Annual Session of the Executive Board June 2022

Posted June 6, 2022

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner

Photo: UNDP

As prepared for delivery

  1. Madame President, members of the Executive Board, colleagues and friends. It is my great pleasure to join you today for this annual session of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board for 2022.
  2. Excellencies, all of us here today have borne witness to the many challenges and risks in our world. But perhaps never more so than at the current moment. We face pressures on our planet from climate change and biodiversity loss that are unprecedented in human history. These could dismantle the foundation of our world as we know it.
  3. Multiple countries remain plunged in war, on the edge of famine and plagued by disease. They face multiple epic tests once thought to have subsided amid global progress. In 2022, up to 323 million people could face acute hunger. The number of people on the brink of starvation in Africa’s Sahel region has skyrocketed tenfold since 2019.
  4. While we are learning to live with COVID-19, the trauma of the unexpected loss of millions of lives will remain, as will the consequences of devastated economies. Debt accumulated during the pandemic rose faster than during the Great Depression. Higher debt servicing costs coincide with continued GDP and revenue losses in low-income and emerging countries with one probable result: much slower progress on all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 
  5. Excellencies, until everyone benefits from development and from the wider freedoms and human security that it brings, human progress will remain unstable and incomplete. This moment of severe trial has cast us into a crucible of change, which is disruptive and disorienting. But it is not unprecedented. The world has been here before.
  6. Forged from war, the United Nations was born from a similar crucible. Its founders intended it to represent the finest aspirations of humanity. They set out to build and sustain global peace through dialogue and development, establish clear rights and principles, and create a common space for humankind to explore its many possibilities for reinvention. These are still our aims and our source of hope today.
  7. With this backdrop, I will speak today to three broad issues. First, we must invest in development, systematically and at scale, recognizing that no country can afford to walk away from the SDGs. Second, we cannot separate development and crisis because emerging from crisis depends on development. Third, as a development organization that delivers in a world in crisis, UNDP is well positioned to meet these challenges.

Development in a crisis-torn world

  1. Excellencies, above all else, UNDP sees development as the way forward, one that meets immediate priorities while charting a course to the future. UNDP understands that both the reach and quality of development are critical. And that development is a series of choices. Made badly, these lead to crisis. Made well, they transform our world for good.
  2. I want to take a moment to reflect on development and crisis based on our experience and the present context, our presence locally and globally and our aspirations looking forward. Conventionally, many of us are used to thinking of development and crisis as two, sometimes alternating situations. Countries are developing, unless they fall into crisis, and then the goal becomes to restore development. This neat dichotomy is convenient, but is it true? And is it adequate?
  3. The definition of who is affected by ‘crisis’ is changing, Excellencies. So approaches must change, too. While most countries remain focused on development, no country right now is entirely untouched by crisis, whether from the pandemic, the debt burden, fractures in social cohesion, the climate emergency, climbing commodity prices or some or all of the above. Multiple drivers and directions elude traditional, discrete solutions that try to solve issues in a linear fashion as they arise. We need to build resilience and tackle root causes, and we need to do so comprehensively, across development systems.    
  4. At UNDP, as one of the world’s preeminent development organizations, we have been rethinking how to bend the curve of development in a world torn by crisis. We know that development is the only way to prevent crisis and remain resilient when it strikes. Countries with the most acute crises often start with deficits in development that worsen over time. Development in crisis is the only real way out of a downward spiral of suffering and harm.
  5. I refer to the Secretary-General, who recently said, “at a time when global conflicts are at their highest levels since the creation of the United Nations, the evidence demonstrates that investing in development is the best way to prevent crises and maintain international peace.”
  6. Let me share two examples of how this is working in the most difficult crises in the world today. One has been with us for decades and the other erupted this year. The first is Afghanistan, where UNDP is showing how restoring livelihoods and local economies through community interventions can be the path to hope and dignity. Protecting human rights is integral, with priority given to the rights of women and girls. Since our approach is area-based, it is tailored to localities. Combined with specific sectoral interventions, it helps communities recover and build resilience. 
  7. Under the United Nations Transitional Engagement Framework and through the Special Trust Fund for Afghanistan, which UNDP established as a collaborative platform, 17 United Nations entities are working together and with 65 non-governmental partners in implementing joint initiatives in all eight regions of the country. This effort operates in coordination with the Afghanistan Humanitarian Trust Fund under the leadership of the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and resident and humanitarian coordinator. So far, we have reached more than 5 million Afghans. Cash-for-work schemes both rehabilitate water supplies and inject desperately needed funds into local communities. Restored irrigation systems will benefit 350,000 people. We have assisted 3,000 women-led small enterprises with training and grants, producing a multiplier effect because they often hire other women. Contingent on funding, we aim to extend such support to 50,000 of these women-led businesses by the end of the year.
  8. The second example of course is Ukraine, the latest locus of immense human suffering and heartbreak. In a country that has been a breadbasket for the world, up to 90 percent of people are at risk of poverty and a generation of development gains may be lost. Preventing such dramatic reversals is why UNDP has made an unwavering commitment to support the Government of Ukraine and the UN-led humanitarian response. From day one, effective early action took off from UNDP’s immediate response through its enhanced access to affected populations and established local partnerships with the Government, local municipalities and development partners.
  9. All our efforts feed directly into the national recovery plan, in coordination with over 17 sister United Nations entities and through the support of development partners, some of whom are here on our Executive Board today. We are helping institutions and people to shore up resilience while preserving development gains and setting the stage for recovery. For example, expanded digitalization of essential services has permitted the processing of 500,000 applications for emergency accommodation and monthly subsistence allowances.
  10. In diverse localities, we have set up multipurpose centres where small and medium businesses can find financial and technical support to relocate and resume operations. Widely distributed legal aid information on issues such as crossing borders comes equipped with QR codes for direct access to free legal aid. Ukrainians need all these forms of assistance—and more—to survive now and find ways to their future.  

