Annual Session of the Executive Board 2019

Statement at the Annual Session of the Executive Board

June 4, 2019

As prepared for delivery.

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

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to this session of the UNDP Executive Board.

We meet today to consider the first miles travelled of UNDP’s new chapter, in which we are accelerating local action and global impact while pushing the boundaries in how we think, deliver, invest and manage to drive progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

This is also a difficult time in international affairs.

Like the Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General, I am deeply worried by the volume of risk humanity faces right now, and the pace at which those risks are materializing.

In the midst of rising inequality, of nature’s steep decline, and of the pervasive impact of conflict on human development, we can see a deficit of trust between nations, a rolling-back of our capacity to act collectively, and the slow erosion of multilateralism.

A positive story

And yet, people continue to rise out of poverty. We continue to be inspired by stories of human ingenuity, good governance, and leadership from different sectors of society.

Therefore, the 2018 Annual Report I present to you today is a positive one.

It reflects the voices of the people we work with every day across every sector of the countries and territories we serve.

They are the ‘Peoples’ of the UN Charter, and though the challenges we face are great, the Peoples are not hopeless or helpless. They have a plan: It is called Agenda 2030.

Our job is to help all people realize that plan, so they might live in harmony in the future it imagines.

This Report tells the story of an organization on the move, in the right direction, implementing its Strategic Plan at pace, on a stable financial footing, laying the groundwork for innovation and growth to better serve Member States. 

2018 was a year of great effort, great learning during challenging times, and most importantly, great results.

In this Report and its accompanying annexes, I see:
-    a UNDP invested in being better –pursuing the vision of UN Reform -- and determined to accelerate development;

-    a UNDP that is honest about the problems we face, and learning from them;

-    a UNDP building on its history, reaching into the future to help countries solve the problems of today.

The Strategic Plan

Ladies and gentlemen,

UNDP’s Strategic Plan 2018 – 2021 sets out how we will do this over the coming years.

The development imperative today remains as was envisioned in designing the Plan:
-    that advancing development is increasingly complex; that the different country settings set out in the Strategic Plan -- though they are not mutually exclusive -- require different support;

-    that progress is most visible when multiple partners work together in a courageous, integrated, and innovative way;

-    and that leadership and ownership of the development agenda lie within countries themselves.

After its first year of implementation, I am pleased to confirm that the Plan is on track.

Ten observations

As you will have seen, we draw ten observations from our results and reporting in 2018, to help identify emerging trends in how UNDP is responding to the directional shift of the Strategic Plan.

They are as follows:

1.    The 2030 Agenda and SDGs now drive UNDP’s work across the world – and that of our partners

First, in 2018, UNDP helped 97 countries and territories to mainstream SDGs. We invested in national accountability by supporting 28 Voluntary National Reviews for the High-Level Political Forum, and helped countries plot new, innovative paths to financing their development priorities with 30 Development Finance Assessments.

From Small Island Developing States including Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Tonga and Vanuatu to communities in or recovering from conflict such as the Central African Republic, we worked across the three development settings of our Strategic Plan to help localize the Goals.

In Indonesia, for example, UNDP worked with the Government to establish a country support platform to design, test, connect and scale innovative financing instruments and initiatives, bringing together investors, entrepreneurs, government, Islamic finance institutions, philanthropists, and youth.

This country platform approach – a new Strategic Plan feature – helped Indonesia to become the first country to issue United States dollar-denominated green Islamic bonds (Sukuk). The resulting $1.25 billion bond was oversubscribed by an order of three.    

2.    UNDP advanced integrated ways to eradicate multidimensional poverty

We are starting to see the influence of a more integrated approach to tackling poverty – including by using multi-dimensional data. 

For example, with the Dominican Republic, we constructed a multi-dimensional poverty index, a climate vulnerability index and an interactive human development map to inform public policies on poverty.

We see from our 2018 results, that tackling drought in Somalia is not just about water. Fighting poverty in Argentina is not just about income. Promoting hydrogen-based clean mobility in China is not just about technology.

Preventing drought and famine will consolidate peace and security and increase confidence in the economy. Fighting poverty will improve people’s health through access to medical insurance. Promoting hydrogen energy solutions will improve public services, make cities healthier, and help stop global climate change.

In short, one well-designed, positive change leads to many others.

If the challenges we help countries face are interdependent, then the way we work and the solutions we develop together must be integrated.

This is what the resolution on UN Reform meant when Member States set out UNDP’s “...integrator function in support of countries in their efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda.”

The integrated solutions we offer -- to countries and with the UN family -- combine tailored, client-focused, programmatic and operational solutions to develop and strengthen local capacity. 

