UNDP as ‘knowledge frontier’

Where do Governments turn for trusted policy analysis? A multilateral agency rooted in the field

March 22, 2018

Does anyone use UNDP’s development analysis?

At UNDP, we produce an enormous amount of data, insight and analysis, but does it have real impact? A recent survey of policymakers suggests the answer is emphatically yes!

According to independent analysis by AidData – a research and innovation lab at the College of William & Mary – decision makers see UNDP as a trusted and reliable source of development information for policy making. And we do it more efficiently than any other entity: UNDP comes out on top in value for money.

Info-graphic showing UNDP as top performer in terms of value for money

The study was conducted in 126 low and middle-income countries to identify what information decision makers use most, what entities generate that information and what is most helpful. The results were published in the report Decoding Data Use: How do leaders source data and use it to accelerate development?

Policy makers from low and middle-income countries put data and analysis from multilateral organizations at the top of their priority international information sources. In fact, 87 percent of leaders who used information from external providers sourced it from multilateral agencies. The World Bank, UNDP and the European Union consistently ranked as the top three sources that government leaders and decision makers go to for information about global development policy trends and ideas. Out of the sectors surveyed by AidData, UNDP ranks among the top four information providers for all categories except infrastructure. And it is the first source of information on environment, the second on governance and the fourth on social, economic and rural development issues.

Info-graphic showing UNDP ranking in top four providers of data and analysis

The report identifies three reasons UNDP has become “the knowledge frontier in providing analytical and technical advice, and brokering cross-sectoral partnerships” in key development areas.

First, is our extensive presence on the ground, and what the report calls UNDP’s “ground game”: frequent interaction with policymakers. The researchers noted the catalytical role of our service delivery platforms, through which UNDP generates knowledge and mobilizes and deploys its policy, advisory and operational expertise.

Second, the “higher-than-expected uptake of UNDP’s information” is due to a bounded, but cross-cutting, focus on three key themes: sustainable development, democratic governance and peacebuilding, and climate and disaster resilience.

Third, and finally, its history and continuous presence on the ground has established the reputation and credibility of UNDP through years of direct engagement with countries.

According to the AidData report, UNDP is perceived as most effective in different country settings and in distinct policy areas. For instance, it strongly influences the policy agenda in middle income countries and provides useful policy advice in lower income or crisis-affected countries. And it is seen as helpful in implementation across all categories of countries.

Looking ahead, UNDP has to evolve along with the demands of countries that have more capacity and are facing the more ambitious aspiration of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. UNDP can build on its assets and achievements to deepen the cross-cutting, integrated applications of expertise and investment, customized for each country and circumstance, which the 2030 Agenda calls for.

As articulated in our new Strategic Plan, this implies that UNDP needs to do more with, and at the service of, other parts of the UN and beyond – because no single organization has the knowledge and skills required to support the implementation of the breadth of the 2030 Agenda. But the discussion of the major sources of information, ideas and solutions for policy makers confirms that, no matter the growing importance of artificial intelligence and big data, in today’s knowledge economy, trust remains king and is the ultimate currency. At UNDP, we value the trust of our partners as one of our greatest assets.