First Regular Session of the Executive Board 2023

February 1, 2023

As prepared for delivery

Watch here the ‘Interactive Dialogue with the Administrator’ of the First Regular Session of the Executive Board 2023

  1. Mr. President, Excellencies, members of the Executive Board, Observer delegations, and colleagues. It is my great pleasure to join you today for this in person first regular session of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board for 2023. Allow me to begin by congratulating you, Excellency Mr. Martin Kimani, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kenya, on your election as the President of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board. Let me also express my congratulations to the Board Vice-Presidents and members of the Bureau for 2023, Ambassadors Muhith of Bangladesh, Chan of Costa Rica, Kyslytsya of Ukraine and Sinirlioğlu of Türkiye. We are looking forward to working closely with you this year.
  2. I would also like to express my gratitude to the outgoing Bureau members, Ambassadors Al-Thani of Qatar, Rodriguez Cuadros of Peru and the outgoing President, Ambassador Brandt of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, for their leadership and guidance offered during 2022.
  3. I am also very pleased to welcome two new members of my Executive Group team to their first Executive Board session: Ivana Zivkovic, Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS, and Michelle Muschett, Director of the Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean. I am also pleased that our new Director of the United Nations Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), Dima Al-Khatib, will shortly be starting her new role. I also take this opportunity to thank Khalida Bouzar, Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States, who will shortly be leaving us, for her unwavering support and commitment during her time at UNDP. Can I also take this opportunity to thank Svetlana Iazykova, who has been the backbone of the Executive Board Secretariat for 28 years and who is now leaving for her well-deserved retirement!
  4. I wish us all a happy new year—more so given the year we have just been through. When I spoke to this session of the board in early 2022, we thought that the recovery from COVID-19 and its social and economic disruption had begun. We had the hopeful signal of the vaccines and the belief that the worst might be over. Throughout the pandemic, UNDP stepped up and played an integral part in the massive global effort that sustained health systems, expanded the social safety net and kept people employed.
  5. That moment now seems like an early chapter of the crises enveloping us today. Recovery and its timing are uncertain amid the accumulation of war, global political tensions, the soaring cost of living, hunger, the debt crisis, climate disasters and the reversal of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UNDP’s 2022 Human Development Report aptly described an uncertainty complex, where multiple stresses are reinforcing each other and derailing development.
  6. For over three decades, UNDP has calculated the Human Development Index. This was the first time it declined globally for two years in a row. We are back to 2016, when we began implementing the SDGs. No one has been spared. An astonishing 90 percent of countries experienced declines on the index. All countries are grappling with uncertain economies and widespread worries and insecurity. And the end is not yet in sight.
  7. In spite of such obstacles—indeed, because of them—UNDP has never hit pause. Our teams across the world stand with our developing country partners to help stem the slide into poverty and keep development moving forward. As a result, millions of people have secured jobs, gained essential services, and found safety, dignity and hope.
  8. I ask you to keep these positive points in mind, as each new year provides a moment of renewal, even in these troubled times. As such, it is a privilege to brief you today on UNDP’s progress one year into our latest Strategic Plan. Today, UNDP operates in close partnerships, through our deepening collaboration across the United Nations and with diverse public and private development actors. We respond to an array of country needs, combining intellectual weight, hands-on experience and increasing operational flexibility to navigate complex challenges at scale. And we are ready for the future, having invested in capacities for the next generation of development, from green energy to digital services.
  9. At UNDP, with your support, we are constantly finding ways to pivot human development forward, while continuously learning and improving along the way. In the run-up to the SDG Summit in September, we have arrived at a particularly critical moment to reinvigorate action on the global goals. Today I will speak about some of the ways that a #futuresmart UNDP is most effectively leveraging its resources to propel faster and even transformative changes.

Breaking the cycle of crisis

10.    Any vision of progress rests on breaking the cycle of fragility. Bluntly, we will never pivot forward if this cycle continues. Around 15 percent of people live in a conflict zone. Over half of humanity—4 billion people—has experienced a natural disaster in the last 20 years.

11.    UNDP operates in all 60 countries defined as fragile. Our new Crisis Offer is our plan—and our argument—for a different paradigm, where development is integral to breaking the cycle of fragility. Providing food, shelter and housing early in an emergency will remain an essential task. But it should not be a perpetual one. We need to move past situations where people live in camps for 20 years.

