First Regular Session of the Executive Board 31 January - 4 February 2022

February 2, 2022

Photo: UNDP/ Sumaya Agha


  1. Madame President, members of the Executive Board, colleagues, and friends. It is my great pleasure to join you today for this first regular session of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board for 2022. Allow me to begin by congratulating Her Excellency Ms. Yoka Brandt, the Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, on her election as the President of the Board, and welcoming our new Bureau members for 2022.

  2. I would also like to express my gratitude to the outgoing Bureau members. In particular, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to the outgoing President, Her Excellency Ms. Lachezara Stoeva, the Permanent Representative of Bulgaria, for her unwavering leadership and guidance during a challenging year.

  3. Excellencies, in many ways, this is not the January 2022 we had hoped for. This is not the Board setting we had hoped for. The virus again tests our plans to spend more time with you in-person. And yet, it has not kept us apart. I would like to thank all those working behind the scenes to keep us connected, particularly our IT colleagues. We have made accelerated progress in our mission to become a digitally native UNDP. Our continued virtual engagement – here today and wherever we have programmes - is one illustration of this.

  4. Whether we are in-person or not, the new year marks a time for a fresh start, with a clear focus on what is possible if we work together and keep our ambitions high. For we cannot let this clarifying moment pass us by. For example:

  5. As a result of this pandemic, poverty is rising for the first time in a generation. But our evidence also shows that a united push to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can bring us back on course.

  6. As a result of the pandemic, inequalities are more stark than ever. Oxfam’s January 2022 report argues that income inequality is a stronger indicator of whether you will die from COVID-19 than age.  Yet, as our Human Development Reports have set out, inequality is not inevitable. Both targeted and systemic interventions - whether for vaccine justice, debt sustainability, or gender equality - offer clear and tested responses. 

  7. And during the ‘great pause’ of the pandemic, we had a glimpse of what it takes to change the carbon footprint of our generation. Emissions dropped. Skies cleared. It did not last. But through the Paris Agreement -- through your Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – momentum is gathering to truly decarbonize the future of our economies. Now we need more ambition, more speed, and more scale.

  8. Excellencies, our current economic way of life, built around extraction and consumption, cannot deliver for people or planet in the 21st Century. While we manage the impacts of that today, the future is for the making. This generation has the opportunity to bend its arc towards societies that flourish. More than a mantra, #FutureSmartUNDP is our benchmark for success. And we have not a day to lose. 

  9. So today, as we mark the first regular session of UNDP’s Executive Board with a new Strategic Plan (2022-2025) in place, a plan that is both ambitious and achievable, I will do three things:  

  • focus on the three systemic challenges that shape our immediate next steps as we begin to implement the Strategic Plan
  • offer a preview of UNDP’s results and learnings from the last Strategic Plan cycle, with a full review to follow in our Board meeting in June 2022, and;
  • lay out important areas of change that will be necessary to make this new Strategic Plan work – for which we will depend on your co-creation and support. 

    Bending the curve towards societies that flourish 

    10. To bend the curve towards societies that flourish, the international community, including UNDP, needs to do three things well: one, transition to a recovery from COVID-19 that makes the world more equal, not less equal; two, enable transformation to take root even in the midst of conflict, crisis and fragility, and three, adapt/prepare more intentionally for a decarbonized, digital future. These three challenges – which are reflections of our Strategic Plan’s three directions of change on leaving no-one behind, building resilience, and structural transformation -- shape our immediate next steps.  I will take each one in turn.

    Transition to a recovery from COVID-19 that makes the world more equal, not less equal 

    11. As a result of the world’s response to COVID-19, inequality between countries has increased, by nearly a decade. More countries face historic levels of debt with less fiscal space for the Sustainable Development Goals, and while richest economies in the world are likely to bounce back this year, dozens of countries are facing a ‘reversal of fortunes’ for the first time in two decades: per capita income in 70 per cent of developing countries is now growing slower than in advanced economies.

    12. Extreme poverty surges will mirror the vaccine availability map, with a three to six-month lag. Supply constraints, and food and energy inflation are expected to drive a temporary increase in extreme poverty – adding to the 121 million additional people that fell into acute food insecurity in 2021.  At the same time depleted fiscal space, skyrocketing debt and uncertain bond markets will conspire against effective policy responses in developing and emerging economies.  

    13. To bend the multiple curves of this pandemic from unequal to equal, countries and communities need at least two things: access to vaccines and access to finance, alongside a continued systemic push towards equality. UNDP is stepping up on both, with your support, and we are looking for more partners.

