General Key Issues

Opening Statement to the First Regular Session of the Executive Board

As prepared for delivery.

Mr. President,

Members of the Executive Board,

Colleagues and friends,

I am delighted to wish you all a happy new year and to welcome you to the first regular session of the UNDP Executive Board for 2018.

Let me begin by congratulating H.E. Mr. Jagdish D. Koonjul of the Republic of Mauritius on his election as President of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board and express our sympathies in the wake of Cyclone Berguitta . UNDP stands ready to support recovery efforts in Mauritius and to help build resilience to disasters and climate change. 

I also congratulate the new Vice-Presidents on their election: H.E. Ms. Besiana Kadare of the Republic of Albania, H.E. Mr. Chull-joo Park of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Dominique Favre of Switzerland and Mr. Tumasie Blair of Antigua and Barbuda.

Allow me also to thank most sincerely H.E. Mr. Ib Petersen, the Permanent Representative of Denmark and outgoing President of the Executive Board, for his excellent and committed stewardship of the Board in 2017.

I also thank last year’s Vice-Presidents for their support: H.E. Mr. Omar Annakou of Libya, Mr. Talal Aljamali of Yemen, Ms. Laura Elena Flores Herrera of Panama, and Ms. Carolina Popovici of the Republic of Moldova. 

The new year is a time for new beginnings – now more so than ever for the United Nations, including its development system. Key decisions will be taken this year on the Secretary-General’s reform process. In his recent report at the end of last year, the Secretary-General laid out a vision for the UN Development System, a vision that is anchored in Member States’ guidance in the QCPR and that has guided our own strategic and operational thinking at UNDP. 

As we look forward, expectations are high of UNDP and of multilateralism – as they should be given the scale and complexity of the world’s challenges, from continued conflict and crisis and forced displacement to worsening inequalities and the relentless march of climate change. In some cases, structural fragilities have only deepened and threaten to fracture. 

At the same time, we have seen quantum leaps in technological developments, which will have huge implications for developing countries. Our job at UNDP is to help countries harness these disruptive technologies for good rather than be disrupted by them. Despite the warning signs of democratic deconsolidation in some parts of the world – warning signs that we must pay attention to – global popular support for democratic institutions remains strong. In many places, the quality of democracy has improved.

The SDGs have raised the bar for us. The Secretary General expects UNDP to play its part in a leadership role in realising Agenda 2030 as part of his reforms. The next generation UNDP offering needs to reflect the current conversation about national development, about multilateralism and about the role of international organisations – which has moved on. This conversation has been captured in our new Strategic Plan which provides a clear vision of where we are going and, following your approval in November, gives us a clear licence to operate.

Strategic Plan 2018 -2021

With its new Strategic Plan now in place, UNDP is positioned as a cornerstone of the reform momentum. It is a new plan for a new era, lifting the ambitions of the organization and moving it beyond business-as-usual. As recognized in the SG’s report, UNDP aims to serve as a bedrock for UN Country Teams and Resident Coordinators to lead system-wide planning, risk management and support to governments across the Sustainable Development Goals. UNDP is also poised to provide efficient and cost-effective support and services to the RC to achieve a more robust development coordination function and translate your QCPR guidance into a new way of working for development. This includes continued engagement with humanitarian and peace actors both at country and regional level, and globally in the context of the newly established Joint Steering Committee to advance Humanitarian and Development Cooperation.

Working with our sister agencies UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women, UNDP is implementing the commitments we made to you in the common chapter of our Strategic Plan. We are acting collectively on two fronts. Firstly, we are drafting clear, flexible guidance for our country offices to help them use existing mechanisms, processes and programmatic activities to drive collaboration, while avoiding duplication. Secondly, we are examining ways of going further to increase development impact through greater collaborative advantage, making full use of our existing collective programmatic footprint, expertise and operational assets as well as complementary mandates. Initiatives that might emerge from this analysis would target collective results and joined-up effort aimed at transformational change, and offer a sound basis for partnerships with other entities of the UNDS and beyond. We look forward to providing further updates on implementation of the common chapter over the coming year.

As we embark on the implementation of our Strategic Plan, many of our country offices and technical teams are already exploring ways to create effective SDG Country Platforms – and we have established an inter-bureau Task Team at HQ to support and facilitate this work. Our headquarters colleagues are also putting in place systems to ensure we have the human and material resources needed to deliver within the different contexts within which we operate. Our BPPS colleagues are developing the programmatic guidance needed for the signature solutions. Finally, we have approved a 2018 institutional budget that is 50 million less than 2017 and is in line with the EB approved integrated resources framework and is a reflection of my commitment to rebalance some aspects in UNDP. We will continue to look to you, our Executive Board, for guidance, feedback and support. 


Thanks to the generous support of partners, UNDP received $612m in core contributions from 54 contributors, including our first-ever Core funding contribution from a private sector company in the amount of $1 million.  This figure of $612m is only slightly below the Core contributions received in 2016 and marks a significant and welcome change from the progressive decline in Core funding over recent years and is in line with our aim to stabilize Core resources in 2017.   