12.    UNDP’s Crisis Offer sets a direction grounded in experience and based on partnerships with all major humanitarian and peace actors. It cuts across the fundamentals of development—job creation, energy supplies, service delivery and more responsive governance, among others. For example:

•    In Iraq, a massive push to stabilize ISIS-affected areas by restoring services and infrastructure made a significant contribution to 4 million people returning to their places of origin. We adopted this approach in Libya built on inclusive local peacebuilding and development solutions. We are now further customizing it in the Lake Chad Basin, the Liptako Gourma region and Mozambique.
•    In Ukraine, as an integral member of the UN country team, UNDP’s support to maintain Government services has helped provide digital service solutions for over 18 million people, connecting them to cash benefits, housing subsidies and other essentials, while setting the stage for improved access in recovery and beyond. With medium and smaller enterprises employing more than 7 million people, UNDP aided business organizations involving over 10,000 member firms in extending support services aimed at resilient operations. Since October, we have helped repair energy infrastructure to sustain electricity, gas and water supplies.
•    In Afghanistan, UNDP has focused on livelihoods, particularly for women and youth, at the local level, working closely with localities and 18 UN and 36 non-governmental organizations (including international ones). We have helped to strengthen local economies and household incomes, and restore energy, water and disaster mitigation infrastructure and services. Early results are promising. Under ABADEI, we provided livelihood support for over 700,000 people in 2022 and clean energy solutions for over 100,000 people. We continue advocating for women’s and girls’ rights to education, work and public life, such as by prioritizing the reopening of 34,000 women-owned small businesses through small grants and training. Despite the very difficult circumstances, we delivered almost all our programme in 2022—and must continue to do so this year.
•    In the Central African Republic, we partner with the UN peacekeeping mission to support the Special Criminal Court. In 2022, it achieved a milestone for justice—a first verdict against individuals accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

13.    UNDP’s new 10-Point Action Agenda for gender equality in crisis contexts connects our crisis and gender responses. In collaboration with UN Women and other partners, our Gender and Crisis Engagement Facility and Gender Justice Platform share knowledge and accelerate collective action on women’s leadership, economic empowerment, human rights and access to justice.

Development - resilient and decarbonized

14.    One of our most important choices today is to decarbonize. We have far to go but national climate action is more ambitious than ever, including as a result of UNDP’s Climate Promise. It may be the most comprehensive programme of its kind because it speaks to the needs of leading economic sectors and diverse population groups, with equal attention to adaptation and mitigation and a just transition.

15.    Among 120 Climate Promise countries and territories to date, higher-ambition climate action plans or nationally determined contributions (NDCs) were largely in place by 2022. Governments all over the world must now finance, implement and monitor them at the scale and speed that climate action requires. UNDP welcomes the recent commitment at the global climate talks to establish a funding arrangement for climate-related “loss and damage”. Nonetheless, a continued and separate imperative remains fulfilling the international commitment to provide $100 billion a year for climate action in developing countries.  

16.    UNDP’s Climate Promise has assisted 56 countries to develop financing strategies to make the best use of climate funds. Liberia both designed a comprehensive climate financing strategy and trained staff across the government to prepare climate-related budget submissions so that climate action is funded not just for one ministry but for many. Bangladesh set a new global standard for a comprehensive national adaptation plan prioritizing long-term investments pulling from both public and private resources. A global partnership with the International Monetary Fund has created next generation techniques to integrate climate in the fundamentals of national accounting.

17.    Through the Climate Promise, over 75 countries—with their ranks growing every year—have gained better climate data and measurement systems to keep progress on track. Viet Nam has tools to track the private sector in its national inventory of emissions. Despite years of political and economic turmoil, Lebanon has issued one of the most robust and transparent inventories of emissions to date.

18.    UNDP’s flagship Carbon Payments for Development initiative, a collaboration with Switzerland, makes $120 million available for performance-based payments to reduce emissions. In 2022, the programme helped countries begin operationalizing Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, aimed at boosting climate ambition through greater collaboration. The world’s first Article 6 project kicked off in Ghana to incentivize the planting of 15,000 hectares of climate-smart crops.

19.    In over 140 nations, UNDP supports action on climate adaptation in partnership with the Global Environment Facility and the Green Climate Fund. In Timor-Leste, women engineers and local construction companies are developing climate-resilient infrastructure that will benefit 15 percent of the population. In Tuvalu, state-of-the-art airplane-mounted technology known as LIDAR has collected detailed baseline information on marine hazards and coastal processes that will be invaluable in adapting to rising seas.

