As prepared for delivery.
1. Mr. President, Excellencies, members of the Executive Board, Observer delegations, colleagues and friends. I am honored to join you today for this annual session of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board for 2023. This is our shared opportunity each year to look back and look forward, to assess and reflect together as we continue our common endeavor of meeting multiple challenges in today’s world.
2. However, before I begin, let me take this opportunity to thank both Usha Rao-Monari, our Associate Administrator, and Asako Okai, Director of the Crisis Bureau who will shortly be leaving us, for their unwavering support and commitment during their time at UNDP.
3. The challenges are many—but so are the solutions. In 2022, the first year of UNDP’s current Strategic Plan, 2022-2025, we scaled up our delivery, as reflected in the plan’s four moonshots. We supported developing countries to not just cope but seek better ways to manage uncertainty and improve their progress as a whole. Today I will elaborate:
- Operational and programmatic highlights from a year of record delivery
- Significant contributions to the moonshots
- The challenges we encountered and how we are learning from them
- UNDP’s increasing capacity to anticipate and act on issues critical to development, now and into the future
UNDP’s record delivery
4. UNDP has an essential role in the development promise, globally and in countries in every region. We used our resources effectively and transparently in 2022, achieving a delivery of $4.8 billion, the highest level in more than a decade.
5. UNDP balanced its institutional budget for the sixth year in a row. Efficiency gains for 2022 reached $24.4 million, including $7.1 million from entity-specific gains and $17.1 million from implementing the Business Operating System (BOS). All internal efficiency gains are redirected to programme activities.
6. We met 95 per cent of planned programmatic targets and invested 91 cents of every dollar in programmes and services to achieve development results.
7. Over 80 per cent of regular programme resources went to low-income countries.
8. Sixty-six per cent of our programmes made gender equality a principal or significant objective. In the first year of our new Gender Equality Strategy, 90 country offices translated its objectives into concrete, country-level plans.
9. Continued evolution of our business systems is helping to reshape UNDP to meet changing demands. In 2022, our business services sent staff and supplies to over 170 countries and territories and supported 85 United Nations entities.
10. A surge to meet massive humanitarian and development needs resulted in a record procurement volume of $2.8 billion.
11. Our organizational culture continues to both attract and reward development expertise from across the world—and embraces constant learning and innovation. We are more efficient and capable in managing our talent as evidenced by a series of awards for our People for 2030 Strategy.
How does UNDP’s work impact people’s lives?
12. All these measures in 2022 translated into improved lives for millions of people, from the woman with a first chance to start her own business in Afghanistan to the farmer planting seeds that can withstand drought in Syria to the family with its first household connection to modern power in Burkina Faso.
13. Excellencies, this speaks to a question that you, as our Executive Board, are right to ask: How does UNDP’s work impact peoples’ lives? This is a performance question that UNDP needs to be better able to answer.
14. We are moving in the right direction, such as by investing in an organizational culture committed to training and learning. For example, the number of country office evaluation focal points with advanced evaluation certification has nearly doubled, from 57 percent in 2021 to 96 percent in 2022.
15. We can increasingly demonstrate UNDP’s performance, using data to inform decision-making as part of continued investment in digital capacities and transition. We launched the Quantum ERP system in late 2022 and worked through the initial challenges of what has been the most significant digital operational shift in two decades. Quantum is now a common platform for UNDP, and we have welcomed seven other United Nations entities who opted to join it.
16. Thanks to these investments, UNDP will be better equipped than ever to show whether and how we are:
- Delivering sustainable impacts
- Accountable at all levels and adhering to rules and standards
- Efficient and financially sustainable
- Upholding UN values, and trusted to do so
- Fielding personnel and teams across the world that are empowered and engaged
17. I have elevated impact and measurement as one of a shortlist of institutional effectiveness priorities for the coming two years, as this is a critical capacity for UNDP’s success. Other institutional priorities include removing bottlenecks to partnerships with the private sector and the international financial institutions aimed at achieving sustainable development.
18. Looking to the private sector, UNDP is developing a new policy on intellectual property rights to navigate constraints on our ability to engage with small and medium enterprises and start-up firms, and devising a tailored private sector partnership approach for fragile and crisis contexts.
