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As prepared for delivery

Mr. President,

Members of the Executive Board,

Colleagues and friends,

I welcome you to this first regular session of the UNDP Executive Board in 2020.

Allow me to begin by congratulating His Excellency Mr. Walton Webson, the Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda, on his election as the President of the Board.

At the same time, I would like to express my gratitude to the outgoing President, His Excellency Mr. Cho Tae-yul, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea, for his dedicated leadership of the Board in 2019.

I also thank all outgoing Bureau members for all their invaluable support, and warmly welcome our new Bureau members for 2020.

Is chocolate the way to a fair and just world?

Many of you may be wondering why you have a chocolate bar in front of you today. This is called The Other Bar. Produced in Ecuador and powered by UNDP's Country Investment Facility and the FairChain Foundation, The Other Bar is designed to help consumers take a bite out of poverty through the simple act of buying chocolate and using blockchain technology.

This bar ensures farmers are paid prices that meet real income needs. And on the wrapper of each bar you will find a block-chain token. If you scan four of these tokens, you will help a farmer to buy a cocoa tree.

One tree can produce cocoa worth $19 to the farmer, so they can grow more, earn more and feed their family. That same tree will absorb and store carbon dioxide and help to tackle climate change. To me, this bar is a good example of integrated, sustainable development and a model that we are working to apply to many other products and services.

The challenges between here and the SDG deadline are great, as set out by the Secretary-General in his address to the General Assembly earlier this month. As we commence a Decade of Action for the SDGs, our job is to look to the multitude of examples of what success looks like such as The Other Bar and move at speed and at scale to build the future of development together.

Against that context, in my statement today, I will:

Look back at UNDP's development performance in 2019.

Share with you how we are changing as an institution by improving current capabilities and investing in new ones.

Update you on what is ahead in 2020, as the Decade of Action for the SDGs gets underway.

1) Looking back at 2019 closing out a tumultuous decade

2019, just like the decade it ended, was a year of turbulence and unrest. From Algeria to Argentina, Chile to Colombia, Iraq to Iran, waves of movements, led primarily by young people, lifted the lid on disillusionment, indignity and frustration; on unmet needs and unheeded rights.

These events took place against a complex development context characterized by some great advances, but also some significant fallbacks.

For example, after 15 years of growth in the region of Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, the middle class shrank, as more people dropped out of the middle class than joined it; in the Arab States, the number of people exposed to forced displacement more than doubled; and in Latin America and the Caribbean income inequality decreased across the region, though data on citizen's perceptions of fairness and inequality suggest the opposite.

It is in this complex, diverse context that UNDP works to implement its Strategic Plan and six signature solutions. I'm pleased to convey that our development performance against the Strategic Plan is on track delivering strong development results in 2019 against the three development outcomes of the Plan

As we move through its implementation, we are working with our partners to tackle some of the most complex, multi-dimensional, and deep-rooted development challenges of the decade, including inequality, climate change, and the root causes of migration and forced displacement.

Inequality

On inequality, with the launch in Colombia with President Ivan Duque of UNDP's Human Development Report last December, UNDP offered a new lens to understand why people are coming out on the streets and what -- by looking beyond income, beyond averages and beyond today can be done about it.

I am grateful to all those partners with whom we collaborated on this excellent piece of research, which garnered extensive media coverage with a potential reach of 750 million people.

At the same time, in 2019, UNDP took an integrated approach to tackling inequality, exclusion and the multiple dimensions of poverty, including by supporting one in three parliaments of the world to promote inclusion, supporting the effective engagement of civil society in achieving the SDGs, and strengthening systems for human rights protection and promotion.

Some examples of our work are as follows:

In the Dominican Republic, UNDP and the Government partnered to develop an index measuring probable vulnerability to climate shocks;

In Senegal, through our Country Investment Facility, together with UNCDF, we supported investment clubs to help middle class Senegalese citizens and the Senegalese diaspora to invest in local economic development initiatives; and,

We supported Bangladesh and Cape Verde to make development and public finance data more accessible through online aps.

In 2019, UNDP also supported 89 countries to reform discriminatory laws and policies on HIV, TB and broader health issues that perpetuate exclusion and marginalization, while 6.8 million people received HIV testing and counselling with our support.

