MANILA — Economic growth in Asia-Pacific countries over the past two to three decades has led to significant changes in how donors, aid agencies, and other actors perceive their roles in the region’s development.
That includes the U.N. Development Programme.
“We have a strong realization that, along with the growth of our economy in Asia-Pacific, the capacity within governments has also increased significantly,” said Haoliang Xu, U.N. assistant secretary-general and regional director for Asia and the Pacific at the UNDP.
“The traditional ODA and our development cooperation modalities are based on what we can offer to our governments in terms of funding and technical advice. But as the capacity of our governments has grown, our traditional business model is also being called into question,” he told Devex earlier this month during a UNDP-hosted regional knowledge exchange in the Philippines on the 2030 Agenda.
This has prompted changes in how the UNDP perceives its role and positions itself in the region. Over the past few years, Xu said, the organization has examined different aspects of its work to adapt to new realities, and to the changing needs of governments and partners in Asia Pacific.
“We realize we have to adapt to the change, and we have to look at our value added in everything we do,” he said.
This includes innovation in the way the UNDP, governments, and development partners do business, but also in its role in the expanding market of development finance. The UNDP has also started working with traditional and nontraditional donors, including in promoting the agenda of South-South cooperation.
“What we’re saying is we can help some of these countries to spend their South-South cooperation funding multilaterally to achieve a very big impact, to complement their bilateral efforts,” the senior U.N. official said. “We have a network of countries [and] can bring relevant development experience across the globe, [so] we can add value to their kind of bilateral South-South cooperation efforts. That’s what we’re trying to do with India, China.”
Xu said the UNDP has also started focusing on “megatrends” significant to development in the Asia-Pacific, such as climate change, urbanization, and innovative technologies, to stay “ahead of the curve” and continue to add value to governments and partners.
Watch the video above to learn more about how the UNDP is shifting its work in the region.
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