    On the programme side, we offer solutions in four broad areas:
    - Integrated policy and programming
    - SDG metrics, data and analysis
    - SDG finance
    - Knowledge and innovation

We also advanced new ways of working to improve integration.

Forty-six country offices used the country support platforms approach, surpassing the 2018 milestone of 10, and demonstrating the potential of new ways of working.

In Rwanda, for example, the YouthConnekt platform, which has created 8,300 jobs in the country since its inception with UNDP, is now operating in 10 African countries and is slated to be scaled continent-wide by the African Union.

UNDP introduced the Global Policy Network as an engine to consolidate thought leadership and programme capacity, and to better connect its 17,000-member strong workforce through virtual communities.

At the latest count, our communities of practice connect over 4,450 colleagues across UNDP.

As one milestone on our quest to be the world’s largest and fastest learning network on development, we designed a network of 60 Accelerator Labs serving 78 countries in 2018, with support from the Governments of Germany and Qatar. 27 of these Labs will be in Least Developed Countries, and a significant number in fragile and conflict-affected states.

Right now, we are building our team of explorers, experimenters and mappers, hopeful that by bringing in new expertise in ethnography, experimentation and data science, we will be better placed to accelerate development action across the world.

3.    UNDP enhanced focus on leaving no one behind

Third, with a new marker identifying 18 priority groups, UNDP enhanced its focus on leaving no one behind and reinforced our human-rights based approach to development.

We see the focus in our research.

For example, UNDP worked with partners to research causes of violence experienced by key populations affected by HIV in Barbados, El Salvador, Guyana and Honduras, and with UNFPA in Bhutan to finalize the first nation-wide survey on violence against women.

At the same time, the “Pathways for Peace” report, which we published with the World Bank and other UN partners, found that by 2030 over half of the world’s poor people will be living in countries affected by high levels of violence, and this figure is expected to rise to 80 percent by 2035 unless global action is taken.

We see it in our results.

For example, with support from a joint UN programme on human rights, Somalia ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. UNDP supported Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, and Vietnam with their Universal Periodic Reviews, in collaboration with UN partners.

We supported the African Union to accelerate the ratification and domestication of African Union treaties, the implementation of which will further regional integration and help to develop a shared pathway for leaving no-one behind.

UNDP is an active member of the Tri-Partite Partnership to support National Human Rights institutions, which we believe are critical for sustainable development.

And we see it in our programme design.

For example, 48 per cent of the country programme documents approved in 2018 are designed to measure progress for people with disabilities, an increase from 7 per cent in 2017, indicating the swift integration of persons with disabilities in the way UNDP works.

With the SDG Fund also focused this year on leaving no-one behind, UNDP is committed to further strengthening this area of work, including through our role in hosting the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office (MPTFO) on behalf of the UN system.
Through the MPTFO, we will continue to support and advance system-wide initiatives such as the $27 million UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which reached 38 countries in 2018, and the Spotlight Initiative, a $500 million European Union-United Nations partnership to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, the Latin American programme of which I had the pleasure of launching in Argentina on behalf of UN partners this Spring.

4.    The New Way of Working with humanitarian and other development actors is taking root.

Fourth, the New Way of Working between humanitarian and development actors is taking root, with growing coherence and, where relevant, linkages to peace efforts. UNDP is supporting these efforts through various fora, including the Joint Steering Committee to Advance Humanitarian Development collaboration, while adapting and enhancing our own programmatic offer to promote sustainable development approaches, even in crisis contexts.

In 2018, UNDP spent over $1 billion to strengthen resilience to shocks and crisis with the support of partners.

This investment took a number of forms.

Two million people benefited from the Stabilization Facility for Libya, while in Iraq, by the end of 2018, 4 million of the country’s nearly 6 million displaced people had returned to areas covered by the engagement of UNDP and its partners, with better health care, education, access to water and electricity.

The High-Level Conference on the Lake Chad region resulted in a record $2 billion in pledges to support humanitarian, peacebuilding and development activities, address immediate and long-term needs, and help to build the resilience of millions of crisis-affected people in the region. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and UNDP collaborated closely to ensure a joined-up approach.

Co-leading the 3RP, regional refugee and resilience response with UNHCR, with whom our partnership has expanded globally, we supported an integrated refugee response in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey, that includes helping 2.7 million persons to benefit from improved municipal infrastructure and basic services in Jordan, of which 400,000 are Syrian refugees, and 850,000 in Lebanon to access services and improve their livelihoods.

UNDP is also a peacebuilding actor, strongly supporting the Secretary General’s agenda on preventing and sustaining peace. We are the primary channel of support from the Peacebuilding Fund.

