Helen Clark: Report to the Second Regular Session of the UNDP Executive Board

Sep 4, 2014

Mr. President,
Members of the Executive Board,
Colleagues and friends,

I am pleased to welcome you to this second regular session of the UNDP Executive Board.   

We meet in turbulent times – it is hard to remember a time when more crises were simultaneously preoccupying the United Nations, its agencies, and the international community. The impact of current conflicts on human development is profound. Now, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa calls for a huge response by partners to countries in the eye of this storm. UNDP is fully engaged in the response to this and other concurrent crises in line with its mandate to support early recovery and build resilience.

In my statement today, I will:

-    Comment on UNDP’s work in response to current crises;
-    Update you on the support we are giving to important global development processes;
-    Brief you on progress on the implementation of UNDP’s Strategic Plan and our organizational changes; and,
-    Provide an overview of UNDP’s resources, and emphasize the importance of transparency and accountability.

UNDP’s role in responding to current crises
At the June meeting of the Executive Board, I spoke about UNDP’s response to the crises in Syria, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan, where we continue to respond to the most pressing needs of affected populations for recovery, while also supporting the strengthening of core institutions for development.

In Iraq, we have been very concerned at the circumstances of minorities which have been violently targeted, as well as with the increasing vulnerability of host communities. In Dohuk Governorate, we are supporting local authorities to provide basic services to IDPs, including by drilling new water wells and supporting the repair of sewerage systems.
More broadly, we are assisting the Kurdistan Regional Government to expand its crisis response capacity by establishing a Crisis Co-ordination and Management Center in Erbil, which links to complementary infrastructure in affected governorates. Overall, we must not lose sight of the need – sooner rather than later – to support the rebuilding of the Iraqi social fabric as a whole. We have boosted our staff capacity and funds for our work in the country.

The conflict in Syria is now estimated to have taken close to 200,000 lives, and generated three million refugees. Another 6.5 million people are internally displaced. The recent report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded that the conflict has caused ‘immeasurable human suffering’ for the Syrian people. Through our Humanitarian Livelihoods Programme, we are providing emergency livelihood support and community early recovery activities, such as critical infrastructure rehabilitation. We are also working for the humanitarian response and our resilience-based development approach to proceed hand-in-hand.

In Gaza, the recent cessation of hostilities provides much needed space for damage assessments and recovery planning.  Immediate tasks include rubble removal, restoration of solid waste systems, and other vital services. The process of reconstruction and recovery, including rebuilding homes and creating durable jobs and livelihoods, will take longer, and to be truly sustainable will require a settlement.

Meanwhile, UNDP continues to adapt its programmes in the Central African Republic to support the stabilization of the country. Our work includes new measures to strengthen justice institutions, making emergency salary payments to police and gendarmerie, and supporting community-level reconciliation. We have co-operated with the World Bank and the UN Peacebuilding Fund on the salary payments and the payroll system. We have helped to establish a CAR Multi-Partner Trust Fund, and also participated in the recently formed partners’ forum for the country.

In South Sudan, UNDP has reconfigured its programmes, putting emphasis on early recovery, peacebuilding, and reconciliation. Following the outbreak of violence, UNDP was instrumental in bringing the peace bodies together to form the National Platform for Peace and Reconciliation, and is continuing to support these bodies in the development and implementation of the joint peace and reconciliation plan. Assessment missions were organized to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) sites to identify the livelihood opportunities for these vulnerable populations, resulting in a programme of skills development and rehabilitation of economic infrastructure – such as market places.

Notwithstanding the ongoing violent conflict and instability in the country, UNDP has been working with UNMISS to restore a sense of Rule of Law by improving access to justice, for example, by supporting community-based organizations to provide legal aid services; paralegals and judges have been trained in human rights and humanitarian law; and UNDP has supported the country’s first emergency 24/7 call centre and helped train five hundred police officers in emergency response. But the human development prospects are bleak while the conflict rages.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa: this deadly disease is affecting some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries, all of which need international support to combat it. UNDP is actively working with the wider UN system and the affected countries to co-ordinate and provide support to the national and regional response. This includes contributing to the strengthening of national health sector capacities and support for governments’ co-ordination of the response, and to analyses of the national and regional socio-economic impacts of the crisis.  Together with UN Country Team partners, UNDP is reviewing its programmes to identify areas where resources and efforts can be shifted to address Ebola-related priorities. We are providing surge expertise to our Country Offices in key areas of need, including on livelihoods and early recovery, and on communications and operations, including security. Staff safety and security are also being addressed.