20.    Transitioning to decarbonized development opens tremendous opportunities to build resilience and break cycles of inequality and exclusion. UNDP is already taking steps towards our collective goal of increasing access to clean and affordable energy for 500 million people. Our largest-ever initiative to extend green energy access, the Africa Minigrids Programme, has huge potential. With funding from the Global Environment Facility and expertise from RMI, a leading advocate for energy system transformation, as well as the African Development Bank, the programme will help seize a $65 billion investment opportunity that could establish 114,000 solar battery mini-grids in 21 countries. These could connect 265 million people, more than 200,000 schools and clinics, and over 900,000 businesses to modern power. The programme will have a truly transformative impact on poor rural communities that otherwise might wait decades for traditional power grids to reach them. Mini-grids can be built in as little as six weeks, offering the fastest, cheapest route to green electricity.

Digital as a force for public good

21.    The future is digital, defining how we will live, work and interact with each other. Whether technology becomes an empowering force for good or a sower of more division and exclusion will depend on choices we make now. That is why UNDP has invested in becoming a digitally literate organization that both applies the latest technology to its own work and supports developing countries in harnessing the digital revolution. Digital is at the forefront of our future-ready programmes, aimed at realizing human gains, not just purely technological ones.

22.    Right now, 2.7 billion people, mostly in developing countries, are on the wrong side of the digital divide. If left there, they will only lag further behind. Flagship research by UNDP and the University of Denver found that making targeted investments in digitalization, social protection and the green economy could cut the number of people living in extreme poverty by 146 million by 2030.  

23.    UNDP currently assists 100 countries in developing digital solutions that align closely with national development priorities, such as in Malawi, where a state-of-the-art, people-centred digital ID system has improved tax information, strengthened bank account verifications and saved the government $20 million through reduced pension fraud. Savings have gone in part to a new national programme offering subsidies to vulnerable farmers.  Over 40 UNDP country offices have established new capacities for digital justice initiatives. In the State of Palestine, for instance, an open-source court case management system improves efficiency and access to justice, with an emphasis on reaching women reluctant to report domestic violence.

24.    At the 2022 General Assembly, UNDP co-organized a high-level event with the Digital Public Goods Alliance that helped galvanize support for digital public infrastructure. Leaders from government, civil society, business, philanthropy and international organizations committed nearly $300 million to building the digital ‘roads and power grids’ that allow diverse digital platforms to talk to each other and provide reliable services, payments, data-sharing and more. UNDP showcased how a data exchange system in Ukraine, based on proven models in Estonia and Sierra Leone, has sustained social protection and service delivery despite the war. Continued collaboration with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), involving the 54 African Union member States, is shaping a digital protocol for safe and secure data exchanges and payments that will expedite digital trade across the continent.  

25.    UNDP co-leads the Digital Public Goods Alliance to make 160 (and counting) open-source development solutions available to all, across the SDGs. iVerify, for example, is an AI-enabled fact-checking tool to tackle election misinformation that UNDP successfully piloted in Zambia and then applied in Honduras, Kenya and Liberia. Our longstanding partnership with Singapore has disseminated its notable contributions to technology in government, such as an automatic screening tool for better access to digital services for persons with disabilities.

26.    Since digital is constantly evolving—tomorrow is, in effect, today—UNDP has developed powerful resources such as the Digital Development Compass. As the largest ever collection of national digital indicators, it helps to guide an inclusive, whole-of-society digital transformation. The Digital X platform matches ready-to-scale public and private solutions to urgent development problems, with over 100 proven solutions available for use. Our partnership with the EDISON Alliance produced the Digital Inclusion Navigator, which curates evidence-based resources for digital services in health care, financial services and education.

27.    All of UNDP’s digital work aligns with the Global Digital Compact and the UN Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda. Under the leadership of Rwanda and Sweden as well as the UN Special Envoy for Technology, UNDP will continue bringing a country-focused perspective to the Compact and calling for putting people and their rights at the heart of digital transformation.