For example, UNDP is supporting efforts to address the drivers of conflict, instability and displacement in the border areas of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, working with partners to galvanize new development approaches to address the challenges of border lands.

I would like to recognize the increased collaboration between UNDP and International Financial Institutions in 2018 – particularly the World Bank, and particularly in crisis affected countries. 

This was one of the commitments in our Strategic Plan, and we are making strong progress.

In 2018, UNDP channeled $392 million from IFIs, a 38 per cent increase from 2017. This included $361 million in direct grants, up 53 per cent from 2017.

Through partnership with the World Bank and the European Union, the Government of Cameroon was supported in developing a Recovery and Peacebuilding Strategy for North and East Cameroon.

The Bank and UNDP also collaborated closely in Yemen, where nearly 80 per cent of the people need help and 10 million are on the edge of famine. Our collaboration supported key national institutions in keeping public services open and created emergency employment for nearly 350,000 people – to help over two million people from vulnerable households buy the essentials to survive.

5.    UNDP saw a surge of innovation in its governance work, and other areas.

Fifth, UNDP saw a surge of innovation in its governance work, using digital solutions to improve civic engagement, manage health commodities, address corruption and uphold human rights.

In India, for example, UNDP helped design and roll out the Vaccine Intelligence Network, or eVIN, across 12 states. eVIN digitally records all vaccine supplies and tracks their storage and distribution.

As a result, the number of days when vaccines were out of stock fell from 13 to eight, and 25 million infants and 30 million pregnant women received free immunizations through 27,000 cold-chain points.

With UNDP support, eVIN is being scaled up as “SMILE” in Indonesia and explored for adoption in Malawi, Nepal, the Philippines, Sudan and Thailand.

Changing the way such fundamental services are delivered is important for two reasons: first because the Goals demand a move beyond incrementalism to do development differently -- at scale and fast. Innovation is key to achieving this.

Second, it demonstrates accelerated effort by UNDP to advance digital inclusion and shape #nextgeneration governance solutions to complement the established tools and systems.

Such innovations attract investment and diverse partners.

For example, every dollar invested by the UNDP Innovation Facility, a collaboration with the Government of Denmark, mobilized two dollars, while initiatives funded had 50 per cent more partnerships with the private sector and 40 per cent more with international financial institutions than an average UNDP initiative.

6.    UNDP remains the primary UN partner for climate action

Sixth, UNDP remains the primary United Nations partner for climate action, helping over 140 countries to implement and raise the ambition of their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) ahead of the 2020 Paris Agreement.

The $300 million in climate finance mobilized with the Governments of Bangladesh, Comoros, Georgia, India and Zambia from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in 2018 will improve the lives of nearly 20 million people.

Working with a wide range of partners including the UN Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility Readiness Fund of the World Bank, and the Central African Forests Initiative, UNDP helped 29 countries to sustainably manage 3 million hectares of forests and helped 13 countries to include six million hectares of land and marine habitat as protected areas — part of a larger UNDP protected areas portfolio.

Independent evaluations  cite the value of UNDP in the design and implementation of financing schemes with multiple partners to address complex environmental issues – highlighting our integrator function.

This approach is at the heart of our partnership with the Global Environment Facility (GEF). UNDP -- at the request of Governments -- programmed 78 per cent of the GEF Trust Fund work programme and 57 per cent of the Least Developed Country Fund and Special Climate Change Fund work programmes in 2018.

I will come back to climate change before closing.

7.    While UNDP showed good results on gender across all areas of work, there is more to do.

Seventh, while UNDP showed good results on gender across all areas of work, it can do more, for example on removing structural barriers to women’s economic empowerment, and in supporting women in crisis contexts. 

UNDP met 87.5 per cent of the performance indicators of the new United Nations System-Wide Action Plan for Gender equality and the Empowerment of Women, making UNDP one of the highest performers in the United Nations system.

We will hear more about our work on Gender in this afternoon’s dedicated session on the first year of implementing our new Gender Equality Strategy. 

8.    UNDP is a trusted, active partner in advancing South-South cooperation, with diversifying financial flows.

Eight, UNDP is a trusted and active partner in advancing South-South cooperation, with diversifying financial flows. Last year, for example, 109 UNDP country offices advanced South-South and triangular cooperation, supporting partnerships with 180 countries through 900 initiatives.

At the same time, 20 per cent – or $1 billion – of UNDP finances came from programme countries for investment in their own countries.