Meanwhile, we continued to promote a more integrated approach to gender equality across the SDGs. At the Nairobi Summit last year, marking the 25th Anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, I stressed the critical importance of providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health, reducing maternal deaths, and ending violence against women and girls the central focus of the Spotlight Initiative of the UN and the European Union (EU).

As the Human Development Report's 2019 Gender Inequality Index reiterated, progress on gender equality is actually slowing, and based on current trends, it will take 202 years to close the gender gap in economic opportunity alone.

We have demonstrated that UNDP is committed to play its part. We are rated as one of the best performing agencies within the UN system on the UN-SWAP 2.0, meeting or exceeding requirements for 88 per cent of performance indicators in 2018, while 73 Country Offices will be certified with UNDP's Gender Seal once the 2018-2019 programme is completed.

Climate change

On climate change, we demonstrated that we can lift our game beyond the sum of our projects, launching the Climate Promise last September, focused on Ambition, Acceleration and Mobilization.

Through the Promise, UNDP will help 100 countries to enhance their NDCs with a demonstrated increase in ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2020, in time to submit before COP26 in Glasgow.

Making $25m available for this support it is one of UNDP's direct contributions to the NDCs Partnership. We are working closely with key partners such as Germany, Sweden, Italy, Spain, the EU, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), IRENA, UNEP, FAO, UN-Habitat and others.

We are discussing enhancement with more than 120 countries, and support is already underway in in 88 countries, including 38 Least Developed Countries, 38 SIDS and 12 high-emitters.

A new phase of the Climate Promise will be launched this month: Mission 1.5 is a new mobile game to engage people on climate solutions and help them to choose actions for their country's NDC. We will make the results available to governments starting this summer to directly inform the NDC enhancement process.

UNDP's climate action support also extended beyond NDCs in 2019, working in and across our signature solutions. For example,

on resilience, UNDP helped 2.5 million people to access early warning systems and climate or disaster information, 54 countries to mainstream climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction in their national plans;

on gender, we worked with 97 countries to strengthen women's leadership and decision making in environmental management and with 74 countries to integrate gender into environment and climate policies, plans and frameworks; and,

On governance, with an integrated SDG team, UNDP worked hand-in-hand with the Uzbek government to address a number of SDG challenges in the shrinking Aral Sea region of Uzbekistan, building on local-government-led efforts to promote ecological and technological innovations in the basin.

We take such an integrated approach because, as we will discuss this afternoon in the context of the 'Super Year' of climate and nature action in 2020, we can no longer afford a false calculus of 'environment versus economy'.

UNDP is working hard to provide that support. For example, with financing from the environment and climate vertical funds approved in 2019, 37.5 million people are expected to benefit from UNDP engagement in 44 countries.

These integrated projects will help countries to avoid 275 million tons of CO2 emissions. That's the equivalent of taking 59 million cars off the road for a year.

Migration and Forced Displacement

On migration and forced displacement in 2019, UNDP continued to address the root causes behind why people move, holding as we do that migration should be a choice and forced displacement should end.

With the Scaling Fences report launched last October, UNDP gave voice to irregular migrants from Africa who were willing to overcome any barriers to make a perilous journey to Europe for better prospects.

In 2019, UNV also launched the Refugee UN Volunteer modality, both to bring talent into the UN workforce and to help empower refugees, while UNDP and UNHCR's global Rule of Law and Local Governance partnership continued to expand.

At the first ever Global Refugee Forum in December, UNDP set out three new targets to support the Global Compact on Refugees in 40 countries to: strengthen refugee solutions including strengthening local governance, rule of law, and human rights systems; promote decent work for all those on the move, including as part of our digital transformation; and, invest in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and development to address the root causes of forced displacement. This work is already underway, including in Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Turkey.

But the challenges are immense, with over 70.8 million people forcibly displaced today and conflict being one of the main drivers. And just as it drives people from their homes, it drives human development in reverse.

New data shows that Syria has lost 15% of its value on the Human Development Index since 2010, for example, while Libya shed 10% in the same period. And, a UNDP-commissioned study sets out that the ongoing conflict in Yemen has already reversed human development by 21 years.

