United Nations Country Team on crisis co-ordination and on our joint efforts to ensure that the most vulnerable - particularly women, girls, and the disabled – are supported with shelter and protection, emergency livelihoods, and life-saving medicines.

Overall, the ongoing crises in Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Iraq and elsewhere, demonstrate how destructive violent conflict is to development. In these circumstances, as highlighted in our new Strategic Plan, UNDP’s role is to support recovery from crisis and to build the foundations for longer term stability and development.
Post-2015 Agenda

The development setbacks inflicted by conflict and violence are among the many issues being discussed as the post-2015 development agenda is formulated.

Current challenges make it even more important for the world to set priorities for a new global agenda. At UNDP, we continue to hope that the sustainable development goals will be easy to communicate, action-oriented, achievable, and limited in number.

As you are aware, the co-chairs of the Open Working Group (OWG) on the SDGs released a zero draft of their report on 2 June. It reflects the need to complete the unfinished business of the MDGs, and to tackle broader sustainable development challenges.

For a smooth transition from the MDGs to the new SDGs, it will be important to make the best use of the structures and frameworks which countries and development actors already have in place, including on MDG monitoring. UNDP is preparing for implementation of the new agenda by supporting countries to pilot illustrative goals, building on their national development plans. We are also working with more than fifty countries to hold inclusive dialogues on how to transition to and implement a new global agenda.  

Being fit for purpose for a post-2015 world is on the agenda of the UN as a whole. At the Chief Executives Board in May, UN Executive Heads discussed how the UN system can best prepare to support the new agenda.

If the UN system is to support integrated approaches to sustainable development within countries, which will be essential to meeting the SDGs, it will have to step up its own collaboration.

Initiatives like the MDG Acceleration Framework, have shown the system at its best: focused and working across sectors and in broad partnerships, including with the World Bank.

I am committed - as UNDP Administrator and UNDG Chair - to continue advocating for the culture of collaboration across the system which is needed for successful implementation of the post-2015 agenda.

The growing importance of South-South and Triangular Co-operation

The importance of South-South and triangular co-operation will continue to grow in the post-2015 world.

We must therefore continue to strengthen efforts to mainstream and promote South-South co-operation in our work. This is a key component of UNDP’s strategic plan, and the development of our new corporate strategy on South-South co-operation is underway.

The 2013 UNDP Annual Report shows that our work in this area is growing significantly. In 2013 UNDP supported the promotion of South-South co-operation in 127 countries, and it was reported to be part of 747 country outcomes – a 62 per cent increase over 2012 figures. There is a great deal of scope for us to expand the range of these partnerships, and to integrate them more explicitly into programme design – which we are committed to doing.

UNDP is also committed to hosting and supporting the work of the United Nations Office for South-South Co-operation. At the recent session of the High-level Committee on South-South Co-operation, Member States noted the report of the Secretary-General on measures to strengthen the UNOSSC further. We will continue to work to that end.

Call to Action on Climate Change  

In September, the UN Secretary-General will host a Climate Summit to mobilize political will for a  climate agreement in 2015. The aim is to catalyze the level of action required to shift the world towards a low-carbon economy.

UNDP is actively supporting the preparations for the summit, and assisting countries and other partners to bring to it bold announcements and actions. We are focusing our efforts in particular on Land Use and Forests, and Adaptation, Resilience and Disaster Risk Reduction.

In line with our Strategic Plan, we continue to support countries to develop and deliver on concrete mitigation and adaptation strategies and actions, particularly through the mechanisms of the UNFCCC. We are also working with the Government of Peru to support a successful outcome to the Lima Climate Change Conference of Parties in December.

Annual Report on Performance and Results

I turn now to one of the main agenda items at this Board meeting: the 2013 Annual Report of the Administrator on the Strategic Plan.

