Making UNDP Fit for Purpose for the SDGs

Mar 13, 2017

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tokelau, Lizbeth Cullity. Photo credit: UNDP Asia Pacific/2017.

Senior Managers of 24 UNDP Country Offices in Asia - Pacific, the Regional Hub in Bangkok and Headquarters, and high-level government and business representatives attended the 2017 UNDP Regional Management Meeting held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 7 to 10 March. 

The Meeting was opened by welcoming speeches from Administrator Helen Clark, Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Don Pramudwinai, Regional Director Haoliang Xu and Luc Stevens, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative of Thailand. 

The objective of the meeting was to shape UNDP’s strategy as a sustainable development advisor and service provider in Asia and the Pacific. Discussions were held around four thematic sessions focused on reflecting on social, economic and political megatrends in the region, formulating UNDP’s contribution to SDGs implementation and future strategies of development finance. 

Adapting UNDP to the emerging challenges

As countries in Asia and the Pacific rapidly progress in their economic transition and graduate to middle-income status, the role of development actors is evolving. New private and public entities are entering the market and this factor, together with the reduced contributions from national Governments, translate into increased competition for funding. 

At the same time, trends such as migration and demographic change, greater incidence of extreme weather events, public health challenges and inequality continue to underpin a need for innovative and more efficient forms of developmental assistance. 

UNDP is introducing a new funding model, has improved efficiency and sharpened its thematic focus to better support SDGs’ implementation and to adapt to the emerging changes. Nonetheless, if the organization still wants to be a key development player in the region, it must create a set of unique and valued services. 

Is UNDP fit for purpose?

Ms. Lizbeth Cullity, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Samoa, Tokelau, Niue and the Cook Islands attended the 2017 Regional Management Meeting. During her stay in Bangkok, she gave an interview about the role that UNDP can play in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

When asked whether the organization is fit for purpose, Ms. Cullity stressed the importance of working closely with people who really know the national context. In her opinion, in changing and challenging times, UNDP would not be able to compete with other development actors if it did not value the specific understanding of the culture, the demands of its people, and the hopes of its government.

“When we talk about improving the lives of the most vulnerable and reflect on how we are going to leave no one behind, it cannot just be about the business as usual that we are conducting. It is really about getting out there, talking to the people and understanding how we can make that investment best through the expertise of the local context, local language and rapport building to make sure that we have real partnerships” – she said. 

The UN Resident Coordinator also mentioned the pivotal role that the private sector can play as well as the significance of Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. “We need to look for ways to broaden partnerships, understand better how we can approach those big companies and make sure they can help us get the job done” – she added.

Talking about country offices, such as the UNDP Multi-Country Office of Samoa, she highlighted the need to analyze more in depth the skills required to better perform in supporting the government.

“It is my strong belief that investing in civil society and building capacity for ordinary people, for ordinary folks, for ordinary groups is the path. We have seen a big shift in the world, where we see a great economic divide between those who have and those who don’t, and our strategy needs to change to make sure that we are able to work with those who do not have the means to help themselves” – Ms. Cullity declared.

The UN Resident Coordinator spoke about the Youth Employment Programme (YEP) as an example of how UNDP can implement the Sustainable Development Goals at national level. The programme, led by the Ministry of Women, Social Community and Development of Samoa and supported by five United Nations agencies - UNDP, ILO, FAO, UNESCO and UNV - contributes to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal8, which focuses on the promotion of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work opportunities for all people. 

“Partnerships are key to improve youth employability. UNDP is now working together with the private sector, church groups, vocational and technical schools to help those who do not have a lot of hope and opportunities to find those opportunities” – she pointed out.  

“We need to get out there more, get out to the field, inside the villages, inside the small towns and work with ordinary civil society groups that are trying to make a difference but do not necessarily know how, we need to build their capacity” – she concluded. 


Contact information

Ms. Desna Solofa, UN Coordination Specialist

E-mail: - Phone: (685) 23670 ext. 34

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