UNDP’s non-core funding also held steady at around $4.4 billion in 2017.  We saw a 13% increase in Government Cost Sharing contributions from programme countries and a 60% increase in grants and loans from IFIs.  Contributions for the UNDP Funding Windows also increased by 57% compared to 2016. 

UNDP’s new Strategic Plan prioritizes innovating ways to broaden our responsible engagement with the private sector. We count on continued commitment of Member States to predictable and flexible funding to ensure that implementation of UNDP’s new Strategic Plan gets off to a strong start.  We also look forward to engaging with you during the Structured Funding Dialogues to guide our future efforts to deepen and diversify our partnerships and funding base.

Business Model Status Update 

With the approval of the Strategic Plan last month, our work to improve UNDP’s business model has begun in earnest. Our business model will need to improve continuously so that the organization can respond more effectively to government requests for support on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goal, as well as deliver results against the Strategic Plan, 2018-2021, and forge stronger operational and programmatic partnerships with the UN family at the global, regional and country levels.

At a more fundamental level, amidst these times of change we have two options: we can ready UNDP for the future, or we can sit idly by and react. The former is difficult, but the latter is unacceptable, especially when the stakes are so high. 

I would like to mention three initiatives that are advancing within these areas.

The first of these is cost recovery. Based on initial briefings with Member States last month, a briefing note was shared with the Executive Board to continue dialogue with you on this important topic. Group briefings will continue but we are also pleased to engage individually upon request. We also held an internal workshop last week to develop recommendations on cost recovery in line with Executive Board decisions, drawing on the experience and knowledge from colleagues in country and regional offices and at headquarters. 

Second, on January 26, we will review our work with the private sector from the perspective of how to move beyond a funding relationship to one where we can work in concert with Governments to deliver results. This may entail new processes or instruments to facilitate such partnerships, but this is an area I feel we have significant value to add. 

Third, on February 1 we will hold a ‘kick off’ event involving multiple stakeholders at UNDP Headquarters to review UNDP’s innovation work to date and to establish an approach for more dedicated focus on innovation in both our programmatic and operational areas. This is an exciting opportunity to learn from peer experience and bring innovation to the heart of UNDP’s work.  

Executive Board engagement – working better together

Our theme for our engagement with you, the Executive Board, is “working better together.” A strong partnership with you is essential, now more than ever as we embark on this next stage of UNDP’s evolution. It is a partnership rooted in open, honest, regular and proactive dialogue. We have shared with you our initial thinking on how to strengthen and revitalize our partnership with you, and we will deliver a more fleshed out proposal at the session in June this year. We look forward to the next five months of discussing, testing and refining different engagement approaches together. 

Before I turn to the specific agenda items for this First Regular Session, a few words on two important issues that were also raised by the Secretary General in his global town hall meeting last week.

Commitment to Gender Parity, Gender Equality and Zero Tolerance to sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation 

As you are aware, the Strategic Plan commits UNDP to working, along with partner agencies to support programme countries in advancing gender equality in line with the 2030 agenda.  The Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2021 will present how we plan to integrate gender equality in the development work of the organization as well as our corporate commitments to planning, reporting and overseeing gender equality results.  We will be holding an informal consultation with you on this topic and will share the Strategy in the June Segment of the board.  I look forward to your engagement and contribution. 

I am committed to removing all forms of bias and other obstacles that many women face at work. The good news is that by end of 2017 the UNDP staff ratio was 50.7% women to 49.3% men. For the entire workforce (includes service contract holders and UNV) the ratio was 44% women to 56% men. There has also been good progress in the field with the share of women RRs now at 47% and DRRs now at 49%. However, I recognize that there is still much to do to remove significant discrepancies at certain levels – particularly the more senior grades. 

UNDP aims to maintain gender parity among all staff at the total UNDP level and to attain parity at each grade level including among service contractors. Just as importantly, we aim to improve the quality of the UNDP workplace to ensure all staff have equal opportunities to grow and progress.

Another issue that speaks directly to all of our UN core values and who we are as an organization, is workplace harassment, sexual exploitation and abuse. We are fully in line with the SG’s strategy of zero tolerance, both within the organization and towards the populations we serve. We have clear policies and mandatory training in place, however we recognize that we still have a lot of work to do to address the real concerns of our global workforce on this issue. 

Independent Evaluation Office Work Plan 2018-2021

UNDP is committed to transparency and accountability and places great value in the independence and impartiality of the Independent Evaluation Office, whose work is vital to help UNDP learn and continue to improve its performance. In consultation with UNDP management, the IEO has developed a new work plan for 2018-2021. It is the first medium-term plan proposed by the Office following the adoption of the new UNDP Evaluation Policy and UNDP’s new strategic plan, with which its time horizon is aligned. 

