Global Policy Forum

Speech by Mark Malloch Brown


Administrator, United Nations Development Programme

United Nations Trusteeship Council Chamber
New York

July 1, 1999

Good morning and indeed good afternoon or good evening to those of you in other time zones.

Vote of Thanks

Let me begin by saying how pleased, and honoured I am to be coming home - to the United Nations - where I began my career. As Kofi Annan much more memorably said of his election as Secretary-General, I hope my appointment is an encouragement to young staff members listening today. Twenty-four years ago I was an intern with the secretariat in this very building. Twenty years ago I was a young UNHCR field officer in Thailand. We can take this great United Nations of ours back and restore the dream that brought all of us here.

We have a great leader and let me thank the Secretary-General for the confidence he has placed in me, and the General Assembly for confirming his choice. It is a high honour to serve as their trustee. I shall do everything I can to deliver on my responsibilities for the sake of the people the United Nations serves.

Let me mention two others: Gus Speth, for leaving me a legacy of change and reform. Gus, I hope your thoughts turn to us today - although I suspect they may be a million miles away as you prepare to start your new duties at Yale. I am proud to be succeeding you and I am indebted to you for your open-handed help in the transition to my Administration and for the groundwork for change that you have laid. The torch is passed and we will not stumble.

Second, let me single out Zeph Diabré, our colleague and Associate Administrator. I am just one half of a two-person leadership team. He is a formidable partner for all of us in the task ahead. Most of all, I thank you, my new colleagues and friends, for making me feel at home in UNDP from the outset. In front of you and with our country office colleagues joining us through video and internet link and in spirit, I pledge my best efforts as your Administrator. You, the staff of UNDP are the capital - and soul - of this organization. An Administrator leads by motivating staff to follow him. Your consent and support cannot be bought with Wall Street bonuses. It must be earned through debate, consent and the building of a common commitment.

Field Plus Headquarters Equals One UNDP

Let me pay particular tribute to our UNDP colleagues in programme countries, national and international staff alike. You are the front line. You carry out our work selflessly, often in difficult, even hazardous situations, but where it counts most and where UNDP is ultimately measured.

To national staff listening, I want to say I know you are an ever-larger part of UNDP's field strength, I am aware of your special career hopes and needs and we will continue in my administration to support your goals.

I hope in my administration to see headquarters and the field joined in a new relationship:

Headquarters must see and support the field as, by far, the larger part of a single operation. We must cater to your substantive and administrative needs with two sets of services:

First, we will aim to offer you solid programme support, providing you with knowledge, experience and best practice drawn from across UNDP and from other development networks. We will strive to keep our advice state-of-the-art, practical and demand-driven.

Second, we will run a dependable back office for you, with quick response times and efficient central services. If any unit or division ignores an important e-mail or letter, call the Director and ask for a reply. And if that fails, message the This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , the new mailbox I have opened today to hear directly from you. We will make the 5-day response time work. However, the field must become an integral part of a corporate UNDP. ResReps who despair of headquarters and go it alone often perform miracles with slender resources against formidable odds. And I salute them for their achievements. But the resulting impression in donor capitals is one of scattered improvisations and miscellaneous interventions. We are not recognized as having a strong global identity or a set of representative services in which donors can see a consistent UNDP signature in each and every country. We must work to develop a universal corporate focus and a corporate standard for country offices. We must overcome once and for all the image of a loose federation of development entrepreneurs lacking unity. We are in this effort together and we will sink or swim together. When I say be part of a corporate UNDP, I do not mean give up field leadership. A newly responsive and substantive headquarters is but half the story because the innovations and best practice that will determine that global direction will come from the field. We must re-instill a pride in innovating not just for your own office and programme country but for the system. We have just carried out a remarkable project in Indonesia to coordinate donor support to Indonesia's elections that brought in $80 million in pledges. Congratulations to Ravi Rajan and his staff. I know there are many other success stories I will learn about in the coming months. Now how are we going to take those lessons from Indonesia and other similar successful interventions such as in the Gambia and distil them into UNDP global best practice? Into achievements where donors and civil societies can perceive objective, non-partisan global excellence? Re-building UNDP's franchise and reputation for excellence starts with field entrepreneurship set in the context of a knowledge organization constantly learning from those successes and failures at the field level - and passing those lessons along.

