Helen Clark: Statement to the Second Regular Session of the UNDP Executive Board

Sep 8, 2016

Mr. President,

Members of the Executive Board,

Colleagues and friends,

I am pleased to welcome you to the second regular session of the Executive Board for 2016.

In my statement today, I will update the Board on:

• UNDP’s work in supporting the major global agendas related to development; 

• reforms in the UN development system, and highlight the critical role of the QCPR in this regard;

• UNDP’s finances this year and the outlook for next year;

• our work in response to a range of crises around the world; and

• our commitment to transparency and accountability, quality country programme documents, and an effective evaluation function.

On the global agendas

Successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda is a top priority for UNDP and the entire UN development system. Some of the early successes of our joint work were set out in the UNDG publication ‘The SDGs are Coming to Life – Stories of Country Implementation and UN Support’, which was launched at the High-level Political Forum in July.

Guided by the UN Development Group’s joint approach to SDG implementation, MAPS (Mainstreaming, Acceleration, and Policy Support), UN Country Teams are working to:

• support countries at national request to carry out multi-sector planning for Agenda 2030 implementation and promote coherent action across national and subnational governments; 

• strengthen statistical capacities and data disaggregation to monitor SDG progress and support countries with multidimensional poverty assessments to ensure that no one is left behind; and

• raise awareness of the SDGs and leverage partnerships for implementation, including through the UN SDG Action Campaign.  

The joint UNDG MAPS approach to SDG implementation can be adapted to all country contexts, including the fragile and conflict-affected. It is heartening to see Somalia mainstreaming the SDGs into its new National Development Plan – its first in more than three decades. 

 A UNDG side event during this year’s General Assembly will focus on the importance of partnerships for SDG implementation in crises-affected countries. It will feature remarks from Member States, business, civil society, and the Secretary-General.

Partnerships inside and beyond the UN system are central to the contribution the UN development agencies make to SDG implementation. 

• We are pursuing innovative development solutions with the UN Data Innovation Lab which connects the UN system with private sector technology leaders and entrepreneurs.

• A multi-stakeholder Global Alliance for Reporting Progress on Promoting Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies will be launched during this year’s High Level week of the General Assembly to support meaningful reporting on SDG 16 and its related targets.

On the Paris Agreement on climate change

UNDP is supporting countries to prepare to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This work includes strengthening institutions, designing mitigation and adaptation actions, and improving the monitoring of progress.

A focus on implementation will be critical to the success of COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, in November. All countries – especially those most vulnerable to climate change – must have the technical, financial, and capacity building support they need for effective climate action. 

Working with the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Adaptation Fund established under the Kyoto Protocol, and other multilateral and bilateral funding sources, UNDP is supporting countries to build clean energy systems, strengthen adaptation, protect forests, and promote zero carbon sustainable development overall. Lessons learned from our work are shared so that support can be built for what works in practice. 

Over the next few weeks, the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants and the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development – Habitat III are also high priorities for UNDP. 

UNDP is actively contributing to preparations for the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, including to discussions on the root causes of migration and displacement and how to address them; on preparing for and responding to the current large numbers and movements of refugees and migrants; and on advancing joint humanitarian-development solutions to protracted displacement.

The Summit’s outcome – The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants – should be a manifestation of strong political will to address these issues. In following through, UNDP will:

• ensure that addressing migration and displacement issues features in its work to implement the 2030 Agenda;

• support at least thirty programme countries over the next five years to analyze and address the drivers of migration and root causes of forced displacement; and

• work with partners to strengthen the evidence base and data related to large movements of migrants, IDPs, and refugees. 

UNDP is also working with UN-Habitat and other members of the UN Task Team on the preparations for Habitat III in Quito.

In the twenty years since Habitat II in Istanbul, the world has witnessed high growth in urban populations. Half of the world’s peoples now live in cities. Many of the associated challenges, and opportunities of urbanization relate directly to UNDP’s mission – including eradicating poverty and tackling inequalities; addressing the needs of marginalized and vulnerable groups; promoting inclusive growth; reducing violent conflict; and contributing to sustainable energy solutions and energy efficiency. The New Urban Agenda being negotiated by Member States promotes a new model of urban development which is based on principles of inclusive and sustainable development.