On a more positive note, in Afghanistan, UNDP has been supporting the audit of the nearly 23,000 ballot boxes from the recent election for the Presidency. We mobilized a large team from around the world for this process - which is being carried out by the Independent Election Commission. The audit is a necessary step in determining which candidate was chosen by the Afghan people to be their next leader. The election outcome should contribute to the first peaceful transition of power by democratic means in Afghanistan’s history. UNDP is proud to have been a partner of choice throughout this process. The completion of the audit is now in sight. The Afghanistan election are a nationally led and nationally owned process. Ultimately its completion will depend not only on technical measures, but also, and even more so, on the willingness of the key political actors to respect the result.

Galvanizing support for global agendas

In the face of current crises, and the broader challenges caused by wide-spread poverty, and climate change and environmental degradation, the importance of agreeing on an ambitious global development agenda cannot be overstated.

I have just returned from the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa. UNDP is pleased to have played a very active role in support of the host country and of UN-DESA, in organizing the conference.

The ‘SAMOA Pathway’ outcome document acknowledges that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have their own specific vulnerabilities and characteristics, and that the challenges they face in pursuing sustainable development can be particularly severe and complex. UN Member States have called for a comprehensive review of the system’s support to SIDS.  As an active supporter of SIDS’s sustainable development, UNDP looks forward to contributing to this review.

The challenges faced by SIDS are deepened by the effects of climate change. In some cases, the very existence of nations is being threatened by rising sea levels.  More broadly the development challenges of many low and middle income countries are compounded by climate change.

Later this month, the Secretary General’s Climate Summit will aim to galvanize political will and commitment for addressing climate change, in support of the UNFCCC negotiations in Lima in December, and an ambitious outcome at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015.

UNDP is supporting the Climate Summit preparations, including by leading the Action Area on Forests. A “New York Declaration on Forests”, which includes specific goals to address deforestation and promote restoration, is gaining wide support. It will be accompanied by the announcement of significant commitments by national and sub-national governments, international organization, the private sector, civil society, and indigenous peoples.

UNDP is also contributing to the Action Area for the Summit on Adaptation, Resilience, and Disaster Risk Reduction. We are supporting countries to scale-up climate information and early warning systems in order to reduce risk and increase resilience in the face of climate change.

UNDP’s $1.2 billion climate change portfolio reaches over 140 countries, where we provide, variously, support to strengthen policies, institutions, capacities, and access to knowledge. Our support at the global level is informed by our connection to initiatives at the country level. That ensures a smooth feedback loop in which practice informs policy.

On the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Open Working Group has put together a proposal with many transformative elements – including on empowering women and girls, tackling inequalities, prioritising food security, building inclusive and peaceful societies, and combating environmental degradation. If its approach is followed, the world could shift to a trajectory which could achieve poverty eradication and sustainable development.

It may prove difficult, however, to implement and monitor an agenda which is very broad in scope, particularly in countries with capacity challenges. Further streamlining or clustering of the agenda could be advisable – while retaining its ambitious approach.  

UNDP, and indeed the full UN development system, is at the disposal of Member States to help bring the post-2015 process to a successful conclusion.

At the same time, and with fewer than 500 days to go until the target date for the MDGs, UNDP and sister UNDG agencies continue to focus on MDG acceleration. We are supporting countries to prepare acceleration action plans to which will facilitate the transition from the MDGs to the SDGs; along with providing support for MDG monitoring, data collection, and gathering of lessons learned to inform SDG implementation.

Since 2012, the UN development system and the World Bank have been working together on MDG acceleration. Under the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), three rounds of reviews of Acceleration Action Plans have been conducted, covering eleven countries.

MDG acceleration works best where UNCTs collaborate across agencies and sectors. They can then draw on the full range of expertise across the UN system – including by tapping on the knowledge and skills of non-resident agencies. The acceleration methodology used and the experience gained from using it can be adapted to support countries to integrate the SDGs into national plans and budgets, accelerating their efforts to achieve those goals from the outset.

The UN development system is determined to be fit for purpose for the post-2015 agenda. The UNDG is working on a forward-looking assessment of how best to position to that end, and to ensure that its members work together in an ever more strategic, collaborative, coherent, and results-oriented manner.