There is an absolute requirement to re-build that franchise now because:

The Funding Crisis

It is now evident that the decline in core funding over the last few years has not been checked, that indeed it has worsened and that, as a result, UNDP faces a new crisis that challenges its capacity to remain relevant. Consider the facts: the programme has been slipping since 1996 when resources initially covering three years were stretched to include a fourth year, 2000. Last month, the organization reduced programme resources for 2001 to 50 per cent of the level forecast earlier because the $1.1 billion assumed for the current period is not forthcoming.

The momentum of a declining resource base has not been broken. Indeed, it is accelerating. Two key donors have indicated major cuts, one to finance relief work in Kosovo, the other to conform to the Maastricht balanced budget in Europe. At present exchange rates, these cuts total some $ 50 million. We are rapidly slipping beneath the point where we can remain a universal organization.

An organization which seems to be first victim of every budgeteer's axe is clearly failing to project itself as an indispensable part of the development equation. At a time of declining ODA, we are always last into the lifeboat. On the face of it, it seems outrageous that an organisation that spends 90% of its resources on the world's poorest should be cut to pay for Kosovo or Euro monetary targets. This is a disastrous start to the multi-year funding framework which I understood to be a solemn commitment by donor countries to programme countries to raise core funding back to the $1.1 billion level in return for demonstrated results. That commitment is in danger of being still born. I have looked at the MYFF projections. To get to a $1.1 billion core programme by the end of the MYFF period in 2003, UNDP would need to receive a 15% increase in core income each year over the next four years. When you look at ODA trends and the UNDP funding record of the past four years, and when you sense the political winds blowing in donor countries, you have to be very optimistic to think that a steady annual increase of that kind will readily materialize without dramatic action on our side.

Today the myth-making must stop: the financial crisis has not bottomed out; the supportive, far-sighted and generous donors that are coming back because of the MYFF cannot staunch the overall decline. Nor, from next year, are there unexpended programme balances to subsidize existing operations. The coffers are reaching empty.

We must therefore attack our business strategy for the next nine months with a passionate sense of urgency. There is no point in getting angry with donors. These are fair-minded people struggling with complex priorities and trade-offs; people who share our vision of development. Instead we must ask why, when the music stops, UNDP is among those left standing.

I propose that we take the Executive Board a bold challenge next spring. We will bring them a compelling and credible UNDP that has defined its driving goals and benchmarks, concentrated its business vision, stepped up its efficiency, accelerated its results-orientation and strengthened its management team. And in defining the business nothing will be sacrosanct. We will be ruthless in assigning resources behind essential priorities and eliminating activities that are not relevant.

Our Board presentation will include an expanded non-core strategy as well. We must underline that we have succeeded in securing an enviable support base in some key middle-income countries that are contributing significantly to our total resources, and we must demonstrate that such non-core support can be widened. We must create an innovative resource mobilisation strategy that can mobilise public and private monies for global and national activities; and for the poor as well as middle-income. However, we must be absolutely clear that core is the bedrock of this organization and we must spell out plainly the consequences for UNDP if the Board defaults on the $1.1 billion target even after such efforts. We must be emphatic that we are reaching the moment of truth and that we need real long-term commitment, not hollow promises.

The Development Challenge

UNDP's crisis is of course part of the wider crisis in ODA. That wider crisis amounts to a failure of imagination that threatens to sap the international community's response at a time when more, not less, development cooperation is needed. Ours is a generation with unprecedented possibilities for human betterment, yet the mismatch between those possibilities and our priorities is mind-boggling, as last year's Human Development Report exposed. With just $9 billion more a year, the world could deliver safe water and sanitation to all, ending the transmission of debilitating water-borne diseases. With only $6 billion more in annual spending, we could give a basic education to every child on earth, accomplishing a major DAC commitment. The Kosovo conflict costs up to $40 billion in military and humanitarian expenditures. Now the $5 billion cost of reconstruction is apparently hard to find without raiding support for Africa.

Yet even with money worries, it is a great time to be in development. This is the age of opportunity: IT offers a shortcut to learning; satellite and cellular, to communications; new drugs and vaccines, to public health; private sector flows, to capital constraints; the end of the cold war has allowed development performance to replace political loyalty as the criterion for assistance, and corporations facing global scrutiny from active shareholders and consumers are growing a sharp sense of social responsibility. Further, globalisation allows rapid integration and new prosperity for the lucky ones who can build the institutional and regulatory frameworks to engage with global capital while protecting their own social integrity. UNDP, as next week's HDR will show, belongs in this debate about the risks and opportunities of globalisation.

