Distinguished Members of the Executive Board, Member States and Colleagues
On behalf of UNDP management, I would like to thank Director Oscar Garcia and his team at the Independent Evaluation Office for their useful and timely findings and recommendations on UNDP’s support in conflict-affected countries. We look forward to the discussion with Executive Board members today.
The recommendations will be used as inputs into UNDP’s new Framework for Development Solutions for Crisis and Fragility (“Crisis and Fragility Framework”), which will guide UNDP’s work in crisis contexts going forward, supported by a number of new policy and programme offers from the Global Policy Network, and will inform the next Strategic Plan 2022-2025.
The evaluation covered a period that saw an unprecedented rise in conflict, violent extremism and climate-related tensions, as well as the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to have overwhelming human, social and economic costs. 2020 should have been a milestone year for development as we entered the Decade of Action. Instead, we witnessed the reversal of hard fought development gains, with increases in poverty, inequality and displacement, threatening peace, security and social cohesion.
In an increasingly fragile world, UNDP must prioritize its work to tackle crises and conflicts – leveraging our unique presence and mandate. We must invest in prevention, addressing the drivers of fragility, building sustainable peace, and expediting recovery from crises and shocks.
Thankfully, we have a strong foundation to build on.
UNDP supports all 57 countries/territories identified in the 2020 OECD “States of Fragility” report – including the 34 countries covered in this evaluation – in the areas of conflict prevention, recovery, stabilization and transition to development. UNDP spends over half of its budget each year in fragile contexts, in which nine of our 10 largest country offices are located.
With an emphasis on resilience-building, UNDP supports a range of initiatives in conflict-affected countries to contribute to peace, economic revitalization and inclusive governance. UNDP promotes an integrated approach linking conflict prevention, climate security, social cohesion and peacebuilding, informed by in-depth analyses of local root causes and drivers of conflict, including violent extremism and radicalization. For example, UNDP recently published two guidance notes on social cohesion and on insider mediation, both of which are being deployed to strengthen our work at the country level, bringing divided communities together, and building national capacities for both conflict prevention and COVID-19 response. In addition, in close collaboration with the UNSDG, we have also led the finalization of guidance on conflict sensitivity, peacebuilding and sustaining peace.
Early action is a pre-requisite for a good prevention strategy and early warning mechanisms are key to help move from reacting to preventing. To move the needle on this, the Crisis Bureau has engaged country leadership in all regions to build our country office capacity to be better prepared for rapidly shifting contexts, to ensure conflict sensitivity and social cohesion are strongly embedded in all of our programming.
On the ground, in its integrator role, UNDP supports UN country teams to develop multidimensional development approaches to address a range of conflict-related issues. UNDP also supports a number of inter-agency platforms to support the UN System – including peace and development, transitions, rule of law and human rights. Together with DPPA, UNDP is supporting more than 80 countries on conflict prevention, deploying 61 Peace and Development Advisors (PDAs) to Resident Coordinator Offices and six Regional Specialists to regional UNDP, DPPA and DCO offices. UNDP is also part of the Climate Security Mechanism (with UNEP and DPPA), where we work across the UN system to address security risks that arise from climate change.
Reflection on evaluation findings
Noting the complexity of the country contexts we operate in, UNDP is pleased to note the evaluation’s positive findings on the extent to which UNDP responded to key priorities in conflict-affected countries, demonstrating the value of its support in enabling peace and accelerating development.
The evaluation found that UNDP has made important contributions to stabilize, build and strengthen institutions, that enable processes for inclusive governance, rule of law and peacebuilding. UNDP responded to a wide range of contexts, supporting national and international partners, and filling critical gaps across the spectrum of recovery and stabilization, through effective interventions in such areas as strengthening core government functions, restoring services and providing temporary employment and livelihoods, thereby promoting synergies across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus.
The evaluation also noted that the creation of the Crisis Bureau in late 2018 has provided a much-needed anchor to drive UNDP’s support in crisis countries, policy coherence, partnership development, strengthening of programmes, tools, resources, communities of practice and repositioning UNDP following the UNDS reforms.
Since its establishment, the Crisis Bureau has consolidated teams in headquarters and all regional hubs. These new capacities and expertise have strengthened UNDP’s ability to address root causes and conflict drivers, supporting conflict-affected countries to overcome development deficits and reduce vulnerabilities, and prioritizing improved alignment and coherence of humanitarian, development and peacebuilding efforts/actors.