I would like to commend The United Nations Office of South-South Cooperation, hosted by UNDP, for its supporting role in the very successful BAPA +40 conference earlier this year, and to thank the Government of Argentina for hosting the conference, where I represented the UNSG as Secretary General of the conference. 

It was an opportunity to see partnerships underway -- from Kenya’s mobile phone transfer system to Cuba’s support in the fight against Ebola – and to incubate potential future partnerships to drive progress towards the Goals.

With over 3,800 participants, 160 Member States represented, and 14 million people following proceedings online, the interest in BAPA+40 demonstrated the readiness to take South-South and Triangular Cooperation to the next chapter, something that UNDP looks forward to supporting.

9.    UNDP achieved results by doing business better, re-establishing financial stability.

Ninth, UNDP achieved these results by changing how we work, and re-establishing the financial stability of the organization.

Balanced budget

In 2018, UNDP balanced our budget for the second year in a row.

The Executive Board in approving the 2018-21 integrated Budget, included additional resources for the institutional budget of $29 million for 2018 to cover management activities. 

At the start of the year, I decided to take steps to balance the budget and not to use this additional financing. While that was tough on the organization, I believe it set us on the right path. Those funds went to programmatic resources to respond to Member States’ needs.

The development results we achieved with over 900 government partners accounted for $4.6 billion in programme delivery – the highest in five years – while programme resources increased by 6 per cent with the support of 134 Governments.

With increased delivery, UNDP recovered $239 million through general management service fees, $5 million higher than in 2017, suggesting that incentives to help Country Offices improve revenue management were effective.

In addition, Government contributions to local office costs increased by $5 million over 2017, a strong demonstration of Member States’ support to UNDP programmes and offices.

In 2019, we continue to press ahead with business model improvements to ensure UNDP remains on a stable financial footing, including introducing income-based budgeting, performance-based programme incentives, and improved operational efficiency.

More transparent

UNDP remained one of the world’s most transparent organizations with the score of 95.4 per cent on the 2018 Aid Transparency Index, a rise of 2.1 percentage points over the last index in 2016.

Since its launch a year ago, the new UNDP Transparency Portal ( has garnered on average 2,800 users each week from over 200 countries.

Building on this track record, we are now supporting the harmonization of UN data standards as part of our commitment to a reformed and enhanced development system.

New leadership

Triggered by United Nations reform, UNDP re-staffed its country-level leadership cadre in minimal time, recruiting a new gender-and-geographically-balanced cohort of 140 resident representatives from 3,500 applicants.

As a result, half of all UNDP’s senior leaders are now women.

New policies and measures on gender parity, sexual harassment and disability inclusion advanced a more inclusive, equal and respectful workplace in 2018.

This week, I am pleased to launch UNDP’s new People Strategy, People for 2030, a people plan that matches the commitment of every person who works for UNDP.

The plan will roll out over the next three years, including steps to encourage and reward excellence and commitment, foster diversity and respect, and build more flexible, family-friendly career paths.

New digital strategy

UNDP launched a new Digital Strategy this year, which will build our capability to better harness digital technology and innovation to deliver more and better results in the countries and communities in which we work.

More efficient

I would like to step back to the bigger picture on efficiencies for a moment.

In an independent study published by AidData on the information most-used by decision-makers in 126 low and middle-income countries, multilateral institutions came out on top as priority sources.

The World Bank, UNDP and the European Union consistently ranked as the top three go-to sources for government leaders and decision-makers on global development policy trends and ideas.

Across them all, UNDP comes out on top in value for money.

I stress this report to illustrate that the pursuit of efficiency is not only something born of UN reform.

It is part of UNDP’s DNA, permeating how we support localizing the Sustainable Development Goals just as it permeates our support to the operational path a country will take to achieve them.

In 2018, we became more efficient.

Just over 90 cents of every dollar spent went to programmes and services to achieve development results, up from 88 cents in 2017.

Business processes were simplified and reflected in programming and operational guidance. Programming reforms saved each programme officer on average 33 days per year.

These gains reflected an acceleration of our ongoing commitment to work harder for the countries we serve – which includes working to address obstacles to further efficiencies.

According to the 2018 synthesis report of the Independent Evaluation Office, which analyses 105 Country Programme Evaluations conducted between 2002 – 2017, obstacles to further efficiencies include:

-    challenges with National Implementation (NIM) requirements that depend on government capacities, processes or approvals;
-    corporate processes slowing the efficient functioning of Country Offices;
-    ill-designed or conceived projects and programmes;
-    and the weak use of lessons and insight on efficiency.

We will use this learning – combined with what we see in our audit results – to further improve efficiencies, including through expanding global shared services, streamlining corporate business processes and increasing clustering of back office services.