Any idea can change tomorrow
28.    If we want to meet needs now and claim a better future, we must think and act differently. UNDP’s world-class Accelerator Lab network operates on the premise that with 8 billion people on the planet, we probably have many of the answers to current problems—the trick is finding, scaling up and widely sharing them. In 115 countries, the Labs break down the traditional ringfencing of ideas. From communities to conference rooms, they link people intent on experimenting, learning and igniting change, in the public and private sectors.

29.    The Labs have changed how UNDP operates, enhancing our agility and responsiveness, and have quickly become a resource for governments in every region. Lab insights have helped update air quality data in Buenos Aires, Argentina, improve air pollution enforcement in India and build the climate resilience of small farmers in Egypt. The Accelerator Labs Network, the HoneyBee Network and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs are collaborating on a novel mapping of energy solutions for communities long left out of national energy grids.

30.    Always alert to the latest trends in development, the Labs increasingly drive UNDP thought leadership. When cross-country collaboration among six Labs revealed 30 signals changing the nature of work, for instance, UNDP issued a report on the topic widely covered in mainstream media and highlighted at the World Economic Forum. Current collaboration among 24 Labs is probing informal economic activity, which has grown sharply since the pandemic, to redefine policy responses within UNDP as well as with partners such as the International Labour Organization.

31.    The Labs have become a jumping-off point for UNDP’s expanding engagement with the private sector. Almost half of new Lab partners are private actors, with significant potential to scale up investment in the SDGs as new innovation ecosystems take off. At Harvard University, MBA students use a case study on the Labs in looking at tech investment strategies. UNDP has proudly collaborated with Hyundai on the ‘For Tomorrow’ platform, which showcases 72 innovations from people in 44 countries. A documentary narrated by actress Daisy Ridley, available on Amazon and YouTube, tells the stories of local innovators, showcasing what the future can look like if decision-makers listen and learn. Millions have viewed the film and its teasers.

Leading with our values

32.    Excellencies, UNDP leads with ideas and programmes to break the cycle of crisis and realize a new generation of development. We also lead with the values enshrined in the United Nations Charter and international law, in line with our mandate and the reality that inclusive, sustainable development hinges on better governance, the realization of human rights and the close alignment of all flows of finance.

33.    Our forthcoming governance strategy is centred on closing divides, delivering justice and expanding choices for everyone to thrive. The strategy links innovation and long experience, amplifying recent successes such as work on anti-corruption that looks across entire sectors to deter corrupt practices and improve development outcomes. Applying this approach to the health sector in Tunisia both lowered medical costs and increased patient satisfaction in selected public hospitals. Several recent experiments deployed digital tools to improve citizen engagement, such as Panama’s Agora platform, which drew more than 200,000 people into formulating a new national development vision. In Somalia, we are both building local governance capacities and shifting a narrative of social fragmentation by spotlighting empowering, positive changes that people make in their communities.

34.    As reflected in UNDP’s Strategic Plan, our work is largely dedicated to people who may find it hardest to realize their rights because they are poor or stuck in conflicts or trapped by discriminatory social norms. We appreciate the recent formative evaluation on leaving no one behind, which recognizes that equity and equality are intrinsic to UNDP’s work. And we welcome its recommendations, which will strengthen our ability to focus on the root causes of marginalization.

35.    Under our new gender strategy for 2022-2025, aimed at unlocking multiple, intersecting sources of discrimination, progress is already evident in work on gender-based violence, where we are bringing prevention strategies into programmes on other core development concerns. Early pilots in Iraq and Lebanon, operating as part of economic empowerment and livelihoods programmes in marginalized communities, have demonstrably improved attitudes to gender equality, shifted norms treating gender-based violence as acceptable and increased the willingness of men to take on more household tasks. This innovation could galvanize significant momentum behind both ending violence and accelerating multiple SDGs.

36.    UNDP has also made critical contributions to ending gender-based violence through the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, working in close collaboration with UN Women, UNFPA and UNICEF. Seventeen countries in Latin America, for instance, have now criminalized femicide in their legislation or incorporated it as a criminal offense in their penal code.

37.    On human rights, UNDP’s efforts in helping countries to carry forward recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review are achieving closer alignment with national SDG plans. Albania has used recommendations to tailor COVID-19 responses to women struggling with multiple forms of discrimination, including those who are Roma, have a disability or live in rural areas. Sierra Leone abolished the death penalty and enacted laws to expand civic space.

