Remarks at the United Nations Development Program Executive Board Annual Session

Ambassador Kelley Currie
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
June 6, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President.

On behalf of the United States, I would like to thank UNDP for its dedication to work to improve people’s lives around the world. We would also like to thank Achim for his leadership and for his annual report to the Board.

This Board is meeting at a crossroads for UNDP and the UN development system as a whole – where UNDP will need to adapt its work in a new UN development system, while at the same time addressing a set of unprecedented development challenges, measured against progress on meeting the sustainable development goals. Peace, security, and prosperity are the overarching and mutually re-enforcing objectives that underpin all of UNDP’s work. UNDP plays a key role in addressing issues that are fundamental to development – such as social, economic, and political exclusions, the lack of rule of law, and respect for human rights. We believe that allowing UNDP to focus on its development mandate, rather than having its field presence dual-hatted with time-consuming management and representational responsibilities, is one of the most important benefits of the new system.

As the new system takes shape in the coming months and years, UNDP should focus on support for truly sustainable development, particularly the challenges presented by post-conflict, fragile, and transitional contexts. Building resilience through policies and practices that promote good governance, economic freedom and truly sustainable, diversified, and broad-based growth will be key to the success of UNDP’s poverty alleviation efforts. We recognize UNDP’s work in the areas of conflict and disaster prevention, preventing and combating corruption, and preventing violent extremism, and encourage you to continue building institutional capacity in these areas.

In addition, we note the essential role that building responsive, law-abiding, rights-respecting and representative governance plays in creating peaceful and prosperous societies. This morning, I was sitting with a group of international business leaders whose companies have made substantial and specific commitments to support sustainable development and work with the UN to make it a reality. One of them talked about an amazing tool they have developed to help UN agencies and others access information about the nexus between development and the rule of law. It is called the LexisNexis Rule of Law Impact Tracker. The tracker uses current data from the World Bank, the World Justice Project and Transparency International, scoring countries against 44 indicators across eight categories. It is free and available to anyone who needs this information.

In the 102 countries appearing in the index, the data indicates that, when the Rule of Law is strong in a country, GDP per capita increases and life expectancy increases. The data also shows that a strong Rule of Law correlates to lowered child mortality, lowered homicide rates, and lower levels of corruption. We know that countries are often reluctant to work with UNDP on rule of law, human rights and governance issues, and that it can be a struggle for UNDP to push these issues at the country level, but as we continue to witness the incredible destructive power that conflict, political crises and communal violence have to throw countries off the path to sustainable development, we again call on UNDP to leverage its influence and presence on the ground and show leadership in this fight to ensure that hard won development gains are not wiped away because a government cannot or will not respect the rights of all its people.

With regard to the mechanics of the new system, as the new relationship between agencies and the new UN coordination structure unfolds, we urge pragmatic and phased approaches to shape them in ways that will foster flexibility and agility, while keeping development results in focus. We recognize the need for greater coherence and coordination among and across agencies to reduce wasteful duplication and gain efficiencies, and stress that the new system should be implemented, tested, and assessed at the country level.

Going forward, this Executive Board is and will remain the authoritative, global decision-making body for UNDP, and UNDP management remains accountable to this Board, but we remain strongly supportive of innovation and coordination to ensure the most effective oversight of UNDP’s work. To this end, there are several management, oversight and operational issues that deserve particular attention.

The Administrator has provided valuable support to the work of the Independent Evaluation Office, IEO, which serves an important accountability and learning function for UNDP. UNDP management needs to work with IEO to evaluate UNDP’s prevention work, as I mentioned earlier in my remarks, and we would like to hear how the management and IEO intends to do so.

The Code of Ethics last year was a milestone achievement, a result of the cooperation between the Ethics Office and management to create a culture of high ethical standards at UNDP. We encourage senior management to continue providing support to the Ethics Office and helping to address the office’s growing staffing demands.

UNDP must continue to assess its workplace environment and promote ethical conduct, including encouraging staff to report misconduct without fear of retaliation. This obviously includes allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse and workplace harassment, which UNDP must address in a meaningful fashion. In this regard, we would like to thank the Ethics Office for contributing to improved organizational policies through its work in UNDP’s Working Group on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and in the Workplace Harassment Working Group.

Finally, we would like to highlight several recurring audit findings in the report of the Office of Audit and Investigation, OAI. Weaknesses in project management, monitoring and procurement represent some of UNDP’s most vulnerable problems and, more importantly, they have the potential to sidetrack UNDP’s work and risk its reputation. We urge management to treat these issues seriously and find durable solutions.

Mr. President, the United States remains supportive of the good work that UNDP is doing, commends your leadership, and that of Administrator Steiner and his team, and looks forward to working with you, member states, and UNDP management to make this a productive Board session.

Thank you.