This report presents UNDP’s performance and results against the final year of the 2008–2013 Strategic Plan, following the cumulative review which we  presented to the Board last year of our results from 2008 – 2012.  This year’s report also responds to ECOSOC’s request to include reporting on the QCPR in the annual reporting of the funds and programmes on their strategic plans.

UNDP’s work in 2013 took place against a backdrop of uneven growth and rising inequalities in many countries. With the target date for the MDGs in sight, we continued to push for MDG achievement, and for the promotion of inclusive pro-poor growth overall. Issues of democratic governance, voice, and participation were also areas of focus, along with natural resource management, access to energy, and the promotion of low-emission and climate resilient growth. In conflict and post-conflict countries and in countries affected by disasters, we helped bridge the gap between relief and recovery.

To enable Board Members to see how we will transition from the previous Strategic Plan to the new one, the results in this year’s Annual Report are organized according to the new plan’s three areas of work: a) sustainable development pathways; b) strengthening inclusive and effective democratic governance, and c) building resilience. For the first time, we have also introduced a two page “report card”, which has been designed to respond to Board requests for a brief and clear summary of our results.

In 2013 UNDP reports that it worked on the formation of sustainable development pathways in 154 countries, and that that accounted for 44 per cent of our total expenditure. The work with the greatest impact was our support for the development of 1254 national plans, 488 policies, 995 diagnostics, and 853 budgets to advance rights-based policy reforms and pro-poor growth, address MDG bottlenecks, generate decent work, and more. As well we contributed to close to 1000 strategies, action plans, and programmes supporting the development of livelihoods and sustainable businesses and strengthening the capacities of national institutions and civil society organizations. This is UNDP working at scale.

In 2013 we also supported twelve more countries to develop MDG Acceleration Plans, bringing the total number of countries using the MAF since 2010 to 56. The number has since risen to 58. Through our partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, more than 3.5 million people in rural areas across twelve countries benefitted from access to modern energy services for the first time. We see significant potential to scale up this work in this UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All. We also continue to be responsible for access to anti-retroviral treatment for HIV for one in every seven people receiving ARVs worldwide.

Ensuring that economic and social progress is environmentally sustainable is a critical objective of our work, as it will be of the SDGs. We supported 117 countries with their natural resource management and the promotion of low emission and climate resilient growth.

Working with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), we contributed to the more sustainable management of 250 million hectares of land and sea with 101 countries. Through our UN-REDD partnership with FAO and UNEP, we helped to support thirty countries to prepare for REDD+ implementation aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Within our mandate to promote inclusive and effective democratic governance, last year we supported 140 countries across the areas of elections, delivery of justice, security, rule of law, governance, and public service delivery.
UNDP’s contributions helped to ensure that over four million people had better access to justice and legal aid last year – just under fifty per cent of whom were women. In Liberia, for example, 1.2 million people have improved access to justice, human rights, and protection services as a result of capacity development interventions.

With UNDP support in Bangladesh, on average, four million people per month now have online access to public services and essential public records. This has had substantial benefits; for example, the average waiting times for public records, such as birth certificates and land records, have been reduced from seven days to one hour.  

UNDP’s contribution to election cycle management is a growing part of our work. At the beginning of our last strategic plan, in 2008 we were supporting nineteen countries in this area. By last year we were working with 68.  More than 43 million new voters were registered last year with our support, and an additional 96 million voted in elections. Independent evaluations show that UNDP makes important contribution to ensuring that electoral processes are more inclusive, and in helping to professionalize election system management. We continue to strive for greater inclusion of women, youth, and marginalized groups in electoral processes.

In 2013, UNDP worked with 97 countries on building resilience, including through disaster risk reduction, conflict prevention, livelihoods and employment, justice, security, and the rule of law.

We helped generate more than 3.2 million work days in short-term jobs across fourteen crisis-affected countries, benefiting over 200,000 people. Following Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, for example, UNDP’s early recovery programme has provided nearly 50,000 people with temporary employment, many of whom were paid via a mobile phone money transfer system – consistent with our support for the “Better than Cash” initiative.

