Helen Clark: Speech at the Opening Session of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS Cluster Meeting

Apr 23, 2015

Let me begin by expressing my deep appreciation to the Government of Turkey, and to Ambassador Yunt for his participation in the opening of this important Regional Meeting for UNDP in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

As has been emphasized earlier today during the official inauguration of UNDP’s regional hub here in Istanbul, the partnership between UNDP and the Government of Turkey has evolved over almost sixty years into one which is dynamic at every level: global, regional, and national. The partnership which we have with your government, Ambassador, demonstrates to us the great potential which exists in working hand-in-hand with an upper middle-income country, both within the country and through South-South Co-operation to direct expertise, knowledge, and resources to address global development challenges.

Allow me at the outset to highlight some examples of recent joint endeavours between the Government of Turkey and UNDP which are so relevant to our discussions today. There have been:

- the regional consultations on “Perspectives from Europe and Central Asia on the post-2015 development agenda”, bringing together 350 participants from forty countries;

- the conference on “International Development Co-operation: Trends and Emerging Opportunities – Perspectives of the new actors”, co-organised with the Turkish Co-operation and Co-ordination Agency, TIKA, in June 2014; and

- the conference on “Scaling up Sustainable Energy Solutions – The Role of the Private Sector”, in May last year, co-organised with Turkey’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and the Islamic Development Bank.

The issues around which Turkey and UNDP have jointly convened major meetings are directly relevant to the post-2015 agenda. We look forward, Mr. Ambassador, to the future co-operation between Turkey and UNDP which I know will continue to inform and contribute to dynamic regional and global discussion on development as we move to implement a new sustainable development agenda.

It is truly a pleasure to be at this important meeting of our Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, which brings together our senior Bureau management; senior colleagues from other UNDP Bureaux, UN agencies, and the UN Secretariat; high level guests from Turkey, Moldova, Albania, and the Kyrgyz Republic ; and RC/RRs, Country Directors, and DRRs from across the region. In addition to spending time in Turkey this week, I have had the opportunity during the past year to visit a number of countries in the region: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Serbia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

In each and every visit, it has been good to see how UNDP and the broader UN development system have positioned themselves to support our national partners in seeking and implementing solutions to development challenges. I see development co-operation between countries within the region growing fast. The large economies of Russia and Turkey have been rapidly growing their co-operation with others, and we also see growing interest from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Romania, and others. Over the years, UNDP has had long-standing co-operation through ODA-related trust funds with the Czech Republic, Hungary, and the Slovak Republic. We have been keen to grow partnerships like these with other former programme countries which have entered or aspire to enter the European Union.

In the region, we see considerable interest from governments and civil society in innovative development solutions – whether as a means to combat corruption, link vulnerable populations to sustainable and affordable access to energy, influence local level decision-making on investments and infrastructure, or increase women’s economic empowerment and access to justice. We see the capacities of many local administrations strengthening, and thereby improving the availability and delivery of services to people and communities.

National consultations on the post-2015 agenda in the region have been robust and inclusive. In the past year, twelve RBEC countries conducted in-depth consultations, and the Government of Moldova co-chaired the global consultation on means of implementation just last month.

UNDP has been responding actively to new challenges; for example by contributing to the Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment in Ukraine; in support for communities hosting Syrian refugees in southeastern Turkey, to which Turkey itself has made a massive contribution; and in responses to the devastating flooding experienced last year in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia.

I am pleased to see that the efforts of UNDP in this region in response to all crises – whether caused by conflict, natural disaster, or any other factor - always aim to build the foundations for development, and to build resilience to future events. These issues will be important elements of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May next year, and are already being discussed in regional consultations, such as the one which will be hosted by Tajikistan this July for the countries of South and Central Asia.

Throughout all my visits, I have been impressed by the dedication of UNDP’s leadership and our Country Office staff. All work tirelessly to deliver results in everything we do – in supporting recovery from crises and building future resilience, inclusive and sustainable development, and effective and responsive governance.