19. We continue to expand collaboration with the international financial institutions (IFIs), implementing $292 million in financing from 12 of them in over 43 countries in 2022. We are breaking new ground in how we partner, including with the Inter-American Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and European Investment Bank. We have set a goal of applying new instruments for engagement with at least one IFI in every region, towards systematically scaling up support to countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
20. UNDP in 2022 continued to be a preferred partner, supporting more projects and the associated billions of dollars in development finance from major vertical funds than any other international organization. The funds include the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Multilateral Fund for the Montreal Protocol and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
21. We also continue to strengthen ties within the United Nations, having transitioned from being reform-ready to maximizing results in a repositioned development system. UNDP and United Nations partners in 2022 advanced major initiatives in finance, climate change, biodiversity, digital inclusion, gender equality and human rights, and made strides towards joined-up humanitarian, development and peace efforts. Updated joint programme guidance, for example, already applied in Yemen, takes a lighter, faster approach to work in exceptional circumstances, while cutting costs.
22. Impactful partnerships with highly valued and hosted members of UNDP’s family included:
- Collaboration with UNCDF which, with its partners, catalyzed $600 million in additional investment for sustainable development including for 37 LDCs
- Over 12,000 UN Volunteers serving with 55 United Nations entities
- UNOSSC-brokered South-South initiatives involving over 70 countries
- A record-breaking $1.74 billion for joint delivery through the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office
23. Throughout 2022 and into 2023, UNDP responded to challenges in widely diverse national situations, in low- and middle-income countries, in crisis and development, and on the road from crisis to development.
24. Under the leadership of the Secretary-General and in close collaboration with the Resident Coordinator and United Nations country team, and through partnerships with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and European Union, UNDP supported Pakistan to secure over $9 billion in pledges not just to recover from horrific floods that devastated much of the country but also to close chronic development deficits and improve resilience. This is in line with our new crisis offer and its development-in-crisis focus. Further:
- Libya restored essential services for a million people, including through a novel private sector collaboration tapping digital technology for health care.
- Montenegro took its first steps towards phasing out coal and realizing a just energy transition to deliver cleaner skies and better jobs.
- Belize mapped a development path for achieving the SDGs using UNDP’s SDGs Investor Mapping, which identified 16 areas of innovative investments.
- Sierra Leone scaled up investment in its future through a dedicated fund to finance an expected 100,000 youth in getting start-up businesses and careers off the ground.
25. These are just a few examples. But they give a sense of why the four moonshots in the Strategic Plan, while still far away, came within closer reach against their 2025 endpoints:
- In 2022, 25 million people accessed services to exit multidimensional poverty against a targeted 100 million.
- We supported elections with over 82 million registered voters in 2022 and expect to support polls with another 400 million registered voters in 2023 well on the way to a targeted 800 million.
- UNDP is currently assisting energy programmes in 31 countries to deliver connections to 225 million people against a planned 500 million.
- A variety of UNDP-initiated financing tools are helping to align $500 billion with sustainable development, halfway to the $1 trillion target.
Challenges and learning
26. We continue to search for ways to improve and learn lessons. In 2022, UNDP initiated corporate performance ‘deep dives’ to look in detail at our systems and processes, identifying what works and pinpointing challenges, and underlining the need for continuous improvement.
27. For example, the number of projects where teams highlight significant risks to people or the environment upfront has increased. This is a positive sign, since recognizing the risks is the first step towards managing them. At the same time, we continue to press for testing 100 percent of eligible projects against UNDP’s quality assurance standards, including social and environmental safeguards. Reporting and oversight on these principles remain priorities for all business units.
28. The deep dives also confirmed findings from evaluations and other assessments indicating that one of the standards that UNDP has the hardest time monitoring and articulating is the long-term sustainability of the development results we contribute to. This is in part due to a business model still dominated by projects, which have limited time horizons. One of the ways we are working to improve this is by introducing portfolios to help UNDP design programming support, from the beginning, that delivers more integrated, systemic and scaled-up results.
