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Thursday, February 23, 2017
- The UN Development Programme (UNDP) celebrated its 50th anniversary this week with a pledge to help implement the UN’s post-2015 development agenda aimed at eliminating extreme poverty and hunger by 2030.
When the agency was founded in 1966, one in every three people was living in poverty. But that number has changed to one in eight, according to UNDP figures.
As the primary UN agency in the field of economic and sustainable development, it has vowed to help developing countries reach the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and help implement Agenda 2030 adopted by world leaders last September.
Addressing a high-level ministerial meeting Wednesday, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said for 50 years UNDP has been working on the frontlines of development, advocating for change and connecting countries to the knowledge, experience, and resources they need to help people build better lives.
“The world has changed immeasurably in that time, and UNDP has changed with it. But the core mission of UNDP is more relevant than ever – that is, to support countries to eradicate poverty in a way which simultaneously reduces inequality and exclusion, while protecting the planet on which we all depend.”
As the spreading refugee crisis threatens to destabilize national budgets of donor nations in Western Europe, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly appealed to the international community not to forsake its longstanding commitment for development assistance to the world’s poorer nations.
A new report by CONCORD, the European confederation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) representing all 28 European Union (EU) members, points out aid budgets are increasingly being used to cover refugee and asylum seekers costs: the Netherlands at 145%; Italy 107%; Cyprus 65%; and Portugal 38%.
And despite repeated promises, the EU, as a whole, did not deliver on its commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) as official development assistance (ODA) by 2015, said the study released last December.
Clark told the ministerial meeting: “We have already taken steps to ensure that UNDP is fit for purpose in the SDG era. We have a more focused Strategic Plan; we have restructured our headquarters to eliminate duplication and improve efficiency and effectiveness, and we have moved much more of our policy, programme, and other support closer to the field.”
She said UNDP has also implemented measures which have led to agency to be ranked “among the most transparent development organisations in the world.”
“Yet,” she said, “the ambition and breadth of Agenda 2030 will demand a great deal more of all of us.” To be truly fit for purpose in the SDG era, UNDP must be ever more proactive, responsive, and innovative.
“That is the reason we have invited Ministers here today. We want your strategic engagement on the key challenges before us. We want to hear your assessment of where we can be most helpful in support of your national development efforts,” she told the high level meeting.
Ban says experience has shown that a thriving economy is not enough to eradicate poverty and promote shared prosperity.
“Economies must be put at the service of people, through effective integrated social policies,” he told the UN Commission for Social Development in early February.
He pointed out that enormous social progress has been made in lifting people out of extreme poverty; in boosting food security; in advancing universal primary education and adult literacy; in promoting women’s empowerment, and in reducing maternal and child mortality.
Accessibility and the full inclusion of persons with disabilities has become a growing interest of decision makers, as has the critical importance of ensuring social protection for all. “Now we need to build on these successes,” Ban said.
Still, he said, “We are living in a world of turmoil and trouble.”
There may be fewer wars between countries, but there is more insecurity. Inequality remains too high, affecting poverty reduction efforts and social cohesion in both developed and developing countries.
“Too many people continue to face exclusion and are unable to realize their full potential. Too few economies have attained inclusive and sustainable growth and are unable to promote true social progress. People are frustrated. They are working harder and falling behind. Too often, instead of decisions, they see deadlock. And they wonder: are leaders even listening?,” he asked.
Clark told the ministerial meeting that UNDP’s work in support of SDGs include the following:
First, eradicating poverty; leaving no one behind – looking at the specific measures which lead to inclusive growth and the eradication of poverty in all its dimensions
Second, protecting the planet, sustaining development – the importance of balancing economic growth and improved livelihoods with the need to protect the environment;
Third, preventing violent conflict, building peaceful societies – ensuring governance, peace and security are durable and benefit all parts of society; and
Fourth, managing risk and building resilience – looking at how to identify risks and take appropriate action to prepare for disasters and adapt to climate change.
She told the ministers: “I invite you all to share your most ambitious visions of how UNDP can support member states in these areas.”
To move from agreement to action on the Sustainable Development Goals, UNDP must help to deliver results; and it must build and sustain new partnerships to tackle this complex agenda in these challenging times.
“Above all, UNDP must be relevant to you and your countries, and tackle the challenges which you identify,” Clark declared.
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