Change Your Perspective, and Watch the Universe Conspire

Speech by Maxwell Gomera, Resident Representative, UNDP Rwanda

December 15, 2022

UNDP Staff at a team building exercise

Alice Kayibanda

Alliance Irasubiza, who has just completed her internship with UNDP Rwanda Country Office, told me,


"In my five years of working experience, UNDP Rwanda was (sic) a remarkable and the best work environment I could be part of. 


There has never been a day that I didn't wake up excited to come to work. One of the greatest gifts given to me by this office was being allowed and trusted to take on challenges." 


Alliance saw opportunity and adventure, whereas others might have seen bureaucracy. And she set out to contribute to changing the world. 


Her story is the story of many of you in 2022, so I wanted to take a moment to celebrate four examples of how each of you showed up and conspired to make this world, this country, a better place. 


Strengthening our human capacity and teams

We invested in strengthening our human capital and team Rwanda's collective knowledge, attributes, skills, experience, and health. 


We saw potential, hope, and opportunity where others might have seen failure. 


A few milestones come to mind…


We hired 12 interns, including Alliance. 


Amongst these, and for the first time, we hired colleagues living with disabilities. We learnt a lot, including what infrastructure needs to be in place for all colleagues to work more effectively.


We invested in leadership training, including through the Lumina Model that increases self-awareness and understanding. 


We invested in coaching for many of you, including on writing for impact and storytelling. The latter has proven effective. We recognized that appealing to people's emotions helps cut through the clutter.


Indeed, many of our staff are now increasingly recognized as expert opinion leaders, and one of our 2021 champions, Christa Uwamahoro, is enrolled in leadership training at Harvard University.


It is right that we are doing so: individuals can only make the bold moves that represent a real leap if an employer sees their potential and takes a chance on them. 


Strengthening our financial capacity


Globally, we are facing a down cycle and complex headwinds. But I must thank managers for helping us prepare for volatility throughout the year, and keeping our finances healthy. In particular, our Operations team and Management Support Unit have been key enablers for prompt decision making, operational and cost efficiencies, and improved performance generally. 


I wish to acknowledge them gratefully.


Our Integrated Finance Dashboard stands at 'ACCLAIM' – the highest recognition in UNDP. For the third year running, we are on course to close the year in 'green.' 


Against an unpredictable backdrop, we stepped up our fundraising and surpassed our Country Office resource mobilization target by 137%. 


Our overall Delivery is at 89.1%. While we are only partially where we should be at this time of the year, we have teed up nicely for a successful ending and achieving 100% delivery.


Strengthening our programs and partnerships


Our Programmatic offering continues to evolve and grow. At the height of covid, we recognized we had to play our part to stem the health emergency. 


But we kept sight of the fact that emergency health work is not our core business. Working with partners in Government and supported by Dalberg Consultants, we identified key investment opportunities that would help put back society and economy on a greener, inclusive and sustainable growth pathway. 


We came up with ten case offerings, which have now become hallmarks of the recovery process and are bearing fruit. 


By way of example, drawing on the case offerings, we worked with Kigali International Finance Centre (KIFC) to develop the sustainable finance roadmap, with the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD) to shape Rwanda's first green bond, and with Rwanda Green Fund, World Bank and other partners to develop IremeInvestThis green climate facility now boasts over $100 million in capitalization. 


We worked with colleagues in the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa (RBA) to set up Timbuktoo, an risk capital finance mechanism. 


Together with the Ministry of Youth and Culture and the YouthConnekt Hub, we rolled out an even bigger YouthConnekt conference, the premium and largest youth business forum on the continent, and we partnered with the Ministry of Innovation and Communication Technology to deliver Hanga PitchFest, Rwanda's prestigious tech start up competition.


In 2022, we stepped up the use of technology to change prospects for those less fortunate. We invested in a 3D milling machine for more precise manufacture of prosthetic limbs. 


We held on strong to the belief that it's the infrastructure in our society that enables or disables people from living a more fulfilling life. 


We are fortunate to have a Government that is willing to experiment with us as well as invest in our partnership. For the second year running, the Government of Rwanda has paid their Contribution to our country office, a contribution of over USD 1.5 million. 


These resources are critical for our capacity and I'm thankful for the confidence the Government is showing in us. We must continue earning their trust and confidence, by delivering the excellent quality of service and value that we have become known for. 


Looking ahead


We are rolling out a new cloud-based digital engagement Enterprise Resource Platform called 'Quantum.' The transition is proving challenging but the benefits are promising. 


I want to thank all of you for investing in readiness. 


We are hiring new staff, including a new Head of Communication, a new Head of Sustainable Governance and a new Head of Digital Solutions and Innovation.


We are changing our vehicle fleet, and going electric and hybrid. We are being Green By Example, showing the leadership ourselves that we expect of others in a world challenged by climate change.


But we also face serious challenges and headwinds.


Colleagues, we have a cost of living crisis. It is hitting hard on our prospects and on people up and down this country. To effectively contribute to dealing with the crisis, we need to be more intentional and empathetic in our work and interactions with each other and with our partners.


We are expecting a budget cut of at least 4%. While we have taken judicious decisions to prepare for a tighter monetary outlook, we face an uncertain outlook.


We can overcome this challenge if we commit together to build the values and systems that protect UNDP and our partners in Rwanda. 


And ensure that everyone feels protected and a part of making progress. Ideas are an incredibly powerful saviour in times like this. Reach out when you have an idea to share or a problem needing solving. Reach out to your line managers, or to colleagues.


Finally, colleagues, our work arrangements will change in line with new government regulation on working hours. The Resident Coordinator will soon announce a new working schedule. I look forward to coming to you with feedback.


"I wasn't treated like an intern at all, and that gave me a spirit of ownership. This and so many other qualities are something that the working sector in Rwanda could learn from UNDP Rwanda.


I am so grateful for all this," Alliance told me, referring to her overall experience at UNDP. 


As we look ahead to the new year, let's take Alliance's message onboard: Change your perspective and watch the universe conspire.