Rising to the possibilities for change

  1. Today, I will speak to the possibilities for change and choice and reinvention because at UNDP these remain our reason for being. No one could have fully anticipated what is happening today. But I am confident that UNDP, through your sustained support, is in many ways well prepared for whatever happens, now and next. In 2021, we reached the end of our 2018-2021 #NextGen UNDP Strategic Plan, and all the evidence points to a transforming organization. UNDP has taken full advantage of its global presence and trusted partnerships to sharpen alertness to development opportunities and risks—and retool accordingly.
  2. More than ever, UNDP is placed to drive development that is inclusive and sustainable, to manage setbacks, and to link the two so that people realize more secure lives not just now but for the long term. In the words of the recent MOPAN (Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network) report, UNDP is handling a turbulent context well, aligning with the 2030 Agenda, and demonstrating great resilience and new dynamism. When the pandemic erupted, UNDP was quick to adapt, regearing programmes and resources, procuring urgently needed supplies that sustained health systems, helping 82 countries adopt systems to track vaccination and coordinating the United Nations’ socioeconomic response.
  3. Through investment in new programmes, people, partnerships and operational practices, UNDP is more agile and effective. We are an organization that not only envisions a more prosperous and stable world but also leads thinking, innovation and action to achieve it, reaching tens of millions of people and scores of countries. This is of course a tribute to our staff and our many partners, advocates and donors who have accompanied our process of change.
  4. A few numbers tell UNDP’s story of impact:
  • From 2018 to 2021, 71 million people in 36 countries gained access to essential services
  • As part of the COVID-19 response, UNDP enhanced the skills of over 1.3 million health workers, leveraging digital, green and inclusive approaches
  • Since the onset of the pandemic, 82 countries have adopted over 580 digital solutions for e-commerce and e-governance, increasing access to basic services, especially for those left behind
  • 100 countries have put the SDGs at the centre of national and subnational development plans
  • Among 92 revised national climate action plans, 90 per cent stepped up ambition on mitigation and 96 per cent did so on adaptation
  • In 13 countries in 2021 alone, 3 million displaced people benefited from durable solutions aimed at lasting security, freedom of movement and well-being
  1. These numbers add up, showcasing how steady investment in a ‘next generation’ UNDP has delivered results. The challenge now is to make the most of our store of expertise and our country presence. Excellencies, you have given us this license by endorsing our 2022-2025 Strategic Plan. Commensurate investments can help UNDP meet its potential to work with communities and countries in shaping what happens next in the world.
  2. Our 2022-2025 #FutureSmart UNDP plan has set a high bar. This is demonstrated by a set of ‘moon-shots’ that we know are ambitious but also see as a minimum to temper the risks of crisis and make meaningful development progress. They are not a task for UNDP alone. But we will put our programme and operational strengths behind them. And we will be a constant advocate for the many other partners who can help bring them within reach. By 2025, our call is for 100 million people to leave multidimensional poverty, clean and affordable access to electricity for 500 million people, support for 800 million people to take part in elections, and the mobilization of $1 trillion in public finance and private investments for the SDGs.
  3. I will detail some of the rapid early strides we are already making on the 2022-2025 plan, which started just a few months ago. But first, I will share three cross-cutting observations that speak to what we have accomplished as a result our 2018-2021 plan, drawing on the annual report I present to you today.

First, UNDP is redefining how we achieve development that links the local and global.

