Helen Clark: Speech at the UNCDF Management Retreat

Feb 26, 2017

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark addresses the UNCDF management retreat in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Brian Lutz/UNDP

I am very pleased to join you this evening, on the eve of your retreat which will look at the role of UNCDF over the next four years as you develop your next Strategic Framework for that period.

For the past half-century, UNCDF’s core mission has been to make finance work for the poor. With its capital mandate, UNCDF has been an important partner with UNDP to LDCs, focusing on enabling poor families, local governments, and SMEs to access the financial resources they need to build a better future.

There is much to be proud of in UNCDF’s record:

•    UNCDF is innovative – introducing new technologies, financing instruments, and partnerships to tackle entrenched inequalities and exclusion in LDCs;
•    UNCDF is catalytic - supporting LDCs to use Official Development Assistance to leverage other sources of finance;
•    UNCDF promotes inclusion – helping LDCs to build more inclusive and resilient communities and economies by targeting sectors and regions where other development finance institutions do not venture. This is critical for meeting the foremost challenge of the 2030 Agenda, leaving no one behind.

In thinking about the key priorities in UNCDF’s next Strategic Framework, it will be important to capitalize on what it does best as it responds to the challenging environment in which all development entities now operate. In particular, I encourage UNCDF to consider the following issues:

First, development agendas have shifted significantly over the last two years with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework, the new Urban Agenda, and the New Ways of Working agreed among humanitarian and development agencies at the World Humanitarian Summit. These all call for new ways of doing business. UNCDF needs to be very focused on where it can be most effective in contributing to implementation of these agendas.

Implementation across these agendas will be especially challenging for LDCs where levels of poverty are high, infrastructure inadequate, capital in short supply, and economies and societies are highly vulnerable to shocks.

UNCDF is already operational in thirty LDCs. With the right funding and partnerships in place, more countries could benefit from UNCDF’s assistance. UNDP’s wide country presence, convening power, and strong focus on policy advice, governance, and sustainability should always be leveraged by UNCDF as an associated programme. So it will be important to look at how this partnership can continue to be strengthened over the period of the next Strategic Plan to maximize the synergies of both UNCDF and UNDP in support of SDG achievement in LDCs. I would welcome suggestions on that during our discussion this evening.

Second, the SDGs can’t be achieved without the right financing in place.  Yet, it is often difficult for LDCs to mobilize domestic resources for development and to attract sustained private investment in their economies due to risk perception. Many LDCs, therefore, remain heavily dependent on ODA - yet ODA alone can’t finance the 2030 Agenda, and it needs to have much more catalytic impact than it has had to date.

This is where UNCDF’s financing models and public-private partnerships become so important. You can help to de-risk markets to encourage investment in underserved communities and regions, and thereby boost sustainable development. This places UNCDF at the forefront of the UN’s efforts to mobilize resources from multiple sources.

Third, we are all stronger in the UN development system if we pull in the same direction. Member States are calling for agencies, funds and programmes to think and work differently, and to be clear about how we contribute collectively, each according to their mandate, to SDG implementation.

UNCDF’s capital mandate and innovative approaches to making finance work for the poor are important contributions to the overall work of the UN to support meeting the SDGs.

Fourth, as you build on your experience and on what works, you will also be looking to respond to new and emerging challenges and opportunities. Among the big challenges are:

•    building inclusive economies;
•    tackling climate change;
•    responding to urbanization, migration, and demographic trends overall; and
•    working out how to use digital technology and big data to best advantage for development.

Tomorrow you will discuss how UNCDF’s work in fragile settings can be advanced further. Already UNCDF is providing support in a number of these settings, not least in Somalia – currently one of your largest programmes. The UNCDF-UNDP partnership which provided reliable digital payments to Ebola response workers in the epi-centre countries was also a good example of how last mile finance tools can support crisis response and recovery.

Given the number of countries mired in fragility of some kind, this discussion is timely.

For the future:

Attracting substantial core resources for development is now difficult, and that is unlikely to change. But there is significant finance out there – if organisations are nimble, flexible, and can show results. That means working ever better and smarter - streamlining operations, reducing transaction costs, and delivering the best results possible within the resources available. Exploring alternative business and funding models must be an ongoing process.

I have good memories of the UNCDF projects I have visited, and I am proud of the partnership between UNCDF and UNDP. Put simply, UNCDF’s work helps build a better future for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people and countries. Long may it be successful.

UNDP Around the world