Turkey is currently the second largest humanitarian donor to the Syrian crisis. In Turkey, UNDP has been supporting host communities and training thousands of refugees and Turkish nationals to support the local economy. Credit: UNDP


Administrator's Statement on April 5. Opening remarks: as prepared for delivery.

I am delighted to join you at the 2018 Regional Meeting of United Nations Resident Coordinators, UNDP Resident Representatives in the Europe and the CIS.

This is my first visit to Turkey as UNDP Administrator. Before we begin, please join me in wishing a fond farewell to Regional Director Cihan Sultanoglu.

As you know, Cihan will leave UNDP in July after more than 35 years of outstanding service, including the past six years as Director of RBEC. Thank you, Cihan, for your leadership and service.

Over the next two days, we must ask ourselves: how best can UNDP leverage the solid foundations that Cihan and all of you in the RBEC team at the country, regional office, and HQs have built together over many years?

UNDP is recognized as a development leader. Countries in the region and beyond are looking to us for new ways to accelerate the transition to sustainable development.

We offer a strong presence on the ground, and a reputation for foresight and responsiveness to the needs of our programme countries. RBEC embraced innovation long before it was a buzzword for development organizations. The bureau has a close collaboration with donor and programme governments, businesses, civil society organizations and IFIs, and extraordinary partners like Turkey. But what more can we offer? That is what we are here to discuss.

Indeed, where better to have this critical conversation about the future of RBEC and UNDP than in Turkey?

The partnership between UNDP and the Government of Turkey has evolved over more than 50 years.

Since 2011, Turkey and UNDP have forged a dynamic partnership that uniquely supports UNDP and sustainable development efforts globally, regionally, and at the country level.

Globally, Turkey is one of the largest non-DAC contributors to UNDP core resources; the co-founder of the Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development (IICPSD), and also contributes to many UNDP projects in Least Developed Countries.

Thanks to the support of the Turkish Government, IICPSD also hosts three global initiatives: the Business Call to Action (BCtA), the Sustainable Development Goals Philanthropy Platform (SDGPP) and the Connecting Business Initiative (CBI) run through IICPSD in Istanbul. The Center is the only global UN entity focused exclusively on the role of the private sector in development.

Regionally, Turkey co-funds UNDP’s Regional Programme and hosts the Regional Hub for Europe and the CIS, which was officially opened in Istanbul in April 2015.  Using the catalytic investment of the Turkish government into the IRH and the Regional Programme, the Hub has become an invaluable resource for UNDP, helping the organization to channel knowledge, resources, innovations, partnerships, new sources of development finance, and expertise to UNDP programme countries worldwide.

At the country level in Turkey, UNDP continues to have a strong Country Office presence, uninterrupted since 1957, in support of Turkey’s national development priorities. The work of the Country Office is guided by three main pillars of action: inclusive and sustainable development; inclusive democratic governance; and climate change and environment. It also has a separate programme under the Syrian Crisis Response, with major contributions from Turkey.

UNDP’s partnership with the Government of Turkey exemplifies the tremendous potential of partnering with an Upper Middle-income Country.

Development cooperation has become one of the main pillars of Turkey’s foreign policy. Turkey's official development assistance (ODA) increased to $6.2 billion in 2016. I am pleased to note that Turkey exceeded 0.7 per cent ODA/GNI target. The share of Turkey’s ODA allocated to the Least Developed Countries exceeded US$1.5 billion in the past five years.

Turkey also counts among the most generous humanitarian donors in the world. Turkey is currently the second largest humanitarian donor to the Syrian crisis. Turkey is not only accommodating over 3 million refugees from Syria – the largest Syrian refugee population anywhere - it is also granting access to Turkish labour markets.

Turkey’s generosity is central to UNDP delivering on its core mission: helping countries eradicate poverty; accelerating structural transformations for sustainable development; and building resilience to crises and shocks.

There is a great deal more for us to do together in the years ahead.

Development prospects and priorities in the RBEC region

While extreme poverty has largely been eliminated and the middle class has grown throughout the region, all countries now face structural bottlenecks that impede progress on the SDGs.