We look forward to regularly engage with and update the Executive Board as we make progress.

I would like to stress an additional finding of the IEO synthesis report: that while our use of NIM can at times slow things down, it can also increase national ownership and the sustainability of development results.

This is critical to us, critical to programme countries, and critical to achieving the SDGs.

Piecemeal development will not help countries accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

At UNDP, we accompany local institutions and partners on their development journey, helping them to rally all their abilities, resources, and endowments – with a package of programmatic and operational services – to tackle complex development problems and strengthen local capacity at the same time.   

Ladies and gentlemen,

While we offer multiple, flexible ways of working at the country level – including NIM, Country Office Support to NIM, and DIM – and while we will continue the pursuit of efficiencies, we will not jeopardize the impact or sustainability of the development result in the process.

If we do, it is all for nothing.

National ownership is, was, and will remain our guiding principle.

Cost saving

UNDP also saved costs in 2018.

Through careful measures, including keeping posts vacant and reducing office space at headquarters, the institutional budget expenditures dropped by over 3 per cent, from $596 million in 2017 to $574 million.

This included saving $3.67 million in rent at New York headquarters.

These savings helped us offset the additional costs incurred as a result of UN reform in 2018.

In addition to doubling our cost-sharing contribution from $5.14 million to $10.3 million for 2019, we spent $3.07 million against our 2018 institutional budget to cover transition costs related to the selection and deployment of senior staff.

This includes creating an assessment process to identify UNDP’s new leadership at the country level as well as surging staff to manage the administrative, financial and human resources transition.

I expect that we will continue to incur direct and indirect transition costs for at least the next two years.

In 2019, this will be mainly due to higher than average volume of reassignments, assessment, and leadership development for our new cadre of Deputy Resident Representatives and Resident Representatives.

In future years, we aim to achieve further savings through new ways of working such as clustering services and streamlining processes.

We had our thirteenth consecutive unqualified audit opinion, as issued by the United Nations Board of Auditors.

However, the UNDP Office of Audit and Investigation (OAI) issued a “partially satisfactory/some improvement required” rating on its governance risk and control mechanisms in 2018 – a result we take very seriously, noting our historical track record on and full commitment to learning from and implementing audit recommendations.

UNDP has a plan and is investing the time and resources necessary to improve this audit result in a sustainable way.

In the past months, I have impressed on our new management team in both our Country Offices and headquarters the importance of implementing audit recommendations without delay, including through addressing the top seven audit-related management priorities approved by the Executive Board.

We are working to strengthen support structures to Country Offices who are not demonstrating improvements at the necessary pace.

10.    UNDP achieved excellent results while powering the repositioning of the UN development system.

Tenth, UNDP achieved these results while powering the repositioning of the United Nations development system.

In 2018, as the UN entity most directly impacted by reforms, UNDP seamlessly enabled the successful transition to a new Resident Coordinator system and played a central role in the implementation of key aspects of reforms.

We took 4,000 legal, financial, and security steps to delink the resident coordinator and resident representative functions across 131 countries, recertifying the license of the United Nations and UNDP to operate around the world.

UNDP seconded 63 senior staff to be resident coordinators.

Since 1 January 2019, we have served as the principal operational service provider to the RC system, providing services including payroll, benefits, entitlements, office space, transportation, and renovation support to 129 RCOs covering 131 countries and three regional DCO offices.

This builds on our role beyond reform as the operational backbone of the United Nations system.

In 2018, for example, we disbursed $1.45 billion in 113 currencies through our payroll system, over half of which was on behalf of partner UN organizations, for an average 35,300 personnel each month.

To enhance interagency collaboration, UNDP supported the design and development of a new digital system for Business Operations Strategies that allows UNCTs to determine the costs and benefits of jointly executing selected back-office functions at the country level.

We are also supporting the interagency Business Innovations Group in its efforts to meet the Secretary General’s goals for common premises, common back-offices and shared service center collaboration. 

UNDP is significantly expanding the scope and global coverage of its shared service center operations, and between now and end-2020, 57 services currently provided through our Country Offices will be delivered through centralized units. 

These services are accompanied by our commitment to quality, to transparency, compliance with controls, and to high audit standards, not only providing services but protecting the integrity of the United Nations against the highest standards.

This year, we worked closely with and through the UNSDG to:

-    develop a new country-level chapter of the Management and Accountability Framework. We are currently working to ensure UNDP’s accountability and reporting frameworks align with this new MAF;
-    design a new UNDAF – now called the “cooperation framework” – for one central, strategic planning framework for the UN development system offer at country level;
-    provide our field perspective to the SG’s review of multi-country offices and participate in the regional review, the next phases of which we look forward to supporting;
-    Advance our integrator role to support SDG results;
-    And strengthen joint implementation to accelerate SDG progress, our commitment to which is illustrated in the Annex on progress made in implementing the Common Chapter of our Strategic Plan.