An empowered Resident Co-ordinator system and strengthened accountabilities at all levels will be critical for the UN to deliver on the post-2015 agenda. Implementation of the Standard Operating Procedures for Delivering as One as a standard business model would also assist greatly in making our support more effective and coherent. We look to the UN Country Teams in the forty formal DaO countries, and those in many more who are working in practical and joined-up ways, to lead the way in supporting the implementation of national post-2015 development agendas as they emerge.

Implementation of UNDP’s Strategic Plan

The new Strategic Plan is designed to enable UNDP to respond well to programme countries’ needs and aspirations, currently and beyond 2015.

Programme alignment with the Strategic Plan is progressing well, and the process has given us some important insights:  

First, our Country Offices and Regional Centres are telling us that the new Strategic Plan resonates well with the concerns, needs, and priorities of programme countries and regional organisations.  This validates our view, endorsed by the Board, that the Plan is relevant for all programme countries, across all income levels, and a wide range of development conditions.  

Second, the themes highlighted in the Plan – including job creation, sustainability, sound management of natural resources, urbanisation, inclusive governance, and resilience – are in tune with the emerging global development agenda and the demand we are getting from programme countries.

Third, the strong emphasis on programme quality and results is being embraced by our country offices, regional bureaux, and the new Bureau for Policy and Programme Support.  

Finally, the rollout of programme alignment has proceeded rapidly and on schedule. All five regions will have completed their first phase of workshops on this by mid-September, covering close to sixty offices, with full coverage expected by the first quarter of 2015. UNDP is conducting its business in ways which will deliver a higher level of performance – a top objective to which we are committed throughout this process, and in the future.

Organising UNDP to be fit for purpose

As we continue with the alignment with our new Strategic Plan, our organisational changes are also proceeding as planned.

Since the release of bureau organograms at the end of May, we have begun the realignment of staff with the new structures. In so doing, we have revised job descriptions to ensure that they are consistent with the new terms of reference for bureaux, including in areas where we recognize that strengthening is needed. We have made a concerted effort to strengthen our focus on results- based management, knowledge management, and programme quality assurance.

The job fair processes are well underway, and, as of today, most of the first round of panel reviews have been conducted. The job fair processes were grouped, beginning with leadership positions, to be then followed by the professional category, and later, the general services category. We have enabled junior staff and particularly qualified general service staff to have a real opportunity to be considered for professional positions.

A large proportion of our staff have already been informed of their roles in the new structures, and most of the remaining staff will be informed by the end of this month. We are committed to getting through this process expeditiously, but without compromising fairness.

From October 1st, I expect our new structures to take effect. It will take some time for staff to be fully operational in their new roles and locations. The aim is to complete most moves by the end of the year.

Along with the new structure, we are developing a new and transparent organization-wide accountability framework which everyone can see and understand. This will be a major change for UNDP. Previously each bureau developed its own ways of doing things, which were not necessarily understood by any other part of the organization.

A top priority over the next few months is to ensure that the transition of staff into new structures and new roles is smooth and efficient, with minimal impact on the delivery of the results we seek. Managers will need to ensure that staff are provided with the appropriate tools, training, and management support during the transition.

By the end of this process, we will have achieved the functional alignment of all policy services in the new Bureau of Policy and Programme Support. Our advisory services will be better aligned with programme country needs, and our New York footprint will be significantly smaller. We will continue to make improvements to our management services as part of a longer term effort to strengthen the Bureau of Management, and to maximize the effectiveness of our operations, accountability, and reporting systems.

I fully acknowledge that these past few months have not been easy for staff. I firmly believe, however, that when all the positions have been filled and the new organigrams are in effect, the organization will be able to take maximum advantage of the momentum created by these changes, and embed new ways of working together, including through improved processes and increased efficiency.

UNDP Resources

Let me comment now on UNDP’s resources.

As you are aware, these are the second set of IPSAS compliant annual statements of UNDP. I am pleased to confirm that UNDP’s financial statements for 2013 have been given an unqualified audit opinion. This milestone represents nearly a decade of clean audit opinions for the organization. UNDP will continue to build on this achievement, including by making further improvements to the National Implementation Framework through a tighter risk-based approach and related measures.

In line with my preliminary reporting at the Annual Session in June, total contributions to UNDP amounted to $4.83 billion in 2013. Total expenses were $5.25 billion, which, while slightly lower than 2012, still utilized the accumulated surplus from previous years.