  1. Development happens locally, through services and jobs, elections and community collaboration. But the forces that shape it span the globe. In our work within countries, UNDP seeks to make the most of local and global development opportunities while managing risks and constraints. We are increasingly elevating the local to the global, towards shaping broader, more systemic and cross-country responses that both accelerate development and mitigate reversals.
  2. Our work on financing for development demonstrates how the local and global intersect. UNDP is leading United Nations systemwide efforts to help countries develop Integrated National Financing Frameworks. These are explicitly designed to fuel achievement of the SDGs and are now underway in over 80 countries. They are improving the quality, amount and reach of public and private funds, both domestic and international, and enhancing much-needed capacities for formal financing planning. They are also unleashing national innovation. Cabo Verde, for instance, has launched the world’s first blue economy sustainable financing platform. The Mongolian Stock Exchange issued guidance to align the operations of over 200 private companies, comprising $2 billion in market capitalization, with sustainability principles.
  3. We are already embarking on the next stage of this work. UNDP, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the European Union and government partners have together launched the new Integrated National Financing Framework Facility. It will secure technology, expertise and tools for more than 80 countries and deepen cooperation between public, private and civil society actors.
  4. In tandem, UNDP’s development finance portfolio continues to rapidly evolve through our leadership in pioneering sustainable development and green bonds. With our assistance, the Development Bank of Rwanda is preparing its first green bond to inject around $50 million into renewable energy, clean transportation, sustainable water, waste management and biodiversity conservation. The New Development Bank issued an SDG-linked bond of $750 million, marking the first time that a multilateral development bank applied the UNDP ‘SDG Impact’ Standards for Bond Issuers and SDG Finance Taxonomy. Uzbekistan became the first country in its region to issue a sovereign bond for the SDGs. The Mexican Government’s SDG bond, the first of its kind, is now on its second issuance, having raised over $1.3 billion.
  5. With digitalization reshaping our globe, UNDP is harnessing its potential as an empowering force for people and planet. After the initial focus in the pandemic on quickly setting up digital solutions to adapt to the ‘lockdown’ world, we moved quickly to help countries accelerate digital transformation. Sixteen countries have begun to define how ‘whole-of-society’ digital solutions can both speed recovery from COVID-19 and accelerate the SDGs. Mauritania has set up a national digital agency; Grenada and Dominica adopted new national digital strategies. Tajikistan has transitioned 74 civil registration offices to digitized services towards improving vital birth, death and other record-keeping for more than 450,000 citizens. After UNDP helped establish a registrar’s office in the Kenyan Micro and Small Enterprises Authority and provided digital tools, the office formalized 12,185 firms.
  6. Recognizing that technology poses risks alongside its benefits, UNDP has forged new partnerships with the International Telecommunication Union, the Digital Public Goods Alliance and the EDISON Alliance to shape forward-looking global norms around preventing potential harms. UNDP places human rights and inclusion at the heart of our own digital work through the six guiding principles in our new digital strategy.
  7. Among concerns that span the local to the global and back, climate change may be quintessential. Through UNDP’s Climate Promise, more economies today are on the path to adapt and decarbonize. In 2021, the Climate Promise helped set unprecedented levels of ambition on both mitigation and adaptation in nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement. As importantly, countries are already acting on their climate plans. In Indonesia, UNDP is working closely with partners such as the World Bank to assist the Government in implementing market-based instruments that will help meet climate targets in its nationally determine contribution. This includes support for adopting a carbon cap and tax with potential to both slow emissions and generate revenues. It’s an early example of how the nationally determine contributions can propel both climate and development action, an avenue UNDP will further explore moving forward.
  8. UNDP’s commitment to galvanizing public support for climate action came through in our ‘Dear World Leaders’ campaign in the run-up to the 2021 Glasgow global climate talks. It inspired people from around the world to urge their leaders to act, and garnered a Webby Award in the process. Based on votes cast by people in over 70 countries, a Webby Award is considered the Internet’s highest honour.
  9. With concern growing around the climate emergency, 2021 was a pivotal year to drive the massive shifts required in energy systems. UNDP partnered with Sustainable Energy for All and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs to convene the first United Nations global summit on energy in 40 years. It resulted in governments and businesses pledging $600 billion for new investments in universal, sustainable energy.
  10. UNDP took a bold stand in advocating reforms of fossil fuel subsidies, a climate and development-critical issue in many countries. Our new Fossil Fuel Reform simulator explores country-level data to define how subsidies can be channelled towards different development priorities. It is an example of how integrated development solutions, in this case cutting across climate, finance and socioeconomic goals, can unlock multiple paths to progress.

Second, UNDP is helping to close persistent, systemic development gaps that have left people vulnerable.