At this time, the rather widespread impact of the currency crisis in the region and the spillover impact of slower growth in Russia are testing many countries’ resilience to macro-economic shocks. The socio-economic impact has been especially hard on the most vulnerable and marginalized populations. Inequalities between regions, genders, and age groups, and inequalities flowing from ethnic and other factors, remain a persistent reality in a number of countries. Given the focus in the emerging post-2015 agenda on leaving no one behind, it is timely that RBEC’s next Regional Human Development Report will focus on inequalities, building on the numerous experiences our staff have in tackling these challenges.

All the issues which our Country Offices in Europe and the CIS are working with national partners to address – from governance, rule of law, and human rights to poverty eradication, local development, inequalities, sustainable development, climate change, disaster response, building resilience, and more – are at the heart of UNDP’s current global Strategic Plan. They are at the heart of the vision of a UNDP which is a relevant and high quality development partner to its national and international counterparts. They are at the core of how UNDP is positioned, and how we commit to supporting countries as they pursue development plans and priorities which are sustainable and inclusive, and build resilience to shocks.

Country Offices around the world have reviewed the focus, design, and management of their programmes and projects to ensure that they are well-aligned with both countries’ needs and the new Strategic Plan. It has also required staff to invest more time and intellectual effort in ensuring that UNDP’s contribution to national efforts is results-oriented and measurable. As well, eleven Country Offices in this region have been working within UN Country Teams and with national and international partners to develop new UN Development Assistance Frameworks and new UNDP Country Programme Documents for the next five years. Our colleagues in Pristina are also developing a common programming framework.

Many changes have also been taking place in other parts of UNDP to support our delivery on the new Strategic Plan. Across Central and Regional Bureaux, we have been working to break down silos, and to relocate more staff in both regional hubs and in global centres outside New York. The inauguration of our new regional hub here this morning and the strength of UNDP’s presence now in Istanbul reflect these changes. We have also put in place a new and comprehensive internal accountability framework, which enables all in the organization to see where accountability for processes and results lies.

Ultimately, our reformed structures, efforts to build a more collaborative culture, and new processes are about delivering more effective, integrated, and coherent support to Country Offices so that, in turn, they can deliver more substantive and high quality development results more efficiently to partners.

We have also been conscious of positioning UNDP and the UN development system overall as leaders in the roll out and implementation of the new global development agenda. I describe 2015 as a “once in a generation” year for development, with major global processes setting priorities for the next generation. The first of these, the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, has already been held in Sendai, Japan. The last of these will be COP 21 in Paris in December where a new global agreement on tackling climate change is due to be reached. In between are the Third International Summit on Financing for Development in July in Addis Ababa, and the Special Summit on Sustainable Development in New York in September. Success across these processes would renew confidence in multilateralism at a time when there are many challenges to be addressed around our world.

At this meeting, the SDGs, and their global and national implications, will be discussed in the panel, which Cihan Sultanoglu will chair, with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova and the State Secretary of the Ministry of Economy from the Kyrgyz Republic. This is a good opportunity to explore how the proposed SDGs relate to this region, building on the important consultations already undertaken at the regional and national levels.

At the disaster risk reduction conference in Sendai, UN Member States agreed on a successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action. UNDP was prominent at the conference with quality presentations and new reports. Our tagline was: “If it’s not risk informed, it’s not sustainable development”. We are putting risk governance and management at the centre of our work on disaster risk reduction, and plan to help prevent, mitigate, and prepare for disasters in fifty countries over the next ten years – in our new 5-10-50 global programme.

For Addis Ababa in July at the financing for development conference, we are advocating a “Monterrey Plus” approach which acknowledges the important role of ODA, but also looks beyond it to the other far larger sources of financing which must come from domestic resource mobilization, loans, investments, and other mechanisms, including those of climate finance. ODA currently stands at just over $135 billion per annum. UNCTAD estimates the investment requirement for developing countries over the life of the SDGs to be US$3.3 to US$4.5 trillion per annum.