Delivering together to maximize the UN’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda:

• As I said earlier, the UNDG is delivering on the 2030 Agenda through the common MAPS approach, seeking to make the best use of its collective expertise, and adapting its support to individual country contexts; 

• UN Agencies which work on SDG implementation support are preparing for the introduction of a global pooled funding mechanism to support this joined-up approach. This work is led by WFP, UNICEF, and UNDP, and has technical support from the Multi Partner Trust Fund Office;  

• Implementation of UNDG’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for UN Country Teams enables us to apply practices and lessons learned from the Delivering as One approach widely; 

• At headquarters level across the UNDG we are implementing a Plan of Action to remove the obstacles which currently stand in the way of UN Country Teams delivering together effectively;

• The forty UN Country Teams developing new UNDAFs this year are working under updated guidance which calls for more strategic programme and policy collaboration and coherence across agencies and for common Business Operations Strategies; 

• The Resident Co-ordinator system continues to be strengthened. The RC Competency Framework is being reissued; a new performance management system is being introduced; and system-wide cost-sharing for a portion of the costs of the RC system is in place.

• Data collection and analysis on UNCT performance has been significantly improved.

It is important that the new Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) gives the UN development system both the mandate and the support it requires to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. This is an opportunity to build on and accelerate the extensive reform undertaken to date. The objective should be to draw on the distinct comparative advantages of each entity and not try to centralize a diverse system. 

In this spirit, the UNDG has made concrete proposals for Member States to consider during the QCPR negotiations. We propose a QCPR which:

• serves as a strategic and dynamic framework to empower and reposition the entire UN development system to maximize its impact; 

• endorses a new generation of UNDAFs (UN Development Assistance Frameworks) which facilitate integrated analysis, planning, and results monitoring across the development, humanitarian, peacebuilding, and human rights dimensions of our work at country level. In the spirit of the 2030 Agenda, we have suggested that UNDAFs be renamed “UN Sustainable Development Frameworks”;

• calls for scaling up Delivering as One through full implementation of the SOPs (UNDG’ Standard Operating Procedures) across all UN Country Teams, adapted to country context and with corresponding alignment of agency programme and operational guidelines;

• encourages a shift towards more differentiated country presence relevant to individual country needs;

• facilitates closer operational integration across the system to promote more efficient and cost-effective common operations, including through the mutual recognition of each agencies’ best practices and scaling up the use of integrated service centers; and

• strengthens the Resident Co-ordinator system as the cornerstone of the UN development system’s collective support for the 2030 Agenda. 

It is important that RCs are the “best and brightest”, and have the support they need, including sustainable funding. They also need to be empowered as true leaders in strategically positioning the UN development system in each country.

Member State commitment for the financing of the RC system is also appreciated. The UN Secretariat’s contribution has not been backed by the Fifth Committee to date, and some other entities do not pay their share in full.

For its part, UNDP commits to full implementation of the UNDG's Mutual Accountability Framework, including of the firewall delineated between Resident Co-ordinator and Resident Representative functions. We envisage that authority for the operational management of UNDP Country Offices, including UNDP-specific resource mobilization will be delegated to the Country Director or Deputy Resident Representative where these positions exist. 

I envisage that Regional UNDG Teams will oversee a code of conduct which covers RCs and all senior leadership of UNCTs, and will ensure that there is a dispute resolution mechanism which can deal with any alleged breach of the firewall. 

Ensuring that the UN development system entities leave old institutional divides behind will require strong support from Member States. We need every player to be a team player.

Donor commitment to predictable, sustainable, and more flexible funding which better incentivizes system-wide collaboration, including more emphasis on using pooled funding instruments, is also critical. Current funding practices can disincentivise collaboration. 

As Chair of the UNDG, let me emphasize that the Group stands ready to continue its close engagement with Member States throughout the QCPR process.  

UNDP’s finances

I am pleased that UNDP has again received an unqualified audit opinion for its 2015 Financial Statements. The organisation has now received over a decade of clean audit opinions. Building on our strong commitment to sound financial management, we have maintained a positive net asset position on our balance sheet, and achieved regular resources year-end liquidity above the three months threshold required by the Executive Board.

These achievements have been made at the same time as the balance of the organization’s funding has been changing. Overall contributions to UNDP amounted to $4.48 billion in 2015, a drop of five per cent on 2014. Core resources decreased by eleven per cent to $704 million in 2015. This reflected both reduced contributions and foreign exchange losses. Contributions to non-core were down by four per cent.

Current projections for UNDP’s core budget for 2016 point to further reduction. As of end June 2016, we had received 45 per cent of the regular resources projected at approximately $600 million for the year. 

This downward trend in regular resources, which also affects a number of other entities in the UNDG, is of concern. Regular resources constitute the pillar of our support to the poorest people and countries. They support UNDP’s investment in accountability, transparency, and quality assurance, and they support the coherence and effectiveness of the United Nations development system. The decline in core funding does constrain our ability to ensure global development effectiveness and make forward-looking, strategic choices and investments.