    14. On vaccine equity, recognizing that “no one is safe, until everyone is safe”, UNDP is working with WHO, UNICEF and other partners on the ground to help realize the WHO targets of vaccinating at least 70 per cent of the global population against COVID-19 in 2022. We wholeheartedly join in the “New Year’s Resolution” campaign of the President of the General Assembly to this effect and look forward to the High-Level Thematic Debate on Universal Vaccination in February 2022.

    15. Our efforts capitalize on UNDP’s strengths and connect local and global action. In India, for example, UNDP collaborated with the Government on their CoWIN (Winning Over Covid-19) platform, a cloud-based system that facilitates registration, immunizations and appointments, and issues digital vaccine certificates – one of the tools with which India is rapidly expanding its COVID-19 vaccination programme, which has delivered more than 1.5 billion doses. UNDP is also working with the Government to share this technology and expertise with other countries.

    16. At the global level, and as part of UNDP’s Data Futures Platform, UNDP, WHO and the University of Oxford partnered to set up The Global Dashboard for Vaccine Equity, combining the latest data on the global roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines with the most recent socio-economic information. It provides new, actionable insights and possibilities for policy makers to dive into the implications of vaccine inequity for socio-economic recovery, jobs, and welfare. Analyses can be generated and compared by country, region and globally, and organised per income group. We look forward to releasing new socio-economic insights ahead of the PGA event and supporting countries with sub-national, ‘hyperlocal’ insights so that no one is left behind.

    17. On finance, we are supporting governments to get integrated financing strategies in place, identify opportunities, and crowd in investment, including through innovative instruments. As the technical lead of the UN’s socio-economic response, UNDP led impact analysis contributed to response plans, and helped countries to connect the dots between their COVID-19 response and recovery plans and how to finance them. Today, of the 71 countries with whom UNDP and UN partners work on Integrated National Financing Frameworks (INFFs) under the leadership of UN Resident Coordinators, 31 countries report that this is the first time that they have taken this approach to building a formal financing strategy.

    18. Our Strategic Plan puts out a $1 trillion moonshot – with our commitment to play a catalytic role in promoting the alignment of existing public and private sector resources with the SDGs. We are already innovating to this end: In December 2021, for example, UNDP launched two new SDG Investor Maps with over 30 investment opportunities in Djibouti and Namibia. Mexico’s SDG bonds, supported by UNDP, opened the market in 2020 with a €750m deal before returning in 2021 with a €1.25bn offering, while Uzbekistan and the New Development Bank in China issued SDG bonds, each valued in the 800-million-dollar range, with UNDP support.  UNDP has also launched a new Insurance and Risk Finance Facility to work with industry and governments in at least 50 countries over the next four years. The Facility is already working with 20 countries and is being rolled out with six more as I speak, namely Uzbekistan, India, Indonesia, Ghana, Algeria, and Colombia.

    19. We will continue to need your partnership, Excellencies, to explore UNDP’s full potential in catalyzing public and private sector financing. The pandemic reinforces that development needs systemic responses with all partners on board, as well as organizations engineered to extend integrated solutions to multi-dimensional challenges. This is how UNDP’s Strategic Plan is designed – to navigate complexity and uncertainty. The 2021/22 Human Development Report will focus in on this challenge. Entitled “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a World in Transformation,” the report will explore what is driving uncertainty in the Anthropocene, what it means for human development and how we can thrive in spite of it.

    Enable transformation to take root even in the midst of conflict, crisis and fragility

    20. Over the coming four years, we are committed to building a #FutureSmartUNDP that is more anticipatory and preventive in its crisis engagements, more agile and risk-informed in its response for recovery, and with a long-term view to rebuild social cohesion and sustain peace. This takes place alongside humanitarian, development and peace and security UN sister entities and our many close partners. Together, our contribution must be at scale if we are to support our national partners to mend fraying social contracts, protect human rights, expand civic space and inclusion, and build social cohesion.

    21. Excellencies, in conflict, crisis and fragile contexts, humanitarian support alone will not be sufficient to prevent more suffering and instability. UNDP’s reports on the war in Yemen showed that more people are dying from hunger and disease than from conflict-related violence. Our research in Myanmar – from the first household survey with national coverage since the military takeover on 1 February 2021 - finds that poverty is likely to return to levels not seen since 2005.

    22. I am struck, for example, that while donors have committed to sustaining humanitarian assistance to Sudan, all other assistance has been paused since the October military takeover. A principled approach to investing in programmes that not only save lives but also protect livelihoods is urgently needed. This is why UNDP has been working hand-in-hand with our sister agencies to complement much-needed humanitarian aid. As part of the humanitarian-development-peace nexus and under the Humanitarian Response Plan, UNDP has put forward programmes to work on durable shelters for returnees and Internally Displaced Persons, provide access to energy to vulnerable groups, stabilize livelihoods through cash for work programmes, and enhancing the protection of civilians in Darfur and other hotspots.