These include greening economies; tackling labour market exclusion and employment and pay gaps between women and men; boosting job markets; modernizing government administrations while involving the most vulnerable and marginalized in decision making; and addressing unequal access to high-quality, affordable public services.

Middle-income countries – which make up a majority of the region –face the challenge of continuing to mobilize development financing in the face of declining aid budgets. In many cases, these countries face complex situations, with pockets of poverty, frozen conflicts, and/or environmental dangers and disasters persisting despite continued economic growth.

On the other hand, countries in the region offer tremendous learning opportunities for countries and communities around the world that are looking for ways to achieve the SDGs.

The region’s governments have actively embraced the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. UN MAPS missions have been requested by virtually all the region’s programme countries, which are eager to identify integrated policy solutions to their development challenges.  

This region enjoys strong collaboration. Donor and programme governments and businesses. Civil society organizations and regional and global International Financial Institutions. Extraordinary partners like Turkey and the Russian Federation with which UNDP administers the Russia-UNDP Trust Fund for Development, which has so far delivered over $30m of development aid and already has $25 more million available for new initiatives.  We continue to deepen our partnership with the European Union. Currently RBEC manages one-third of all EU funds allocated to UNDP. As well, with UNDP’s support, countries such as Kazakhstan are now establishing their own aid agencies.

Innovation is one of the defining features of the Europe and Central Asia region. Governments in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have set up national innovation laboratories that are exploring new ways of achieving the SDGs. They provide strong capabilities for system-level analysis of SDG inter-linkages and new development solutions to address them.

The Innovation Facility for Country Offices established by RBEC to fund offices experimenting with new approaches to social finance, welfare systems, public sector innovation, and data for SDGs is now being rolled out across UNDP. In this region UNDP has also helped mobilize significant GEF and GCF resources.

Around the region, in many instances thanks to UNDP support, there are exciting examples of innovative and experimental approaches to public service delivery.

  • In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, UNDP set up a vast self-employment programme that led to the creation of more than 7,000 businesses – more than 35 percent of them owned by women - and contributed to lowering the unemployment rate from over 37 percent in 2005 to 25 percent in 2015.
  • In Central Asia, UNDP's Aid for Trade initiative has helped negotiate $350 million worth of export contracts, most of them in the agricultural sector.
  • In Kyrgyzstan, UNDP is supporting Taza Koom, an initiative to digitalize all government services and increase people’s online literacy.
  • From the Western Balkans to Georgia, the “Ministry of Data” initiative is bringing together young innovators who are figuring out new ways of generating and visualizing data on a broad array of topics.
  • Here in Turkey, where refugees from Syria have had free access to health and education, and been granted work permits, UNDP has been supporting host communities and training thousands of refugees and Turkish nationals to support the local economy, while more than 100,000 Syrians living in six different camps now benefit from modern waste management services.
  • With support from the EU, seven countries and territories in the Western Balkans are building what could soon become the world’s most developed network of disaster responders.
  • UNDP’s efforts to protect the region’s air and ecosystems play a key role in paving the way for truly sustainable development paths.

Overall vision for the next generation of UNDP

Projects like these, which embrace complexity, which set and meet the most ambitious visions of change and collaboration, and which embrace new technologies and innovations, are how the next generation of UNDP will make a difference.

The development landscape is evolving. From artificial intelligence to climate change, the world is on the cusp of dramatic changes, and for all these reasons, a dynamic, effective and future-focused UNDP embedded in the UN system is needed - now more than ever. 

That is why the new UNDP Strategic Plan aims to lift the ambitions of the organization and move it beyond business as usual.

Our new Strategic Plan provides a clear vision and blueprint for the next four years. It befits the ambition of the SDGs, and of the countries which UNDP serves.

The Plan has been designed to be responsive to the wide diversity of the countries we serve. This diversity is reflected in the three broad development settings described in the plan: eradicating poverty; facilitating structural transformations; and building resilience.

