UNDP Executive Board

Speech at the Second Regular Session of UNDP Executive Board 2020

Posted On September 3, 2020

As prepared for delivery

The Human Development impact of COVID-19

Mr. President, Members of the Executive Board, Observer delegations, Excellencies, friends,

2. It is my great pleasure to join you today for the second regular session of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board for 2020.

3. Before I start, I would like to recognise three senior members of UNDP for whom this is their last official Executive Board before retirement – Judith Karl, Executive Secretary of UNCDF, Olivier Adam, Executive Co-ordinator of UNV and Jorge Chediek, Director of the UN Office of South South Co-operation. Please join me in thanking them for their long and dedicated service to UNDP and to the United Nations.

4. Can I also draw your attention to two additional information papers presented to the Board including: a paper providing an update on our response to UNDS reform implementation and a note providing a detailed analysis of our COVID-19 response to date.

5. In the three months since we last met in June, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued its deadly march across the globe, causing an unprecedented crisis in human development.

6. Global human development is on course to decline this year for the first time since UNDP developed the concept and its measurement in 1990.

7. But not all countries will contract in the same manner. The inequality in human development measured in last year’s Human Development Report will impact how the pandemic affects countries, and groups within countries.

8. Two out of three COVID-19 deaths are happening in developing countries.

9. Seven out of ten workers make a living through informal markets and cannot earn money if they are at home; while the burden of unpaid care work at home - borne mostly by women and girls - has increased dramatically.

10. Half of the world – 4 billion people – are trying to survive COVID-19 without any social protection.

11. COVID-19 is unforgiving and the long-term impact will be far-reaching.

12. We need to work together to prepare, respond, and build forward better; and design a future that looks beyond recovery, towards 2030.

The UN at 75: a generational test case

13. Seventy-five years ago, world leaders came together after the devastation of the Second World War to create the United Nations. The road since has not been an easy one.

14. That the world was not prepared for this pandemic is in no small part due to the fractured state of global co-operation and collaboration in 2020.

15. Scientists warned for years that unrestricted deforestation, the illegal wildlife trade, and zoonoses would lead to an uncontrollable pandemic.

16. The surges of populism and xenophobia of recent years, despite shining but isolated examples of solidarity, have left migrants, refugees and people forcibly displaced from their homes on the outside of societies.

17. A pushback on human rights and the chronic issue of racism and discrimination in all its forms, has created a rising distrust of the ‘other’ and fear of the ‘foreign”.

18. This is a generational test case for multilateralism and the United Nations - of our ability and commitment, and of yours – to promises made 75 years ago and renewed afresh in 2015 with the Sustainable Development Goals.

19. The Goals are a compass for how we must act, for the difficult decisions to be taken now and in the months ahead, including on Official Development Assistance (ODA).

20. So, I am pleased to join you today to discuss UNDP’s role as part of the UN family in helping governments and societies to save lives and set a course for the future.

The UN: a health, humanitarian, and socio-economic response

21. The United Nations has put forward a strong, integrated and continuous response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

•  A large-scale, coordinated, comprehensive health response, guided by the World Health Organization (WHO).
•  A global appeal by the UN Secretary General for ‘peace in the home’ in April, building on the earlier appeal for a global ceasefire and an ‘end to all violence everywhere’.
•  Wide-ranging efforts to address the devastating humanitarian impacts of the crisis, coordinated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
•  A framework for urgent socio-economic support to countries and societies, putting into practice the UN Secretary General’s Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity report.

22. UNDP has stepped forward and stepped up to lend its capacities – intellectual and operational – to the Secretary-General and our sister agencies including:

•  Co-leading with DCO the inter-agency drafting team that developed within weeks the UN’s framework document for the immediate socio-economic response, with thanks to our UN sister agencies for the excellent collaboration and commitment.
•  Assuming, upon the SG’s request, the technical lead role for the implementation of the socio-economic response framework, working with DCO to provide RCs, RRs and UNCTs with HQ-level support, including guidance on how to operationalize the framework.
•  Co-chairing with DCO an inter-agency task team that accompanies “with a light touch” at global level the implementation of the UN framework.

23. At country level, these strands come together through 131 dedicated UN Country Teams, working together in 162 countries under the leadership and coordination of the UN Resident Coordinator – an important test-case for UN development system reform.

24. UNDP and UN partners have prepared 117 Socio-Economic Impact Assessments (SEIAs) in 83 countries and five regions, often jointly with the European Union, International Financial Institutions, and other partners, which paint a devastating picture of the impact of the crisis. A number of issues stand out:

•  The global epidemiological curve has not flattened – accelerating instead at a pace of over 200,000 new cases per day since July. It took the world three months to reach 1 million cases in April, but since then, new cases have increased twenty-fold.