    23. These contexts are not just humanitarian situations. They are examples of growing development emergencies. To enable transformation to take root in the midst of crisis and fragility, the international community must invest in solutions that build hope, and a path beyond aid. Our work with local and international partners in the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, Iraq and in Afghanistan illustrates the different ways in which this can manifest.

    24. For the Sahel, UNDP will work at the intersection of humanitarian, peacebuilding and development action. Our ‘A Regeneration’ offer is designed to help break the cycle of poverty and conflict by addressing the underlying causes of instability and unlocking the region’s incredible socio-economic promise. And it will help in driving forward the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, expanding access to clean, reliable and affordable energy, extending UNDP’s stabilization portfolio to help communities affected by governance failures, violent conflict and extremism, and climate-related security risks, and empowering young Sahelians to start new businesses through programmes like UNDP’s YouthConnekt Sahel initiative. We take this forward in close collaboration with a wide range of partners, including the Sahel governments, UN partners, NGOs, the African Union, the Lake Chad Basin Commission, and the G5 Sahel.

    25. In Iraq, UNDP’s work under the Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) has continued to have a tremendous impact on stabilizing the areas liberated from ISIL through rehabilitating and restoring basic infrastructure and services. Informed by strong risk-management frameworks, this work has benefitted 15.8 million people and allowed more than five million IDPs to return home and rebuild their lives, which is a significant contribution to the country’s on-going transition.

    26. In Afghanistan, which is on the cusp of near universal poverty, UNDP focuses on bringing help to communities directly, sustaining local delivery systems and getting cash circulating again so that people can take home a wage for their work and are able to buy food or life-saving supplies. Through the “ABADEI” strategy for community-level support and area-based development -- which we launched as part of the UN system’s overall crisis response with the Multi-Partner Special Trust Fund for Afghanistan -- nearly 45,000 days of temporary employment have already been created in less than 90 days. Twelve other UN agencies have joined the ABADEI strategy to date, and UNDP has surged critical staff capacity from all around the world to the Country Office to support this expanded response.

    27. With the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, UNDP managed to pay about 26,000 NGO health workers in Afghanistan, 28 per cent of them women, to keep over 2,100 health facilities open across 31 provinces. These facilities serve over three million Afghans, half of them women and a third of them children. UNDP used one of the few commercial banks still open to send direct payments to health-care workers via mobile devices and ensured cash was delivered in person to those with no such device or account. This is an experiment that could be expanded to support other public sector employees, given cash liquidity and banking system challenges that are crippling daily life.

    28. Excellencies, I stress these examples to you today because it is time to find a way to bend the curve on conflict and crisis and that will require doing things differently than before. We are deeply grateful for the partners who have and continue to invest deeply in UNDP’s work in this area. We will not meet the Sustainable Development Goals if we do not try harder together in these contexts. To strengthen the development pathway to prevention and peacebuilding, UNDP is stepping up with a new strategy, innovative approaches, a refocused Crisis Bureau and a demonstrated commitment to working hand-in-hand with humanitarian and peace partners. I am calling on your full support as our Executive Board as we do so.

    Prepare more intentionally for a decarbonized, digital future 

    29. Decarbonization and digitalization are the Industrial Revolutions of our time. They could cleave societies apart, or they could generate the solutions that will enable societies to flourish together. Discussions at COP26 on climate change in Glasgow reinforced the need for global cooperation to meet global challenges of this magnitude head on. The world must keep pushing forward, and that is what UNDP is committed to do.

    30. The Climate Promise supported 84 per cent of all developing country’s NDCs ahead of COP26 in Glasgow. Many developing countries – especially Small Island Development States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – stepped up and we saw ambition on the front lines – from a bold goal to cut emissions by 82 per cent in North Macedonia to Cambodia’s pledge to cut deforestation by half by 2030. In 2022, 120 countries and 35 partners are now part of the Climate Promise, the world’s largest offer of its kind. Of these 120 countries, from Nigeria and Serbia to Chile and Indonesia, over 90 per cent increased their mitigation ambitions and over 95 per cent raised their adaptation ambitions. 

    31. None of our Climate Promise results would be possible without the continued support of our partners. That includes the NDC Partnership and its implementing partners, many of the UN family including UNFCCC, UNEP, FAO, and ILO -- as well as IRENA. I would also like to thank the European Union, Germany, Sweden, Spain, and Italy: early investors in this work -- alongside new partners such as Belgium and Iceland, as well as all UNDP’s crucial core financing partners.