It is possible for conflicts to come to an end. A fragile cease-fire is holding in Hodeidah, Yemen. A peace agreement is being implemented in Central African Republic. These are signs of hope.

But we must redouble our efforts, and invest in prevention as a path to long-term, sustainable development. This requires significant political and financial resources.

And yet, donors invest ten times less in conflict prevention than humanitarian assistance, according to the OECD, even though we know that prevention is cost-effective and works. Meanwhile, as the UN and World Bank Pathways for Peace report sets out, every dollar invested in peacebuilding generates 16 dollars in savings.

This year, therefore, UNDP will set out a renewed offer on prevention, building on our already extensive work to strengthen national capacities to prevent conflict, deepen social cohesion and build peace with over 50 countries, in close collaboration with our humanitarian, development and peacebuilding partners.

For example, in 2019, income generating activities of the UNDP-World Bank Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project benefited over 522,000 people, creating 1.5 million days of emergency work across the country, and expanding access to social services to over 1.3 million people.

UNDP is also working with partners to scaling up sub-regional and multi-country initiatives. In the Sahel, for example, the United Nations Integrated Strategy is helping to accelerate development and foster regional stability; and our approach with partners in the Lake Chad Basin is now being replicated in the Liptako Gourma region.

In 2020, UNDP is establishing an Africa Borderlands Programme to better guide and scale such efforts, supported by UNDP's Accelerator Lab in Nairobi.

I saw the importance of our work in this area during my trip to Sudan last week, and the difficult steps it takes to build a new social contract: from supporting women and youths' participation, to creating the conditions for jobs and for hope, to putting in place the systems people need to enjoy their human rights, including justice and rule of law systems.

This a critical window, and a fragile one. UNDP is committed to supporting Sudan in building that new social contract, as we are committed to supporting each of the 170 countries and territories we serve in making progress towards the SDGs. To do so, UNDP must be at its best.

That takes me to my second point: bringing UNDP to its fullest potential.

2) Bringing UNDP to its fullest potential

To achieve the ambitions of our Strategic Plan, we have taken systematic steps to ensure that our business model effectively and efficiently supports the delivery of our work. And we have much to report on.

We continue to improve current capabilities to strengthen our performance with UNDP entering 2020 on a strong footing, be it in terms of solid finances, enhanced accountability, more efficient operations and investing in people.

We are also focused on building new capacities through innovation be it through our Accelerator Labs, our new Finance Hub, or our digital strategy.

Allow me to elaborate first, on the performance side:

Solid finances

In 2019, we continued to ensure that the organization works within its budget and we are on track to balance the budget for the third year in a row, solidifying UNDP's financial stability and sustainability.

Though 2019 was a difficult transition year for UNDP, in which many leadership positions at the country office-level were vacant for a portion of the year, programme delivery improved as proportion of our overall budget, shifting from 88 per cent in 2018 to 93 per cent in 2019.

All Bureaus are delivering close to the internal targets they set at the beginning of last year. I want to make a special mention of the Regional Bureau for Africa which has exceeded its internal target, reaching over 1.1 billion in delivery in 2019.

These numbers indicate just how focused we are on responsible financial management, and how hard UNDP teams across the world worked in 2019 to manage a challenging transition year.

UNDP continued to strengthen our partnerships with governments and is deeply appreciative of the continued engagement and support of all our partners and contributors.

2019 marked the second year of increasing core contributions, estimated at $629 million with receivables, a $5m increase from 2018. We are grateful to our 52 Member States that contributed to core in 2019 (same number as in 2018). Multi-year commitments to core increased by 16 per cent, from $271 to $363 million.

UNDP also received $290 million in 2019 from development banks including the World Bank, the German national development bank, KfW, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and, for the first time, the Council of Europe Development Bank and the China Development Bank.

Meanwhile, there has also been a significant increase to UNDP from UN pooled funds, up by 22% from 2018 to 2019 a clear sign of how UNDP is working more jointly with others at the country level.