  1. Vulnerability has become a watchword of our world. The risks are escalating on many fronts. People who face multiple sources of vulnerability are most likely to be left behind. UNDP helps countries maintain and extend social safety nets towards the goal of social protection for all.
  2.  During the pandemic, we backed labour market measures to shield nearly 1 million jobs and assisted some 56,000 small and medium-sized businesses. In Viet Nam, our support for digitalizing social assistance achieved a sea change in leaving no one behind by improving the delivery of $1.4 billion in social protection to over 27 million people. In 73 countries, we are helping to make social protection gender-responsive while also opening opportunities for women-led businesses. Peru, for instance, has adopted a framework for a national care system to ensure women gain decent work, social protection and essential services.
  3. Our partnership with the International Labour Organization to build out the basics of social protection now extends to 88 countries and is instrumental in realizing the promise of the Secretary-General’s Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions. By 2030, we will work together with other United Nations entities, Member States and social partners to deliver 400 million jobs, primarily in the green, digital and care economies, with a focus on informal work. We will also seek to extend social protection floors to 4 billion people.
  4. Excellencies, one of the most persistent gaps in our world right now is in the response to crisis. UNDP is committed to crisis recovery that provides not just handouts but a bridge to hope, dignity and a sense of security. In Yemen, for instance, more people are dying from the lack of food and health care than the ongoing war. UNDP in 2021 helped create livelihood opportunities for 352,000 people. Spillover effects were soon evident as they began building productive assets and revitalizing local economies. We also delivered health, education and energy services for 4.5 million people while assisting national institutions to develop capacities to both restore and maintain services.
  5. In north-eastern Côte d’Ivoire, our starting point was not just in alleviating the consequences of extremist violence but probing why it was happening and responding from there. A joint UNDP-United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Programme team found the answer was in part a failure of development. The team’s detailed evidence of urgent social and human development needs led to a national policy shift to extend social programmes to this region.
  6. A massive new effort in the Sahel region rests on a network of partnerships involving UNDP, other United Nations entities, Governments, multilateral organizations and the private sector. Together, we are expanding access to energy, restoring social bonds in communities affected by conflict, tackling climate-related security risks, and empowering young Sahelians to start new businesses.
  7. Recognizing the link to development, UNDP has deepened crisis prevention across its programme portfolios. We helped to make elections safer and more trustworthy in 2021, for instance, with a $42 million investment in rigorous and transparent electoral management equipped to prevent disputes and avoid crisis. Collaboration with 40 countries brokered wider use of digital and other tools to stop corrosive hate speech, including through the UNDP-developed iVerify digital misinformation platform, dubbed a digital public good by the Digital Public Goods Alliance.
  8. To prevent worsening pandemic-related economic risks in 10 countries in the Eastern Caribbean, UNDP provided mentoring and financial assistance to hard-hit smaller tourism businesses. Under a ‘future tourism’ project, people across the industry are rethinking how it can adapt and thrive in the face of multiple vulnerabilities.
  9. Two thirds of UNDP projects explicitly emphasize achieving gender equality, since gender discrimination and inequality are among the most potent accelerants of injustice and vulnerability. Increasingly, we are moving towards challenging norms and structures that perpetuate discrimination, as I will discuss later in terms of UNDP’s new Gender Strategy.
  10. One example of closing the gender gap is the ongoing toughening of laws and policies to end gender-based violence. Through UNDP’s work with parliamentarians under the groundbreaking European Union-United Nations Spotlight Initiative, Mexico’s federal penal code for the first time covers the explosive rise of digital and media violence against women. In Papua New Guinea, which has among the world’s highest rates of family, sexual and gender-based violence, the Parliament took a vital and historic step to fund the national strategy on gender-based violence and its associated secretariat.
  11. We are particularly pleased that in 2021, 96 per cent of submitted nationally determined contributions on climate action featured provisions on gender equality. Twice as many countries committed to women’s leadership in climate decisions and greater access to technology. This shows how in transforming our economies we can also transform our societies, going green while becoming more inclusive and just.

Third, UNDP is strong in its own house and in driving results-based UN reform that delivers to countries.