Strengthening national capacities to manage and prevent conflict is also central to our portfolio. In fourteen countries, we supported the establishment of national structures for dialogue, mediation, and conflict management. In the Arab States region, we brought together forty national and regional mediators, facilitators, and peace-builders to strengthen peer learning, build networks, and support the development of a regional information resource platform for mediation support. In Colombia, we were engaged with supporting some 4,600 civil society organizations to have input into the peace talks between the Government and the FARC.
The promotion of access to justice, security, and the rule of law in post-conflict settings continued to be a high priority last year. In Burundi, for example, one-stop-shop hubs, backed by UNDP, which support survivors of sexual- and gender-based violence, reviewed more than four hundred per cent more cases last year than in 2012. In Afghanistan, through the Law and Order Trust Fund, UNDP’s support contributed to a 150 per cent increase in the number of female police officers.

2013 also saw us very focused on strengthening UNDP’s organizational effectiveness and efficiency.

Part and parcel of these efforts was building our monitoring and evaluation capacity. I am pleased to report that last year 42 per cent of our offices had a dedicated monitoring and evaluation capacity – close to double the figure of the previous year. Our quality ratings from these decentralized evaluations also increased in 2013, with 45 per cent of initiatives evaluated rated as satisfactory or better – a big lift from 32 per cent in 2012. Another 36 per cent were evaluated as moderately satisfactory. Our objective is to keep lifting these ratings.

To reduce duplication and improve efficiency and value for money, UNDP plans to continue to move transactional services to global shared services centers and regional hubs. Two such centers are already operating, in Kuala Lumpur and Copenhagen.

Our 2013 provisional development expenses stood at $4.49 billion, a slight drop from the 2012 figure of $4.53. Of this total, $0.57 billion were funded from regular resources, with a further $0.92 billion from local resources and $3 billion coming from other partners’ resources. Expenses for co-ordination held steady at $0.12 billion. Discussions on UNDP’s resources are scheduled for the Board’s agenda in September, but, for now, let me take this opportunity to thank all our funders for their very valuable contributions to our organization.
At the close of the 2008 – 2013 Strategic Plan period, I believe we can say that UNDP’s work has had a positive impact on human and sustainable development, and has laid a strong foundation for the work ahead under our new Strategic Plan – to which I now turn.

Implementation of the new Strategic Plan

UNDP is pursuing implementation of the Strategic Plan rigorously.
We are driving ‘programme alignment’, to transform our programme portfolio worldwide proactively and progressively, so that it can follow through on the vision, principles, outcomes, and areas of work outlined in the Plan.  The process of alignment aims to achieve more focused and higher quality programming which delivers better results more cost-effectively. Therefore, it goes beyond how our programme portfolio is adjusted to the current Strategic Plan, into institutionalizing a systematic approach to implementing future Strategic Plans as well.

Alignment of global and regional programmes has been advanced. At country level, as we move to align, we are respectful of national priorities and of our existing commitments to governments and other UN agencies. There is, however, significant scope for gains in quality and results in our existing programmes, provided that our resource base is maintained at levels we have projected in the Plan.

The work on programme alignment at country level is progressing rapidly, within budget, and with good initial results. Since the Plan was approved in September last year, technical guidance on alignment has been prepared; Country Offices have completed a major self-assessment survey; field level testing of concepts and methods has been wrapped-up successfully in three countries (Argentina, Nepal, and Sierra Leone); and we got a resounding endorsement of the approach we are taking at our Global Management Meeting in March.  The alignment toolkit is being rolled out, and will have been applied by close to sixty Country Offices by early September.

From these investments of time and effort, we also expect to see higher quality UNDP engagement in UN country programming processes, which will position us well to advance the post-2015 development agenda. Another important early return will be higher quality Country Programme Documents coming to the Board.

