Development challenges and solutions


The challenges


UNDP’s work, adapted to a range of country contexts, is framed through three broad development settings. These three development challenges often coexist within the same country, requiring tailored solutions that can adequately address specific deficits and barriers. Underpinning all three development challenges is a set of core development needs, including the need to strengthen gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and to ensure the protection of human rights.


Outcome 1: Eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions


It's estimated that approximately 700 million people still live on less than US$1.90 per day, a total of 1.3 billion people are multi-dimensionally poor, including a disproportionate number of women and people with disabilities and 80 percent of humanity lives on less than US$10 per day. Increasingly, middle-income countries account for a large part of this trend.

UNDP is looking at both inequalities and poverty in order to leave no one behind, focusing on the dynamics of exiting poverty and of not falling back. This requires addressing interconnected socio-economic, environmental and governance challenges that drive people into poverty or make them vulnerable to falling back into it. The scale and rapid pace of change necessitates decisive and coherent action by many actors at different levels to advance poverty eradication in all forms and dimensions. UNDP works to ensure responses are multisectoral and coherent from global to local.

Outcome 2: Accelerating structural transformations for sustainable development


The disempowering nature of social, economic, and political exclusion results in ineffective, unaccountable, non-transparent institutions and processes that hamper the ability of states to address persistent structural inequalities.

UNDP will support countries as they accelerate structural transformations by addressing inequalities and exclusion, transitioning to zero-carbon development and building more effective governance that can respond to megatrends such as globalization, urbanization and technological and demographic changes.

Outcome 3: Building resilience to crisis and shocks


Some countries are disproportionately affected by shocks and stressors such as climate change, disasters, violent extremism, conflict, economic and financial volatility, epidemics, food insecurity and environmental degradation. Climate-related disasters have increased in number and magnitude, reversing development gains, aggravating fragile situations, and contributing to social upheaval. Conflict, sectarian strife and political instability are on the rise and more than 1.6 billion people live in fragile or conflict-affected settings.

Around 258 million people live outside their countries of origin and 68.5 million are displaced. Disasters and the effects of climate change have displaced more people than ever before – on average 14 million people annually. Major disease outbreaks result in severe economic losses from the effect on livelihoods or decline in household incomes and national GDPs, as demonstrated by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-2015.

To return to sustainable development, UNDP is strengthening resilience by supporting governments to take measures to manage risk, prevent, respond and recover more effectively from shocks and crises and address underlying causes in an integrated manner. Such support  builds on foundations of inclusive and accountable governance, together with a strong focus on gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls and meeting the needs of vulnerable groups, to ensure that no one is left behind.

The road to success


To fulfill the aims of the Strategic Plan with the multi-dimensionality and complexity that the 2030 Agenda demands, UNDP is implementing six cross-cutting approaches to development, known as Signature Solutions. A robust, integrated way to put our best work – or 'signature' skillset – into achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

UNDP’s Signature Solutions are cross-cutting approaches to development— for example, a gender approach or resilience approach can be applied to any area of development, or to any of the SDGs.

Keeping people out of poverty


Today, 700 million people live on less than $1.90 per day and a total of 1.3 billion people are multi-dimensionally poor. People stay in or fall back into poverty because of a range of factors—where they live, their ethnicity, gender, a lack of opportunities, and others.

It’s no coincidence that our first Signature Solution relates directly to the first SDG: to eradicate all forms of poverty, wherever it exists. For UNDP, helping people to get out and stay out of poverty is our primary focus. It features in our work with governments, communities and partners across the 170 countries and territories in which we operate.

UNDP interventions help eradicate poverty, such as by creating decent jobs and livelihoods, providing social safety nets, boosting political participation, and ensuring access to services like water, energy, healthcare, credit, and productive assets. Our Signature Solution on poverty cuts across our work on all the SDGs, whether it’s decent work or peace and justice.

