Remarks at a UN Development Program Executive Board Meeting

Ambassador Kelley Currie
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
September 5, 2017


Thank you, Mr. President. On behalf of the United States, I would like to thank UNDP staff worldwide for their continuing hard work and welcome Administrator Steiner to UNDP and his first Executive Board meeting and thank him for his statement.

Administrator Steiner begins his tenure at the confluence of two important developments: UNDP’s strategic plan for the next four years and the Secretary-General’s reform initiative, both of which will create new ways for the UN and UNDP to do their work better to meet member states’ needs. Expectations are high, and I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the Administrator of our pledge to work closely with him and the Board to help UNDP meet new challenges and achieve greater successes.

I would like to thank the Administrator and UNDP staff for so actively involving us and other Member States in the process of developing the Strategic Plan. We are keenly interested in the three main work areas: multi-dimensional poverty, risks to development, and achieving the 2030 Agenda, as well as global advisory and country support platforms as the core modes of engagement with program countries. We believe these are good building blocks to construct a conceptual framework for the strategic plan.

As UNDP builds out the plan based on this framework, we would like to offer some suggestions for greater clarity and focus, in order to connect the three main work areas in a more coherent and effective strategic approach. We see three areas for improvement. First, explicitly recognize peace, security, and prosperity as the overarching and mutually re-enforcing objective of UNDP’s work. Second, better define UNDP’s comparative advantages, something we’ve hear quite a bit about today, and the unique values it can add to the international development community’s work. This will be a particularly important exercise at a time when the Secretary-General and member states are calling for greater operational efficiency and elimination of wasteful duplications in the UN system. UNDP should carefully examine, for example, whether it is efficient for it to be the lead provider of such services as sustainable urbanization, procurement, de-risking of investment for development, or whether it is more efficient for UNDP to cooperate with sister agencies that have those mandates and have already developed comparative advantages in these areas. Third, create clearer connections between global advisory services’ work and country-level programming and results. For example, the strategic plan should address those issues that are fundamental to development — such as social, economic, and political exclusions, the lack of rule of law and respect for human rights — as a cross-cutting theme in all three main work areas. Additionally, they should be mainstreamed and adapted to country-level programming, and captured in the strategic plan’s results framework with appropriate indicators.

The evaluation of the previous plan is an important input and guide on how to improve the strategic planning process and program performance in the future – I would like to thank the Independent Evaluation Office for its excellent work in this regard. I also commend the Administrator for taking the evaluation recommendations seriously and incorporate them in the design of the new strategic plan. The Independent Evaluation Office serves a vital function in UNDP’s work, and the United States is pleased that the Administrator is giving greater attention and support to the evaluation office’s work. We encourage UNDP to build a strong evaluation culture to promote learning and continuous improvement during this strategic planning cycle and beyond.

This session comes at an important point in our UN reform discussions. UN reform, including UNDS reform, is a priority for the United States. We agree with the Secretary-General that there needs to better coordination by UN agencies to ensure that their work on the ground complements each other.

The United States welcomes the Secretary-General’s June 30 report on reforming the UN development system. We share his aim to make UN agencies and the entire development system more transparent, efficient, accountable, and fit-for-purpose to pursue sustainable development results.

We view UN development system reform as closely linked to the two additional legs of the Secretary General’s three legged reform initiative — reform of the UN management system and reform of the peacebuilding architecture. By searching for effective, flexible, field-focused solutions, these efforts hold the potential to improve the performance of individual UN offices and to bring various parts of the UN to work together better. At the same time, we are mindful of temptations to create larger, more complex bureaucracies and processes in the name of reform, which could lead to top-heavy, costly, inflexible, and inefficient outcomes. We will work closely with the Secretary-General and member states, as well as individual agencies to avoid any unintended consequences. We emphasize the great value in the current system of UN funds and programs that are independently governed, managed, and monitored, and held individually accountable.

Mr. President, the United States looks forward to working with you, member states, and UNDP management to make this a productive Board session, and to help guide UNDP onto a new and productive path in the coming months and years.

Thank you.