This is the age of abundant youthful energy as well. There are vast cohorts of bright university graduates today who want to dedicate a part of their lives to helping people much less fortunate than themselves and who share our UNDP causes. We must capture those young energies for ourselves and make them available to others as well. The UNV programme is our opportunity.

The First 100 Yards: Management

Yet at the very moment we could most make a difference, we risk being driven to the sidelines: impoverished and ineffective. We must take back control of our future and that means first getting our house in order. I therefore envision the next nine months as two 100-yard sprints side-by-side. The first race is along our management track. I have previously sent you a message about the Transition Team, which officially starts up today under Abdoulie Janneh's leadership. The Team consists of five talented, experienced and committed staff all of whom are known to you. There will also be outside support with complementary strengths. A number of you have already met Michael Keating who is organizing the outsiders.

Let me repeat my expectations of that group. Its brief, quite simply, is to act as a catalyst for UNDP's efforts to set ambitious medium-term business goals and benchmarks across every aspect of what we do: from how long it takes to fill a vacant position; to what are benchmarks for our governance, poverty reduction and environmental management practices. The Team will help us remain honest about our successes and failures as we move to achieve those goals. This work will be tied at the hip with the MYFF exercise - because given the funding challenges, the MYFF, building results-based management, is absolutely essential. So let me thank all of you who have put so much energy into formulating strategic results frameworks. Your work gives us key building blocks for this new, compelling, results-based UNDP.

The Team will act as the hub for a network of efforts that entail specific assignments for some of you and opportunities for all of you to participate via a web page and face-to-face discussions as practical. Your active contribution to this work is essential. We will build our targets the right way, that is, with the full buy-in and commitment of staff. We will canvas your views widely. Indeed, you will today receive a message about the first UNDP Global Staff Survey. I am eager to hear from each of you as I want to benchmark our progress with staff from day one.

Once we have clarified our goals and set targets, we will know our management priorities and, from there, two kinds of changes will naturally, and quickly follow. First, we will eliminate obstacles. We will take a hard look at our business habits, procedures and processes, at management styles and human resources matters and at our organization in the workplace. We will hit the delete button wherever we find something that conflicts with our priorities. Next, what we keep we will do better, aiming steadily to raise standards of performance as we build our culture of results and a new, trimmer, more nimble yet still universal UNDP. It will be a results revolution.

So why have I insisted this is not a new Change Management exercise - a new 2001? A new period of turmoil? Because we are not going to unravel the consensus among our Board, staff and other constituencies for a new, more focused mission; nor are we going to engage in a new, open-ended planning exercise on "whither UNDP?". Instead, we will build on UNDP 2001 and its remaining agenda, not throw the pieces in the air again. This will be pragmatic step-by-step change; not blue sky re-visioning but nose to the grindstone change. Our sustainable human development objectives will remain intact focused on capacity development for poverty reduction and sustainable livelihoods, the advancement of women, environmental regeneration, governance and post-conflict transition. But we will rigorously button-down our business vision. I will embark on a broad consultation with stakeholders to build support for where, within a much broader coalition of anti-poverty efforts by bilateral, NGOs, and the World Bank, and our UN partners, our own comparative advantage lies. So while we need to retain a broad role in poverty reduction, we must rigorously narrow our range of interventions to co-ordination, capacity building, strengthening management and institutions across the array of themes from gender to post-conflict transition. If you like, economic and social, as well as political governance. We must not drift off this defined track to finance projects for which our pockets are not deep enough.

In the coming months, Zeph Diabré and I will spend a lot of time with senior managers as well as many of you in making sure we have the right team to build this tighter, more coherent UNDP. I would expect that team to act as change agents and risk takers, willing to collaborate closely with you and help UNDP to identify and seize new opportunities for supporting a field-based entrepreneurship rooted in a global learning organization. I want managers throughout the organization to enlarge their toolbox for motivating, guiding and assessing staff. And managers must have the respect and support of their staff, without this there can be no corporate UNDP success.

The Second 100 Yards: Partnerships

The parallel 100-yard sprint is for renewed partnerships. We must shake off the old ways of doing business and reach out to new forms of cooperation. UNDP must realize quickly its potential in five partnerships where we can establish a comparative advantage and, with good performance, earn ourselves a distinctive name.