38.    In 2022, national human rights institutions supported by UNDP played a major role in the landmark United Nations General Assembly endorsement of the universal right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. We issued an environmental justice strategy to take this commitment forward, building on achievements such as those under the GEF Small Grants Programme. In 127 countries, it opens opportunities for indigenous peoples, women, young people and people with disabilities to realize their rights and lead the way to a sustainable balance between people and planet.

Realigning all flows of finance

39.    Excellencies, the future of finance must be one where we align all flows, public and private, with sustainable, inclusive development. Until that happens, we will continue, by choice or inertia, to finance the fractures that divide our world and the practices that threaten to destroy it. As one critical entry point, UNDP stands behind the call of the United Nations Secretary-General, including in Our Common Agenda, to reform the international financial architecture to better benefit developing countries.

40.    UNDP’s Sustainable Finance Hub is unique in its capacity to help align and unlock public and private finance for sustainable development now and towards a goal of $1 trillion working for the SDGs. In 145 countries, sustainable finance initiatives connect governments, the private sector and international financial institutions to accelerate SDG progress through measures such as tax reform, policies to develop capital markets, investor maps and gender-based budgeting. Integrated national financing frameworks in 86 countries offer a ready-made platform for the Secretary-General’s new SDG Stimulus Plan, which targets 2 percent of global GDP or about $500 million a year for development, humanitarian responses and climate action, coming from development bank lending, debt relief, liquidity provision and donor finance.

41.    UNDP is collaborating with over 40 countries on debt restructuring and thematic bonds. By the end of 2022, these initiatives had generated over $11 billion for the SDGs and climate action. Uruguay has just issued an innovative $1.5 billion sustainability-linked bond that both extends the maturity of existing debt and raises new funds based on climate and environmental goals. By avoiding pre-defined projects, the bond ensures flexibility in tailoring spending choices as needs shift or emerge. Built-in incentives to reach the goals help keep expenditures on track. Uruguay was only the second country to issue this kind of bond. The market has signaled strong approval, generating almost $4 billion in orders from 188 investors.

42.    In UNDP’s deepening collaboration with the international financial institutions in 77 countries, we remain closely aligned with national development priorities in helping to prepare sound investment proposals and implement grants and loans. In Ecuador, we assisted the Ministry of Finance to establish budget tagging tools to track national climate finance as part of accessing nearly $1 billion in development bank loans, including the World Bank’s first green and resilient recovery development policy loan. Technical assistance is helping Ukrainian cities use a €300 million EIB loan to restore energy infrastructure that is both more efficient and reaches more people.

43.    Blended public and private finance will be a key thrust of the Green Arab States Facility for Transition that UNDP is launching with the Islamic Development Bank. It offers a resource for governments, financial institutions, the private sector and development partners to transform climate goals into bankable projects—in a region where only 1.5 percent of energy is renewable.  One market-shaping new agreement is with the Kuwait Finance House to align its investments with the SDGs. As among the largest Islamic finance institutions globally, it has a market capitalization of almost $30 billion.

44.    UNDP’s Insurance and Risk Finance Facility links public and private partners to hedge bets against future climate risks for the most vulnerable people. Targeting 20 countries to start, it has begun rolling out insurance solutions protecting nearly 40 million people, on course for reaching 80 million in 2023. This is a prime example of a #futuresmart UNDP, where we reduce poverty risks by deploying state-of-the-art strategies in close collaboration with both public and private actors. And this is just the beginning. Complementary new partnerships include a $14 million collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to pilot financial resilience options for smallholder farmers. Collaboration with Milliman, Inc. will help countries develop actuarial science and skills as well as insurance markets.

A partner of choice with a high-performance culture

45.    Everything I have spoken about today demonstrates how UNDP takes the resources you entrust to us to pivot human development forward, at scale, in line with the SDGs. Though our financial books for the year have yet to close, 2022 saw our second highest level of programme delivery in over a decade, reaching approximately $4.7 billion. In Africa, we outperformed our annual target, delivering 102 percent of planned programme support. In Latin America and the Caribbean, we delivered 114 percent. Our corporate delivery was exceeded only by our 2021 performance, at the height of the pandemic.

46.    We remain highly responsible in how we spend and monitor the impact of development funds, having received our seventeenth consecutive unqualified audit opinion on our financial statements for 2021. UNDP welcomes the report of the UN Board of Auditors and its overall conclusion that UNDP closed 2021 in good financial health through its sound financial management practices, including processes and controls designed to keep its expenses within available financial resources.