    32. As we look toward COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, and COP28 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), we are focusing on how we can work with our partners to turn these pledges into impact. The next phase of the Climate Promise will leverage NDCs as sovereign investment plans for sustainable development, investing in NDCs for climate action, including through INFFs, to deliver results for poverty reduction, education, and peace. This is integration in action. We look forward to the leadership of Egypt, UAE and partners from across the region in preparing for these crucial climate milestones.

    33. On energy, with our new Sustainable Energy Hub now operationalized, our goal is to help UN-Energy meet its target of assisting 500 million additional people to gain access and transition to clean, reliable, and affordable energy within the current strategic plan cycle. Partnerships are now being finalized and operationalized with a variety of organizations within the UN and outside to speed up assistance to countries to make the urgent transition to clean energy.  UNDP’s Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform support offer, the Solar for Health programme, and the launch of our ‘Don’t Choose Extinction campaign with Frankie the dinosaur, which has been viewed one billion times, are good examples of our innovative efforts to support countries in their plans to transition beyond fossil fuels.

    34. In-house, UNDP will also walk the talk, implementing an ambitious ‘Greening Moonshot’ strategy to reducing our carbon footprint by 50 per cent by 2030. This can only come as a result of significant, sustained reductions in emissions from air travel, facilities and vehicle use – the organization’s three top Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission sources. The target is to reduce each by 50-55 per cent on average compared to the 2018 baseline, by 2030. We are currently on track to meet these targets but we will need sustained efforts across the organisation to meet our ambitions.

    35. At the same time, UNDP will continue its drive towards being a digitally native organization, as part of a new, 2022 – 2025 Digital Strategy, with fit-for-purpose digital systems, processes, tools, and data, and a digitally competent workforce.  

    36. The new strategy establishes a long-term vision of a world in which digital is an empowering force for people and planet, where UNDP supports countries in developing inclusive, ethical, and sustainable digital societies. It sets out how UNDP will contribute to this vision in the next four years: amplifying the effects of UNDP's programming through the use of digital, ensuring that inclusive and empowering digital eco-systems are built based on whole-of-society approaches that leave no one behind while, safeguarding human rights. In tandem, the strategy will foster the ongoing digital transformation of UNDP internally to enable this change.  

    37. It is complemented by a new Data Strategy, providing UNDP with a coordinated approach to evidence-based policy making and efficient operations through accessible, quality, and timely data. The strategy focuses on governance, people, technology and partnerships. The responsibility for data is no longer confined to data specialists - we have made it the responsibility of all of us.  As the UN Secretary General’s Data Strategy puts it: “Everyone. Everywhere.” 

    38. In-house, central to our new digital core is UNDP’s new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform, Quantum – a new ‘Atlas’ for the organization. Coming on-line in 2022, this will further improve efficiency, risk management, results and resources planning, as well as monitoring and impact measurement. These new digital platforms will help to provide the basis to further unlock the power of UNDP’s knowledge, as the forthcoming Knowledge Strategy will set out. Together, they will be key components for completing the mission that we have advanced since 2018 of creating a fully enabled UNDP Global Policy Network.

    39. Excellencies, this is the development context of today and tomorrow that gives immediate relevance to the three directions of change of our new Strategic Plan -- leaving no-one behind, building resilience, and supporting structural transformation – and to its three enablers: digitalization, strategic innovation, and development finance.

    40. If the international community commits to doing these three things well: to transition to a recovery from COVID-19 that makes the world more equal, not less equal; to enable transformation to take root even in the midst of conflict, crisis and fragility, and to prepare more intentionally for a decarbonized, digital future, then I believe we can together bend the curve towards societies that flourish.

    What we are building from – a preview of results and challenges from the last Strategic Plan period

    41. When I look at the path ahead, I am motivated and hopeful. In part, that is because I know what we have achieved together and what we can continue to achieve together, both in development results and institutional progress. Here are some examples of each from the local to the global levels:

    Development results and challenges

    42. At the nationals and local levels, UNDP’s $1.4 billion COVID-19 response helped 82 countries to adopt digital solutions like e-governance systems and vaccine registration and beneficiary tracking systems. We assisted critical parliament and other government oversight institutions to operate virtually - innovations that will strengthen responsive governance and endure well beyond this pandemic. UNDP supported the recruitment of 32,000 new health care workers; protected nearly one million jobs and doubled its partnerships to address discriminatory gender and social norms.