I am also pleased to share that the Crisis Bureau has strengthened UNDP’s operational capacity and performance in crisis contexts, guided by best practice standard operating procedures (SOPs), and supported by a pool of trained SURGE Advisers and experts to ensure the right people were in the right place at the right time. A recent example – over 800 successful deployments were carried out in 2020 to support UNDP’s crisis responses, including on COVID-19.
UNDP Management Response and actions
I am pleased to confirm that UNDP management accepts all of the recommendations in the evaluation, and progress on many is already well underway.
UNDP agrees with the first recommendation aiming to bolster UNDP’s approach to sustainable peace and promote the humanitarian-development-peace (HDP) nexus approach. UNDP will address this in the upcoming Crisis and Fragility Framework, to drive the Decade of Action in crisis settings in line with UNDP’s comparative advantage, and based on a fit-for-purpose business model in these high-risk, complex operating environments, with upgraded programming models and solutions for nexus implementation at country and local levels. Consultations, including with Member States, on the development of the Crisis and Fragility Framework are being organized.
On strengthening the HDP Nexus, UNDP continues to learn from successful practice on the ground, and will feed this learning into global processes, including through the Joint Steering Committee co-led by UNDP, as well as through other fora such as the IASC and INCAF. UNDP intends to play a key leadership and enabling role to build support for the nexus approach from global to local levels. We will work with actors across the HDP continuum to ensure we have the right incentives, tools, and guidance to deliver on the ground. To support the nexus across UN programming, UNDP will also ensure that CCA and UNSDCF processes are designed to address root and underlying causes of conflict, and focus on those most left behind more thoroughly. We are also working to make UNDP’s operational systems fit for purpose to support a nexus approach at country level.
UNDP also welcomes recommendation 2, to prioritize conflict prevention at the global and country levels across the three areas identified by the evaluation: prevention of violent extremism; multidimensional risk; and early warning. The new UNDP prevention offer will address conflict drivers, triggers and root causes, with risk-informed development, targeted prevention approaches and mainstreaming conflict sensitivity and social cohesion throughout the work of UNDP. Building on our existing partnerships – including with DPPA and the UN’s Peacebuilding Architecture, UNDP will roll out the new prevention offer in more than 30 countries over the next two years, across all five regions, and strengthen its partnerships across the system to promote a pivot towards prevention.
UNDP agrees with recommendation 3, encouraging coherence across UNDP to improve policy and programmatic responses across regions. UNDP has established the Crisis Bureau and the broader Global Policy Network (GPN) to enable the cross-practice, cross-bureau and multidisciplinary expertise needed to provide more effective responses to the complex development challenges that conflict-affected countries face in achieving the SDGs and responding to crisis in an integrated and coherent manner. This will also be captured in the upcoming Crisis and Fragility Framework, and supported by updated standard operating procedures.
UNDP has also begun to address recommendation 4, to expand and replicate conflict-sensitive longer-term employment and livelihood opportunities and policy engagement to de-risk inclusive growth. We are updating our gender-sensitive framework for livelihoods and economic recovery in fragile settings and will complement that with guidance on market and demand analysis, and scaled-up support to country offices, in line with the Humanitarian-Peace-Development nexus.
To realize recommendation 5, UNDP will continue promoting the importance of long-term governance interventions at the national and local levels as central to conflict prevention and peacebuilding, building on decades of thought leadership and programmatic experience in this area.
Over the past year, COVID-19 exposed deep inequalities and key social fissures in societies, weakening social cohesion. We have seen an increase in discrimination and hate speech, and some countries restricting freedom of expression. We have also seen the importance of locally-led solutions. To address this, UNDP will continue to support countries in developing accountable, responsive institutions at national and local levels, focused on deepening social contracts, and supporting the creation of governance systems of the future, including through digitalization and social innovations. To support this work, UNDP is revising its governance approach, including a renewed local governance offer to accelerate peacebuilding and prevention, and working with partners to strengthen funding mechanisms for electoral support.
UNDP also welcomes recommendation 6, to scale up our response in the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions. UNDP has operationalized a Level 3 crisis response in the Sahel to strengthen capacities there to support regional stabilization and accelerate the return of displaced people to their communities by providing basic social services and economic opportunities. UNDP has developed three flagship programmes in the areas of energy, youth empowerment and governance, which includes strengthening core government functions to reinforce the capacities of local institutions to support peacebuilding efforts. In the Horn of Africa, the newly established Resilience Hub in Nairobi is undertaking regular analyses to improve cross-border programming through the new Borderlands Centre.