•  Governments in developing countries have repurposed vast amounts of fiscal resources, averaging about 4 percent of GDP for MICs and 2 percent for LDCs – yet fiscal gaps remain. Tax revenues are shrinking at the very time mitigation measures are needed the most.

•  Two recurring themes have emerged: expanding social protection systems to reach the most vulnerable through cash transfers or unemployment insurance; and expanding support for lost jobs, incomes and livelihoods, working with SMEs and supply chains.

•  And three critical issues are being flagged as the toll of the crisis sets in:

            o Governance, social cohesion, rule of law and human rights challenges are escalating around the world – with social protests in all five regions of the world.

            o A surge in gender-based violence related to containment policies: with an increasing risk of depression, aggression and episodes of violent behaviour.

            o The health and socio-economic impacts on marginalized communities show glaring inequalities. The pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing racial, class and ethnic exclusions, hurting marginalized groups the most.

25. But 75 countries’ accompanying Socio-Economic Response Plans (SERPS) also point to innovation and ingenuity in response to the pandemic, from digital solutions for local government in Nepal to monitor quarantine data, to rural telemedicine schemes by young innovators in Libya, to pay-in-advance schemes to support vulnerable SMES during lockdown in Argentina.

26. These last two examples were enabled by UNDP’s Accelerator Lab Network, embedded within UNDP’s network of Country Offices, with 60 Labs covering 78 countries.

27. Built in 2019 to be ‘fast and curious’, together with our founding investors: the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany and the Qatar Fund for Development, and alongside contributions from Italy's Ministry for Land, Sea and Environment, UNDP’s Lab Network took on the daunting challenge of becoming the world’s largest and fastest learning network on sustainable development.

28. In its first year of operation, the network has been awarded Public Service Team of the Year by Apolitical and has been recommended to the business world by the MIT Sloan Management Review as an illustration of how to tap into the power of wider and richer sources of innovations by building a “network of ecosystems of innovation”.

29. We will now expand the reach of this network to meet demand among partners. In a few months, the Labs’ services will be available to 70 percent of Least Developed and Low-Income Countries and over 70 percent of Small Island Developing States.

Prepare, Respond and go Beyond Recovery, Towards 2030

30. The Labs are just one of the NextGenUNDP’s investments in how we think, deliver, and manage.

31. In line with our Strategic Plan commitment to provide integrated development solutions we have invested in systems approaches to complex challenges that we are now leveraging to help countries prepare, respond and go Beyond Recovery, Towards 2030 in the face of COVID-19.

32. Our latest “UNDP COVID-19 Offer” is focused on supporting decision-makers across all development contexts as they make choices and manage complexity amid uncertainty, delivering integrated support in four critical areas in particular: governance and agency, social protection, green economy, and digital disruption.

33. Our support – illustrated in the examples that follow – is geared to help governments navigate these turbulent times in three ways:

•  First, by providing support to their most pressing and immediate needs, including maintaining business continuity and keeping doors open;
•  Second, to rapidly identify the most vulnerable groups and those most at risk of being left behind with agile policy options to minimize the impact of the pandemic and devastating development losses;
•  Third, leveraging UNDP’s limited resources to partner with governments, businesses and civil society to design systemic investments that address underlying conditions and chart sustainable pathways to 2030.

34. Critically, all our programming takes into account the specific impact COVID-19 has on existing gender inequalities to ensure that women are participating on an equal footing in the crucial decisions that are being made today for the world of tomorrow.


35. We are witnessing the biggest experiment in comparative governance. The COVID 19 crisis is not only a health crisis – in many countries, it is also evolving into a governance crisis, which has exposed or exacerbated existing weaknesses, further undermining public participation and trust in governance systems.

36. The context of the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the case for improved governance and social cohesion. As we help countries recover from this crisis, the real challenges will arise due to contending interests, fractured social contracts, unequal participation of the population, misdirected resources, and dysfunctional or unresponsive governance mechanisms including justice systems. In many countries we are already seeing public frustration with government responses.

37. UNDP is exploring ways for countries to build new and more inclusive social contracts as a means of expanding civic space, restoring trust and closing the gap between institutions and the people they represent to safeguard progress towards Agenda 2030.


-   Supporting the Maldives and Brazil to deploy digital solutions to keep their parliaments in virtual operation following emergency declarations. In Pakistan, UNDP and Peshawar High Court are establishing 14 “virtual courts” to ensure the timely hearing of civil and criminal cases.

-   Working with the government of Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic on a platform to build trust between citizens and local governments.

-   Supporting local government in Ethiopia to respond to the pandemic and set up grievance management mechanisms to hear what the populations wants; supporting access to reliable information about the pandemic in the Ukraine with the National Human Rights Institution and in Bangladesh with a digital movement with the youth and the social media.