Contributions to regular resources reached $895.7 million in 2013, a 5.9 per cent increase from 2012, in part due to delayed payments budgeted for 2012, but only received in 2013. Our donor base has broadened, with 56 Member States contributing to regular resources in 2013, up from fifty in 2012.

Total non-core resource contributions amounted to $3.93 billion in 2013. I am pleased to report that contributions to non-core funding from programme countries increased by thirty per cent, in support of both their own national development priorities and their South-South Co-operation initiatives.

The balance of unexpended resources at the end of 2013, excluding reserves, was $4.37 billion, a slight increase from 2012 due in part to prior period adjustments undertaken in compliance with IPSAS. Following the adoption of IPSAS, UNDP recognizes the full extent of its liabilities within its balance sheet, which continues to have a positive net position.

I am also pleased to report that the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) received an unqualified audit opinion in 2013. Contributions to the Fund in 2013 grew to $65 million, and its total development expenses stood at $54 million. I take this opportunity to welcome Judith Karl as the new Executive Secretary of UNCDF, and to wish her well in her new position.

Current projections for contributions to UNDP’s regular resources in 2014 suggest that, subject to exchange rate fluctuations, they should reach $850 million (this includes payments budgeted for 2013 but received in 2014). The total amounts to 49 per cent of the $1.75 billion integrated budget target for 2014-2015. We would be very grateful if Member States which have not yet provided their contributions to regular resources for 2014 to do so as early as possible.

Regular resources are, and will continue to be, at the heart of the organization’s ability to deliver results.  They finance our long term expertise, corporate management, and oversight systems. They help us build Country Office networks and direct support to the poorest and most vulnerable, and they are critical for the effectiveness and coherence of the United Nations development system as a whole, given the lead and co-ordinating role UNDP plays in the system.  

Non-core resources which are lightly earmarked, and able to be aligned with the priorities of the programme countries and the outcomes of the Strategic Plan, will also improve UNDP’s ability to achieve higher programme quality and better results.

In this context and in response to the QCPR’s recommendations, UNDP has produced a paper exploring the concept of critical mass. The paper proposes that the Board recognize that UNDP needs a critical mass of resources provided through unearmarked and relatively unearmarked channels in order to achieve the results targeted in the Integrated Results and Resource Framework associated with our new Strategic Plan. Resources provided in this way can be directed to institutional and programme services as required to deliver the quality and scope of results expected by the Board.

Our current estimate of the level of that critical mass for this strategic plan period ranges from $11.9 - $13.1 billion.  That is clearly much greater than our existing level of core regular resources, and also much greater than the volume of resources which has traditionally been delivered in a relatively un-earmarked fashion.

UNDP acknowledges that in order to convince its partners to provide a critical mass of resources in this fashion, we will need to continue to improve the management and reporting of our funding.  The paper before the board seeks endorsement of the general concept of critical mass, and proposes that UNDP should continue to develop new funding modalities so that, as the structured dialogue on funding continues, we can move in the direction of achieving the desired level of critical mass funding.

Transparency and Accountability

Being transparent and accountable are top priorities for UNDP. Over the summer, our bureaux and country offices worked hard to ensure that project information can be more easily found on open.undp.org. We now publish extensive information on all our development activities, including on project documents and procurement data, and we refresh that on a monthly basis.

As a founding member and co-host of the International Aid Transparency Initiative, UNDP will continue to advocate in global fora for improved transparency as a means of increasing the effectiveness of development co-operation.

Our public disclosure of internal audit reports also demonstrates that UNDP’s work is subject to rigorous and independent scrutiny.

To date, UNDP has publicly disclosed a total of 227 internal audit reports. Since January 2013 over 4,917 visitors have registered at the website where the reports are published. Of these 227 reports, nine have been redacted, as they contained sensitive information, mainly on safety and security.

In line with our commitment to accountability and to ensure an added level of assurance over funds entrusted to us, proactive investigations are being initiated. As well, regular briefing sessions with regional bureaux on identified risks have been introduced. Seven new investigation posts have been established to strengthen the investigative function even further.


In conclusion, let me once again thank Board members for their strong commitment to UNDP, and for your support in ensuring that our organization remains valued and effective in a challenging world.

We look forward to continued strong collaboration with the Board as we strive to achieve results in line with the mandate set out in our Strategic Plan.    

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