29. Recent evaluations indicate that integrated programmes, which are central to UNDP’s Strategic Plan, lead to more lasting results. The 2022 evaluation of the United Nations response to COVID-19 recommended that UNDP fully operationalize its integrator role within the UN development system. To succeed, we will need to mobilize the right investment. We will need funding partners who support this shift, investing in development impact at a higher level than through projects alone.
30. UNDP is also learning and tracking performance through the unprecedented 79 country offices enrolled in our Gender Equality Seal programme, including through a new track for crisis countries. It has demonstrated that the organization can make long strides through targeted learning and consistent, visible monitoring. Certification requires rigorous scrutiny of gender integration in programmes and operations, financial allocations and results. The Paraguay office, for instance, has become the latest country to achieve a gold certification for outstanding commitment to systematically incorporating gender equality in every facet of its programmes. The office’s remarkable successes range from supporting a new rapid response system for gender-based violence to women’s increasingly visible leadership in forestry management.
31. While this year will see a record number of offices being assessed with the Gender Equality Seal, offices that achieve certification have to demonstrate continued excellence to maintain it, with consequences if they do not. One recent renewal exercise with 11 country offices saw 6 maintaining their gold certification, 3 losing their gold certification and 2 losing a silver certification. This demonstrated the rigour of the certification process but was also a call to action. UNDP’s Gender Equality Seal team will support lagging offices in getting back on track.
32. 2022 saw some early growing pains in scaling up our energy work, such as mixed early results in stimulating private sector investment. We are pursuing this programming area on a more ambitious scale than ever before, given the central role of energy in development. Our new sustainable energy hub will help both ease initial hurdles and build on UNDP’s significant energy portfolio, including in reaching populations left behind, particularly in rural areas.
33. UNDP’s work on energy has significant potential, given that we support not just the extension of energy services but their connection to an array of human development gains. We are bringing this focus into engagement with public and private partners that can shape new markets and models of service provision and reduce investment risks. Flagship work with 21 African countries, with funding from the GEF, is guiding a $65 billion investment opportunity to establish 114,000 solar battery mini-grids. Early pilots on comprehensive gender mainstreaming in energy aim at women gaining equal access along with green jobs and leadership positions in energy policy.
34. Critically, despite all that we achieved in 2022 and with more urgently required, we are seeing a retreat in resources integral to operating effectively as a global organization that is fully responsive to the diverse needs of UN Member States.
35. UNDP appreciates the increased contributions to core funding in 2022 from the Governments of Australia, Austria, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Spain and the United States. It was equally encouraging to secure multi-year agreements with nine Member States, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Qatar, Sweden, Switzerland and Türkiye. UNDP is grateful also for the continuing commitment and contributions from our programme countries. In 2022, an estimated $25 million in core funding was contributed by programme countries, accounting for 4% of total core, in addition to the $1.2 billion of non-core funding invested by them through UNDP in 2022.
36. Core funding allows UNDP to maintain a credible core structure and helped crowd in substantial non-core resources to achieve development results at scale in 2022. Every core dollar spent on programmes leveraged more than $9 in non-core funding. As I mentioned, over 80 per cent of core programme resources went to low-income countries.
37. Yet a declining trend in core funding remains a real risk to UNDP and the multiple functions it delivers as part of the United Nations and UN development system. Unless this trend is urgently reversed, UNDP will face a significant setback in both its institutional effectiveness and its role in delivering the development promise including possibly the closure of offices; discontinuation of certain programme offers and downscaling vital support for crisis-affected countries, This will limit UNDP’s trajectory as a trusted, impartial and efficient multilateral institution committed to serving people and countries most in need of international support.
38. We will continue working with you to address this issue while taking steps to further manage risk, including through a new system that links existing risk management tools related to partners, programmes and financial capacity and offers a panoramic vieUNDP’s risk exposure at the national, regional and corporate levels.
The development promise requires a reset
39. Like the SDGs, the global moonshots set the direction for where we need to go and fire our ambition—but they are not an end in themselves. The end, is the transformation of development so that it overcomes current limitations, reaches everyone and lasts over time.
40. Every year, UNDP programmes meet significant immediate needs for services, jobs, capacity development, digitalization and so on. For example, through South-South cooperation, UNDP helped establish digital vaccination systems that protected 1.4 billion people on three continents from COVID-19. These systems, pioneered in India, are now being adapted for other immunization campaigns, including in Indonesia.
