Helen Clark: opening session of UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS Cluster Meeting

Jan 21, 2013

UNDP Administrator Speech at opening session of UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS Cluster Meeting Zagreb, Croatia 9.30 am, 21 January 2013

It is a pleasure to be at this cluster meeting of UN Resident Co-ordinators/UNDP Resident Representatives from across the Europe and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) region.

At the outset, allow me to express UNDP’s deep appreciation to the Government of Croatia for its support and hospitality in hosting this regional meeting, and to acknowledge this special time for UNDP’s relationship with Croatia. After working closely together since 1996, our partnership is about to be transformed, as Croatia is due to become the 28th member state of the European Union on 1 July this year.

Please accept, Minister Pusic, the warm congratulations of UNDP to Croatia on this major achievement. UNDP has been pleased to work closely with Croatia on its EU accession journey. We commend too the support Croatia is giving to others in the neighborhood who seek to make the same journey by sharing its experience with them.

UNDP has also come to know Croatia as an innovator in promoting sustainable development. Over the past two days, I have had the opportunity to see for myself some of the work we have done together in this area. In Zadar, I visited initiatives promoting green jobs, local development, and renewable energy and energy efficiency. In Otočac, I was delighted to be at a ceremony where the Mayor awarded UNDP the town’s medal for our work in support of sustainable tourism in the Gacka River Valley and local development generally.

UNDP sees sustainable development as being about advancing human progress while maintaining the integrity of our planet’s ecosystems. The outcome of Rio+20 in June last year provides a strong foundation for the “triple win” policies we advocate, which advance economic, social and environmental objectives together.

What I saw in Zadar and Otočac reflects this integrated approach to sustainable development. For example, I visited:  

  • the Solar Education Centre, where UNDP’s partnership with local stakeholders supports the promotion of renewable energy solutions and energy efficiency, and the training of unemployed people to install solar power and hot-water systems; and
  • the Centre for Indigenous Species of Fish and Trout in Otočac, which has re-introduced species of native trout and crawfish, and is making the river Gacka a populat tourist destination for sports fishermen again. This initiative combines ecosystem regeneration with opportunities to generate livelihoods from increased visitor numbers.


I was also pleased to meet local entrepreneurs in Zadar whom UNDP Croatia had supported with technical advice, mentoring, and access to funding – just some of the many local people, communities, and projects we have been associated with in Croatia.

UNDP's work around the world helps share ideas, experiences, and best practice across regions and countries. What I have seen in Croatia over the past two days is of great interest to many of our Country Offices working on similar issues in a wide range of contexts.
    It is an understatement to say that the region served by UNDP's      Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS is highly diverse:

  • Croatia and others before it have succeeded in seeing their EU accession aspirations realised. Others have or are still seeking candidate status for accession.
  • This UNDP region stretches from the centre, south, and east of Europe to the borders of China, Afghanistan, Iran and Syria.
  • Some countries in this broad region have experienced violent conflict in the relatively recent past; others experience frozen conflicts to this day.
  • Since 1990, some have made rapid transitions to become fully fledged democracies; in others, political transitions are still underway, or have been slow, or have not occurred.  

Our Regional Bureau here succeeds in working across this broad region, and is highly regarded within UNDP as an innovator in knowledge transfer, and in helping countries identify for themselves the obstacles to sustainable human development, and how to advance it in their national contexts.

Across the United Nations development system, we have a strong focus on inclusion and equity. Many countries have experienced significant economic growth and modernization, but not so many have seen the fruits of that shared broadly – for a range of reasons.

The 2010 Human Development Report on social exclusion in this region took a comprehensive approach to inequality, acknowledging that it is not only a matter of income distribution.  It reports gender inequalities and inequalities in access to health and other services. It noted the exclusion of people with disabilities, and of ethnic minorities, such as the Roma. People in remote and rural locations may also miss out on services and opportunities. The 2010 report showed that a broader focus on sustainable human development is needed for development to be inclusive and equitable.

Changing the Way We Work at UNDP
In these times of great change in our world, UNDP itself is also undergoing change to ensure that it can serve the development needs of this century and not of the last. We are due this year to have a new strategic plan approved by our Executive Board, and you will be briefed on progress on that at this meeting. I think you will find that RBEC as an innovative and successful Bureau will be well equipped to implement the new plan. The plan must also take into account the outcome of the UN General Assembly’s Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review last year. 

In this new world, the development landscape is more crowded than ever before, and there is a lot of scope for new partnerships.  This Regional Bureau for Europe and CIS has been proactive in engaging with new donors and with South-South and East-East partners. For example, the partnership framework agreement UNDP has signed with Turkey, and Turkey’s hosting of UNDP’s Istanbul International Centre for the Private Sector in Development, are significant for UNDP at the global level.

There is no doubt that core funding for UNDP from our traditional donors is increasingly a challenge. Many are experiencing very considerable fiscal constraints, which is impacting on their domestic spending and on their international partners, including us. We must design business models which reflect the reality that we are overwhelmingly, and for the long-term, a non-core funded organization. 
Our non-core funding remains very substantial, showing that UNDP is a partner of choice for many. Government cost-sharing in middle income countries (MICs) will need to grow for our presence there to remain dynamic. Country Offices in this region have been very helpful in developing new ways of working in MICs – including on cost sharing and cost recovery.   Collecting ‘GLOC’ is still a work in progress in many countries, including in this region.

This Regional Bureau has also emphasised the importance of communicating the innovative work Country Offices  do.  The “success stories” publications have been popular in hard copy and on the internet. Many of our offices, the Regional Service Centre, and individual staff members are active in social media, communicating to broader audiences.

From Rio+20 to the Post-2015 Development Agenda
In 2012, a number of countries in this UNDP region were active at the Rio+20 conference, and our Country Offices worked to support their presence.  At the regional level, the joint publication, “From Transition to Transformation: Sustainable and Inclusive Development in Europe and Central Asia,” co-ordinated by the UN Economic Commission for Europe and UNDP, also contributed to substantive discussions about sustainable development.
UNDP is supporting the follow-up to Rio+20, including by co-chairing, with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the team providing technical support to the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals.

Parallel to the post-Rio work is the discussion on the post-2015 global development agenda – at the same time as there must be a final push to achieve as many of the MDGs as possible.

In the RBEC region, there must be continued focus on meeting water and sanitation targets, addressing the HIV epidemic, and reducing maternal mortality, particularly in Central Asia, as a matter of urgency. There is also a way to go in achieving gender equity targets.

The UN Development Group is heavily engaged in the major series of national and thematic consultations on the post-2015 development agenda.  Of the 66 countries currently undertaking national consultations, fourteen are in this region. This is important in ensuring that the post-2015 agenda is relevant to development needs and aspirations here. 

If the Rio+20 and post-2015 agendas are to converge, then the global development agenda will need to place a greater emphasis on sustainable development than ever before. Countries like our host, Croatia, have many experiences to share in shaping this agenda – which calls for much stronger capacities for integrated decision-making across policy silos within governments, and for strong multi-stakeholder partnerships.

This region of largely middle income countries, of new donors and South-South and East-East partners, and of new and soon-to-be EU member states, can provide distinctive and fresh perspectives on what development co-operation could look like in the future. I encourage all our Country Offices to work closely with their host countries on how to contribute to the shaping of the global development agenda. 

Let me conclude by thanking Croatia once again for its hospitality to us, and all our Regional Representatives, Country offices, and headquarters and regional service centre teams for their hard work in support of development throughout the region. I wish you all a happy and constructive meeting.

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