The four-year Work Plan includes thematic and programme evaluations that are expected to generate valuable evidence for UNDP offices to draw on in the implementation of the Strategic Plan and the Regional and Country Programmes. The Work Plan also includes the full evaluation of the Strategic Plan and Regional and Country Programmes. UNDP will diligently support those evaluations, protecting their independence and impartiality and continuing to learn from their findings and conclusions as part of our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Allow me to share some key messages related to the IEO workplan:

• First, UNDP aims to allocate the required resources to ensure that the IEO can carry out its work, as described in its work plan.

• Second, IEO Programme Evaluations will replace the Assessment of Development Results, or ADRs. Independent Country Programme Evaluations will be carried out for all UNDP country programmes prior to new Country Programme Documents being submitted to the Executive Board, as requested by the Board in its Decision 2015/8.

• Third, we look forward to the systematic quality assessment of decentralized evaluations, which the IEO resumed in 2017 and which will help UNDP to identify recurrent issues with the evaluability of our projects and the still present capacity gaps in managing evaluations.  

I thank Director Indran Naidoo and his team in the IEO for developing this comprehensive work plan. 

Audit recommendations

At this first session of the new year, the Executive Board will also review UNDP’s and UNCDF’s report on the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Board of Auditors (UNBOA) for the year 2016. UNDP and UNCDF received, for the 12th consecutive year, an unqualified, or clean, audit opinion from the UNBOA for the 2016 financial statements. Both the Associate Administrator and I closely monitor and actively follow up on the implementation of recommendations from the auditors and independent oversight bodies, with a goal to continuously improve our performance and to maintain a clean audit opinion. 

You will also note that we have made progress in reducing the number of long outstanding audit recommendations and we will be doing additional work in 2018 to ensure that we fully address the most recently-issued recommendations. 

I would like to thank the UNBOA and the Executive Board for their constructive engagement on audit issues. Let me also offer my gratitude to the National Audit Office of the United Republic of Tanzania for its highly professional support over the last six years, which has resulted in improvements in performance and efficiency of UNDP and UNCDF. The National Audit Office will be concluding its term with the UNBOA in June 2018. From 1 July 2018, the financial statements of UNDP and UNCDF will be audited by the German Supreme Audit Institution Bundesrechnungshof. Last, but not least, I would also like to thank UNDP and UNCDF personnel around the world who have worked tirelessly to maintain high standards on audit and related fiduciary management matters.

Regional and Country Programme Documents

We have five new regional programme documents to share with the Board for consideration this session. The Regional Directors will present the specifics of each new country programme – on which member states had the opportunity to comment in writing. UNDP greatly appreciates the feedback of Member States and their confidence in our capacity to deliver across broad thematic areas and across diverse country contexts. 

In addition, we have eleven new Country Program Documents to share with you. All the new CPDs meet the programme quality standards UNDP introduced in 2016, having undergone a thorough screening process aimed to ensure that they are of high quality, aligned with the SDGs, and follow the recommendations of relevant evaluations.  The introduction of this rigorous programme appraisal system has led to CPDs of much higher quality. 

UNV and UNCDF Strategic Frameworks

UNDP is proud to administer UNV and UNCDF whose strategic frameworks will be considered by the Board at this session. UNV’s Strategic Framework 2018-2021 is linked to UNDP’s Strategic Plan and has two overarching priorities – the first being support to member states in achieving sustainable, peaceful and inclusive development through volunteerism, and the second being providing more opportunities for people, including young people, women, and those with a disability, to volunteer with the UN system in achieving Agenda 2030. Through this new Strategic Framework, UNV will help ensure volunteerism can be leveraged to sustainably promote national capacities. It will also help deliver cost effective, integrated platforms for implementing development solutions. 

On Wednesday, you will consider the UNCDF Strategic Framework, which highlights UNCDF’s critical role to make finance work for the poor and to get finance flowing to where it is needed most. I see great additionality in UNCDF’s programmatic and early investor work.  As UNDP and the wider UN system accelerate support to LDCs and MICs to optimize public and private investment for SDG achievement, UNCDF’s ability to deploy a range of financial instruments to de-risk and prove concept has considerable system-wide applicability. UNCDF’s LDC investment platform is a vehicle ready for take-off, with existing capacity to direct investment to the most excluded people, businesses, and localities, thereby creating impact across a range of SDGs.

I also see how UNDP and UNCDF can collaborate to develop enabling environments that drive digital innovation, deepen domestic financial markets, and ensure that LDCs share in rewards from blended finance. Together we can also ensure that applications of innovative finance solutions in MICs are contributing to cross-country demonstration and learning and showing how new deployments of financial instruments can address inequalities in a range of different country settings.  


I thank the Executive Board for being a strong and supportive partner in developing a new vision for UNDP, and we continue to count on you as we move into the practical work of implementation. I look forward to a productive conversation at this year’s first session of the Executive Board.