Here I would like to make three commitments:

First, that UNDP will increase its collaboration though joint activities with UN partners to accelerate achieving the SDGs, as is our commitment under the QCPR.  This will include TRAC2 and other appropriate resources, including pooled funding.

Second, as the operational backbone of the development system, that UNDP will drive forward initiatives to strengthen our client-orientation and improve operational efficiencies for enhanced support to other agencies.

Third, I commit to a continued strong presence in Multi-Country Office settings as one, important element of UNDP’s integral and increasing support to Small Island Developing States (SIDS), in line with our commitment to the SAMOA Pathway.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This tenth observation sets out our commitment to a reformed, effective United Nations development system, that delivers stronger development results.

Our commitment as UNDP – and my personal commitment -- was clear in 2018, as it is today, as a key enabler, implementer, and substantive custodian of reform.

We look forward to the support of the Board in advancing this process in a way that ensures the integrity and delivery of our mutual compact on this Strategic Plan.

Lessons Learned

The ten observations focus primarily on our successes in 2018.

The performance report of our Strategic Plan establishes that, overall, progress is on track. 

22 of 27 development outputs are green, which means they reached over 90 per cent of their milestones last year.

Two are amber, meaning they reached above 70 per cent of their milestones.

We have also, however, looked carefully at where we fell short, and invested in our ability to learn faster.

I set out four examples below.

-    Social Protection

Only one development output -- on social protection -- was red in our 2018 traffic light score card – having met only 58 per cent of its milestones for the year.

As a coalition member of the UN Social Protection Floor Initiative, social protection is key to our understanding of how to tackle poverty. However, fewer UNDP Country Offices reported results in this area in 2018 compared to the level of the last Strategic Plan period.

Analysis suggests that social protection is increasingly addressed through multidimensional approaches to tackling poverty and inequality, for example through gender, climate and disability rights approaches.

While this is being further explored, UNDP is committed to building our capacity to adapt successful social protection experiences across countries, including through the opportunity presented by the first funding round of the SDG Fund in 2019, which focuses on social protection as a way to leave no-one behind.

The SDG Joint Fund promises to be an important vehicle to drive joint UN support to national SDG achievement. UNDP co-led the development of the UNSDG operational guide on ‘leaving no one behind’ that serves as a key guidance document for the Fund’s first call.

-    Women in crisis prevention and recovery

Small steps were taken towards realizing women’s leadership and participation in crisis prevention and recovery planning -- a new focus in this Strategic Plan.

For example, in 2018, UNDP rolled out new programming guidance to support countries experiencing crises to better integrate gender equality into their programming. We continued our partnership with the then Department of Political Affairs (DPA) (now DPPA) and the European Union to support women insider mediation in 14 countries, including Guatemala, Togo and Yemen.

These efforts are complemented by regional initiatives such as the gender equality and women’s empowerment regional project in Africa and country-level initiatives like the Gender Equality Seal, through which UNDP is building country office capacities in gender-sensitive programming and partnerships for poverty eradication.

However, significant focus on this area will be required for us to better support women as ‘agents’ rather than ‘beneficiaries’ of recovery efforts in their countries and communities – as is the intent of our Strategic Plan design. 

We will continue to invest in this area as a priority.

-    Supporting poverty eradication in least developed countries

A critical source of learning in 2018 through to today is the Independent Evaluation of UNDP’s support on poverty reduction in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

The benefit of having a Strategic Plan that works across three development settings is reinforced when we consider LDCs.

17 LDCs are also middle-income countries, 9 are small island developing States, 17 are landlocked and 20 are considered fragile. Seven of the 13 fastest growing economies in the world are from this group – Bhutan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Rwanda and United Republic of Tanzania.

A narrow strategy would therefore not meet the needs of such a diverse group.

UNDP is fully committed to supporting all 47 LDCs in implementing the Istanbul Programme of Action in alignment with the 2030 Agenda and other internationally agreed commitments.

A minimum of 60 per cent of UNDP regular resources was allocated to LDCs in the period 2014-2017 -- of which about half was allocated to poverty reduction. This is also planned for the period 2018-2021, maintaining our commitment.

The evaluation recognizes that UNDP’s poverty reduction approaches are highly relevant for LDCs and that UNDP remains the partner of choice for both policy and implementation support.