    43. A full analysis of what we have learned from and through our COVID-19 response, including its rapid financing facilities, is underway, but a review of emerging evaluative evidence since 2020 already set out that “timing is everything”: by responding rapidly and effectively to the requests from authorities UNDP re-affirmed its track record on supporting country capacities to manage crises and risks.

    44. A recent UNDP Accelerator Labs mid-term evaluation has recognized that our flagship initiative – now active in 115 countries - has influenced UNDP’s organizational culture to become more agile in the face of uncertainty. We saw this ability to pivot during the pandemic, where UNDP engaged with a range of partners to mobilize robotics in Rwanda, 3D printing in Tanzania and drones in Côte d'Ivoire, local artisans in Togo and even seamstress associations in Ecuador to slow the spread of the virus and create more than a million masks when the global supply chain was at a standstill.  More broadly for UNDP, thanks to the visionary support of Germany and Qatar, the UNDP Accelerator Lab Network was able to create new capabilities to reimagine and help drive development for the 21st Century.

    45. Globally, we invested in thought leadership to drive development thinking and action. Our Gender Social Norms Index exposed how social beliefs obstruct gender equality in areas like politics, work, and education, offering insight on where to focus to make a difference. Our Temporary Basic Income research made a timely case that it was financially possible to help the world’s 2.7 billion poorest people to stay at home and stop the spread of COVID-19. In the Listening to Leaders 2021 report, for example, UNDP was ranked 9th in terms of influence out of over 70 bilateral and multilateral partners, with only WHO from amongst the UN family ranking higher.

    46. With an enhanced focus on data, including through our award-winning Data Futures Platform, UNDP created new insights to drive global to local action around vaccine inequity, fossil fuel subsidy reform, and multidimensional poverty. The nascent Multidimensional Vulnerability Index provided research that could help to change the way in which the multilateral system works by measuring poverty differently. And in 2020, UNDP launched a new, planetary pressures-adjusted Human Development Index -- part of UNDP’s 30th Anniversary look at “The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene”.

    47. We also responded to gaps in progress towards our social protection commitments, and in our work to support women in conflict and crisis settings. With concerted effort, we worked to turn both around. We learned from monitoring and evaluation, for example, that UNDP’s stabilization and economic revitalization and employment programmes in crisis settings did not sufficiently challenge gender stereotypes or address the differentiated needs of men and women. We also gained insight on how to address this, by working in an integrated way across UNDP’s six signature solutions.

    48. Through the Enhanced Rural Resilience Programme in Yemen, for example, which is implemented jointly with ILO, FAO and WFP and funded by the European Union (EU), UNDP helped 700 rural Yemeni women to access energy while developing women-led entrepreneurship in 2020 - shifting power relations in community and household decision-making. This shows how we can go beyond mere targeting to advance women’s agency, and that sustainable energy is an important entry point. This learning is being fed into UNDP’s new Gender Equality Strategy, which is now under development.

    Institutional results and challenges

    49. The institutional and financial investments that we have made since 2018 – including rolling out UNDP’s first Digital Strategy; our first Data Strategy; and the People for 2030 Strategy; creating the Sustainable Finance Hub, the Global Policy Network, and the Crisis Bureau; and investing in an extensive Accelerator Labs Network across 115 countries – demonstrated our ability to innovate and cut through institutional siloes.

    50. UNDP has balanced its budget for five years in a row and received our 16th consecutive unqualified audit opinion. Remarkably, despite the continued constraints of the pandemic, UNDP’s 2021 programme delivery is expected to come in at around $4.8 billion, which would be UNDP’s highest programme delivery volume in more than a decade.

    51. We doubled our cost-sharing to the Resident Coordinator (RC) system, and increased productivity and efficiency. And the dollars that UNDP spent went a long way: in the past four years, UNDP has worked with over 100 countries in the world to integrate the SDGs into their national and sub-national development plans – an illustration of the organization’s continued reach and scale.

    52. We have invested time and extensive effort to ensure that our risk management mechanisms and due diligence processes are stronger than ever and robust enough to meet the challenges of the new Strategic plan.   We have spoken extensively together, for example, on UNDP’s commitment to bringing our oversight systems and the application of oversight practices for Global Environment Facility (GEF) projects and other funded initiatives to cutting-edge industry standards. In December, the GEF Council took note of the findings of a 3rd Party Assessment of UNDP’s compliance with GEF’s Fiduciary standards and acknowledged the significant organization-wide effort to meet a high bar in standards. UNDP will stay focused on this important organization-wide effort. We will work closely with the GEF and other partners in 2022 to further strengthen and augment our fiduciary systems.