Unfortunately, despite these increases our total contributions in 2019 were lower compared to 2018 decreasing from $5.2bn to $4.7bn-. We look to your continued support to increase the level of core and non-core contributions.

Enhanced accountability

UNDP remains firmly committed to demonstrate the highest level of accountability for the resources entrusted to us.

To this end, we have reinvigorated our risk management body, chaired by the Associate Administrator, and strengthened our engagement on audit and evaluation.

As you know, UNDP received its 14th consecutive clean audit opinion from the United Nations Board of Auditors (UNBOA) for 2018, underlining UNDP's commitment to continuous improvement in financial management, transparency, and accountability.

UNCDF has also received unqualified (clean) audit opinion from the UNBOA on its financial statements for the year ending 2018, marking seven consecutive years of unqualified audit opinions.

I would like to thank UNBOA, the Independent Audit and Evaluation Advisory Committee, and the Executive Board for their constructive engagement on these issues, and UNDP personnel around the world who have worked tirelessly to maintain high standards on audit and related fiduciary management matters.

More efficient operations

We are significantly improving the quality and efficiency of our operations through business service clustering, with 57 processes currently performed by country offices soon being performed in global shared service centres. Once complete, business service clustering will reduce our audit recommendations at the country office level by approximately 65 per cent.

And to give you a sense of scale of this effort, we will, for example, be administering benefits and entitlements for 27,500 personnel and processing an estimated 600,000 vouchers for payments per year.

We also completed the roll out of our new Travel and Expense module that gives us a 44% efficiency gain compared to old manual system. A core part of our travel process that used to take 134 minutes now takes 59. We had 85,337 travel and expense transactions recorded last year in the new module, meaning that the overall time savings last year was 107,000 hours across the organization.

UNDP is also committed to supporting improvements in operations for UN Country Teams.

We have used our digital innovation capacity to rapidly develop a new platform for DCO that will accelerate the achievement of one of the Secretary- General's reform goals namely that all UNCTs to comply with an improved Business Operations Strategies (BOS) by 2021.

The platform and the revised guidance reduce the time to prepare a BOS from months to weeks and greatly improves quality. DCO aims to have 76 out of 131 UNCTs transitioned on the platform at the end of the year, with the remaining scheduled for next year. All of this powered by UNDP.

We have also launched a new Mobile Atlas App, which allows staff to review and approve transactions through their phones. Already more than 8,200 transactions were approved through mobile phones in 176 countries and locations since September 2019.

We will continue to use digital tools to empower our staff and make their work simpler and more efficient.

Investing in people

Crucially in 2019, UNDP's invested in its most valuable asset: its staff, through our new People for 2030 Strategy.

This included building a cadre of new leadership, with a full cohort of ASGs now in place, deploying 118 Resident Representatives (RRs) and 123 Deputy Resident Representatives (DRRs), selecting a further pool of 28 candidates for the RR pools and 42 for the DRR pool, and critically achieving gender parity at senior leadership levels.

We have now achieved full gender parity among staff and UN Volunteers (UNV). A challenge ahead is to reach gender parity across all levels, particularly staff at more senior professional levels P4 and above -- where we are, on average, five per cent below parity.

And we are working to create a more inclusive, safer workplace.

Through the UNDP-UNV Talent Programme, for example, from Armenia to Zimbabwe, 13 Young Professionals with Disabilities were deployed in 2019, fostering inclusion in their capacity as role models in the countries where they serve.

In 2019, work on the prevention of all forms of sexual misconduct continued apace with a new strategy and action plan. This includes additional investigators, an expanded external helpline, new SEA focal points in 25 high risk countries and a new pilot programme of respectful workplace facilitators in 24 countries to help create more inclusive work environments in our offices.

Walking the talk through greening

We also continue to green UNDP's business model, walking the talk on climate change.

Our ambitious Greening Moonshot aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by 2025 and 50 per cent by 2030.

As part of this effort, UNDP is working to build smart, green facilities, encouraging greening choices around electric vehicles, solar panels, sensors and artificial intelligence, and strengthening the capacity of our local operations partners to do the same. 14 green projects are already operational, bringing savings of approximately $300,000 annually (or ~700,000 kgCO2e/year).