It recommends that UNDP builds on key strengths, including revitalizing local economies in or recovering from conflict, furthering multidimensional approaches to tackling poverty, and deepening collaboration with UNCDF and UN Environment.

It also sets out where we can improve.

For example, it recommends that UNDP:
-    Improves our support to productive capacities and community level sustainable livelihoods;
-    enhances our focus on youth employment and empowerment;
-    advances gender responsive efforts to tackle poverty; and
-    is more proactive in supporting countries graduating from the Least Developed Country Group.

UNDP has developed a plan to take forward what we have learned from this evaluation, scaling what works, and readjusting where we are found lacking.

For example, in 2018 we launched the Poverty-Environment Action – the successor to the Poverty Environment Initiative. It aims to improve sustainable investment in poverty-environment mainstreaming, especially in Least Developed Countries.

Gender equality is a key priority across our poverty offer, and we will enhance our efforts on removing structural barriers to women’s economic empowerment. 

We are committed to scaling up our programming on youth employment and empowerment, facilitating youth engagement in economic, social and political activities, enhancing public and private institutional capacities for youth empowerment, and employment for poverty reduction.

UNDP is currently successfully implementing three regional programmes: Youth Co: Lab in Asia and the Pacific, Youth Connekt in Africa and the Arab States regional youth leadership programme, which we will continue to build on.

Our renewed poverty offer is set out in our Management Response to the evaluation. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Independent Evaluation Office for their professionalism, integrity and support, not just on this evaluation but across its work.

In 2018, this included our collaboration to improve UNDP’s evaluation policy, including improving our approach to decentralized evaluation with new guidelines, launched this year. 

-    Consolidating our approach to financing the SDGs

In analyzing our progress against the Strategic Plan in 2018, we recognized a potential that was not being met – specifically our capacity to help countries close the gap between the SDG financing rhetoric and investment.

We saw multiple approaches to and capacities on financing across our portfolios.

This included nature-based approaches capitalized by ecological fiscal transfers, vertical funding approaches designed to tackle climate change, initiatives such as SDG Impact, designed to produce investor data, tools and insight to encourage and certify private sector investment in the SDGs, and new partnerships and platforms to better connect Islamic finance with the Goals.

There was a clear need to bring UNDP’s dispersed knowledge and skills on financing the SDGs together.

In this way, we can scale local ideas to trigger global change – something UNDP has unparalleled potential to do.

To this end, I launched a new UNDP Finance Hub earlier this year as part of the Global Policy Network.  

The Hub will be a center for excellence on SDG finance, curating, improving and managing UNDP’s catalogue of public and private SDG finance services, and strengthening networks with and between governments, investors and companies to scale and accelerate impact.

Country Programme Documents

Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the Board.

These observations and lessons will inform the way UNDP works to achieve this Strategic Plan immediately.

Critical vehicles to do so are our Country Programme Documents.

Since 2014, UNDP’s CPDs have been fully aligned with the UNDAF, and we look forward to continuing and deepening that connection with the UNSDCF.

I look forward to your consideration of the four CPDs that will be presented to you during this session.

One is a new programme – for the Republic of Congo –presented for your approval.

It was developed under the coordination of the Regional Bureau for Africa with quality assurance from our Bureau for Policy and Programming Support and others and was appraised against our corporate quality standards before being presented for your consideration.

Three expiring Programmes are also being put forward for an extension: the CPDs for Timor-Leste and Tunisia are seeking a one-year extension each -- therefore are put forward for your information -- while UNDP’s CPD with Comoros is proposed for a two-year extension, for which we are seeking your approval.

In partnership

We achieved these results by working closely with you all, aided by the fact that the Sustainable Development Goals provide one agenda for everyone to unite behind: from CEOs and Prime Ministers, to activists and scientists, to academics and financial leaders.

At UNDP we are proud that we collaborate with small island nations and the world’s most popu-lous states; that our partnerships span small social enterprises and large global brands like Mars Inc., Baidu, Microsoft and Visa.

I would like to say a particular ‘thank you’ to the Governments that increased their regular resources contributions in 2018, helping to expand UNDP’s fiscal space to accelerate implementation of our Strategic Plan.

They are the Governments of Germany, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.

As discussions on UN reform have brought to the fore, including through negotiating and applying the 1 per cent levy, a successful funding compact is essential for development to succeed.

For UNDP, a mere 12 per cent of our resources are regular. That low percentage impacts on our ability to be agile and responsive, to accelerate and to course correct as needed to achieve the results set out in this Strategic Plan.

