UNDP Administrator Steiner on UN reform, UNDP strategy, and humanitarian aid nexus

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner on U.N. reform. Via YouTube.

NEW YORK — The United Nations Development Programme is busy rolling out its new strategy, with pressure to implement it rapidly as broader U.N. reforms are set to go into effect at the start of 2019, said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.

“We need to reinvent the way we think about development, about development partnerships, and cooperation,” he told Devex Sunday at the Social Good Summit. “We need to build more on solutions, we need to focus less on problem definitions that we turn into logframes and then into projects and institutional mandates.”

In the past year, as he’s traveled and met with UNDP staff and partners, he has determined that development needs to be more attuned to what is already happening in countries — from what energizes people to where innovation is emerging. UNDP’s job is to help people with ideas for their communities, connect them to best practices, and partner with governments to bring those people into the process of co-creating and co-designing solutions, Steiner said.

UNDP is also ready to take on its role within U.N. reform, as prescribed by the secretary-general and member states, and deliver its part, he said. UNDP will be working to connect what is happening locally with what is happening globally and to mobilize finance “to not only allow ideas and plans to be developed but for them to actually become implementable,” Steiner said.

UNDP is focused now on helping countries mobilize finance through private sector finance, financial markets and helping them align financing with Sustainable Development Goals’ outcomes, he said.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner on aligning humanitarian aid and development. Via YouTube.

In the past year, UNDP, along with the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has been working to bridge the humanitarian-development divide. Steiner has traveled to Somalia and Ethiopia with OCHA chief Mark Lowcock and they have another trip coming up. But Steiner is committed to the work being more than an appeal, and teams at both agencies are looking at how to overcome some of the traditional barriers.

Steiner pointed to the recent Lake Chad pledging conference, where donors pledged funding both for humanitarian support and for development work, as an indication that the systems are changing.

“[It’s] simply common sense that when you do humanitarian support, you should always already be thinking about how countries can recover in development terms and vice versa,” he said. “I don't think it needs much explanation, it’s more in the institutional inertia and the way we fund it that we have lost so many opportunities.”

Steiner sees UNDP as a key player in ensuring better integration between humanitarian aid and development and recently appointed a new assistant secretary-general to lead the agency’s crisis bureau, to send a signal of the commitment.

NCDs. Climate change. Financing. Read more of Devex's coverage from the 73rd U.N. General Assembly here.

About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is a Senior Reporter at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.