This brings me to the Innovation side of our effort to strengthen our business model:

Injecting new capacity to connect and learn

After a mammoth effort last year, UNDP's Accelerator Lab Network is now up and running - a key part of #NextGenUNDP's improved business model.

Development solutions are being interrogated by embedded teams of entrepreneurs, engineers, data scientists, and grassroots innovators across 78 countries and territories.

We received 8,500 job applications for the Labs 8.5 times the number for traditional UNDP jobs. This is both indication of the excitement people feel about this new way of working, and the urgency of tackling complex development problems in a different way from air pollution in India, to out-migration in Serbia, to making electric vehicles more accessible in Namibia.

UNDP's Accelerator Labs Network is already garnering attention. Last week, it won the Apolitical 2019 Global Public Service Teams of the Year award for evidence-based policy, for example.

The Labs are part of UNDP's new Global Policy Network (GPN), which was rolled out in 2019. The GPN's communities of practice now connect over 8,800 UNDP colleagues, while the GPN's experts' roster brings together 5,000 vetted, high-quality development professionals across 110 areas of expertise, who can be mobilized quickly to support UNDP's work at country-level.

Digital transformation

The connectivity and responsiveness of the GPN will be enabled by UNDP's Digital Strategy, which is beginning to transform many parts of the organization.

Over 1,600 people in UNDP have completed a Digital Transformation Learning Programme, covering topics such as Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), big data, blockchain and innovation, and another 500 have completed a 'Masterclasses' in digital topics conducted in partnership with Unilever and INSEAD.

We have identified a new cohort of corporate digital initiatives, ranging from a blockchain-based platform to improve supply-chain transparency from small producers to consumers, to advanced visualization of the developmental impact of climate change. UNDP's new Information Technology (IT) strategy will also be rolled-out in 2020, focused on new ways of doing business.

UNV and UNDP are also working together to create a new digital platform with supervised AI to streamline volunteer recruitment and management services to UN partners.

And as you know from the informal meetings, beginning in 2020, we are now using A.I. - particularly through supervised Machine Learning -- to help interrogate UNDP's 2018 and 2019 results, to generate better insights, identify trends, share insight, and improve strategic planning and results at all levels in UNDP. This capacity will help us to better understand not only where we are doing well, but where we are not, and, even more importantly, why.

I know your teams had a preview of this new corporate tool at the informal meeting on the Mid-Term Review of UNDP's Strategic Plan last week.

Let me take this opportunity to stress the importance UNDP attaches to this MTR, which will help to ensure that UNDP's license to operate is fully effective and future focused. Further sessions with the Board on the MTR are planned later in February to consider the emerging data and help to prepare the combined 2018-2019 results that will be delivered to the June Board. The continued support and engagement of the Executive Board will be critical.

Driving financial innovation

Another critical component of our new capabilities is UNDP's new Finance Sector Hub.

Launched in 2019, it is designed to help both UNDP and our partners to better finance the change needed to achieve the SDGs. It draws together our work across initiatives such as Tax Inspectors Without Borders, the Insurance Development Forum, our work to support countries in developing Integrated National Financing Frameworks (INFFs) in partnership with the EU and other UN agencies, and the flagship UNDP initiative SDG Impact.

2019 was also an important year for the UN's engagement in digital finance. I co-chaired the Secretary-General's Taskforce on Digital Financing for the SDGs alongside Maria Ramos, ex-CEO of the Absa Group. This Taskforce is an excellent example of a public-private forum bringing together the UN, the World Bank, Central Banks and private sector CEOs. We look forward to sharing our recommendations with the Secretary-General by June 2020.

Taken together these new business model initiatives from Global Policy Network and Accelerator Labs, to the Finance Hub and SDG Impact, to the role UNDP plays in advancing digital finance -- will help to propel the speed and scale of effective development change that the SDGs demand of us all.

And these initiatives have been made possible thanks to the intensive lift by colleagues across UNDP, UN Volunteers, UNCDF, the UN Office of South-South Cooperation, and the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund.

Continued commitment to UNDS reform

All these efforts are taking place against the overall context of UN Development System reform something which UNDP remains firmly committed to.