We also advocate consideration at Addis Ababa of how to manage risk better in development, taking into account that volatility is now the new normal in geo-economics, geopolitics, and our climate ecosystem. We believe that the role of private sector financing and investment partnerships must be central to development finance discussions. The Government of Turkey makes a vital contribution to UNDP’s thinking and action in this area through its support for the UNDP Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development.

As the largest implementer of climate change projects in the UN system, with a portfolio of $1.3 billion across more than 140 countries, UNDP will continue to support developing countries’ efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change in practical ways. Success at the Paris COP21 will be vital for the success of the post-2015 development agenda too. Climate change impacts the most on the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries. Poverty will not be eradicated if they remain so exposed to growing climate-related hazards which they did so little, if anything, to create.

It is critical that all countries now make ambitious national commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and that progress continues on capitalizing the Green Climate Fund (GCF). At UNDP, we are delighted to be among the very small first group of agencies to be approved as accredited entities for the GCF. During this Regional Meeting, there is a session dedicated to sustainability, climate change, and disaster risk reduction, which will also include an important discussion on climate finance.

Around the world, UNDP is well placed to help programme countries deliver on all the major global development-related agendas agreed this year. Our expertise and experience across poverty reduction, MDG implementation, governance and rule of law, and building resilience, along with our knowledge networks and co-ordination role within the UNDG, make us well equipped to help countries deliver the integrated sustainable development solutions required to meet the SDGs. The SDG agenda is an opportunity to strengthen and deepen our policy and programme support to national partners.

So, 2015 is a significant year, and these are complex and unpredictable times. But I am fully confident that under the leadership of Cihan and Olivier, and with the support of all our senior staff gathered here today, RBEC will deliver on the Strategic Plan, and will continue to support and advance national and global human and sustainable development priorities.

Let me share with you a few observations on RBEC, and my expectations for your priorities and continued successes.

As a Bureau working within a predominantly middle-income context, you have accumulated a wealth of experience in and developed a culture of working with very low core funding. As a result, you know how to build strong partnerships, you know how to deliver quality results, and you know how to ensure that UNDP is a relevant partner. It is no accident that this Bureau’s operations across the region can leverage US$14.5 from partners for every US$1 of core funding received. As the whole of UNDP is increasingly working in a low core funding environment, RBEC’s experience in leveraging resources and partnerships is one from which others can learn. Your strong partnership with the European Commission is critical: the total amount of EU-UNDP contracts signed between RBEC and the European Union for this region totaled more than 154 million Euros in 2014, on the strength of our strong relationships with national partners, delegations, and the Commission in Brussels.

Over time, RBEC has also laid the groundwork for UNDP to step up support for South-South Co-operation and for partnerships with emerging development contributors. This work began with helping to build the ODA capacities of new EU Member States rather more than a decade ago. In recent years, we have developed global strategic partnerships with Turkey and Russia. The meeting which RBEC co-organised last June with TIKA on emerging development partners was an invaluable contribution to advancing this agenda globally, and to making concrete recommendations to the UN Development Co-operation Forum last July.

RBEC is also known as a leading innovator in UNDP. Our global Budva Declaration on Innovation was born in November 2013 in Montenegro, and committed us to deepen our exploration and use of innovative approaches to development. Innovation abounds in our Country Offices in this region, and I look forward to seeing and hearing of many more examples like those I was briefed on during my visit to Armenia last September.

RBEC delivers. I was very pleased to see that notwithstanding the many challenges the region has faced this past year, the Bureau exceeded its original delivery plans. Please accept my profound thanks to you and your teams for this achievement.

Finally, a word about this Regional Meeting – it occurs as major new global agendas are being negotiated and in uncertain times. It comes as we know we must do more with more constrained core funding. The quality of our communications is critical. Our partnerships with national counterparts, the UN system, donors, and the wide range of other development actors matter a great deal. You will be discussing all of these matters in the coming days. I hope the outcome will enable RBEC to build on its high quality work across the region, and I wish you all a happy and constructive meeting and a very successful 2015.

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