Low on cash, UNDP plans reorganization

Helen Clark, United Nations Development Program administrator. Photo by: Cynulliad Cymru / National Assembly For Wales / CC BY

The United Nations Development Program may look a little differently in the future, based on recent remarks by its top official.

The agency is developing a new strategic plan, and “the work on the plan is progressing steadily,” Administrator Helen Clark said Jan. 28 at the first regular session of the UNDP executive board.

The reorganization appears to be partly inspired by the agency’s tough budgetary situation: Core funding has been lower than expected in recent years, and is expected to fall further this year.

“This trend is a serious concern,” Clark told her colleagues. “Wishing that the outlook was better, however, does not deposit funds in our bank account. Therefore, UNDP is taking all necessary measures to keep spending within the new resource planning envelope. We estimate that a $50 million dollar cut from previously planned spending will be needed this year to keep UNDP’s core liquidity balance at a minimum of three months at the end of the year. If necessary, at the mid-year point, we will make further adjustments, either up or down. Just as member states have to make critical decisions about spending priorities, so must UNDP.”

Under the proposed road map, Clark said, the agency will shift the focus of its operations from so-called practice areas to “development issues which UNDP is well-placed to address.”

Currently, UNDP’s activities center around poverty reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, democratic governance, crisis prevention and recovery, and environment and energy for sustainable development. Clark’s speech suggests the new strategic plan would sharpen its focus on poverty alleviation, sustainable human development and gender equity, among other issuess.

In the future, UNDP, according to Clark, will pursue “innovative” approaches to partnerships, encouraging more South-South collaboration and ensuring partnerships are diverse. The program already collaborates with international financing institutions, developing country governments, other U.N. agencies, the private sector, charitable institutions, civil society organizations, and regional and local authorities.

To realize these goals, UNDP needs to make organization changes, such as having a fully developed talent management system, better aligning its various budgeting and reporting systems, and becoming more cost-conscious, Clark said.

“The plan we present to the [executive] board for approval [in September] will need to be both substantively coherent and organizationally achievable. I am confident that we can achieve this with your support,” Clark said. “The positive way in which board members have engaged with UNDP on the plan to date bodes well.”

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.