  1. UNDP is an even better organization than it was just four years ago. Multiple external assessments, evaluations and audits have confirmed that we have taken many right steps and made strategic investments to become an organization ready to act on complex development challenges. We have new skills, service offers, digital capacities and knowledge resources. We manage risk more effectively. Proof of our abilities comes from our $4.8 billion in programme delivery in 2021, the highest level in over a decade, despite the enormous pressures of the pandemic. For an organization with no assessed contributions, delivering $4.8 billion in vital development interventions in 12 months reflects the trust and confidence UNDP enjoys among our partners.
  2. UNDP today is an organization that learns. We have implemented most recommendations from our independent country programme evaluations and seen their uptake in new country programme documents. Our Global Policy Network sustains a constant flow of real-time expert knowledge across diverse countries and issues and accelerates the pace of learning, guaranteeing that UNDP remains responsive, agile and risk informed.
  3. Further, we use what we learn in practice and from our unique network of projects, partners and presence in 170 countries to set agendas and lead global thinking on major development concerns such as inequality and sustainability. Our renowned Human Development Reports continue to pioneer fresh solutions that are needed now more than ever, including a planetary-adjusted measure of development and a new take on human security.
  4. As a dynamic, results-driven organization, UNDP attracts some of the world’s best development expertise. With the pandemic accelerating new ways of working, we are striving to uphold workforce flexibility, use of technology and an ‘empowerment culture’. We have achieved 95 percent of the recommendations in Phase 1 of our People for 2030 strategy and established a new flexible contract modality. Our success in setting high standards for managing people is apparent in our very high levels of staff satisfaction, while our gender parity achievements are lauded within the system and beyond. Staff diversity remains our strength and is on the rise, such as through paid internships, 87 percent of which are held by interns from the Global South. A new Graduate Programme offers a unique opportunity for talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in some of the least represented countries.
  5. UNDP today is going digitally native, with our new digital and data strategies operating in tandem. A new data architecture is in place, and United Nations country teams and governments are already using our Data Futures Platform to model policy options and guide investments. In 2021, the platform garnered a DRIVENxDESIGN Award. A 120-member Digital Advocates Network and a new Digital Fitness Programme will amp up digital learning across UNDP country offices. Further, UNDP’s digital SparkBlue knowledge platform is now a ‘go to’ for UNDP and United Nations staff to connect with each other and external experts. It hosted global consultations on the strategic plans of six United Nations agencies in 2021 and since 2020 has attracted 230,000 visitors.
  6. Inherent to our success is that we think fast and creatively on our feet. Innovation is intrinsic to how we work, with the UNDP Accelerator Lab Network reaching 115 countries through 91 locations and documenting over 2,000 grassroots-led solutions across all 17 SDGs. An Accelerator Lab in Uganda, for example, helped national forest authorities cut the time to detect threats such as illegal logging from a year to a month. The Philippines is using non-traditional data, like household spending on consumer-packaged goods, to forecast broader trends in the economy. 
  7. Harvard University has developed a case study on the Accelerator Labs as an example of strategic innovation at the United Nations; it is slated for use by the Harvard Business School. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology applauded UNDP for creating “a large network of ecosystems that revolve around its labs… it’s solving the acceleration problem with a portfolio mindset, employing the power of the collective, and it’s doing so at an unprecedented scale.”
  8. Excellencies, at a moment of great need and fiscal constraint, UNDP is foremost an organization where resources are well stewarded and efficiently used. Our transparency and accountability are high, as repeatedly demonstrated through audits and evaluations, and our response to findings is rapid and thorough, even in some of the world’s most difficult contexts. In 2021, we received our sixteenth consecutive unqualified audit opinion and balanced the budget for the fifth year in a row.
  9. UNDP met a high bar on oversight in its partnership with the Global Environment Facility, resulting in the 2021 renewal of accreditation. Our accreditation with the Green Climate Fund was upgraded based on the results we help to achieve and our response to audit and assessment recommendations. For both of these global funds, UNDP is a partner of choice because countries choose whom they want to work with, and they can see that ‘UNDP delivers’.
