Helen Clark: Statement to the First Regular Session of the UNDP Executive Board

Jan 25, 2016


Mr. President,

Members of the Executive Board,

Colleagues,

I am delighted to welcome all present to this First Regular Session of the UNDP Executive Board.

Let me begin by congratulating H. E. Mr. Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Armenia, on his election as President of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board

I also congratulate the new Vice Presidents on their election: for the Asia Pacific Group H. E. Dr. Khiane Phansourivong, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Lao PDR; for the Western European and Other Group H.E. Ms. Bénédicte Frankinet, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Belgium; and for the Latin America & Caribbean Group, Mr. Tumasie Blair of Antigua & Barbuda. I understand that the group of African states is still consulting on their candidate to become Vice President. We look forward to welcoming their Vice President to join the rest of the Bureau in support of the important work we have ahead of us in 2016.

Allow me also to thank most sincerely both H.E. Mr. Fernando Carrera, the former Permanent Representative of Guatemala for his committed leadership as President last year, and H.E. Mr. Hiroshi Minami of Japan who succeeded Ambassador Carrera as President (ad interim) and ensured a smooth transition for the new Board members. 

As well, my thanks go to the outgoing Vice Presidents from 2015: H.E. Mr. Kelebone Maope of Lesotho, H.E. Mr. Durga Prasad Bhattarai of Nepal, Mr. Sahak Sargsyan of Armenia; and Ms. María José Del Águila of Guatemala.  

2015 was a landmark year for sustainable development, UN Member States reached historic agreements and set global agendas which will guide development priorities for a generation. At UNDP, we see 2016 as a huge opportunity to make real progress on these new and closely linked agendas around the world, working at the request of and in support of our national partners. 

On 24 February, UNDP is holding a Ministerial Meeting. This event will mark the fiftieth anniversary of UNDP’s founding, and seeks the engagement of our high level stakeholders in the tasks before us now. 

The event will be forward looking and feature high-level debates on how to translate the ambitious new global commitments into concrete action and results. We hope that this meeting will generate a shared understanding of the greatest challenges and opportunities in carrying out Agenda 2030, and of UNDP’s role as a partner. We look forward to welcoming Ministers from around the world to the meeting.

In my statement today I will:

- update the Board on UNDP’s efforts in response to current events which are very challenging for development, our ongoing work on electoral processes and disaster risk reduction and management – especially in the face of climate change, and our support for the implementation of the new global agreements negotiated last year;

- report on UNDP’s funding, our ongoing work on transparency and accountability, and on South-South and Triangular Co-operation; and

- update the board on the UN development system reform agenda.

UNDP’s development role in response to crises 

On migration and displacement….

2015 saw very significant movements of people around the world who are looking for safer and more conducive environments in which to live and find work. Sadly there are now sixty million people displaced in the world, and the number of people fleeing war and conflict is higher than ever before. These trends are pushing security and humanitarian concerns to the top of policy agendas.  There is an urgent need to focus on the root causes of the increased levels of migration and displacement, including the persistence of poverty and lack of opportunity, and flight from conflict, violent extremism, and lawlessness.  It is also vital for all partners to work across the old humanitarian and development silos to ensure the most effective response. In this respect, the report of the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing established by the Secretary-General which was released eight days ago is helpful in charting the way forward.

In Syria, the crisis is nearing the end of its fifth year. While work goes on for a political solution to the crisis, many millions of people inside Syria and in neighbouring countries require international support. UNDP was engaged in Syria long before the crisis, and has remained engaged throughout. Our work has focused on building the resilience of the Syrian people by supporting livelihood opportunities, infrastructure rehabilitation, solid waste and debris removal, and the delivery of basic services. 

Pending Executive Board approval this week, UNDP would return to a two-year program for Syria in order to move beyond short-term initiatives and expand our resilience work, including for the most vulnerable communities with a particular focus on women, youth, and people with disabilities. A greater focus on resilience-building within Syria itself will be part of addressing some of the factors contributing to displacement and migration.

UNDP is also strongly committed to building the resilience of Syrian refugees and host communities in neighboring countries. Last November, I was pleased to open the high level Resilience Development Forum, organized by UNDP, co–hosted by the Government of Jordan, and attended by more than 200 partners.  The Forum came to a shared understanding on critical issues which need to be addressed to improve responses to the Syria crisis by strengthening the resilience of people and communities.  Two key issues identified were:

• the need for better integration of humanitarian and development efforts, and 

• the need to work with and support the national efforts and capacities of the host communities and countries.