-   Strengthening national and local core governance functions for crisis management and service delivery in Jordan by providing data information and digital support, setting up a network of local governments and supporting a community policing “safe distance” initiative.


38. Social protection is one area in which UNDP is increasing its support to countries to consider unprecedented measures. Without them, millions of people will not be able to put food on the table in the months ahead.

39. According to new research released in July by UNDP with our partners at King’s College London, the immediate introduction of a Temporary Basic Income (TBI) for the world’s poorest people, could slow the current surge in COVID-19 cases by enabling nearly three billion people to stay at home during the pandemic. The report, Temporary Basic Income: Protecting Poor and Vulnerable People in Developing Countries, estimates that 12 percent of the total financial response to COVID-19 expected in 2020, could provide a six-month, guaranteed basic income to the 2.7 billion people living below or just above the poverty line in 132 developing countries.

40. It concludes that the measure is feasible and urgently needed, with the pandemic now spreading at a rate of more than 1.6 million new cases per week.

41. It is also financially within reach: the cost of a TBI for six months, would be the equivalent of one-third of what developing countries owe in external debt payments in 2020.

42. Some countries are already experimenting, rapidly and at scale.

43. It took Togo only ten days to register 35 percent of its adult population and transfer cash assistance to 15 percent, the majority of them women. Namibia has prepared a Basic Income Grant proposal, with assistance from UNDP, and is currently discussing its rollout.

44. Beyond TBIs, UNDP has prioritized gender-responsive social protection and women’s economic recovery in over 41 countries, including through cash transfers and supporting women-led micro, small, and medium enterprises.

45. I stress this idea not because we believe at UNDP that it is a silver bullet – getting social protection right will require a network of solutions from expanding universal health care to upending gender social norms. But introducing a Temporary Basic Income is the kind of new thinking, at scale, that is needed today, in line with our commitment to helping countries to tackle poverty and inequality.


-   in Nepal UNDP, with ILO, IOM and UNESCO, is supporting women informal workers, migrants and women’s cooperatives through cash transfers, livelihoods support and reskilling.

-   In Djibouti, UNDP is supporting the government to develop a simplified recovery framework supporting livelihood activities that address COVID-19 needs, e.g. emergency kits or cash-aid.

-   In Honduras UNDP is assisting the government to deploy an emergency vouchers transfer for up to 500,000 vulnerable people through a transparent and inclusive process.

-   In Malaysia, UNDP is assessing the effectiveness of existing social protection measures and piloting e-commerce and cash assistance solutions.

-   In India, UNDP is helping State level Governments to scale up social protection facilitating linkages between farmer and artisan collectives to markets, engaging with private sector associations and MSMES to expand employment opportunities for vulnerable women and youth.


46. UNDP advocates that how COVID-19 stimulus packages are designed and implemented really matters.

47. The G20, for example, has committed over $312 billion to different energy types through new or revised policies. More than half of that will support fossil fuels, particularly oil and gas, on an unconditional basis.2 Clean energy accounts for just 39 percent.3 Rather than helping countries to turn the page on the age of fossil fuels, this decision could lock countries into a collision course with the future.

48. But there is a different way to do it, that puts the ‘eco’ back in economy – and countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) could provide the framework to make this happen.

49. Through the Climate Promise, UNDP is currently supporting 114 countries to enhance their NDCs, including to sync up with green COVID-19 recovery efforts.

50. While the pandemic will impact the delivery of Climate Promise activities in most countries – with about 50 percent of activities delayed or adjusted - Governments are still showing strong commitment to the Paris Agreement with over 60 percent of countries still aiming to submit their enhanced NDCs by the end of 2020 with the remaining coming in early 2021.

51. Approximately 50 percent of Climate Promise countries also intend to raise their mitigation ambition, with an additional 45 percent still unclear – presenting an opportunity to support them towards greater ambition.

52. UNDP is delivering on its Climate Promise in close collaboration with key strategic partners, as a contribution to the NDC partnership, including IRENA, with UNEP, FAO, UNICEF, ILO, UN Women, UN Habitat and the World Bank. For example, we are working with UNEP, to jointly support countries to enhance climate targets through strengthening the resource efficiency and circularity of their national economies. UNDP is also integrating gender equality into our work on the green economy.

53. UNDP and the European Investment Bank agreed to work together on technical assistance, financial products, and other blended financial instruments around climate adaptation, green jobs and transitioning away from high carbon industries.

54. UNDP is also supporting a forward-looking menu of policy options for Member states’ consideration through the Financing for Development ‘Recovering Better’ track, facilitated by UNDP and co-chaired by the the EU and the governments of UK, Fiji, and Rwanda.