  10. Further, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria entrusted UNDP with $546 million in 2021, knowing that we would make every dollar count. This translates directly into results on the ground, such as paying nearly 26,000 non-governmental health workers in Afghanistan in October 2021 to keep more than 2,100 health facilities open and serving over 3 million Afghans. With the war in Ukraine, the Global Fund has asked UNDP to take over implementation of $30 million in grants related to responding to HIV and tuberculosis in Belarus. We are working with partners to ensure the continuity of essential services.
  11. UNDP’s new strengths have helped us both navigate and steer the successful repositioning of the United Nations development system, delivering results on the ground, where they matter most. The Secretary-General entrusted UNDP with the technical leadership of the socioeconomic response to COVID-19, accompanying the World Health Organization on the health response and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on humanitarian action. UNDP, in close collaboration with the United Nations Development Cooperation Office and United Nations development system entities, supported Resident Coordinators to leverage the full power of the United Nations system in conducting initial socioeconomic assessments, often in partnership with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. These triggered early recognition of the broader development consequences of COVID-19, informing government actions in 81 countries. An evaluation by UNDP’s Independent Evaluation Office described UNDP as deserving “enormous credit” for its essential role in a coordinated crisis response that provided “a bridge to recovery”.
  12. In 2021, other recognition of UNDP’s role in a reinvigorated United Nations development system came from MOPAN, which concluded that UNDP has handled the reform process “exceptionally well”. Even as we are the organization most affected by the reform-related ‘delinking’ of the Resident Coordinator system, we have devoted significant resources and expertise to ensure its successful transition, as demonstrated by the examples of joint results described to you today.
  13. Under the leadership of the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General and the chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG), the UNDP Administrator serves as UNSDG vice-chair and as the chair of the UNSDG Core Group. This is a demonstration of UNDP’s full support to a reinvigorated development system. In early 2022, members of the UNSDG Core Group underscored its importance in the acceleration of the COVID-19 socioeconomic response; the continued consolidation of development system reforms; the response to core development concerns such as financing the SDGs, climate change and biodiversity; and advances in the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks.
  14. As an organization with expertise across all major facets of development, UNDP continues to put its capacities and expertise to work in service of United Nations country teams, under the overall steer of the Resident Coordinators. Our support helps link different interventions so they add up to integrated, synergistic solutions that are well aligned with country demands. Regional collaborative platforms, under the chair of the UNDSG Chair/Deputy Secretary-General, with UNDP regional directors and the heads of regional economic commissions as co-vice chairs, generate strategic thinking and shape a common vision of the revamped United Nations development system.
  15. As chair of the Joint SDG Fund’s Operational Steering Committee, UNDP has ensured it is responsive to emerging issues and guides the strategic design of the Fund’s initiatives, such as through a new call for building resilience and ending vulnerabilities in small island developing States. UNDP’s active support for the Fund is also evident in its participation in 97 out of 127 joint programmes globally. In line with the forward-looking vision of the Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda, UNDP will continue working with and within the United Nations development system to accelerate and scale up progress towards achieving the SDGs. Our Common Agenda, above all, is a plan to quicken implementation of the 2030 Agenda and strengthen the capacity of the multilateral system to achieve results. 
  16. UNDP has also provided continuous, active leadership, technical assistance and staff capacity to advance the Secretary-General’s Efficiency Agenda. In 2021, we collaborated with 119 United Nations country and regional offices to finalize 131 business operation strategies, on time for targets set in the agenda. UNDP payroll services processed payments for staff of 50 different United Nations entities. Support for the Resident Coordinator system saw UNDP continuing to provide the highest cost-sharing contribution of any single United Nations entity.
  17. UNDP remains particularly proud of its close ties with UN Volunteers, the United Nations Capital Development Fund, the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation. As just two examples of the value of these relationships, the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office in 2021 attracted the most significant contributions since its creation in 2003. Through extensive collaboration with diverse United Nations entities, the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation led the creation of a system-wide strategy and action plan on South-South and triangular cooperation. It will help harness the full potential of these modes of collaboration to support countries in ending all forms of poverty and achieving the SDGs. 