Notwithstanding the reduction in regular resources, however, UNDP reached its target of an 8.1 per cent management efficiency ratio. Other achievements include the following: 

• The proportion of regular resources spent on institutional costs fell, from 42 per cent in 2012-2013 to 38 per cent in 2014-2015. The share of regular resources for programme activities increased from 58 to 62 per cent, in line with the direction called for in the last QCPR.

• Within the smaller institutional budget envelope, the proportion of management costs has fallen significantly from 62 to 49 per cent over the last two biennia. The shares of development effectiveness and United Nations co-ordination activities within the institutional budget have increased (to 21 and 25 per cent, respectively).

Whereas core resources remain the preferred funding channel as the bedrock of UNDP’s support to countries and to UN co-ordination, the new Funding Windows, launched earlier this year, represent the second best option to core. 

The objective of the new Funding Windows is to improve the flexibility and quality of non-core funding to UNDP.  We are grateful for the contributions and pledges already received from Luxembourg, Switzerland, Slovakia, Republic of Korea, and Sweden, and are pleased that other partners have also expressed interest in contributing.

UNDP mobilizes resources from a very broad range of partners. In 2015, donor country governments continued to fund a great deal of UNDP’s work, directly contributing 45 per cent of total funding. Twenty-one per cent of our funding came from programme country governments; twenty per cent from vertical funds; six per cent from UN pooled funds; five per cent from the European Union; and three per cent from the private sector, IFIs, and others. 

It is noteworthy that contributions from programme country governments and vertical funds have increased since 2010, by 14 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively. This points both to the growing diversification of our funding base and to the relevance of our work at country level.

In this context, I am pleased to say that last month UNDP and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) signed an Accreditation Master Agreement, strengthening our partnership in support of climate change adaptation and mitigation. To date the GCF Board has approved six projects backed by UNDP - in Armenia, Malawi, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Tuvalu, and Viet Nam. Many more proposals are in the pipeline. UNDP also partners with GCF to strengthen national level capacities to access large-scale climate finance. 

In total, UNDP expects to receive close to $2 billion from the vertical environment funds and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in the 2016-2018 period. This speaks to UNDP’s efforts to support countries to design, combine, and sequence financial instruments to catalyse investments in sustainable development.

A firm commitment to transparency and accountability

UNDP has been a member of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) since its inception in 2008. We have led outreach efforts with partner countries and UN agencies to champion transparency and accountability.

We continue to improve the quantity and quality of UNDP’s published information at all levels of the organization. UNDP's online portal [open.undp.org] allows open and comprehensive public access to data on over four thousand UNDP projects, and publishes over $5.2 billion in project data.

As a result, UNDP was again this year ranked first in the Aid Transparency Index out of the 46 major institutions evaluated worldwide.

By working in the open and by publishing information about how UNDP’s resources are spent, we strengthen our accountability to Member States and the partners we support. Agenda 2030 calls for stronger partnerships, and UNDP views transparency of development activities as a critical ingredient of sustaining meaningful partnerships based on mutual trust. 

UNDP’s work in response to challenging circumstances

I am most grateful to the Governments of Somalia, Kenya, and Cameroon for hosting me over the past two weeks. In each, I was able to see the work of UNDP and the wider UNCTs in response to challenging situations.

In Somalia UNDP is working hard in support of the Federal Government’s Vision 2016 and the country’s peace- and state- building agenda. We are supporting the electoral process which is underway. This is a major milestone, and, together with the constitutional review and the state formation process, takes Somalia’s transition forward. It is noteworthy that the electoral process has a thirty per cent target for women’s representation. Another important milestone for Somalia is the preparation of its new National Development Plan. UNDP has supported its development, and is poised to support its implementation. 

In Kenya, I traveled to Moyale in Marsabit County on the border with Ethiopia. There the two Governments have come together to support development on both sides of the border. This area has seen significant localized conflict in recent years. The two UN Country Teams are fully supporting the government-led efforts to bring peace and development to the area.

In Cameroon, I traveled to the Far North of the country where the Boko Haram conflict has caused loss of life and displacement. I applaud the efforts of the UN agencies and their partners to respond to the needs of host communities, around 200,000 internally displaced people, and more than 70,000 Nigerian refugees. At the Government’s request, the UN, World Bank, and European Union will soon begin a full needs assessment for recovery. Meanwhile, I would urge partners to support the needs of host communities and the displaced and refugees. In the IDP camp I visited, people were very worried about the lack of potable water, schooling for children, health care, and livelihoods. 

In Syria, UNDP works under the new Country Programme approved by the Board in January. It has a strong focus on strengthening livelihoods for the most vulnerable and on rehabilitation and recovery. We estimate that more than two million people benefited – directly and indirectly – from UNDP’s work in the first half of this year.