-   In Costa Rica, UNDP is helping to integrate current COVID-19 economic conditions into the country’s national decarbonization plan, to improve the NDC and lay out how it can aid the country’s economic recovery.

-   In Ghana, UNDP is facilitating private sector engagements, in the context of green recovery through an ambitious, national renewable energy programme.

-   UNDP is supporting studies in Lebanon and Iraq on the social, economic, and environmental co-benefits of raising NDC ambition, specifically looking at creating green jobs, poverty reduction and gender equality. 

-   In Nigeria, the government is engaging with women entrepreneurs, youth and the private sector through business roundtables to communicate opportunities as it considers its COVID-19 recovery plan.

the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) with UNEP, ILO, UNIDO and UNITAR is supporting 20 countries to embark on their green economy pathways, with an explicit focus on aligning with NDCs.


55. An estimated 3.6 billion people, primarily in developing countries, have no access to reliable Internet. 1.7 billion people, more than half are women, remain financially excluded from the digital economy.

56. As the world has turned to digital solutions to fight the pandemic, their disadvantage has been brought into stark relief.

57. In the past months, in line with our offer, UNDP has accelerated efforts to close the digital divide, while at the same time supporting local innovation networks to create strong, digital systems that are less dependent on the technology and resources of developed countries. We are tracking over 190 examples of these digital responses in our programmes.

58. The digitalization of finance systems has been particularly important during the pandemic. The Secretary General’s Task Force on Digital Financing of the SDGs which I co-chaired with Maria Ramos, launched its final report on 26th of August. This report identifies five key opportunities to use digital finance as a critical building block for sustainable development, and as a tool to empower investors, taxpayers and entrepreneurs and place citizens, the ultimate owners of the world's financial resources, in control of finance to ensure that it meets their needs, today and into the future.


-   Supporting the governments of e.g. Azerbaijan, Senegal, Uganda, Sudan with ICT equipment, teleconferencing facilities, and training to help them serve their citizens online. 

-   In Malawi, we developed an e-payment system using the National Registration Bureau database to authenticate COVID-19 cash transfer payments and beyond; In Bangladesh, the UNDP-supported A2i team trained over 4,000 doctors to provide telemedicine services through a national hotline that has served over 350,000 patients.

-   Working with leading e-Commerce companies in Uganda and Namibia to connect over 2,000 informal produce sellers to customers, or providing online digital skills training to MSMEs across Latin America and the Caribbean.

-   In Granada UNDP is working with the Caribbean Development Bank to expand online education.

-   In the Kyrgyz Republic, we partnered with private pro bono lawyers and tech companies to provide free legal aid online and to support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) during the quarantine.        

-   Our Youth Co:Lab in the Asia and the Pacific region built an online chatbot to share reliable COVID-related resources with its over 200,000 followers on social media.

Strategic partnerships with UN sister agencies

59. As you can see from the examples provided, we have been committed to leveraging our close partnerships with UN sister agencies for a joined-up response, pooling our assets and expertise at country level. We have reinforced this at global level with a number of UN partnership frameworks, which are intended to provide further strategic direction and impetus for stepped-up collaborations in response to COVID-19 and beyond:

    - UNDP and UNICEF are joining forces in support of the socio-economic response with a longer-term view under a new Expanded Collaboration Framework for COVID-19.

    - UNDP and ILO have developed a new Framework for Action, designed to give strategic direction to the growing partnership between our organizations within the context of the current crisis and to chart pathways for a prompt, sustainable and inclusive recovery.

    - UNDP and UNEP have agreed to a series of strategic deliverables in response to COVID-19 across three linked thematic areas: Climate Promise; Nature Promise; and Green Economy Promise.

    - UNDP and FAO have identified joint workstreams designed to help countries respond and recover from the pandemic and respond to the dual Nature-Climate crises, eradicate poverty, and strengthen sustainable food and commodity systems.

    - UNDP and UN-Habitat have prioritized five areas of action for the next two years to support national, local and regional governments with their recovery.

Financing UNDP’s COVID-19 response

60. From March to July this year, using regular and other resources, UNDP redeployed $30 million through our Rapid Response Facility (RRF), providing 130 countries and 110 UNDP Country Offices with access to funds to swiftly prepare, respond and recover in the face of COVID-19; 45 of these countries were in crisis/fragile situations.

61. In leveraging UNDP’s global procurement architecture, over $112 million has been placed in Purchase Orders to date, serving 136 business units – including country offices and regional centres - around the world.

62. In addition, 90 UNDP Country Offices rapidly repurposed their regular and other resources to respond to the pandemic.

63. UNDP supported the reprogramming of $12.5 million from existing Global Fund grants in 14 countries, the approval of $25.6 million in new funding for 9 countries, with $37.5 million for 6 countries awaiting decision. UNDP is working particularly closely with the Global Fund in crisis/fragile settings where the socio-economic impact of the pandemic has been even more dramatic.