Learning from past experience, we are avoiding the pitfall of turning programme alignment into a ‘one-off’ exercise. The approach we are taking is being embedded within the organization, and will remain a top priority in our Annual Business Plans through to 2017.  

Integrated Results and Resources Framework

I am pleased to report that the Integrated Results and Resources Framework (IRRF) - approved at the Second Regular Session in September 2013 - has now been populated with baselines, annual milestones, and multi-year targets.

This is the first Strategic Plan for which UNDP has presented a single integrated framework showing the connection between development and management results, and the link between resources and results. It signals UNDP’s determination to become a more focused, results-driven, effective, and efficient organization, and will allow for better monitoring and greater accountability.

As UNDP’s overall approach is to look both at global and national poverty line trends, as well as the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) and the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, we are laying a solid foundation for supporting the kind of integrated approaches needed to address poverty, inequality, and exclusion.

The outputs and outcomes in the IRRF constitute the basis on which UNDP will build its implementation of the Strategic Plan.  

At output level, we have specific measures to capture the results of UNDP’s direct contribution to national development progress, to demonstrate our added value at country level.

At outcome level, we and partners will use the framework to monitor longer term development progress in areas supported by UNDP, but resulting from the collective efforts of many partners. This is vital for adjusting our strategies as needed, and to gain deeper understanding of how our support is contributing to national development progress.

The organizational tier focuses on UNDP’s efficiency and effectiveness. It contains a set of common QCPR indicators, which have been harmonized with UNICEF, UNFPA, UN Women, and WFP. In its implementation, we will analyze how resources influence results, and how changes in organizational structure and efficiencies affect our effectiveness at country level.

We know that the IRRF will need continued improvement, and are grateful for the ongoing constructive engagement of the Board and the External Peer Review Group.  In the coming six months, we will keep on streamlining and populating the framework, relying on national engagement and statistical capacities to the greatest extent possible. We must also improve our capacities for data collection and evidence-based monitoring for learning and decision-making, to serve as a foundation for higher quality performance and results management and reporting. The fruits of this work will be shared with you in the first results report for the new Strategic Plan at the Annual session in 2015. 

Restructuring UNDP to be fit for purpose

An important element of making the organization more effective, sustainable, and ready to deliver on our Strategic Plan is to have structures which are fit for purpose.
A further step in our restructuring to achieve that was taken on 21 May when new bureau organograms and terms of reference were released. They present:

•    significant shifts in HQs to Regional Service Centre ratios, to strengthen our
     regional presence and be closer to Country Offices;

•    the creation of two new groupings: the Bureau for Policy and Programme
     Support (BPPS), which will align policy and programme support functions in
     one bureau, and a separate Crisis Response Unit (CRU);

•    a clear presentation of how and where services are being performed, with
     clear accountability; and,

•    promising opportunities for more standardization and less duplication.

As announced last October, the organograms propose to reverse the HQ to regional staffing ratio from 60/40 to 40/60. There is also an improvement in our management ratios, with downward shifts at both the D1/D2 level and at the P4/P5 level; and an upward shift at the P1-P3 level. There is more work to do to improve the overall management:staff ratio, and  thereby achieve less top-heavy structures. This will be a carefully managed transition over time.

The people realignment exercise has been designed to have the majority of decisions taken on staff positions by the end of the summer. Based on these decisions, relocations and position changes can begin this summer, and will continue throughout the year. Throughout this process we will ensure that:

•    mechanisms are in place to ensure fairness and transparency;

•    there will be more posts at entry and middle management levels, thereby
     providing better career opportunities;

•    the opportunities for investment presented by the new Strategic Plan will be
     fully taken advantage of;

•    the Staff Council continues to be invited to engage with job fair panels, job
     matching review panels, and the makeup of final separation packages; and,

•    the Board is kept informed of progress.