41. In 2022, our assistance helped at least 11 million people caught in catastrophes gain employment and improve their livelihoods. In 40 countries, legislative changes and digital solutions enabled 3.3 million people to obtain a legal identity and choices such as to vote and own property.
42. These are all critical stepping-stones to better individual lives. But they need to be scaled up, a commitment that UNDP has made and can increasingly demonstrate. We also have to anticipate diverse paths and unexpected shifts in direction.
43. This is why UNDP in 2022 prototyped its Future Trends and Signals System, a global network of over 100 UNDP staff regularly scanning for change. A first report on findings this year probes fast-evolving issues that are pivotal to better development, from sustaining democratic principles during shocks to brokering alliances for shared resources to investing in the social fabric to prevent a ‘social recession’.
44. This exercise is helping UNDP to think through what we need to offer to countries to meet their national priorities, and where we can best invest time and money to make faster progress even with uncertainty.
45. UNDP is translating this kind of systemic, future-alert thinking into its country programmes through the portfolio approach. This offers a new way of conceptualizing core development concerns by taking in the breadth and complexity of entire development systems and finding integrated solutions mostly likely to trigger transformative, scaled-up results in line with national development priorities. It opens scope for fast adaptation and continuous generation of new solutions to deal with rapidly changing, complex development problems.
46. In just over a year, supported by our global network of Accelerator Labs and other corporate teams, 50 of our country offices have begun to apply the portfolio approach to development programming.
47. An initial investment of just under $4 million to develop the approach has already brought in nearly $300 million in new and potential investments from donor organizations, foundations, university and research organizations, and private sector firms.
48. Over 500 governments, cities and other organizations have engaged with us to learn more about the portfolio approach and in some cases to begin implementing their own adaptations.
49. Within UNDP, early adopters include Angola, which is establishing a national observatory on the future of work to help answer questions around the skills it needs, how to quicken transitions from informal work and how to strengthen local economies.
50. Iraq conducted a deep exploration of drivers of instability that has shaped a portfolio of interventions to stop corruption, improve social cohesion, and respond to pressing concerns around climate change and energy.
51. With the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and SIDA, we are exploring new frontiers in understanding impact in a fast-changing world through our M&E Sandbox. Portfolio-driven urban transformation work in Asia and the Pacific and Europe and the CIS is expanding our relationship with the European Commission to include international financial institutions interested in large-scale pipeline investments.
52. The portfolio approach has attracted so much interest in a short time because people can see its potential in a world of widening inequality and worsening instability and crisis. A reset is long overdue; the development promise depends on it.
UNDP’s signature solutions steer a course to transformation
53. I’m pleased to report that, based on results from 2022, all six signature solutions in our Strategic Plan are increasingly part of helping to steer the shifts that a development reset requires. The Annual Report details many examples. I will share only a few, on social protection, climate and gender equality.
54. In 2022, for instance, we helped 47 countries to improve social protection. We know that this is among the best ways to correct systemic inequality and protect people at risk of being left behind. It also gives people the confidence to remain in school or start a small business; they know they have a fallback position. In Kazakhstan, UNDP supported the introduction of the Digital Family Card platform covering the entire population of 19.5 million people. The system is designed to catch people who are not receiving services they need. It has already notified more than 51,000 citizens to apply for benefits.
55. But successes like these need to be scaled up, within countries and globally. That is why, under the leadership of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and in collaboration with a number of entities including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UNDP is coordinating the roll-out of the United Nations Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions.
56. It is a ground-breaking initiative to link national and international investments towards extending social protection to 4 billion uncovered people. This is a chance to find new solutions and navigate cost barriers that have long stymied the expansion of social protection systems and kept the SDG target on this issue out of reach.
57. UNDP continues to make strides towards decarbonizing development while meeting urgent human needs because we invest in the capacities and skills to simultaneously work on poverty, climate change and energy access, and to apply innovations and digital tools. This was on display in 2022 in the Republic of Moldova, where an energy crisis set in due to the war in Ukraine. UNDP operationalized an Energy Vulnerability Reduction Fund that used digital registration so that 1.5 million people could get help to pay their energy bills. We also applied behavioural science through a national “nudging” programme to cut electricity consumption and the associated greenhouse gas emissions.