64. UN Volunteers allocated $1 million from its Special Volunteer Fund to enable the immediate deployment of 74 fully funded national volunteers to Resident Coordinator Offices, WHO, UNOCHA, and UNDP to support public health functions, UN coordination, and information management.

65. The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) has supported accelerated digital payments solutions for governments, and financed innovations including chatbots and contact tracing apps in more than 20 countries; helped small enterprises pivot to stay in business and find and scale technological solutions to address the crisis.  UNCDF and UNDP worked with Switzerland, the UK and other Member States and partners to launch a global Call to Action to keep remittances flowing and reduce transfer costs.


-   In Ethiopia, UNDP repurposed $6.8 million for COVID-19 response, ensuring continuity of critical government functions.

-   In Niger, UNDP used $2.5 million in regular resources to leverage an additional $2.5 million in other resources, for digital e-governance solutions, community engagement and post-COVID recovery.

-   In Argentina, UNDP repurposed $9.6 million from government cost-sharing resources to strengthen the response capacity of the health system in the Province of Buenos Aires, purchasing COVID-19 test sets, respirators and medical PPE.

-   In Sudan, UNDP repurposed $1.6m with agreement from the Global Fund for COVID-19 health support.

-   In Afghanistan, UNDP repurposed $7,905,443 and generated $14,322,599 of new funding to provide capacity and supplies for COVID-19 response.

-   In Yemen, UNDP and the World Bank repurposed $31 million of the Yemen Emergency Crisis Response (YECRP), funded by the World Bank, to mainstream COVID-19 responses into project activities and support non-conditional cash transfers to vulnerable women and soft-conditional cash transfers to support farming, fishing and livestock.

-   In Uzbekistan, UNDP reoriented about $0.8 million from ongoing projects to better align to the government priorities for COVID-19 response.

66. The UN Office for South South Co-operation (UNOSSC) has provided some $5 million and more allocations are being fast-tracked from the UN Fund for SSC and the India-UN Development Partnership fund, to support developing countries’ efforts to respond to the pandemic including through the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Fund.

67. The Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office (MPTFO), hosted by UNDP, is managing a growing portfolio of  joint UN financial instruments in support of the integrated UN COVID 19 response on the ground including: the Joint SDG Fund; the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund, and the UN Disabilities Fund; the Spotlight Initiative and the UN Secretary-General’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund – through which UNDP received $7.4 million to programmatically support the UN’s response in 24 priority countries. In each of these inter-agency flagships, UNDP is a major partner alongside our sister UN Agencies.

68. Building on both the successful deployment of $30 million through the UNDP Rapid Response Facility, and the mobilization to date of around $450 million of reprogrammed and new funding, I also launched the UNDP Rapid Financing Facility (RFF) in July.

69. The RFF will make $100 million available to help Country Offices to leverage strategic partnerships and support national recovery efforts as part of UN socio-economic recovery support. All RFF proposals will have to demonstrate specific interventions focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

70. UNDP is leading technical support to 52 countries in developing and implementing Integrated National Financing Frameworks (INFFs), in collaboration with the EU, UNDESA, DCO and the IMF, to ensure that the financing for the recovery is aligned with sustainable development.

71. At the same time, UNDP is accelerating our engagement with the private sector.

72. In partnership with UNCDF, we are working to offer immediate cash injections to MSMEs in grants or loans at concessional rates which can be deployed at national level through the vast network of UNDP country offices. UNCDF also launched a survey of SMEs in all 47 LDCs to collect data on the impact of Covid-19 on their business and financing needs, and on the adequacy and relevance of domestic and international measures.

73. We do so with a clear focus on quality and risk management. For example, UNDP’s Gender Equality Seal for Public and Private Organizations has supported the creation of 16 national certification programmes, which have certified 600 diverse companies since 2009 in Latin America alone.

74. We take these steps at a time when the importance of maximizing the impact of every dollar has never been clearer. This is also at the heart of UNDP’s increased collaboration with International Financial Institutions in 106 countries so far.  At the country level, UNDP is engaging IFIs such as the World Bank, IMF and African Development Bank in socio-economic assessments and recovery planning in 70 countries to help direct funding to where it is most needed. UNDP is rolling out the new COVID-19 Recovery Needs Assessment (CRNA) methodology with the World Bank and EU in Cape Verde, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mozambique, and Haiti.

75. UNDP is also helping governments implement over $90 million in IFI funding to reinforce health systems, social protection and economic recovery efforts.


-   In Cameroon, UNDP is helping the government strengthen its health systems and response with funding from the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the World Bank.

-   In Kazakhstan, UNDP and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have set up a COVID-19 Solidarity Fund to provide for immediate relief of SMEs, training for workers who lost their jobs and helping government strengthen medical waste management systems in hospitals. 