    53. Our efforts to-date are already beginning to pay off. For example, we were very pleased that, at the end of 2021, not only was UNDP re-accredited to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) but the organization also received an upgraded accreditation including the ability to deploy on-granting– an acknowledgement by our partners that UNDP is taking the necessary steps in response to various audits and assessments. This is a critical outcome, given that, looking across different assessments, evaluations and surveys, UNDP’s nature, climate and energy work is most consistently appreciated by development partners from among all our Signature Solutions, according to the AidData report released in 2021.

    54. As the most transparent UN agency and the third most transparent development organization in the world according to the latest Aid Transparency Index, we remain committed to the highest standards of accountability and transparency and will continue to invest in robust accountability and oversight systems at all levels. UNDP, and I personally, will not tolerate any conduct that undermines our credibility, trust and ability to deliver in support of programme countries and the wider 2030 Agenda.

    55. More broadly, UNDP continued to analyze key evaluation findings to identify ways to improve. The budget allocated to the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) for 2022-2025 speaks to this. I am pleased to note that the quality of decentralized evaluations is improving, although there is still more to do.

    56. In 2021, we also completed the first phase of our clustering journey. This corporate initiative supports the UNDP Strategic Plan and the UN Secretary-General’s reform agenda on Business Operations. To give a sense of the scale of work, in 2021, 88,852 vendors were created across the five regions, resulting in the standardization of the vendor management process. The process of receiving and allocating deposits, which comprise mainly of donor funds, has also been aligned and stabilized with over 31,839 deposit transactions processed in 2021. At the same time, while our Global Shared Services Centre (GSSC) continues to service our colleagues from other agencies and programmes, including through the provision of payroll services to more than 50 different organizations. The next phase of the clustering journey in 2022 will be the optimization of processes and systems to ensure that the stability and efficiency of clustered services.

    57. UNDP successfully navigated the inherent complexities of the UN Development System (UNDS) repositioning while devoting significant resources and expertise to the reinvigorated RC system to ensure its successful transition. We recruited a new, gender and geographically- balanced management team for our UNDP Country Offices. We have since moved from being "reform ready” to delivering results and impact, including in fast-changing and unpredictable contexts.

    58. With most of the reform strands implemented, COVID-19 was a litmus test for the UNDS to demonstrate its ability to deliver collective and impactful results. The cross-cutting nature of the COVID-19 crisis showcased UNDP’s comparative advantage in extending integrated solutions to multi-dimensional challenges, and as the operational backbone for the UN and its partners. In the same spirit, UNDP’s new Strategic Plan reflects the new mandates arising from the 2020 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) resolution.

    59. I am pleased that this extensive work on our support to the RC system and UNDP’s COVID-19  response were positively recognized and highly rated in an external assessment of UNDP led by the OECD-hosted MOPAN (Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network), which was presented to Member States on the 28th of January 2022, under the leadership of the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

    60. I am delighted to convey that UNDP went through a comprehensive review by the Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) certification process and was awarded the EDGE Move Certification. This is the second highest award issued by EDGE, and UNDP is one of only two UN Agencies, alongside UNICEF, to achieve this distinction.

    61. We made important investments in youth and diversity. This month, for example, UNDP is welcoming its first cohort of young graduates from its first ever Graduate Programme -- high-potential young candidates from the least represented programme countries, indigenous peoples, and those from less privileged socio-economic background. Though we had only 17 positions to fill this first time, the first recruitment round attracted a remarkable 38,000 applicants, confirming that UNDP has a strong employer brand among young professionals. The recruitment process itself received an award for innovation in 2021. Our Africa Young Women Fellows Programme is another example of our investment in youth and diversity. The first cohort graduated 21 young women from 20 African countries. All have found employment post fellowship, and we are in the process of bringing a second cohort on board.

    62. These steps were taken as part of UNDP’s commitment to excellence in people management and leadership, including creating a safe and inclusive work environment where there are opportunities for everyone to grow and develop. Tackling all forms of discrimination and harassment, including racism, on which we are rolling out a programme of action across the organization, and all forms of sexual misconduct, both for our own personnel and the people that we serve, remains the highest priority for UNDP. A lot has been achieved but we will do more on these issues.

    63. The next iteration of our People for 2030 Strategy is now being finalized for rollout as part of the new Strategic Plan. In phase one, which is now successfully concluded, we did not take the easy path of quick fixes. It sought to address the root causes of complex human resources challenges, putting in place a comprehensive and integrated talent management system. We look forward to building on what we have achieved in phase two, to ensure we are ready to meet the development challenges of today and tomorrow.