In line with this approach in Jordan, for example, UNDP backs the Government’s national Jordan Response Plan. We will continue to support livelihoods and job creation, including through emergency employment programs, and to contribute to strengthening solid waste management. Resilience focused initiatives are also gaining increased support in the other countries in the sub-region. 

Such work, and the issues identified at the Resilience Development Forum as key for improving responses to the Syrian and other protracted crises, need now to be championed in other upcoming forums, including in London on 4 February at the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference, co–hosted by the UK, Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the UN. I am heartened to see the emphasis on strengthening resilience in the preparations for the conference, and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan.

In Burundi, a volatile situation continues. UNDP is in the process of deploying a SURGE team to provide strategic advisory support to the Resident Co-ordinator and specialist support in crisis response, governance, early recovery and livelihoods, communications, and operations and security. 2016 will be an important year for encouraging meaningful and inclusive dialogue at all levels, in an effort to prevent further damage to Burundi’s economy, and society and enable it to get back on track for development. 

On transitions to constitutional government:

In the Central African Republic, we were heartened to see the constitutional referendum and national elections unfold with relatively few security incidents and a high level of participation. UNDP is supporting the electoral process in partnership with the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA. We will continue our work on peace consolidation through support for community violence reduction, restoration of state authority, and justice and reconciliation – all key priorities of the May 2015 Bangui Forum on National Reconciliation.

UNDP supported the Mali Government’s preparation of the International Conference for the Economic Recovery and Development of Mali in Paris, which drew around €3.2 billion in pledges. This year, our efforts in the north of the country will address challenges related to internally displaced peoples, including reconciliation and social cohesion, and support for food security and livelihoods.  

South Sudan is in the early days of implementation of the peace agreement, and preventing a slide back into conflict will be critical. UNDP has put state-building and peace-building activities at the centre of its work during this transitional period. Under the new Country Programme for July 2016 to December 2017, UNDP will provide support in livelihoods, community security, and social cohesion in areas where stabilization is possible. We will  partner with UNMISS and sister UN Agencies to support the implementation of critical provisions of the Peace Agreement,  including the functioning of the Transitional Government of National Unity, permanent constitution making, the rule of law, transitional justice, and human rights.

In Somalia, UNDP is supporting the complex political and state-building agenda for all three key priorities of the Somali Vision 2016 – state formation, constitution review, and elections – under the New Deal architecture. 2016 will also mark the move from  short-term recovery planning  to longer-term development planning around the SDGs. UNDP will support the development of Somalia’s first post-transition National Development Plan. 

In Yemen, we will step up our efforts to respond to the crisis through the recently finalized Yemen Resilience Programme, focusing on eight of Yemen’s 22 governorates. We aim to support the delivery of basic services, and improve livelihoods within communities, social cohesion, and protection.

In Libya, UNDP will support implementation of the Libya Political Agreement, and seek to provide immediate support to the future Government of National Accord through a dedicated joint programme with the UN political mission in Libya (UNSMIL). UNDP will also support communities to cope with the effects of the crisis through a local resilience and recovery programme focusing on basic services, community security, and livelihoods in fifteen municipalities.

In Afghanistan, the security environment and economic outlook remain very challenging. Migrants from Afghanistan to Europe represented the second largest such group in 2015.  Decisions taken at the Warsaw and Brussels conferences on Afghanistan this year will determine the future levels of international development and security assistance to Afghanistan. Working with the Government, UNDP continues to build capacities and promote resilience at the national and sub-national level and across the provinces. During my visit to Kabul in November, I was pleased to launch a new $90 million local governance programme which will work alongside provincial governors’ offices and district officials. 

On elections: 

In Sri Lanka, 2015 saw peaceful elections and continued progress on peacebuilding and reconciliation.  UNDP continues to support sustainable livelihood opportunities in the regions most affected by the conflict. We will also support the recently established Office of National Unity and Reconciliation to promote social cohesion and inclusion through inter-ethnic and inter-religious dialogue. 

In Latin America and the Caribbean, sixteen countries held presidential, parliamentary and/or local representation elections in 2015. Haiti’s electoral process is ongoing. Most countries witnessed growing political participation of women, youth, and indigenous peoples, with Bolivia reaching gender parity in the Plurinational Legislative Assembly. 