-   In Timor-Leste, UNDP is implementing funding from ADB with support from Japan to help the government address food security in most vulnerable areas, with food from local farmers.

-   In Paraguay, UNDP and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) joined forces for a national campaign to raise awareness about COVID-19 and fight misinformation.

In sub-Saharan Africa UNDP is supporting 11 Governments to prepare proposals for the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) to provide relief, recovery and development of the private sector in response to COVID-19.

UNDP's drive for effective, efficiency, transparency in 2019

76. The COVID-19 crisis hit as UNDP was already driving organizational effectiveness, efficiency, and transparency as part of its #NextGenUNDP commitments. That existing momentum has helped us to accelerate rapidly today to meet the demands of the crisis. This is good news. However, the risk of delays in implementing our regular programme will likely grow as the crisis persists, with implications for the countries concerned as well as UNDP’s ability to deliver planned results in 2020 – something we are monitoring closely.

77. In 2019, UNDP balanced its institutional budget for a third consecutive year.

78. We continue to invest in making the organization’s business model more connected, cost-effective, and nimble, streamlining over 150 business processes. These efficiencies freed up staff to focus on programming and enabled new investments. The Covid-19 crisis has resulted in UNDP not untilising approximately $61 million in travel in 2020 which allowed us to re-programme money for our pandemic response. We are also developing a real estate strategy with the objective of reducing our headquarters cost.

79. Improved productivity is evident with 91 cents in every dollar now spent on programmes and services for development results, up from 88 cents in 2017.

80. Transparency and accountability for results and impact continue to be top UNDP priorities, as reflected in our ranking as the most transparent UN agency and the third most transparent development organization in the world according to the 2020 Aid Transparency Index[1]. This commitment to transparency is also reflected in our COVID-19 response: with a dedicated space on the UNDP Transparency Portal, new indicators designed with DCO for UN Country Teams, enabling our partners to see how UNDP channels resources to addressing the pandemic, and newly introduced quarterly COVID-19 reporting.

81. In 2019 the Office of Audit and Investigation rated us “partially satisfactory with some improvements needed” on governance, risk management and controls. Acting on and learning from this rating remains essential, and steps are already underway to do so.

82. I note that early findings from an audit by OAI on UNDP’s controls for managing GEF resources suggest that measures need to be introduced to strengthen oversight of Nationally Implemented Projects at the country level. UNDP is intensifying its efforts to identify and resolve shortcomings in specific projects where concerns have been identified while investing in more effective and systems oriented operational and risk management solutions. In addition, we are exploring ways to augment oversight at the country office level so that results and impacts can be achieved with the duty and care that donors expect when resources are entrusted to UNDP. For those interested in learning more about this, we are planning a briefing for Members of the Board later this month.

83. The OAI report also reflects ten long outstanding recommendations as of 31 December 2019. With rigorous effort, I am pleased to report that UNDP has now addressed all these recommendations. Looking ahead, our efforts to cluster Finance, Procurement and Human Resources services carried out at the country level, through a network of global shared service capacities will provide cost-effective solutions, improve governance and controls and increase our efficiencies through scale. We estimate 64 percent of the recurring audit recommendations would be mitigated as a result of our investment in clustering. The ongoing work on UNDP’s digital strategy will also help improve audit ratings.

84. Ethical behavior continues to be of paramount focus within UNDP. The Ethics Office plays a key role in this respect. UNDP has successfully addressed the two recommendations noted by the Ethics Office in 2019. I want to particularly highlight and commend the Ethics Office’s role in the prevention of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse and in the protection of whistleblowers.

85. Evaluations like the Middle Income Country (MIC) Evaluation, presented this week, are critical to strengthening UNDP’s capacity to learn and evolve. The MIC evaluation highlights the diversity of our engagements in 84 middle income UNDP country programmes around the world, that account for 42 percent of our portfolio from 2015 to 2019.  It acknowledges UNDP’s policy and institutional support to integrated economic, social and environmental approaches linked to the 2030 agenda and highlights UNDP’s adaptive ability in engaging in new thematic areas including natural resource management, financing for development and private sector engagement. The evaluation invites us to move “beyond income” in our core allocation and balance thought leadership with programmatic action while leveraging and consolidating our governance and environment work. We welcome the evaluation’s recommendations to enhance the value of our offer and support to MICs.

Accelerating results as part of a reformed UN Development System

86. The effectiveness of UNDP’s pandemic response – now an integral part of delivering on our Strategic Plan – was aided and accelerated by our investments in the UN Development System (UNDS) reforms.