The plan describes how our two new platforms - country-level and global- will enable UNDP to deliver our support in a more effective way.  It also identifies the six Signature Solutions against which we will now align our resources and expertise, to make a real impact on poverty, governance, energy access, gender equality, resilience and environmental sustainability. And it weaves innovation and dynamism into UNDP’s DNA.

The updated UNDP envisioned in the plan acknowledges that solving the enduring problems confronting our programme countries will need all of us to work better together, at all levels.

That is why I want us to articulate a pathway for UNDP that is future focused, that recognizes that an institution like ours — global, multilateral, and public service based as it is — needs to be dynamic and accountable in terms of its effectiveness, transparency and cost-efficiency.

To deliver on this new approach we are embarking on a significant rethinking of our business processes and the operational model that underpins them. Many questions need to be answered in the coming months, but we are confident that by working together and with our stakeholders, and through gatherings such as this one, we will find innovative solutions that help make UNDP more responsive, effective, and cost-efficient, as it must be.

The strategic plan focuses UNDP’s efforts in the coming years on supporting countries to achieve the 2030 Agenda but recognizes UNDP cannot do this on its own. We will be at our best when the entire development system is at its best – working together. 

Strong partnerships, therefore, are central to UNDP’s success, starting with a revitalized partnership with the rest of the UN Development System. UNDP has a unique role and responsibility for helping to bring the system together to provide integrated, high quality support to countries. The values of the United Nations will underpin this work, and together the UN development system will champion the 2030 Agenda and its principles, such as leaving no-one behind.

But the UN Development System is only one piece of the puzzle. The 2030 Agenda is a whole-of-society affair, and our strategic plan recognizes that the resources and expertise needed to achieve the SDGs do not exist only within UNDP or the UN System, but also with many other partners.

We must fully tap into UNDP’s in-house networks and expertise and we must be a connector to the unique and important contributions that others can make. The plan envisions UNDP as an open platform just as much as a policy advisor and service provider – and it is this convening role among partners and stakeholders that is new and exciting. To this end, we as an organization have a great deal to learn from RBEC’s experiences developing partnerships,  establishing innovation hubs, and collaborating with academic partners, as well as strengthening our partnerships with the private sector and civil society.

Reform of the UN Development System

At this stage, it is unclear what the final outcomes of the UN reform proposals will be. Some of the proposed actions are already being taken forward under the authority of the UN Secretary General while others will require approval by the General Assembly. Nonetheless, changes will come. The UN development system must embrace them and ensure that we are fit for purpose to advance the 2030 Agenda.

With its new Strategic Plan now in place, UNDP is positioned as a cornerstone of the reform momentum. As recognized in the SG’s report, UNDP aims to serve as a bedrock for UN Country Teams and Resident Coordinators to lead system-wide planning, risk management and support to governments across the Sustainable Development Goals.

UNDP is also poised to provide efficient and cost-effective support and services to a strengthened RC system to achieve a more robust development coordination function and translate QCPR guidance from Member States into a new way of working for development. This includes continued engagement with humanitarian and peace actors both at country and regional level, and globally in the context of the newly established Joint Steering Committee to advance Humanitarian and Development Cooperation.

As we embark on the implementation of our Strategic Plan, many of our country offices and technical teams are already exploring ways to create effective SDG Country Platforms. You will discuss more about this during your meeting.


The complexity of the 2030 Agenda and the difficult bottlenecks many countries face in achieving the SDGs demands that UNDP change the way it works, thinks and operates.

Our mission as UNDP is to help translate the vision of a more strategic, accountable, transparent, effective and joined up UNDS into reality at the global, regional, and most importantly country levels.

A key part of this effort is building a next generation UNDP which is ready to build on the deep experience of cooperation that exists in this region.

UNDP as the UN’s development agency has a unique role to help bring the system together to provide integrated, high quality support to countries in many different contexts, harnessing our global, regional and country platforms and deep expertise.

Of course we cannot deliver on our vision alone. Which is why I am delighted that today’s keynote speaker will be our privileged partner and a great friend of UNDP, the Minister of Development of Turkey Mr. Lutfi Elvan.

I am looking forward to the Minister’s speech as an inspiration to us all in the two days of discussions ahead.



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