Statement to the Executive Board Poverty Evaluation Session

January 22, 2019

Mr. President,
Dear Distinguished Delegates,

Poverty continues to be the greatest global challenge of our time. The World Bank estimates that over 700 million people lived below the international poverty line ($1.90 per day) in 2015, with about 800 million people close to this threshold.[1] When considering overlapping and multiple deprivations, the figures are even more staggering: a total of 1.3 billion people are multi-dimensionally poor, with women, people younger than 18 years of age[2] and those in urban settings increasingly disproportionately affected.

For this reason, eradicating poverty lies at the heart of everything UNDP does. Yesterday, during the Interactive Dialogue on Poverty, you had the opportunity to hear directly from our Administrator about UNDP’s commitment to do all it can to help countries, including LDCs, to eradicate poverty.  

UNDP’s role in supporting countries to reduce poverty has been recognized since the late 1980s. Previous evaluations have acknowledged UNDP’s success in embedding a multidimensional perspective of poverty across national and global debates, creating enabling environments to help governments develop pro-poor policies, and expanding local capacities for policy-making.

But there is no ‘silver bullet’ or clear set of policies and related competencies that, if applied, will result in poverty eradication. Poverty is directly dependent on context, types of problems and priorities. The multidimensionality of poverty requires cross-cutting integrated interventions to support people exiting poverty and preventing people from falling back into poverty.

This Evaluation is indeed very timely, and UNDP welcomes its findings, conclusions and recommendations.  We see it as an important opportunity to further deepen and strengthen our poverty eradication work and inform UNDP’s next generation poverty offer. This is why we have committed to undertake further consultations with IEO and Member States over the coming months. A comprehensive management response will be presented at the Executive Board Annual Session in June this year.

Meanwhile, the present Management Note presents an opening set of reflections on the evaluation.

UNDP is pleased to note the Evaluation’s conclusions that UNDP’s poverty reduction programme approaches and areas are highly relevant for LDCs, and that UNDP remains the agency of choice - both for policy and implementation support.  This echoes the finding from the recent “Synthesis of UNDP Independent Country Programme Evaluations”, that “UNDP contribution was perceived as espe­cially noteworthy in the areas of governance and poverty reduction, which are also the areas where the greatest amount of funding is allocated."

UNDP’s focus on multidimensional poverty – in line with the ask of the 2030 Agenda – includes areas of work that are not within the scope of the current Evaluation. There is significant contribution, for instance, from our work on governance to adopt legislation and policies to eliminate discrimination and protect the most vulnerable in LDCs. The evaluation does not include UNDP’s critical contributions to multidimensional poverty reduction through its health work.  Similarly, there is no direct reference to marginal or excluded groups, which is critical to the 2030 Agenda’s commitment to leave no one behind. At a minimum, there should be clear recognition of UNDP’s work in these areas as contributing to strong intermediate poverty reduction outcomes. These areas have been, and continue to be, part and parcel of the organization’s poverty eradication approach.

This being said, the Evaluation speaks to areas where we believe we can and should do better. We take careful note of the areas where we need to further strengthen poverty work in LDCs, including:

Continued strengthening of capacities to address the multidimensionality and complexity of poverty eradication interventions;

•          Developing more scalable and transformative solutions, with better linkages between community-level sustainable livelihoods programmes and rural poverty alleviation policies;

•          Strengthened partnerships with the private sector to expand productive capacities and eradicate poverty, and for more targeted and strategic poverty programming;

•          More systematically addressing the humanitarian-development nexus; and;

•          Improving the strategic impact of youth- and gender-responsive policies and programmes.

Let me offer some preliminary reflections on these areas that are detailed in the Evaluation’s recommendations.

On recommendation 1 that UNDP have a more consistent programme focus and engagement: UNDP will tailor support to the specific development settings in which multidimensional poverty needs to be addressed.

•         We  concur with the importance of taking a programmatic approach to eradicate poverty in the LDCs, which is central to the implementation of UNDP’s Strategic Plan 2018-2021. However, we disagree with the notion that being “programmatic” is at odds with     being “demand driven,” noting that all our support to countries comes through our country programmes, which are guided by countries’ national development plans and the 2030 Agenda.