47.    We are among the most transparent organizations in the world, according to the International Aid Transparency Index. The quality of our decentralized evaluations—a litmus test of how we learn from and improve our work on the ground—continues to improve. Independent external assessments by the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN), the Government of Japan and Publish What You Fund as well as UNDP’s ongoing Partnership Survey have affirmed that UNDP is a partner of choice for both donor and programme countries.

48.    In 2022, UNDP prioritized corporate efforts to diversify our development partnerships, with a clear focus on international financial institutions and the private sector. Towards a more seamless approach to working with businesses, we established a new credit guarantee support policy, an intellectual property licensing policy and digitalized due diligence tools. New and strengthened policies are in place on anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism.

49.    Within the broader UNDP family, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), UN Volunteers (UNV), UNOSSC and the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office (MPTO)—all organizations that UNDP hosts and supports—continue to provide critical inputs as development partners. UNCDF, as a catalytic funding vehicle for the least developed countries, in 2022 supported third-party blended funds to raise more than $400 million in investment capital, mostly for small and medium enterprises, and municipalities. UNV deploys over 12,000 volunteers, serving more than 55 entities across the United Nations, and in promoting inclusion, mobilized almost 200 UNVs with disabilities, engaged volunteers representing 177 nationalities and maintained gender parity among UNVs.
50.    UNOSSC, through the Global South-South Development Expo, South-South Galaxy and trust funds, strengthens the UN system’s support to Member States in leveraging South-South and triangular cooperation for resilient recovery and sustainable development. The MPTFO provides pooled financing services across the UN system, enabling transparent and integrated joint UN results across a diverse portfolio. In 2022, the MPTFO provided a record high $1.7 billion to 120 UN system entities and implementing partners to support important and innovative inter-agency coalitions to advance on the SDGs.

51.    UNDP’s accelerating shift from projects to portfolios includes a new Portfolio Initiation Framework. It helps us and our partners to bring innovation and systems thinking into how we programme, monitor, evaluate and mobilize funding. Forty-five countries have already applied a portfolio sense-making approach, including to shape new country programmes. Other early adopters comprise national governments, such as in Malawi, and local authorities, as in Armenia, Georgia and North Macedonia. Early investors include Denmark, which largely initiated the shift through support for UNDP’s Innovation Facility, and the European Union, which committed 10 million euros to a portfolio approach to urban transformation in Europe and Central Asia. I encourage more partners to join us on this important journey.

52.    I am pleased that UNDP continues to double down on efforts to embody the values we stand for, such as by making it mandatory for all offices to plan for and report on innovation and digitalization, to create a safe, inclusive and equitable workplace, and to uphold social and environmental standards. Every UNDP office must now plan and report on efforts to strengthen an inclusive working culture, one free from discrimination and exploitation and/or abuse, including sexual misconduct. Proper safeguards are being embedded in all UNDP programmes, and we are reaching out to implementing partners to raise awareness of our sexual misconduct standards. We are reviewing team performance as part of annual reporting and will share findings with the Executive Board in its annual session in 2023.

53.    UNDP’s certification by Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE)—a leading global assessment and business certification for gender equality in the workplace—signifies UNDP’s progress towards achieving gender equality and an inclusive workplace. Since 2020, we have stepped up efforts to become an actively anti-racist organization and to promote equality, justice and inclusion within our own house and through our programmes. In UNDP’s latest staff survey, 80 percent of respondents stated that all employees are treated with dignity and respect, a share 23 percent higher than the external benchmark.

54.    Towards cutting our operational carbon footprint by 50 percent in the next seven years, our Moonshot Facility has invested in 72 initiatives, from electric vehicles to renewable energy, for UNDP premises. These have slashed our electricity carbon footprint by 11.2 percent while saving over $730,000 in energy costs every year. We are advancing multi-partner efforts, alongside the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Norwegian Refugee Council, and with the support of Germany, to replace 400 diesel generators used in humanitarian settings across five countries in the Sahel Region. This is an important step towards shifting the dependency of humanitarian organizations in displacement settings on electricity generated through environmentally harmful and expensive fossil fuels.

55.    Taken together, Excellencies, all the results I have described today speak to an organization that is on the move, systematically learning and achieving. Over the last year, when our development partners needed us most, UNDP stepped up and provided more financial and technical support than almost ever before, in a reliable, accountable, transparent way.