58. Under its Climate Promise programme, UNDP is proud to have provided much-needed technical support to climate adaptation in 40 least developed countries, many of which are extremely vulnerable to climate impacts. This has helped their climate plans reach the same level of quality as those in countries with more resources, in terms of inclusion, feasibility and robustness. Further, UNDP is helping to improve understanding of how climate adaptation can sustain peace and strengthen social cohesion. This will shape $424 million in mobilized and potentially $573 million in pipeline financing for 41 countries.
59. 2022 was the first year of UNDP’s new Gender Equality Strategy, where the core operating principle is to dismantle the structural barriers that perpetuate gender discrimination. With the ILO, UN Women, UN regional commissions, women’s organizations and domestic workers alliances, UNDP has supported 19 countries to develop comprehensive care systems, including through innovative care georeferencing tools to plan service provision. A joint UN framework on care work is in process to make this effort even more powerful.
60. Sustained momentum is already emerging from UNDP’s Gender Equality Seal. In 2022, 63 public institutions in 18 countries applied it, engaging 88,000 civil servants to meet standards of excellence in gender-responsive services and policies.
Transformation depends on trust
61. Our capacity to move towards a better future depends on being able to anticipate it but also on restoring trust in the development promise. One of the clearest breakdowns in trust globally is increasingly linked to a global financial system that is perceived as not up to the challenges of our time. This is a challenge that institutions central to the multilateral system and their shareholders have recognized and are addressing with reforms.
62. UNDP has contributed empirical evidence and policy analysis to the Secretary-General’s call for transforming the system so that it delivers for all countries—and for making a massive boost in investment in the SDGs in developing countries. We have also continued to help galvanize the push to go beyond gross domestic product as the primary measure of the health of economies, now a central item on the agendas for the 2023 SDG Summit and the 2024 Summit of the Future. Amid current calls for austerity, we have marshalled evidence to counter what we see as a threat to sustainable development. Now more than ever, we have to make the right investment choices.
63. UNDP itself remains a widely trusted organization because we stand up for core multilateral values like economic justice and equitable access to finance. We can also offer the expertise and foresight to help countries make choices that align with their development priorities. This combination helps draw people and institutions together in finding common solutions.
64. Together with the UN development system and international financial institutions, for example, UNDP in 2022 supported integrated national financing frameworks in 86 countries. In Kyrgyzstan, for example, this led to new provisions in the tax code to align tax incentives worth 4 per cent of gross domestic product to the SDGs.
65. We have continued to back pioneering new bonds to raise resources for sustainable development; these have drawn in $13.6 billion from capital markets. Uruguay in 2022 raised $1.5 billion through issuing an innovative sustainability-linked bond. Indonesia in 2023 issued the world’s first publicly offered sovereign blue bond, raising $150 million.
66. With sovereign debt at critical levels and fiscal constraints undermining much-needed investments in biodiversity and natural capital, UNDP is supporting countries such as Lao People’s Democratic Republic to explore options that include debt-for-nature swaps. A growing wave of interest and finance in these swaps underlines their catalytic potential to open fiscal space and help countries—not just banks.
67. New and fairer approaches to debt management are emerging through recent UNDP research calculating that African countries could save up to $74.5 billion if credit ratings reflected more accurate assessments of their development context. A UNDP partnership with the Brookings Institution and AfriCatalyst is creating a database of key macroeconomic indicators to support African countries during the credit-rating process.
68. Continued shortchanging of commitments to provide climate finance and official development assistance is one of the most longstanding sources of friction and growing mistrust in our global community. Recent backtracking on commitments only compounds this concern, as does the increasing reliance on humanitarian action to respond to crises instead of investing in prevention and addressing key drivers of fragility. This is the development promise in reverse.