87. UNDP doubled its cost sharing contribution for 2019 and 2020.

88. The recently released UN Board of Auditors’ (UNBOA) report recognizes that UNDS reform was a highly complex process for UNDP that affected our institution disproportionally, given the related legal, financial, and human resource matters involved.

89. The report finds that UNDP’s planning, risk management practices, as well as implementation efforts on reform have been effective and coordinated, despite the dynamic and often uncertain path of reform. For example, the Board:

·         Reviewed the delinking implementation status, finding an average completion rate of 97.8 percent of administrative steps taken.

·         Recognised that UNDP initiated key steps to operationalize Funding Compact commitments, and acknowledged the achievement related to pooled funding. In 2019, 10.8 percent of UNDP non-core funding came from inter-agency funds, exceeding the 10 percent Funding Compact target.

·         Holds that UNDP has demonstrated its commitment to the Management and Accountability Framework - noting UNDP’s efforts to collect feedback on the implementation of the Framework and from Resident Coordinators on UNDP contributions to joint results at country level.

·         Acknowledged that UNDP finalized important preparatory steps to actively contribute to an enhanced system-wide analysis, planning and reporting process.

·         Noted strong and clear messages of the Administrator to UNDP staff and the Executive Board throughout the entire process.

·         Noted that UNDP established internal guidance, processes and communication channels to manage the levy collection and its transfer, but also expressed concern that the administrative costs are too high compared to the levy income.  UNDP maintains that some of these implementation challenges may diminish as country offices and funding partners become more familiar with the levy and its collection process.

90. In conclusion, the UNBOA:

·         Noted UNDP’s strong commitment and engagement on all inter-agency workstreams related to the United Nations development system reform.

·         Holds that UNDP managed its contributions to the reform process effectively, and coordinated across the organization supported by strong leadership of the Administrator and senior management.

91. UNDP welcomes the Board’s findings and agrees with their recommendations in areas where further refinements are required, which align well with the results of corporate surveys carried out across our country offices and with external partners.

Challenges of reform remain

92. But we are also cognizant that challenges remain. For example:

  • Our engagement with host governments has suffered in a few countries where the coordination role is interpreted as a ‘gatekeeper’ role. For UNDP to deliver its programmes, it is critical that it has direct and unfettered access to key partners in our mandated areas, while coordinating closely with the Resident Coordinator and their offices. At the same time, we are aware that our own representatives are still adapting to a ‘new way of working’, including a new division of labour. Through our Regional Bureaux and internal surveys, we closely follow how new roles are exercised and, in coordination with DCO, address issues where they arise.
  • The MAF does not yet appear to be fully or evenly understood at country level. We must also do better to put into practice the principle of mutual accountability for results – whereby agencies and Resident Coordinators can effectively hold each other accountable for joint results in support of national development strategies and plans.

We need to do more as a system to tackle the bifurcation of financial incentives that inhibit more meaningful progress on addressing the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, including more complementary and integrated ways of working at the country level.

UNDP's duty of care

93. The UN BOA report comes at an important moment in time. It demonstrates that we are shifting from the process of reform, to the results of reform.

94. And I am pleased to say that I have never seen UN teams more innovative and dedicated than they are now, working closer than ever together and with partners.

95. Though many of our office doors around the world are closed right now, our UN teams are hard at work. They have stayed and served.

96. Their safety, health and wellbeing are therefore among the top priorities of our Covid-19 response.

97. Remote work has been effective with most offices and teams reporting high productivity and performance.

98. We have launched a second round of the digital transformation learning programmes for all personnel. More than 2000 colleagues have already benefited from the first round. 

99. But new ways of working, increased workloads and the need to balance work and other responsibilities take a toll on personnel. As such, we are intensely focused on our duty of care and strengthening “first line of defence” facilities on the ground, working closely with other agencies.

100. Border closures and travel restrictions continue to pose challenges and we greatly appreciate the collaboration with national governments on the critical issue of medical evacuations.

101. The roll-out of the People for 2030 strategy continues at pace: UNDP is now paying stipends to interns; we have signed off on a new entry level programme for talented graduates from programme countries; a new fellowship policy is being finalized and we have established a funding mechanism to fund the special needs of our colleagues with disabilities.

102. A new career framework and a mobility policy are now approved, while work is underway to revamp how UNDP attracts, assesses, and selects personnel for jobs.

103. Lockdown has seen a significant drop in internal sexual harassment reporting but a worrying increase globally in domestic violence cases. We are keeping a very close watch and reaching out to personnel to provide support.  

104. On Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA), lockdown also means we have not been able to get out to communities in the same way.  But we are not stopping our work and are engaging closely with our Country Office SEA focal points, providing support and training and raising awareness among our implementing partners.

105. This is a fundamental part of our obligation to do no harm, as is our obligation to root out racism and discrimination in all its forms, both through our development programmes and within our institution.