UNDP has been assisting electoral management bodies in a number of countries in the region, and strengthening civil society and citizen participation. Special efforts focused on increasing women’s representation were made through multi-party capacity building for women candidates in several countries.

El Niño

The 2015-2016 El Niño is one of the strongest since 1950, and its impact – particularly on food insecurity – may last as long as two years.

The UN estimates that some 52 million people across Southern and Eastern Africa will be food insecure as a result of El Niño. UNDP is supporting early recovery initiatives in Ethiopia, which is hard hit with over 10.2 million more people needing assistance, and supporting IGAD’s drought resilience work in the Horn of Africa jointly with OCHA. UNDP’s regional hub in Addis Ababa will also work with other regional economic communities, such as in the Sahel and in the SADC region, to strengthen national and regional co-ordination mechanisms for El Niño response and recovery. 

Less-than-expected rainfall along Central America's Dry Corridor and in Haiti is a real concern, especially for the livelihoods of vulnerable communities. In 2015, UNDP provided support to Honduras and El Salvador to cope with the impact of the ongoing drought, while TRAC 3 support was provided to Paraguay in December in response to the flooding and consequent displacement of people. Guatemala has also approached UNDP about possible support. UNDP stands ready to strengthen existing national and regional response mechanisms; boost regional and national capacities to respond to El Niño; and ensure adequate co-ordination with OCHA, WFP, FAO, and other agencies working at regional and sub regional level.

In the Pacific, climate-induced natural disasters continue to threaten people’s lives and livelihoods. Around 4.7 million people are at risk from the adverse effects of El Niño, including from drought, cyclones, and/or increased rainfall in some locations. Ten to fourteen tropical cyclones are expected to occur during the 2015/2016 season. UNDP is assisting the Government of Papua New Guinea with emergency co-ordination and assessment of El Niño conditions. Elsewhere, the UNDP Pacific Risk Resilience Programme has supported the Government of Vanuatu to develop its Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Policy for 2016-2030. In collaboration with the private sector in Tonga and Vanuatu, 150,000 people participated in a mobile phone text message campaign on disaster preparedness in 2015.

2016 – Implementing the New Global Agendas

Implementing Agenda 2030

In 2016, implementation of Agenda 2030 begins in earnest. UNDP, together with its sister agencies in the UNDG, is ready to support Member States, guided by the MAPS (Mainstreaming, Acceleration, and Policy Support) approach agreed by the UNDG. 

Important work is already underway in many countries: 

• Last year, in collaboration with other UNDG entities, UNDP, WFP, and UNICEF led the preparation of a reference guide for UNCTs on Mainstreaming the SDGs into national agendas. The guide provides a range of approaches and tools for adapting the 2030 Agenda to national, sub-national, and local conditions. UNDP is providing policy and programme support and seed funding for this work. Since October, twenty countries, representing all regions and developing country typologies, have piloted the use of this guide.

• On Acceleration: UNDP and UNICEF, on behalf of the UNDG, are developing a toolkit to support governments and other stakeholders to accelerate SDG progress. The SDGs agenda itself integrates the economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainability. Acceleration, therefore, should promote initiatives which consciously support progress across a range of goals and targets simultaneously. For example, UNDP is working with DESA on a tool which models the links between energy, water, land-use, and climate in alternative scenarios to help devise the most effective policy interventions for progress across a number of SDGs. We will work closely with the World Bank on acceleration, building on the successful partnership and experience with the MDG Acceleration Framework. 

UNDP has also articulated its particular contribution to SDG implementation within the framework of the agreed UNDG agenda. It will focus on three aspects.  First, we will help advance a ‘whole of agenda’ and ‘whole of society’ approach which is coherent across thematic issues and encourages partnerships for implementation.  Second, we will mobilise our expertise and programme support around SDG 1 (end poverty in all its forms everywhere); SDG 10 (reduce inequality within and among countries); SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), and on other SDGs where we have particular strengths - including on the environment, sustainable energy and climate change, women’s political and economic empowerment, and health – the latter based on our extensive experience gained in partnership with the Global Fund and as a UNAIDS co-sponsor.  Third, we will support countries to monitor, report, and apply lessons learned on SDG implementation based on our many years of working to advance the MDGs.    