In Jordan, we continue to build resilience through strengthening livelihoods and supporting delivery of basic services - for example, through the establishment of micro businesses, vocational training, and emergency employment for refugees and host communities. Over 1,500 young men and women are targeted for livelihoods support this year. UNDP is also working with stakeholders on measures to prevent violent extremism.

The first Country Programme Document for Lebanon since the start of the Syria crisis will be presented at this Board meeting. It embraces UNDP’s commitment to build the resilience of host communities and strengthen national institutions in response to employment, service delivery, and environmental management needs. 

Through a pioneering funding facility, UNDP is supporting the Government of Iraq to stabilize areas newly freed from ISIL control. Since June last year, we have implemented 120 public infrastructure projects in ten such cities and districts, in fast time and at low cost. Over the past twelve months, hundreds of thousands of people have benefited from this work as they return to their homes, often after years of displacement. Hundreds of small businesses have received grants to get established. Electricity grids have been re-established; police stations, schools, pharmacies, and health centres have re-opened; and thousands of jobs have been created. UNDP is also promoting the role of civil society and communities in national reconciliation.

In Libya, the UNDP Stabilization Facility launched in April will help rehabilitate damaged infrastructure like clinics, hospitals, water facilities, and power stations. UNDP will support local businesses to provide essential services in conflict-affected communities. These initiatives will support the ongoing political process.

In Yemen, UNDP’s work continues at the community level where we are supporting basic services delivery, restoration of livelihoods, and job creation. A new emergency programme, in partnership with the World Bank, will create more than 900,000 work days benefiting over 57,000 families. As a result, around 380,000 Yemenis in conflict affected areas will be able to access basic services such as water.

In the Central African Republic (CAR), UNDP is promoting social cohesion, security and justice, youth employment, and state administration reform. The recent recovery assessment, jointly conducted by the UN, the World Bank and the EU, provides an important input into the current development of a three year National Stabilization Plan. The Plan will be presented at a donor conference, scheduled for 17 November in Brussels, for which UNDP is supporting the Government to prepare. 

The outbreak of conflict again in Juba, South Sudan, in July was yet another setback to implementation of the peace agreement there. It exacerbated the political, economic, and social crises afflicting the young nation, with risks of spill over and escalation. This has yet again brought to the fore the persistent and unresolved drivers of the conflict, among them: deep-rooted mutual suspicion and lack of trust; disregard for the rule of law; absence of institutions for dispute resolution; and widespread poverty. 

UNDP has developed an Integrated Crisis Response Programme (ICRP) to support recovery and stabilization in South Sudan, and to lay the foundations for the longer-term processes of national reconciliation and healing. The objective has been to mitigate immediate fall out from the Juba conflict through peace messaging, restore livelihoods, and promote access to justice.

The Humanitarian-Development Nexus 

 A joint dialogue on ‘Advancing the Humanitarian-Development Nexus in the context of the 2030 Agenda’, took place on Tuesday between UNFPA, UNOPS, and UNDP and Executive Board members highlighted how agencies are changing the way they work in order to implement the commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit. This includes promoting joint analysis, planning and implementation, shifting our financing approaches, and focusing on addressing the tremendous challenge posed by protracted displacement. We thank the President of the Executive Board, H.E. Mr. Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, for organizing this timely discussion.

Quality Country Programmes

Twenty-seven new Country Programme Documents (CPDs) are before this Board meeting. A thorough screening process has aimed to ensure that they are of high quality and follow the recommendations of relevant evaluations.

Over seventy per cent of the new CPDs cover middle-income and high-middle income countries, many of which also provide significant non-core resources to UNDP’s work. This reflects fast changing times in development. We appreciate the confidence shown by Member States in our capacity to deliver across broad thematic areas and across diverse country contexts. 

The important role of evaluation

The Independent Evaluation Office is submitting the revised Evaluation Policy for the Executive Board’s approval at this session. The Policy was developed in close consultation with UNDP management, and has benefited from feedback from the Board. It was further informed by the recommendations of the Review of the Evaluation Function in the UN System conducted by the Joint Inspection Unit, as well as by the recently adopted UNEG Norms and Standards. Adoption of the policy, along with the measures which UNDP has already put in place to strengthen the use of evaluations in programming and project management, will better support accountability and learning in the organization.


In conclusion, let me thank the Executive Board for its continued confidence in and commitment to UNDP. Your steadfast backing is critical as we move forward with implementation of major global agendas and our Strategic Plan. We rely on your continued support and guidance. I wish the Board very constructive deliberations at this session.


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