106. In line with the Secretary General’s call, I have initiated a three month period of dialogue and reflection, starting with a global town hall meeting on racism and discrimination to listen and learn about what UNDP can do, do more of, or stop doing, to live up to our commitment to promote equailty, justice, and inclusion.

The case for flexible funding and core

107. In July, UNDP received a clean audit opinion for the 15th consecutive year, attesting to safe custody of the funds you put under our care under the framework and controls of UNDP’s Financial Regulations and Rules, established by the Board.

108. UNDP continues to make further improvements addressing issues raised by UNBOA.

109. I want to take this opportunity to thank the UNBOA for the first virtual audit and very constructive collaboration.

110. This report, and our result, is critical this year, because development financing is grounded in trust, and in the face of COVID-19, development financing is under pressure.

111. UNDP is making progress on 77 percent of the entity-specific funding compact commitments. As UNDP adheres to its Funding Compact commitments and continues to diversify its funding base, its agility, responsiveness, and effectiveness depend on flexible, predictable resources and funding partners honoring their mutual commitments.

112. I would like to thank all our partners who have strengthened multi-year commitments, which reached 58 percent of regular resources in 2019.

113. Partners also increased contributions to UNDP’s revamped thematic funding windows by 54 percent, from $67 million in 2018 to $103 million in 2019. Though this is a small percentage of our overall resources as UNDP, it is most valued.

114. Contributions from UN pooled funds increased by 28 percent to $477 million from $372 million in 2018.

115. Permit me to express particular thanks to Germany, which as part of its COVID-19 Supplementary Budget for 2020, more than doubled its commitment to UNDP’s flexible core resources, bringing its total core funding to UNDP for 2020 to $126.5 million. We deeply appreciate the confidence and continued trust shown by Germany in our commitment and in our ability to deliver at this critical time.

116. My deep appreciation also goes to Japan, who not only increased core in 2019 but who responded swiftly to UNDP’s COVID-19 offer with an additional contribution of $64 million of non-core funding.

117. I also extend my thanks and appreciation to all those partners such as the EU, US, Russia and Switzerland and others who, in supporting UNDP’s work in countries stepped up to provide new resources to help meet the challenge that this pandemic set for us all this year.

118. Additionally, my sincere appreciation to the US, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, France and Costa Rica, who increased their core contribution either in 2019 or so far for 2020.

119. Finally, can I also highlight, with thanks, the continued support by Programme Governments in 2019, contributing a total of $915 million including to core and non-core resources, as well as for local office costs (GLOC) and through in-kind contributions.

120. My appeal to you today, and to those Member States who have not yet contributed core for 2020, is to hold to your promise to meet the Funding Compact target of 30 percent regular resources to be reached by 2023.

121. In 2019, that figure stood at a mere 13 percent for UNDP.

122. Earmarked resources, by contrast, continue to make up 85 percent of total contributions to UNDP.

123. This is despite analysis from the mid-term review of UNDP’s Strategic Plan showing that regular resources

  • underpin our presence as a local partner with a global network
  • correlate with higher-level development results,
  • fill funding gaps in critical areas of the strategic plan, like gender
  • And enable UNDP to make rapid, flexible funding decisions in times of crisis like this pandemic.

124. The COVID-19 crisis is an example of the kinds of unforeseen, high-impact crises that countries are now prone to, reinforcing the need for resources that are flexible and quickly deployable.

125. The current Strategic Plan has helped make UNDP more nimble and flexible, in our capacities, procedures and corporate culture.  We aim to redouble that effort in the next Strategic Plan, and our funding structures need to evolve in the same way.

126. We will be presenting the next Strategic Plan to you a year from now, at our Second Regular Session in 2021. We aim to deliver a strategy that raises our level of ambition for UNDP, accelerating the organizational transformation we began with #NextGenUNDP and creating, together with you, a UN Development Programme fit for purpose, and driving the future of development as part of the UN’s promise to ‘leave no one behind’.  Together with you we have agreed a substantive, thoughtful and consultative process to design this strategy over the coming months, and we look foward to close and constructive engagement. 

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures

127. The pandemic -- like climate change -- points to an unprecedented moment in our times. Some call it a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. This will be the timely focus of the 2020 Human Development Report.

128. Such unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures - for local partners connected through a global network, united in a commitment to equality and dignity.

129. We have designed #NextGenUNDP in this way, with your constant support. But our capacity to deliver exists only as a compact with Member States.

130. I appeal to you today to hold to your promises. The pandemic is a test case for multilateralism -- for our common endeavour.

131. Speaking on behalf of my UNDP colleagues, who are working night and day to serve 170 countries and territories around the world at this challenging time, I truly hope that bond is strong enough for us to recover together and resume our shared path towards 2030.

Thank you.