The Director of the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support will brief Executive Board members in more detail about UNDP support to SDG implementation on Wednesday. We fully recognize the transformational nature of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs, and will work with all partners to bring our particular strengths to bear on achieving the ambitious and interlinked goals and targets.

COP21

The Paris Agreement on climate change negotiated at COP 21 is the agreement for which the world has been waiting. It has the potential to move economies and societies towards green, risk-informed, and inclusive growth, and thus a zero-carbon, sustainable future.

The challenge now is to implement the commitments outlined in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). With a $2.3 billion climate change portfolio and more than two decades of experience with climate related initiatives across 140 countries, UNDP is well placed to help turn commitments into ambitious climate action. 

Last year, 43 developing countries received direct financial and technical support from UNDP to finalize their INDCs. More than 1,000 representatives from over 130 countries attended the global, regional and sub-regional INDC dialogues and consultations which UNDP conducted together with UNFCCC and other partners. In Indonesia, for example, UNDP supported the development of the country’s INDC, which includes a commitment to reduce emissions by 29 per cent below business-as-usual levels by 2030.  If international support is provided, that target would be increased to a 41 per cent reduction from business as usual.

 

As countries transition from INDCs to Nationally Determined Contributions in line with the Paris Agreement, UNDP will assist them to revisit their targets, assess their contributions in the context of the Paris Agreement, and determine the concrete steps which must be taken to achieve their goals. Our strong collaboration with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Green Climate Fund (GCF), and bilateral and multilateral partners will be critical in supporting this work.

Resources

Core resources remain critical for UNDP’s ability to operate strategically, prioritise support to countries most in need, ensure quality programming, promote coherence through the Resident Co-ordinator system, and respond to crises and emerging needs and opportunities.

We are grateful to our core donors for their continuing support, especially given the financial constraints over many of the last few years. It is also important to recognize that many countries contribute to our funding in other ways, including by hosting policy centres, through South-South Co-operation, and through Government Local Office Cost and government financial contributions to UNDP programming.

The continuing downward trend in core resources is a concern to us. We hope Member States will help us to reverse this negative trend in 2016. Increasing the number of core contributors will help.  UNDP is expected to provide substantial support to UN system co-ordination, respond quickly to crises and disasters, provide predictable support to countries, and maintain the high standards of quality assurance and transparency it has attained. We need adequate funding to perform to the high standards we set ourselves.

This year we will continue to seek to diversify our partnerships and resource base. That will include strengthening our engagement with development banks, including for example, the Islamic Development Bank, and rolling out a revised strategy on how UNDP can work better with the private sector and philanthropy as development partners. 

Examples of new partnerships include:

• In 2015, the Russian Federation established a Russia-UNDP Trust Fund Agreement for Development with initial funding of US $25 million, following the signing of the Partnership Framework Agreement. The Trust Fund will focus on poverty eradication; disaster risk reduction and preparedness for emergencies; and energy and environment.

• The Republic of Korea continues to grow its contributions as a core funding partner. It also supports the UNDP Seoul Policy Centre for Global Development Partnerships, and the Korea-UNDP MDG Trust Fund which has supported innovative initiatives at country level to improve the livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people. 

• UNDP was the first UN entity to be approved for accreditation as an implementing partner of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in March 2015. We have received requests from countries across all regions to support preparation of their funding proposals to GCF.  Of the funding proposals approved by the GCF Board to date, for a value of $168 million, two were UNDP partnerships valued at $36 million  for Malawi and the Maldives

New Funding Windows

UNDP will be setting up four new funding windows through which partners can contribute to supporting country-level efforts to achieve the SDGs. The four windows will focus on sustainable development and poverty eradication; climate change and disaster risk reduction; governance for peaceful and inclusive societies; and emergency development responses to crises and disasters, followed by early recovery. At least fifteen per cent of the funds will be used for gender-specific activities to ensure a mainstreamed and well integrated approach to the empowerment of women and promotion of gender equality.   Investment in these funding windows will help enable UNDP respond to country needs more effectively.  

Brochures describing the proposed new funding architecture have been shared with the Board. Our objective is to have fewer and better linked funding windows which are managed together in order to increase efficiency and reduce transaction costs.  This will allow for greater integration in programming and effective responses across the development continuum.   