Ladies and gentlemen, Members of the Board and Bureau,

We value and need your support and commitment in this Funding Compact, so that together we can achieve this Plan in which we have mutually invested.

We are committed to putting our skills, capacities and culture of collaboration at the disposal of the UN Development System in the process.

And we are committed to continue to host critical capacities on behalf of the system.

UN Volunteers

Take UN Volunteers, for example, which deployed over 7,000 volunteers in 2018 – 83 per cent of them from the global South -- to 38 UN entities in over 140 countries, alongside 17,000 online volunteers.

This included 137 Volunteers who served in 62 Resident Coordinator Offices, focused on assignments from coordination, to peace and development, to the SDGs.

UNV did this while at the same time undergoing its own transformation to accelerate results for the SDGs.

At a time when multilateralism is being eroded, when we have -- as I said at the outset -- a deficit of trust between nations, the value of UNV further increases.

Beyond the fact that it helps the UN tap into the global volunteerism space – which, according to UNV’s latest report on the State of Volunteerism, is equivalent to a fulltime workforce of 109 million people – it sows the seeds of collaboration for a generation that will depend on it in the future.


Consider the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), which offers “last mile” finance models, primarily to Least Developed Coun¬tries, to unlock public and private finance for the poor.

UNCDF’s recent publication on blended finance shows that only 7 per cent of private finance mobilized by ODA benefits LDCs. Last year, there was a downturn in ODA to LDCs.

A significant step change is therefore required for resources to align with our collective aspiration to leave no-one behind.

UNCDF is one of the few actors with this capacity. In 2018, for example, they helped nearly two million clients in LDCs with digital payments, with mobile money account ownership more than doubling from 7 per cent in 2014 to 17 per cent in 2017.

Like UNDP, UNV and UNCDF need a greater infusion of core resources to fulfil their potential.
We count on Member States to help UNDP, UNV and UNCDF achieve the resources set out in our respective Strategic Plans.

Peace and Development Advisors

In addition, with the deployment of 49 Peace and Development Advisors to Resident Coordinators Offices, in close partnership with the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, UNDP reinforces the UN Secretary General’s agenda on preventing violence and sustaining peace. 

Three global issues for 2019

Members of the Board,

Given the scale of the development challenges, it is important to demonstrate the value of working together towards the common goals of the 2030 Agenda.

To that end, in January I identified three global issues central to development this year which, if tackled in an integrated way, will scale and accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

They are inequality -- the focus of this year’s Human Development Report, migration and displacement, and climate change. 

These three are frontier development challenges that cannot be effectively addressed in isolation, or only through traditional, linear planning and implementation approaches. They will test our capacity for integrated thinking and solutions as we implement the priorities set out in our Strategic Plan.

Today, I am pleased to draw your attention to climate change.

Climate Change

Climate change is a defining issue of our time.

The center of gravity that holds the Paris Agreement together are Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). UNDP has climate change capacity, programmes, and partnerships in every country that currently seeks support today.

Do we have the commitment to step into this space and lead?  Yes, we do.

The Secretary-General has called upon leaders to come to the Climate Summit in New York this September not with speeches but with concrete plans to enhance their NDCs by 2020.

Our hope is the Summit will be a springboard for a leap in national political ambition to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement.

At the country level, UNDP is helping 140 countries and territories to get ready.

At the global level, UNDP is supporting two tracks for the Summit: on mitigation, and on adaptation and resilience. We are also:

-    working closely with UNFCCC and the countries we serve to develop a global outlook on progress towards the Paris Agreement, collecting new data on how countries are enhancing their NDCs, where the bottlenecks are, and what is most likely to work in accelerating integrated climate action for the SDGs.

-    building a new global interactive platform for citizen engagement – a means through which the global public can make their voices heard on NDCs and advocate for ambition.

In our discussion today, I am delighted to be joined live by our UNDP Country Office in Ecuador, led by Matilde Mordt. 

Ecuador is an NDC front-runner, having already taken steps to enhancing their NDC for 2020 through an inclusive approach.

Their new NDC will include more ambitious targets on energy, forests, industrial processes and waste, with stronger gender equality indicators.

I look forward to hearing from Matilde and team shortly.


Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the Board,

In the face of climate change, rising inequality, conflict and displacement and eroded multilateralism, I hold that the story of development is a positive one.

I see this in our mutual results in 2018. I see it in the strength of our partnerships. I see it in our potential of UNDP as an organization.

We are #NextGenUNDP, a diverse, networked team pushing the boundaries in how we think, deliver, invest and manage to accelerate progress towards the SDGs: Goals that unite us with a vision of the future where civilization is civil, where globalization is just, and where people and nature flourish together.