In 2015, progress will be made on the second round of change in the Bureau of Management, and on improving our business processes to maximize the effectiveness of our delivery, quality assurance, accountability, and reporting systems.

I fully acknowledge that change is never easy. But at the end of this process of change, I believe that we will have a more cost-effective and efficient organization, which is better equipped to support our Country Offices to help programme countries tackle the development challenges they face now and in the future.

Transparency and accountability

I continue to emphasize the importance of transparency and accountability in all our work

We took great pride in being placed first among multi-lateral development organizations on transparency in the most recent Aid Transparency Index. We continue to publish more information on a timelier basis, including on procurement and on project results. As a founding member and co-host of the International Aid Transparency Initiative, we work with more than 240 other development actors to make aid spending easier to access and understand.  And we continue to advocate in global fora for improved transparency as a key way of increasing the effectiveness of development co-operation.

Our public disclosure of internal audit reports also demonstrates that UNDP’s work is subject to rigorous and independent scrutiny.

To date, UNDP has publicly disclosed a total of 202 internal audit reports. Since January 2013 over 4,290 visitors have registered at the website where the reports are published.

The information on the overall implementation status of recommendations per audit report, which is also available on the website, indicates that management does respond efficiently to internal audit recommendations to address shortcomings noted in internal audit reports.

Furthermore, in line with our commitment to transparency and accountability, additional information on substantiated investigation cases in 2013 is being presented for the first time in the annex to the annual report on audit and investigations. The additional information includes disclosing the regions and categories of misconduct, as well as estimates of financial losses when applicable.

Working as one in the UN development system

As I stressed at the beginning of this statement, a strong culture of collaboration will be essential for the UN system to be fit for purpose in a post-2015 world. A commitment to such a culture is clearly reflected in UNDP’s new Strategic Plan.

We are actively working with the wider UN development system on QCPR implementation. Let me briefly highlight some of the notable reform advances.

At the heart of our joint efforts has been the implementation of the second generation of Delivering as One. UNDG continues to experience strong demand from Member States wishing to adopt this approach. Since the pilot phase, the number of Delivering as One countries has increased from 8 to 39, with Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guinea, and Togo being the latest to come forward.

To ensure that the recently adopted Standard Operating Procedures for Delivering as One have their intended impact on coherence, effectiveness, and simplification at the country level, the UNDG has adopted a Plan of Action for Headquarters. We expect most of its 55 priority actions to be completed before the end of this year.

Moreover, UNDG is developing a Delivering as One monitoring and evaluation framework, and a set of minimum requirements for countries wanting to adopt the Delivering as One approach.

Another major development has been implementation of the system-wide cost-sharing of the Resident Co-ordinator system by UNDG member entities, which took effect in January.

As not all UN entities are in a position to contribute the full amounts immediately, we are still facing a funding gap in the transitional phase in 2014 and 2015. UNDG is therefore seeking continued contributions from Member States for the period remaining before the cost sharing modality becomes fully operational in 2016.

Reports of the Joint Inspection Unit

Before concluding, let me say few words about the reports of the Joint Inspection Unit.

As in prior years, the JIU has prepared a number of insightful and informative reports, which I am happy to bring to the attention of Executive Board members, together with UNDP’s management responses to them.

Let me in particular highlight the review of the selection and appointment process for United Nations Resident Co-ordinators, which is a topic particularly important to me as Administrator of UNDP and Chair of the UN Development Group. The report reaffirms that robust and rigorous selection and appointment processes are in place for Resident Co-ordinators. I also support the inspectors’ encouragement to UN entities to do their utmost to make a diverse cross-section of their top talent available for RC/RR postings.


UNDP is driving forward the implementation of its new Strategic Plan and internal change agenda.

Throughout this process, the support of the Board has been and continues to be indispensable. With your strong backing, we can continue to strengthen UNDP as a partner of choice in tackling current and future development challenges.

Thank you for your support.

UNDP Around the world