Even if UNDP is equipped for systemic change, finance needs to follow so we can deliver on our promises to countries

  1. Excellencies, I would like to speak now on the issue of finance, for UNDP and development more broadly. First, I want to extend appreciation to all our funders who, despite a difficult funding climate, stayed the course in 2021. Your resources helped to produce the development impacts I have just been describing—and many more. UNDP received $5.4 billion in total contributions in 2021. Contributions from vertical funds and government cost-sharing increased. Twelve international financial institutions provided $308 million in 2021, up from $249 million in 2020.
  2. UNDP deeply appreciates the $647 million in regular (‘core’) funding provided in 2021. Core funding is fundamental to our ability to function as a public institution instead of only as an ‘implementing agent’ or contractor. It underpins our values-based approach, our universal presence, our responsiveness in emergency situations, and our commitment to transparency, accountability and oversight. From core funding, UNDP commits $50 million per year to independent oversight functions and support to system-wide functions, including UN Volunteers, the United Nations Capital Development Fund and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation.
  3. Yet core funding accounted for only 12 percent of total resources in 2021. It remains far below the 30 percent target of the Funding Compact. Further, the number of contributors to regular resources dropped from 49 to 43. We also saw some declines in thematic and pooled funds, remaining below the Funding Compact target of 6 percent for thematic funding by 2023. This means, in short, that while UNDP is the development organization of first resort for many countries, we are not funded that way.
  4. Excellencies, I am sure you can understand my dismay at recent announcements of cuts in core development funding to UNDP and United Nations development system partners at a moment when resourcing development is a huge challenge. We value our partnerships in working together to address the world’s great development challenges. We do not understand choices such as shifting resources from the world’s poorest countries to fund the costs of refugees in wealthy countries. Yes, it is ‘acceptable’ according to rules set by OECD members for themselves—but does that make it rational or strategic?
  5. Let me be clear. All needs must be met. But this must not come through further sacrifice among those already tipping over the edge of survival. This is not what we agreed in the 2030 Agenda and its essential principle of leaving no one behind. It does not make sense now or looking forward. We will never heal the divisions that fracture our world if we use only band-aids. They are fine for a small cut but not to treat the growing wounds of a crisis riddled world. Simply reacting to crisis after crisis sets in motion the perpetual need for more resources. Development, done well, is the only lasting and cost-effective solution over the longer term.   
  6. As you know, UNDP has been rethinking the future of development to ensure that societies have the basis to thrive. We have also been rethinking development financing as a central ‘enabler’ of success across our Strategic Plan. Money in our world is plentiful. But it is not working nearly as well as it could—as it must—for sustainable development. The gap needs to be addressed; heavy earmarking needs to be reduced, and investments need to be aligned with the SDGs.
  7. This is why UNDP has been so committed to assisting countries in developing the integrated national financing frameworks that I spoke about earlier. It explains our continued advances in SDG and green and blue bonds, and our collaboration with the private sector to kickstart SDG investment pipelines. Our new Tax for SDGs initiative will help governments take innovative approaches to taxation that deliver double wins for the goals. One level is about raising revenues that can flow into SDG-related services. The second is about using taxation to incentivize shifts in behaviour to achieve the Goals directly, from climate action to health care to gender equality.
  8. These are among the many steps that developing countries will need to take to generate and align finance with sustainable development. Here I would point out that UNDP investments are particularly potent because they fully support the SDGs and are increasingly oriented around systemic change. They can help unlock other investments on the scale that is required. Yet as with development financing in general, our funding will not be well aligned to our purpose or our plans as long as 86 per cent of resources remained earmarked for individual projects.
  9. Excellencies, our last Strategic Plan readied UNDP for the ambitions of our new plan and its emphasis on meeting systemic development challenges. Now the money must follow. Measures that are too short term and narrowly focused will only undercut our chances to realize a more secure, developed, sustainable world. I am eager to continue this dialogue with the Executive Board and to exchange more ideas on how we together can close divides and better align funding with countries’ development needs.