56.    Yet the reality is we are struggling to do more with less. This is not sustainable. Outside UNDP, developing countries face a financing gap estimated at $4.2 trillion per year,  leading to a growing chorus asking: Why is development being defunded, despite skyrocketing needs? We ask the same question here today. While we deeply appreciate the trust and continued commitment of our donors, who have maintained or increased their funding of UNDP’s work, the current drop in our core funding, among a growing number of OECD countries, is unfortunately among the worst in UNDP’s history.

57.    The challenge is not one of lack of demand or poor value for money. Quite the contrary, as evidenced by the high demand for UNDP services and by the continued high marks given by multiple partners and evaluators that I described earlier. Last October, when we convened our global network of country representatives with Member State permanent representatives to discuss the future of development, they made a resounding call for UNDP to offer more support to developing countries to both recover from current crises and move back on a track to the SDGs.

58.    A further testament is that even as core funding dropped, non-core contributions grew in 2022 due to the confidence that programme countries have in us. Argentina, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and other countries invested in working with us in their own countries at higher-than-planned levels. Greater government cost-sharing signalled UNDP’s continued efforts to diversify funding and enhance overall contributions but also affirmed that developing countries are voting with their wallets.

59.    In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, UNDP is collaborating with the Government and the International Monetary Fund to deliver a massive community development programme to improve local infrastructure, provide off-grid renewable energy and develop market links and value chains for small businesses in marginalized communities. The programme has drawn $348 million in Government resources as well as $263 million in Special Drawing Rights.

60.    Developing countries have also chosen UNDP as their leading global partner in accessing and deploying billions of dollars in development finance under vertical funds such as the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility, the Multilateral Fund for the Montreal Protocol, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. UNDP has 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 results we helped to achieve and our response to audit and assessment recommendations. While we know that we can and must continue to strive for excellence, and to meet and exceed the high standards we set for ourselves, we are proud to be a partner of choice of programme countries.

The essential impacts of core resources

61.    Excellencies, the drop in core funding is particularly problematic, at UNDP and across the UN development system, because it cuts into the bones of our organizations. The incredible promise of what we have set in motion will fall short unless we immediately reverse downward trends in core resources. These remained woefully inadequate at around $585 million in 2022— 12 percent of our total resources—and will likely shrink in 2023. While these figures are not yet final as we are closing the books for 2022, the decline is directly impacting our ability to deliver on Strategic Plan priorities that you approved as well as the country programmes agreed with programme countries. To make the value and role of core funding clear in practice, I would like to highlight a few essential examples of what it delivers.

62.    First, 82 percent of our core programmatic resources goes to work in low-income countries. In the 46 least developed countries, core resources sustain UNDP programmes that battle against poverty and inequality, tackle root causes of crises, and help realize the promise we all made to leave no one behind. Core resources are fundamental to our role as a trusted adviser to governments, as many Member State representatives testified in our October meeting. Core resources ensure we are on the ground delivering before, during and after crises, with a flexible, responsive capacity, as demonstrated recently in Afghanistan.

63.    In Eritrea, core resources are helping to ease some of the deepest development divides of our time. In rural areas, only 3 percent of people have electricity, a disparity that feeds many others in education, health, income, safety, digital access and women’s unfair burden of unpaid care work. With core funds, UNDP has taken strides towards closing the power gap through a solar mini-grid. It sends modern, affordable and sustainable electricity to more than 40,000 households and business that otherwise could not secure connections to the national grid. The project has transformed livelihoods and lives, turning on the lights, literally, in 40 villages, 500 small enterprises, 15 schools and 2 community hospitals. Without core resources to respond to this acute need, given the complexity and cost of extending traditional power supplies, these communities would likely still be in the dark and development shortfalls would continue to get worse.  

64.    Second, core resources largely determine the quality and reach of UNDP’s thought leadership and policy innovations. They mean UNDP can regularly introduce new ideas that are reshaping development work in fields as diverse as insurance, sustainable financing, gender equality, digitalization and energy, as affirmed by the many examples I have shared today. Core funding fuels the work we began three decades ago when our Human Development Report challenged the dominance of GDP as a measure of progress. In the last several years, the report has shaped global understanding of the direction of humankind, marking the new epoch of the Anthropocene, introducing the ‘uncertainty complex’ and drawing attention to the stark impact of COVID-19 on human development.