69. UNDP’s new crisis offer defines an approach that is transformative and ultimately aimed at restoring trust. It is oriented around reducing humanitarian needs and addressing development deficits as the means to prevent and recover from emergencies. The benefits are evident in Yemen, where a nascent peace has a better chance of taking hold through the support that UNDP is providing in its economic recovery programmes with support from the European Union and the World Bank. These efforts have built capacities among local authorities to provide essential services. Nearly 3.9 million people in 2022 gained access to education, health and clean water—and greater confidence in the capacity of the public sector to provide these.
The development promise in forward motion
70. Excellencies, change is all around us, for better and worse—witness the rapid take-off of artificial intelligence even since the last session of the Board. Or the eruption of war in Ukraine and the sudden global explosion in food and energy prices last year. As we look towards this year’s SDG Summit and the next round of climate talks at COP28, we all share the concern around the worsening prospects for the SDGs and the rapidly closing window of opportunity to avoid the worst of the climate fallout.
71. And yet, this is not a moment for despair so much as a very loud wake-up call to better manage change and double down on our commitments. The SDGs remain our collective compass—and we have a chance at the upcoming SDG Summit not just to summarize current progress but to define together how we can break through the obstacles to the goals. The SDG Summit should be the starting point for accelerated, urgent actions to meet every one of the goals and put every country and every person on the path to sustainable development.
72. UNDP has been learning and applying some of the lessons needed to reset development—and in fact has codified them to a great extent in our Strategic Plan. I want to conclude by touching on a couple of examples of how UNDP is improving its role in the development promise by delivering, learning and thinking ahead.
73. One case involves the current backlash against gender equality. This was strongly evident in our future signals reporting and has been raised as a concern by many of you and many of our country offices.
74. UNDP last year helped to deliver essential services to 72 million women and improve the gender-responsiveness of public institutions. But we also ramped up efforts to understand the backlash so that we know how to better counteract it. Early steps include deploying AI and social media monitoring tools to track hate speech in Colombia, the Philippines and Uganda, among other countries. Further, 108 of our country offices have taken steps to deepen collaboration with women’s groups and feminist movements. These partnerships are the basis for efforts to sharpen insights into the complex drivers of gender backlash, and to protect and broaden civic engagement.
75. Another example of how UNDP is delivering, learning and thinking ahead comes from the accelerating momentum on biodiversity, where concerns are on par with those around the climate crisis. UNDP is pre-positioned for an even greater push in this area. Our environment-related portfolio, resourced at $3.9 billion, leveraged $15.1 billion in additional public and private funds last year.
76. We are the largest United Nations service provider on nature, supporting national environmental priorities in over 140 countries. We work closely with the UN Environment Programme and sister organizations to support countries to deliver on the high-ambition targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework as well as the land degradation neutrality targets of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
77. We now see new avenues for more ambitious action on biodiversity coming through the law and finance. Our signals reporting has tracked the remarkable expansion of rights to ecosystems and natural resources in national legal systems. Last year saw the historic UN resolution on a healthy environment as a human right. These are opportunities to grapple with longstanding questions such as responsibility for environmental harm. UNDP is already enhancing its work on environmental justice, seeing strong potential to work through national and international legal frameworks and institutions, and to address the inequality and human rights violations intertwined with damage to the environment.
78. To jumpstart action on scaled-up commitments to biodiversity finance, at the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference, UNDP launched the Nature Pledge, mobilizing $189 million in new funding for indigenous and other local communities to take critical early actions on agreed biodiversity targets. We are also expanding our BIOFIN initiative from 40 to 138 countries, building on 10 years of successful innovations in sustainable biodiversity finance. And we have begun thinking through the prospects and the need for a biodiversity version of our highly impactful Climate Promise.
79. Excellencies, in closing, the SDGs and the moonshots remind us to keep our eyes on the future. But to do so blindly, pursuing more of the same in our development choices, will be to set ourselves up for failure.
80. In becoming a NextGen, future smart development organization, UNDP seeks to embody the reset required for the development promise—and inspire others to do likewise.
81. UNDP is grateful for the continuing commitment and contributions of all our staff, our partner countries and our donors that make it possible for UNDP to make a difference in people’s lives. I am confident that together, and as an integral part of the UN family and UN Development System, we will continue to find many answers and solve common challenges. We can arrive at the moonshots and the SDGs and even go beyond them. That is the development promise in forward motion, to our common future.