•          We note the additional opportunity provided by the UN reform process, and the “integrator function” accorded to UNDP by Member States in the UNGA resolution (72/279, paragraph 32).[6] We embrace this role, which cuts across the breadth of UNDP’s     mandate and the ability of its offices to help connect the dots across multiple dimensions of poverty and sustainable development.

•          UNDP has already begun elaborating its new integration offer, including through Acceleration Labs, Country Support Platforms, integrated policy support on the SDGs – all of which aim to bring together relevant expertise from across the UN system and     beyond to address the challenges of multidimensional poverty and sustainable development.

On recommendation 2 - To define poverty areas where UNDP intends to stake out a strong technical role.  This is fully reflected in the implementation of our Strategic Plan, which has poverty eradication as its guiding vision.

•          The Strategic Plan articulates Signature Solutions that respond to specific development settings to fully address the challenges of multidimensional poverty and intersecting vulnerabilities. Signature Solution 1 focuses on the combination of integrated     solutions that are needed to tackle drivers that impact ‘exiting from’ and ‘falling back into’ poverty. At the same time, it is linked to all the other Signature Solutions, ranging from closing the energy gap and nature-based solutions, to gender empowerment     and addressing vulnerability, resilience and issues of governance.

•          UNDP’s new Global Policy Network (GPN) will enable UNDP to better leverage expertise across a range of social, environmental and economic domains, including the linkages to fragility and crisis. The GPN pulls together development advisory expertise from     across pillars and regions, together with an implementation services platform, to facilitate the development of innovative, data-driven solutions.

On recommendation 3: to demonstrate global leadership in the development and use of multi-dimensional poverty indices, I am proud of our record in this area and the new partnerships and policy capacities now being shaped.

•          UNDP is developing a new generation of HDRs for the 2030 Agenda, including regional and National HDRs, and a number of policy advocacy products. The upcoming (2019) HDR will be focused on inequality. UNDP has entered into a series of partnerships with     leading institutions on addressing inequality and poverty, including with the World Inequality Lab to better measure inequality across countries and over time[7].

•          Similar investments have been made in research and partnerships related to the measurement of multi-dimensional poverty. After having co-developed the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) with the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative     (OPHI), we are jointly rolling out a new national Multidimensional Poverty Index methodology. In response to the considerable demand we get from countries in this area, UNDP will roll out a National Handbook on MPI in the coming months to improve     capacities and communication.

On recommendation 4 to increase the increase the pace and thrust of private sector development and impact investment support in LDCs: UNDP is indeed diversifying its support for SDG financing solutions, including with the private sector.

•          UNDP’s new Private Sector Development and Partnerships Strategy (to be launched in early 2019) will support private sector development and financing for LDCs and fragile contexts. UNDP will build on existing and new partnerships, including with IFIs, for     this purpose.

•          The new SDG Impact initiative aims to help channel private investment and capital to for SDG implementation at the country level. It focuses on providing a range of services to investors – for impact management and certification, country-specific intelligence,     and facilitation – in order to help establish a clear pipeline of development financing.

•          At the same time, UNDP is focused on multiple sources of SDGs financing, and applies several tools, including Development Finance Assessments, to help countries arrive at a better understanding of SDG financing options.

•          We see the partnership with UNCDF to be especially critical. In addition to our joint work that now covers about 45% of the LDCs, a new collaboration agreement on local development finance and financial inclusion will enable the deployment of in-depth     expertise and innovative financing models in over 30 LDCs, directly addressing poverty at the local level where development challenges are the greatest and financial flows scarcest.

On recommendation 5: UNDP agrees on the need to strengthen linkages between community-level sustainable livelihood programmes and poverty eradication policies.

•          UNDP will leverage the opportunities offered by a common SDG focus to continue to build better linkages with longer-term development initiatives relating to sustainable and inclusive local economies, risk-informed development, and integrated,     ecosystem-based approaches to inform a new generation of poverty and environment related initiatives. This is central to the vision of integration that underpins the new Global Policy Network.