65.    In tandem, our Multidimensional Poverty Index, a UNDP collaboration with Oxford University, has expanded understanding of the scope and complexity of poverty, and guided new understanding of the solutions. These include renewable energy, which could be one of the fastest routes out of multiple deprivations afflicting 1.2 billion people. All such insights add to the evidence for the indispensable role of multilateral action, helping leaders make the case for investing in the SDGs instead of focusing mainly on problems perceived as ‘closer to home’.

66.    A new publication we are about to launch shines a spotlight on the signals of change that matter most for the future of development. On an ongoing basis, our global knowledge networks amplify the collective intelligence of 33,000 experts and development practitioners and recently anchored global dialogues in the run-up to Stockholm+50. UNDP’s Global Policy Network pushes into new intellectual terrain through systematic in-house research. Its Development Futures series, for instance, seeds new ideas in leading development journals on emerging issues such as the role of the private sector in peacebuilding and risk-attuned assessment of multidimensional poverty.

67.    Third, core funding sustains UNDP as a public institution, owned by all, committed to upholding the values of the UN Charter and the SDGs, with the highest standard of oversight. It underpins our values-based approach, our universal presence, our responsiveness in emergency situations, and our commitment to transparency, accountability and oversight. It ensures constant improvements in institutional effectiveness, agility and accountability. From core funding, UNDP commits $50 million per year to independent oversight functions and support to system-wide functions, including for UNV, UNCDF and UNOSSC.

68.    Core resources have made possible our new future-ready Quantum management platform, which improves engagement with our personnel, partners and suppliers. The platform combines more than 10,000 data elements from operational and programmatic work to drive new insights and enhance data-driven decisions. As part of its commitment to the UN reform agenda, UNDP has partnered with seven other development system entities to roll out the Quantum platform—the United Nations Population Fund, UN Women, UNCDF, UNV, the United Nations University, UNOSSC and UNITAR.

69.    Quantum’s digital payment channels are set to enhance fraud detection and compliance with anti-money laundering standards. The platform will also enhance data privacy, building on UNDP’s already strong commitment to a secure data, information and digital work environment. For the seventh time, UNDP’s cybersecurity team in 2022 won the globally recognized CSO50 Award, which is given to the world’s 50 highest-achieving cybersecurity units, alongside companies such as Adobe, Accenture, Microsoft Corporation and Zoom. The award reflects our continued commitment to innovate, follow industry best practices, and ensure that we are keeping up with the rapidly changing field of cybersecurity. UNDP has won more CSO50 awards for cybersecurity than any other organization, including in the private sector.

70.    With core resources, UNDP continues to make advances under the People for 2030 Strategy, having won multiple prestigious global awards for talent management. Our Graduate Programme took the 2022 Recruiter Award for Most Effective Emerging Talent Recruitment after effectively screening more than 38,000 applicants and selecting 33 diverse candidates in less than two months. This both reflects the interest in working with UNDP and our continued commitment to improving the diversity of our workforce. New staff learning and development resources are set to strengthen skills for sensemaking, scenario planning and systems thinking. This year, we will establish new mechanisms for feedback on performance and employee experiences, deepening continuous improvement and innovation as an integral part of our organizational culture.

71.    Excellencies, UNDP in short has set a high bar for being a more performance-oriented, efficient public institution, one equipped to operate in service to global development cooperation because it constantly learns and improves, based on rigorous scrutiny and sound evidence. We turn to you to recognize how much we have achieved and how much more can be done with the right funding. We are ready if you are.  
The future begins with us

72.    These are difficult times for many people. They may change us in ways we cannot yet imagine. Yet I see room for hope because so many of us are striving for a better world, including those of us here in this room today. A networked, responsive and future-ready UNDP is prepared for the choices that take us forward. As an organization embedded in and integral to the UN system and the broader ecosystem of development partners, we can have a profound multiplier effect. Through our partnerships and as a catalyst for change, we reach millions of people in the short term while triggering shifts towards greater inclusion and sustainability over the longer term.

73.    Excellencies, progress often accelerates from one person talking to another. Before you know it, a movement forms and gains momentum. So I would ask you to take what UNDP is achieving back to your capitals and beyond. There is tremendous power in sharing what we know. People who hope for a better future and know that it is possible—they will find the ways to it.