UNDP will implement recommendation 7 to consolidate its stabilization programmes, and make sure that they are anchored in longer-term peace and development efforts. Over the past five years, informed by the extensive stabilization work in Iraq and Libya, UNDP has elevated its lessons learned into organization-wide practice to guide new generations of stabilization programming, including in the Lake Chad basin, the Liptako-Gourma region of the Sahel and contexts like Yemen. UNDP is also adapting those lessons into new guidance to anchor programmes within a peace and development framework.
UNDP welcomes recommendation 8 and will continue to strengthen partnerships at the global level, including with the UN system, IFIs and donors, with an upcoming partnership review to guide the Crisis and Fragility Framework, and through flagship partnerships on Building National Capacities for Conflict Prevention, Transition Planning and Global Programme on Rule of Law and Human Rights. Partnerships will be key across all of the evaluation recommendations. For example, UNDP is working closely with other UN agencies (UNICEF, WFP, IOM and UNFPA) on the HDP Nexus to strengthen synergies and complementarities including through shared advocacy work, tools, and field support packages. UNDP is building on existing UN partnerships in mission transitions, and strengthening collaboration with the UN’s peace and security pillar. UNDP is also strengthening its partnerships with the World Bank, and IFIs (building on extensive collaboration during COVID-19 response), and bilateral donors on key areas of prevention and response, leveraging UNDP’s comparative advantage (e.g. post-crisis needs assessments with European Union and World Bank).
UNDP notes the importance of recommendation 9, to prioritize private sector engagement, investment and development. This was a common priority identified across the three evaluations and will be implemented in line with UNDP’s private sector strategy and new livelihoods and economic recovery policy and programmatic offer, with a focus on inclusive business and markets.
In fragile and conflict-affected contexts, UNDP will prioritize partnerships with other UN agencies and IFIs to design and finance conflict-sensitive programmes to: (a) help restore market functions quickly; (b) support the creation of a basic enabling environment for businesses and value chains; (c) build the resilience of the private sector against shocks and design innovative private sector finance solutions to reduce risk; and (d) engage the local private sector in crisis prevention, preparedness, response and recovery efforts. These programmes and strategies will be coordinated with ongoing conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts and will focus on gender-transformative interventions and inclusive processes for youth, women and other marginalized populations.
Finally, UNDP welcomes recommendation 10, to prioritize support for gender equality and women’s empowerment in crisis contexts. To address this, UNDP will launch a new gender and crisis facility soon to serve as a one-stop-shop to strengthen UNDP’s GEWE support in crisis contexts, enabling gender-inclusive solutions, addressing the drivers of gender inequality, improving the effectiveness of gender-responsive and gender-transformative interventions, including through a crisis-specific Gender Equality Seal Certification Programme, and implementing the Security Council’s Women, Peace and Security recommendations. The Facility will work across UNDP (including the GPN and Regional Bureaus) to support country-level results in four transformational outcome areas of work: i) women’s economic empowerment, ii) leadership and participation, iii) human rights and access to justice, and iv) gender-responsive policies.
In conclusion, we are confident that the new policy and programme offers that we are finalizing respond directly to the evaluation’s recommendations to strengthen UNDP’s work in conflict-affected countries and feed into the next Strategic Plan.
In addition to the new Crisis and Fragility Framework and new offers on prevention, risk-informed development and integrated governance, UNDP will also roll out new approaches on the HDP Nexus, livelihoods and economic recovery, stabilization and peacebuilding, private sector, and gender and crisis.
UNDP’s strengthened operational response systems will ensure that we are “fit for fragility” across the range of crisis situations. New cadres of experienced crisis professionals are currently being identified and trained through the Global Policy Network and the UNDP Surge Academy. Specific modalities for operational support to country offices’ delivery in critical areas such as procurement, human resources and information technology are being supported by the SURGE Delivery Lab, integrating and clustering business processes to support multiple conflict-affected countries. Our procedures are being updated to guide UNDP actions in an increasing range of situations, including protracted crises.
We appreciate the guidance provided by this evaluation, together with the recommendations of the Syria 3RP and climate adaptation evaluations. These, together with lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic in fragile contexts, where the impacts are further frustrating pathways to peace and development and reversing development gains, will help us to ensure that UNDP and the UN development system are better fit for purpose in this Decade of Action towards the 2030 agenda.
The new UNDP Strategic Plan 2022-2025 will be an opportunity to recalibrate UNDP’s approach to working in crisis and fragile contexts, informed by the recommendations of this evaluation and today’s discussion.
We look forward to working with you and all partners to take this important work forward and welcome your questions and comments.
Source: UN Development Programme