    64. These examples are illustrative of a #NextGenUNDP that learns across and delivers on its commitments ; an organization in a very different position than it was four years ago, and where, despite major challenges, 86 per cent of UNDP’s workforce surveyed through our Global Staff Survey is “inspired and excited to work at UNDP” - a critical strength to achieve our long-term objectives.

    65. They speak to an organization that is now #FutureSmart, determined to advance the directions of change set out in its new Strategic Plan. So, what are the important challenges we face, and where we will need your commitment and support to effect change, especially as we accelerate through the first 100 days of this new Strategic Plan.

    Challenges ahead

    66. UNDP does not stand alone as we begin to implement this plan. Looking to the UNDP family, during this Executive Board Session, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), UN Volunteers (UNV) and the UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) are each presenting their new Strategic Frameworks. I commend and support the ambition of their new strategic visions and encourage Member States to fully support their work.

    67. UNCDF sets out the many entry points for deeper collaboration, including on development finance, digitalization – two of the enablers of UNDP’s Strategic Plan -- with UNCDF well-placed to provide complementary innovative financing expertise and solutions. UNV has deployed over 10,000 UN volunteers for the first time in its history, serving with more than 55 entities across the UN system in 2021. UNOSSC will enhance its collaboration with other entities in implementation of the new UN system-wide strategy on South-South and triangular cooperation to ensure more coordinated and coherent support to Member States in driving forward the 2030 Agenda.

    68. And the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office (MPTFO) is another UNDP family asset providing effective and agile financing services that allow UN system and partners to bring their expertise together efficiently, co-create and pool resources to deliver integrated responses and results where needs and risks are highest. In 2021, the MPTFO portfolio grew both in terms of contributors and contributions: 54 Member States, the EU, foundations and the private sector together contributed more than $ 1.8 billion to UN pooled funds managed by MPTFO, the highest ever level of contributions since the Office was established in 2003. Climate and biodiversity finance and the UN system joint response in Afghanistan were among the key drivers of this growth, two clear examples of where financing mechanisms supporting UN joint responses are key for improved delivery and impactful results.

    69. Our partnerships with other UN entities have grown and deepened over the past four years, and they will grow deeper still. This will include through working together to support progress on the recommendations emanating from the Our Common Agenda report where, in a quest to uplift the international community’s commitment to multilateralism, the UN Secretary-General has laid out his strategic vision on the future of global cooperation. The recommendations identified are closely connected to the implementation of our new Strategic Plan and all of our efforts to achieve the SDGs.  We have carefully considered the nature and scope of our engagement and will be guided by our mandate, expertise, resources and capacities and the needs of the countries we serve.

    70. The new Country Programme Documents (CPDs) that you have before you for consideration, aligned with countries’ UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks (UNSDCFs), as well as the CPDs for extension, are a clear sign that UNDP’s important development work continues apace, with strong national ownerships by programme countries. UNDP’s new generation of Regional Programmes, 2022-2025, is guided by the new Strategic Plan and its IRRF, yet tailored and adapted to the specific regional contexts, needs and development challenges of the programme countries of the five regions.

    71. Excellencies, in our new Strategic Plan, we committed to “build not just new skills, like systems thinking, but a new culture: one that embraces complexity, actively manages risk, continually adapts and seeks to learn alongside delivering results,” with a business model that empowers UNDP to respond to partners’ needs with flexibility and at scale. I would like to leave you with three things that will be critical to making that a success: how we programme, how we partner, and how we are funded. They are all inter-connected, and we will need your support on each.

    72. How we programme: from projects to portfolios: The Strategic Plan puts a premium on providing high-quality, upstream policy advice as well as designing and delivering innovative solutions. Yet, UNDP’s business model remains dependent on downstream programme and project implementation, including procurement, capacity building and technical advice. These areas are not enough to deliver on the ambition of this Strategic Plan. To be increasingly strategic and systemic in our response, UNDP will need to plan, align, and manage groups of projects as portfolios, and we will need your support to do so.  The Climate Promise, our series of Deep Demonstrations, and the UNDP Accelerator Labs are examples of doing investments differently – using a multi-country portfolio approach. These are still experimental, but we are learning.

    73. A fundamental next step is to secure partners’ interest to invest differently, moving beyond funding mostly discrete, individual projects to focus instead on scaled-up, complex portfolios with innovative financing instruments. We count on your continued engagement and support to make this shift possible – as co-investors and co-creators.

    74. How we partner: the private sector and International Financial Institutions (IFIs): During our First Regular session of 2020, you, the Executive Board told UNDP that there is a need to address to “remaining legal and other obstacles for improving its cooperation with the private sector, while taking into account lessons learned from existing partnerships.” The new Strategic Plan underscores the importance of testing and developing processes, skills and legal instruments that enable UNDP to be a catalytic organization with governments and the private sector.