In 2019, we actively participated in the key reform streams, such as the development of the new UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework Guidance, in the elaboration of the Management and Accountability Framework, co-chairing with UNEP the inter-agency work on the Multi Country Office Review and on the regional review.

It also involved our role as a principal service provider to the Resident Coordinator System, helping ensure RCs and their offices can seamlessly carry out their critical coordination functions. An amended Memorandum of Understanding between UN Secretariat and UNDP envisages a continuation of service provision in 2020.

We are already seeing some preliminary results, cultural and behavioural changes as a result of reforms including through renewed strategic partnerships with sister UN agencies and entities, such as UNICEF, UNEP, UN Habitat, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), for example.

We will continue to do so while exploring ways to advance the Common Chapter of our Strategic Plans with UNICEF, UNFPA, and UN Women, and continuing our everyday collaboration with our UN partners.

As we move ahead, we expect the benefits and gains of reform only to intensify, further strengthening the results we can achieve. We are working closely with DCO and other agencies to capture these early results and how we are working better together for greater impact.

Country programme documents

Tabled for your consideration during this Board are six Country Programme Documents (CPDs), for Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Kuwait, Mali and Paraguay.

Though some UN Cooperation Frameworks (CF) may still be under finalization, the outcomes in these CPDs are derived from the respective Frameworks. UNDP, UNFPA, and UNICEF are all taking the same approach in this transition year.

As per practice, the CPDs have undergone a thorough quality assurance process to ensure that they are relevant to national priorities; that they are in line with the Strategic Plan; and that they emphasize effectiveness and efficiency, synergies with partners, and credibility of monitoring and evaluation arrangements.

3. Looking ahead: 2020 and a Decade of Action for the SDGs

The challenge to UNDP as we start 2020 is to be relevant to a new generation of partners, of activists, of protestors demanding a life that is fair and just. To do so, we are fully committed to a Decade of Action that ends with the achievement of the SDGs.

That means that as UNDP, we will continue to lean into complexity to implement the Strategic Plan, including by tackling such integrated challenges as inequality, climate change and the root causes migration and forced displacement.

On inequality, for example, that will include starting in 2020 as we mean to continue with a focus on gender equality and empowerment, marking the 25th anniversary of the Beijing programme of action.

In addition, we will further explore and address the next generation of inequalities that are opening up, particularly around technology and climate change -- two seismic shifts that, unchecked, could open up new divides in society akin to what happened during the Industrial revolution, as our 2019 HDR sets out. These next generation inequalities will be the focus of our 2020 Istanbul Innovation Days in April.

On climate change, it also means that as we together enter a super year for nature, we will focus on the integrated relationship between climate, nature, and development to catalyse and accelerate change, which we will explore together in more detail this afternoon.

And on forced displacement and migration, it means we will strengthen our focus on root causes, including by reinvigorating our support to preventing conflict and crisis.

Our progress in 2019 gives me confidence that #NextGenUNDP is now ready for this challenge to deliver at the scale and speed the SDGs require, hand-in-hand with our partners.

Indeed, in 2020, UNDP will focus on bringing more partners to the table to accelerate SDG engagement and progress, including through enhanced outreach, advocacy and communications. The partnership we forged with Samsung, which resulted in the installation of a Samsung SDG mobile ap on approximately 4.5 million devices, with over one million active users to date, is such an example.

Our enhanced approach to working with our partners in SIDS, is being rolled out in 2020, responding to their most pressing needs as well as their greatest opportunities for accelerating transformative sustainable development.

UNDP's Goodwill Ambassadors continue to shine a spotlight on the SDGs, translating the work we do for a wider global audience, while through such initiatives as The Lion's Share, luminaries like the British broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough are joining their voice with UNDP in calling for a new way forward for people and the planet.

Conclusion

We know the scale of the challenge we face to reach the SDGs.

The key now is to harness that passion and purpose, to surface and scale the multiple, potential solutions that will take us to the future of development.

And if we need inspiration to do so, the 75th birthday of the United Nations this year should provide it.

At UNDP, we look forward to writing the next chapter of development on how to achieve the SDGs - with you all.

Source: United Nations Development Programme

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