Partner support is obviously critical for the success of the new funding windows.  Contributing partners will have access to real-time information on allocations and expenditure, and be directly engaged in substantive dialogues on progress, challenges, and opportunities.  We look forward to the Board’s feedback during the informal funding dialogue tomorrow.  

Transparency and accountability

UNDP is committed to transparency and accountability. The more accountable we are to those we serve, the more effective we are as a partner for countries working to achieve their national development aspirations and the SDGs. 

We have been working hard to maintain a high ranking as a transparent and accountable agency, and are publishing our project data to the International Aid Transparency Initiative’s (IATI) standard. 

In 2015, the public web page where our internal audit reports are published received 4,844 visits - a thirty per cent increase on the number of visitors in 2014. We are able to show that our work is subject to rigorous and independent scrutiny. We also published information on 4,743 development projects across 155 countries and territories.

The benefits of our efforts to improve transparency can be seen in better information sharing internally, and improved quality of our data. We continue to encourage all UNDG members to join IATI and make their data publicly available. 

Mid Term Review of the Strategic Plan

We are gathering data and carrying out the analysis which will inform the Mid Term Review to be considered by the Board in June.   In looking at our performance to-date, we will endeavour to identify the factors which have driven good performance and explain any shortfalls.  Our Strategic Plan is positioned well alongside Agenda 2030, but some adjustments to it may be needed to ensure its ongoing relevance.   

South-South Co-operation

2015 saw significant developments in South-South Co-operation. The New Development Bank of the BRICS and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank are examples of major new initiatives being driven by emerging economies.  

The Executive Board has been briefed on the near final draft of UNDP’s strategy on South-South and Triangular Co-operation. We are grateful to the many Member States which have engaged with us on the development of the strategy. We will work in close partnership with the UN Office of South-South Co-operation (UNOSSC) to implement the strategy. 

To help improve co-ordination of UN support to South-South Co-operation, UNDP is providing financial and technical support to the UNDG Task Team on South-South and Triangular co-operation to map good practices and lessons learned. When finalized, these good practices will be shared with UN Resident Co-ordinators and UN Country Teams which work with Governments to enhance South-South approaches at the country level. This good practice guide will be shared with Member States at the High-Level Committee on South-South Co-operation in May.

Country Programme Documents

Seven new Country Programme Documents are being presented to this Board meeting for approval – those for Argentina, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Iraq, the Syrian Arabic Republic, Tanzania and Uruguay. 

Two years into our Strategic Plan, our CPDs have improved focus and quality as a result of efforts to strengthen alignment with the plan and improve programme design and appraisal. They also address UNDP’s contribution to Agenda 2030, as agreed with national counterparts. 

UN Development System Reform

The historic global agreements reached last year call for integrated approaches across the pillars of the UN Charter and common system. Strong demand is coming from governments on SDG implementation – by the end of August last year, seventy UN Country Teams had already been requested to provide support. We will endeavor to provide joined up support, guided by the MAPS approach. To be able to do that, we need the Resident Co-ordinator system to be properly funded. UNDP continues to meet the bulk of the costs, but a proportion is cost-shared. 

Our immediate goal is to close the funding gap of $17.5 million for the 2016/2017 biennium. Seventeen of the eighteen UNDG member entities are contributing. Some are yet to provide their full amount. The contribution of the UN Secretariat, which accounts for $13.5 million of the funding gap, is currently still pending approval by the Fifth Committee. As the UN Secretariat will continue to draw on the RC System leadership at country level for its support to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in a co-ordinated manner, I hope that we will, with Member States’ leadership and support, soon obtain a positive outcome.

The 2016 QCPR is the opportunity for Member States to update the framework for the work of the UN development system. The UNDG hopes to see a QCPR resolution which is strategic, defines a set of focused mandates, promotes innovation at the country level, and articulates a robust, yet streamlined, monitoring and reporting framework in support of the increased effectiveness and coherence of the UN development system. 

The second phase of the ECOSOC Dialogue will make an important contribution to the pre-QCPR discussions. UNDG has closely followed the Dialogue from the outset and contributed to it on request. We look forward to engaging with Member States on how best to ensure the ongoing relevance and strength of the UN development system. 

Conclusion

As I indicated earlier in my statement, 2016 presents an important opportunity to progress the new global agendas. The continued engagement and support of the Executive Board in UNDP’s work is essential and much appreciated as we seek to play our full role in supporting national and global development agendas.