The first critical partnership - and the key to the other four -- is our ongoing special and trusted relationship with programme country governments, our chief clients. We must enhance our credential as their close ally, confidante and adviser in managing critical, sometimes sensitive development transitions. It is our most precious asset and the bedrock of all our other relationships. We must listen to their aspirations, we must understand their dilemmas, their capacities and constraints and we must be able to conduct with them a fair and supportive dialogue on their development goals and challenges.

The second major partnership is with civil society. New policy challenges arising from globalization in the post-Cold War era have radically changed how development agencies function, and UNDP has been up there with the changes. We know that, in many countries, pressure on governments from expanding private sectors and a galaxy of newly empowered civil society groups has increased. The political space once filled exclusively by the state is now heavily contested. This poses problems for governments, which are turning more and more to development agencies to act as bridges among different groups of interests. UNDP should be a first point of contact.

I know we have some excellent experience working with NGOs and governments to orchestrate national consensus in Central America, in the CIS and in some parts of Africa. We must maximize our role in this growth area by strengthening our network and reputation among civil society groups.

The third partnership we will cultivate carefully is with the Bretton Woods institutions and the Regional Development Banks. At the policy and strategic level, UNDP and the World Bank have recently identified broad common goals and complementary approaches. We already collaborate extensively in Latin America, which is a good model because it shows what we can do through a tripartite relationship with the Bank and government.

Our new partnership should centre initially on two immediate opportunities: the twelfth replenishment of IDA and the Comprehensive Development Framework. IDA has put the issue of governance high on its list of eligibility requirements, and since governance is UNDP's bread-and-butter, we have much to offer borrowing countries that want access to IDA funds. The Africa Bureau has already taken a major step in this direction participating with the Bank in an Africa capacity-building initiative.

The Comprehensive Development Framework is the subject of an ongoing discussion between UN system agencies and the World Bank. As you by now all know, the essence of the CDF is that it must be nationally owned, with the country firmly in the driver's seat. As far as UNDP is concerned, the opportunity is there to help bring civil society organizations and other local groups together to create a broad participatory consensus on development strategies. The CDF refocuses attention on the need for capacity building to ensure real ownership of aid management. This provides a new set of opportunities for UNDP to support governments in an area where we have worked with them and their partners for many years.

A fourth major partnership is with the private sector. New alliances with the private sector around IT, capital mobilisation, institution-building, social capital and global advocacy must become a dynamic new front for UNDP; the break-out from declining public resources.

None of this, however, will go anywhere if we do not fix our partnership closest to home: with the rest of the UN family. The UN Development Group under Gus Speth's chairmanship has made great progress in building a coherent approach to our Resident Coordinator selection, and along with CCAs and UNDAFs, to one UN on the ground. And I welcome the great non-UNDP colleagues who have come across as Resident Coordinators. If you are all as good as the ones I know a bit, or whose reputation has preceded them, then we are very lucky. Let me add that Carol Bellamy, Catherine Bertini, Nafis Sadik, my colleagues in the Executive Committee, are old friends and have already given me a warm welcome.

But the UN partnership begins here, it does not end here. We are still locked in process at a time that the international for-profit and non-profit sectors are building borderless partnerships around clear strategic objectives; are communicating through the internet, not UN conference rooms; and are based on interest, not hierarchy; and are results, not process-based. Starting right here at home with UNIFEM, CDF, OPS, UNV, moving through our UNDG partners to the wider UN system, we have to project a new vision of partnership: one where we set aside worries about turf and limit ourselves to what we do well; empowering others to do what they do better; and basing the whole on a strong and flexible vision of objectives. Partnership on results not process.

There is a lot I have not said this morning. Time has not permitted me to touch adequately on the plight of so many of our fellow citizens that has brought us to this great calling of development co-operation. Like many of you, I began in this, at the start of my career, excited by the great possibilities of changing the world. I return to the UN when the prospects of publicly-financed changes are constrained but when technology, globalisation and the passing of the cold war have made the possibilities greater than ever before.

And I return this time as a family man. My wife Trish is with me today. As a father and husband, one understands the power of the idea of giving people the opportunity, the empowerment to change, not just their own lives, but those of their families. To bring decency, health, education, a roof and income where there were none. So from myself, Trish, our children and from Zeph Diabré and his family, our greetings to you, your spouses and partners and your children; and our gratitude for their understanding that lets you make the sacrifice to help the world's poorest.

Thank you.

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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.