    75. We have not rushed into this area, preferring a systematic and deliberate approach over the last four years to first ensure that our risk and due diligence mechanisms were fully in place and best in class. Now we are fully ready and confident to continue this focus, especially on the partnerships it will take to make markets work for the SDGs.

    76. The establishment of the Sustainable Finance Hub was an important step in coalescing all of UNDP’s work on finance and private sector, enhancing our scale and presenting Country Offices with more clear tools and products, while positioning UNDP as a partner of choice to governments and investors, including becoming the secretariat of the G20 Sustainable Finance Working Group. It is now time, as I outline at the outset, to now explore the full potential of these partnerships - particularly with the private sector and IFIs - identifying opportunities and removing bottlenecks as necessary.

    77. We are not pursing new paths alone. UNDP’s partnership with the World Bank in Yemen is a reflection of our capacity to deliver together in extremely difficult circumstances. It offers a model that could be replicated in other crisis settings and with other IFIs. Even in a setting where every category of risk is rated ‘high’, in November 2021 the World Bank delivered a ‘Satisfactory’ rating to UNDP’s implementation support, both in terms of progress against commitments and delivering on the development objectives.

    78. With its focus on smaller investments in Least Developed Countries (LDCs), UNCDF plays a highly complementary role vis-à-vis IFIs and development finance institutions (DFIs). Through its catalytic investments and financial advisory role, UNCDF helps de-risk and demonstrate bankability to unlock larger follow-on investments by IFIs. For example, UNCDF and UNDP work together to support the building of a 10.5-megawatt solar power plant in The Gambia, with financing provided by the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) facility. To attract commercial capital, UNCDF is deploying a guarantee mechanism of approximately $10 million to de-risk the investments.

    79. More broadly with respect to LDCs, which face a unique set of entrenched challenges in structural transformation, UNDP is fully committed to supporting a smooth transitional phase for sustainable graduation.

    80. How we are funded: Let me sincerely thank all the partners who have supported UNDP, particularly over the last year. We would not be here without your strong financial backing. In addition to recognizing our top partners for 2021, including Germany, the United States, Sweden and Japan on core, I would like to particularly thank those who increased core contributions in 2021 – France and the Republic of Korea, as well as the partners that have signed or have in place with UNDP existing multi-year core agreements -- including Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Qatar, Sweden, and Switzerland. This helps to make our funding more predictable, which is tremendously important.

    81. Nevertheless, the composition of UNDP’s financial base is still not aligned with the demand for agility that we face. Our reliance on highly earmarked resources from a small number of partners challenges our ability to respond to countries’ development needs. A #FutureSmart UNDP prioritizes bespoke, high-quality, policy advice and innovative solutions, because that is what you prioritize. Yet our business model depends on downstream project implementation. And our ability to cover increasing costs – including those related to increasing expectations around quality, oversight and accountability – is limited.

    82. Excellencies, our current funding model constitutes a risk to achieving the goals set out in our new Strategic Plan. Most funding is project-based – 87 per cent over 2016-2019. This undermines the transformational ability of UNDP. This is articulated in the recent MOPAN report, and it was set out in the evaluation of our 2018-2021 Strategic Plan by the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO). Specifically, the evaluation says that “unless UNDP finds more predictable and flexible ways to fund integrated country programming, it will be difficult to resource the systemic transformation needed for the integrated approaches.”

    83. What would it take, Excellencies, for you to fund UNDP at the level of our country programmes, as is the case for other development actors? That would enable UNDP to tackle complexity with you much more effectively. What would it take for UNDP to become an organization that is driven and funded by home-grown ideas and investors from all around the world? What would it take to realize the level of core funding that Member States committed to in the UN Secretary General’s funding compact? These are among the issues I would like to have a conversation with you on, framed by the scale and reality of what the international community has committed to achieving.

    84. Indeed, what we will work on through this Strategic Plan is clear. The centrality of the SDGs is clear. We will deliver, in an integrated way, on our six signature solutions, leveraging innovation, development financing, and digitalization to do so. We will strive to:

    • Expand capabilities, so that 100 million people get out of multidimensional poverty.
    • Support 500 million people to gain access to clean energy.
    • Support 800 million people to participate in elections, many for the first time.
    • Promote the alignment of US$1 trillion of existing investment towards the SDGs

    85. Contributing our best to bending the curve towards societies that flourish. But ambition is a lonely place without the partnerships to realize it, Excellencies. We look to you. We count on you. And I look forward to our dialogue.