•          Sustainable Livelihoods programmes, especially through vertical fund support, form a large part of the poverty portfolio in LDCs. The call in the Vertical Funds’ governing instrument for resources to make contributions to the SDGs offers an opportunity for     better integration with UNDP’s overall poverty eradication focus. This would enable our overall policy and programme support to countries to have a better foundation, with strong integration of programming results into development plans and strategies at     national and sub-national levels.

On recommendation 6: Bridging the humanitarian-development divide is a critical priority for UNDP’s work on poverty eradication.

•          UNDP acknowledges the opportunities that the New Way of Working provides for more effective support for poverty eradication. This emphasis is reflected in the Global Policy Network, which brings together the “development” and “crisis” capacities of the     organization. UNDP takes on board the recommendation to better address intersecting vulnerabilities, including through developing strategic partnerships across a range of humanitarian and development actors.

On recommendation 7 for strengthened partnerships: We welcome this recommendation, which is central to our approach to better address poverty and inequality.

•          UNDP has been systematically improving the range of partnerships at the country level around integrated support for poverty reduction and the SDGs. This is seen in the portfolio of corporate initiatives relating to SDG integration, all of which source policy     expertise more systematically and effectively -- from across the UN system and well beyond -- to meet the needs of LDCs.

•          We are systematically improving our partnerships with IFIs. Following the launch of the UN-World Bank Strategic Partnership Framework for the 2030 Agenda in May 2018, we are now advancing a more systematic country-level UNDP-World Bank collaboration     to accelerate SDG progress. Joint action plans were recently signed between UNDP and the European Investment Bank (and EIB’s European Investment Fund in 2016) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, prioritizing collaboration in     areas such as sustainable and inclusive growth, SME development, entrepreneurship and improving productive capacities that create employment and livelihoods. These Banks are also seeking to work with UNDP as they expand their operations in Africa,     including in LDCs. Similarly, I’m pleased that we will be working with the Islamic Development Bank on a global programme on economic empowerment and value chains in Africa in 2019. UNDP has also launched joint action plans with the China Development     Bank, the Latin America Development Bank (CAF), and Central European Bank.

On recommendation 8: Addressing gender inequality is at the heart of our poverty focus, reflected in the interlinked Signature Solutions and the UNDP Gender Equality Strategy.

•     The third Gender Equality Strategy (2018-2021) includes a comprehensive analysis of entry points to help ensure that UNDP’s support to eradicate poverty includes a focus on specific gender inequalities.

•     UNDP has also developed new programming guidance to support countries in crises to better integrate gender equality into their programming. This is complemented by regional initiatives, such as the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa,  and the Gender Equality Seal initiative at country level.

•     It is important to note that there has been no decrease of financial investments on gender. A problem of reporting during the Strategic Plan (2014-2017) period, associated with the linking exercise of projects to the Integrated Results and Resources  Framework, has been remedied in the current Strategic Plan with clear gender-related outputs. Furthermore, we have long institutionalized the use of the Gender Marker across our programmatic portfolio, which requires a minimum threshold of results and resources invested on gender equality for a programme to be approved.

On recommendation 9: We are committed to enhance youth employment and empowerment programming.

•          UNDP is working to mainstream youth employment issues in the implementation of the Strategic Plan and the Signature Solutions, as well as through partnership with youth organizations, civil society, private sector, Governments and UN agencies.

•          A key focus has been on facilitating improvement engagement of youth in all areas of economic, social and political activity as well as enhanced capacities of public and private institutions to engage and create conditions for youth empowerment and     employment for poverty reduction.

•          UNDP will build on successful youth programmes to accelerate impact-driven solutions led by youth.  UNDP is already collaborating with UNICEF on Generation Unlimited Initiative, with ILO on the Decent Jobs for Youth Initiative and other partners.

•          Two UNDP regional programmes worth mentioning include: Youth Connekt and the Youth Leadership Programme which are already being successfully implemented and scaled up.

I am pleased that that at last Friday’s informal session, UNDP had a very engaging and constructive discussion with your delegations and with the IEO on the findings and recommendations of this evaluation. This EB session is the start of an open dialogue on the implications of the Evaluation for UNDP’s work on poverty reduction.

I welcome the opportunity to be here with you and expand this discussion and to listen to your views and recommendations.

Thank you.