Governance for peaceful, just, and inclusive societies


People’s lives are better when government is efficient and responsive. When people from all social groups are included in decision-making that affects their lives, and when they have equal access to fair institutions that provide services and administer justice, they will have more trust in their government.

The benefits of our work on governance are evident in all the areas covered by the SDGs, whether it’s climate action or gender equality. UNDP’s governance work spans a wide range of institutions, from national parliaments, supreme courts, and national civil services through regional and local administrations, to some of the geographically remotest communities in the world. We work with one out of every three parliaments on the planet, help countries expand spaces for people’s participation, and improve how their institutions work, so that all people can aspire to a sustainable future with prosperity, peace, justice and security.

Crisis prevention and increased resilience


Crises know no borders. More than 1.6 billion people live in fragile and/or conflict-affected settings, including 600 million young people. More people have been uprooted from their homes by war and violence and sought sanctuary elsewhere than at any time since the Second World War. Poverty, population growth, weak governance and rapid urbanization are driving the risks associated with such crises.

UNDP helps reduce these risks by supporting countries and communities to better manage conflicts, prepare for major shocks, recover in their aftermath, and integrate risk management into their development planning and investment decisions. The sooner that people can get back to their homes, jobs, and schools, the sooner they can start thriving again. Resilience building is a transformative process of strengthening the capacity of people, communities, institutions, and countries to prevent, anticipate, absorb, respond to and recover from crises. By implementing this Signature Solution, we focus on capacities to address root causes of conflict, reduce disaster risk, mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts, recover from crisis, and build sustainable peace. This has an impact that not only prevents or mitigates crises, but also has an effect on people’s everyday lives across all SDGs.

Environment: nature-based solutions for development


Healthy ecosystems are at the heart of development, underpinning societal well-being and economic growth. Through nature-based solutions, such as the sustainable management and protection of land, rivers and oceans, we help ensure that countries have adequate food and water, are resilient to climate change and disasters, shift to green economic pathways, and can sustain work for billions of people through forestry, agriculture, fisheries and tourism.

A long-standing partner of the Global Environment Facility, and now with the second-largest Green Climate Fund portfolio, UNDP is the primary actor on climate change in the United Nations. Our aim is to help build the Paris Agreement and all environmental agreements into the heart of countries’ development priorities. After all, the food, shelter, clean air, education and opportunities of billions of people depend on getting this right.

Clean, affordable energy


People can’t prosper without reliable, safe, and affordable energy to power everything from lights to vehicles to factories to hospitals. And yet, 840 million people worldwide have no access to electricity, and 2.9 billion people use solid fuels to cook or heat their homes, exposing their families to grave health hazards and contributing to vast deforestation worldwide3. In these and other ways, energy is connected to every one of the SDGs.

UNDP helps countries transition away from the use of finite fossil fuels and towards clean, renewable, affordable sources of energy. Our sustainable energy portfolio spans more than 110 countries, leveraging billions of dollars in financing, including public and private sources. With this financial support, we partner with cities and industries to increase the share of renewables in countries’ national energy mix; establish solar energy access to people displaced by conflict; fuel systemic change in the transport industry; and generate renewable ways to light homes for millions of people. 

Women's empowerment and gender equality


Women’s participation in all areas of society is essential to make big and lasting change not only for themselves, but for all people. Women and girls make up a disproportionate share of people in poverty, and are more likely to face hunger, violence, and the impacts of disaster and climate change. They are also more likely to be denied access to legal rights and basic services.

UNDP has the ability and responsibility to integrate gender equality into every aspect of our work. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is a guiding principle that applies to everything we do, collaborating with our partner countries to end gender-based violence, tackle climate change with women farmers, and advance female leadership in business and politics.

[1] OECD , States of Fragility 2016: Understanding Violence (Paris, 2016), p. 16. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264267213-en.
[2] Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, p.9.  http://www.unisdr.org/we/inform/publications/43291.
[3] Source: IEA, IRENA, UNSD, WB, WHO, 2019, Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report 2019, Washington, DC.