Getting the vision off the ground: the 2022-2025 Strategic Plan

  1. Action on UNDP’s Strategic Plan, 2022-2025 is forging ahead. We stand ready to work with you, the members of our Board, and all countries and development partners. This is the moment to bend the curve of development away from crisis and towards societies that flourish, with human security and well-being for all.
  2. Towards that end, UNDP is focused on three directions of change—leaving no-one behind, building resilience and structural transformation. We will deepen integrated approaches under our six signature solutions—poverty and inequality, governance, resilience, environment, energy and gender equality. These are where country needs are greatest, and the capacities and role of UNDP in the United Nations system add the most value. All efforts will rest on a business model empowering UNDP to act quickly, flexibly and at the scale expected by our partners. This entails investing in six areas: people, knowledge, risk management, funding, operational excellence and impact measurement.
  3. I can report that we are making determined strides in getting our new plan off the ground. In the first 100 days, we prioritized 12 areas of focus in how we work that, approached right, can accelerate momentum. For example:
  • We launched Phase 2 of our People for 2030 Strategy. It will build on the considerable achievements of Phase 1 by providing an organization-wide response to the shifting world of work, with a strong focus on leadership, especially in country offices. Our next generation of leaders will not only offer the full complement of skills that partners expect but be ready to drive a culture of continuous learning and experimentation.
  • We began consolidating our digital architecture, so it is simpler, nimbler and more secure. This will improve collaboration within UNDP and with our partners, drive more decision-making based on hard data, and support our high standards for transparency and accountability. In line with audit recommendations, we initiated an integrated system to consolidate and improve risk management functions. UNDP’s new enterprise resource platform, Quantum, is already supporting digitized procurement sourcing in 70 country offices through an end-to-end platform that strengthens and automates several controls.
  • We have designed and launched a new Knowledge and Learning Strategy that is central to realizing an upstream Global Policy Network that can push the boundaries of ideas, detect challenges in real time, manage policy complexity, and link local and global streams of experience and expertise.
  • We honed and streamlined our policy services to countries in line with the new Strategic Plan, and prepared the foundations of a new crisis offer, building with real-time urgency on new pathways to development in crisis that our teams are pioneering on the ground.
  1. Our shift from projects to portfolios is accelerating, with a new Portfolio Initiation Framework helping UNDP and our partners to bring innovation and systems thinking into how we work. Forty-five countries have already applied a portfolio sense-making approach to shape several new country programmes. National governments, such as in Malawi, and local authorities, including in Armenia, Georgia and North Macedonia, are increasingly adopting the approach. I welcome the vision of early investors like Denmark, which supports our Innovation Facility, and the European Union, which committed 10 million euros to pursue a portfolio approach to urban transformation in Europe and Central Asia. I encourage more partners to support this important journey.
  2. Towards working with more diverse development actors, particularly the international financial institutions and the private sector, we are unpacking the bottlenecks, risks and opportunities. Action plans are in place to responsibly take such partnerships to the next level, guided by the SDGs. Whether through creating decent jobs or kickstarting climate-aligned finance, such collaborations can help to shape the future of development. Increasingly, the international financial institutions have recognized the value of UNDP’s global access, impartiality and expertise, and how together we can maximize the impacts of grants and government loans. UNDP will develop these relationships going forward, stressing the leveraging power of official development assistance. 
  3. In engaging with the private sector, we will be able to build forward from strong collaboration with existing strategic partners such as Microsoft, Samsung, GSMA (the mobile network operators’ association) and Vodafone on issues including digital capabilities, inclusive connectivity and responsible technology. Growing work in insurance and risk finance already offers a prime example of how we can better link private and public and national and international spheres. Our new Insurance and Risk Finance Facility operates in 30 countries through a unique public-private partnership involving UNDP, the Insurance Development Forum, the German Government and 10 of the world’s largest insurance companies. They bring financial and technological solutions and $5 billion in risk capital to back insurance claims, complementing UNDP’s close work with governments to integrate insurance and risk financing into development solutions. In tandem, a new multi-year UNDP partnership with Generali, a leading global insurer and asset manager, will explore insurance and risk management options for developing countries, building financial resilience.
  4. Excellencies, as one of our most important priorities since we last met, UNDP finalized our new Gender Equality Strategy. I am very pleased to present it to you. It emerged from the shared thinking of more than 1,000 people from 122 UNDP country offices and beyond. The strategy raises our ambition to dismantle structural barriers and transform social norms, laws, policies and institutions to uphold women’s rights. It re-envisions UNDP partnerships, especially with civil society and women’s feminist movements as leaders and drivers of change. And it connects development results with institutional advances, such as through stronger capacities for data and analysis, and investments in seven building blocks inspired by UNDP’s Gender Equality Seal Certification principles.
  5. UNDP is proud of our consistent progress on gender equality, both institutionally and through our programmes. In 2021, we met 88 percent of performance indicators for the United Nations System-wide Action Plan 2.0 on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.  UNDP earned an EDGE Move Certification in recognition of our gender parity achievements, a distinction earned by only one other United Nations organization.
  6. Finally, with recent Executive Board decisions calling on us to formulate a plan to improve the quality of decentralized evaluations. I am pleased to report that this plan is now in place. Greater independence and quality will build on regional management accountability, quality standards for programmes to improve evidence for evaluations, more robust quality assurance and training, and a quarterly assessment process. Stronger indicators will measure performance in the integrated results and resources framework. The plan for decentralized evaluations begins as we are already turning them in the right direction. Decentralized evaluations rated as satisfactory increased from 19 percent in 2017 to 42 percent in 2021. We still have far to go but I am confident we will get there.

Our aspirations are high because they have to be

  1. Excellencies, I spoke at the beginning about our crucible of change. This can reduce us or transform us into something better. Our forebearers at the founding of the United Nations faced a similar moment. Knowing firsthand the perils of splintering apart, they choose to move forward together.
  1. We today also have choices:

- We can make more short-term decisions and take limited stands by funding single-issue projects. Or we can invest together in shifting the systems that underpin development. We can operate through integrated networks of people, issues and resources, knowing that this is the only way to meet the commitments of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

- We can keep up the humanitarian and development divide and watch non-stop crisis, the continued erosion of human rights and the destruction of our planetary life support systems. Or we can collectively step up to prevent and resolve crisis through high-quality development that leads to well-being and human security for all people in all situations.

- We can allow the multilateral system to fall apart even as a globally interdependent world demands both global and local solutions, and links between the two. Or we can stand with the Secretary-General in his call, articulated in Our Common Agenda, for a reinvigorated multilateralism with the United Nations at the centre.

  1. I am proud that at UNDP, we are prepared to take these choices on. We have devoted every effort to emerging as an organization that is future smart, ready for the world now and the work ahead. From our vantage point of 170 countries, at every possible stage of development, conflict and crisis, we see the challenges and the opportunities. Our support will be the very best we can offer, based on what we know and can anticipate.
  1. It is our firm hope, Excellencies, that you will continue to stand with us on the journey forward, away from crisis and towards development, as we embrace human possibility. It is a journey of solidarity and shared values taking us out of the crucible. With that, I thank you and look forward to our continued dialogue.