Remarks by Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens, U.S. Representative to ECOSOC, at the United Nations Development Programme Executive Board Annual Session, June 10, 2013

Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens
U.S. Representative to ECOSOC 
New York, NY
June 10, 2013


Mr. President, thank you. On behalf of the United States, let me first offer our warm congratulations to Helen Clark on her reappointment for a second term as the Administrator of UNDP. UNDP has taken important steps in recent years to strengthen its operations, upgrade management systems, and improve its ability to deliver, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with you and your team at such a formative stage for the UN development system as a whole. Thank you also for your statement this morning.

Mr. President, allow me to focus primarily on UNDP’s draft Strategic Plan, which we believe provides a solid foundation for the organization’s future work.

First, we appreciate UNDP’s situating its new strategic plan in the context of the rapidly evolving development landscape. We share your analysis of the magnitude and complexity of the global changes underway and the need therefore for UNDP – indeed all development actors – to prepare themselves to operate in a more dynamic, targeted, and responsive manner.

Second, we welcome the plan’s reaffirmation in that context of the imperative of eradicating extreme poverty and creating the conditions for inclusive and sustainable growth, with emphasis on those who have yet to enjoy the fruits of development progress, or who are excluded or particularly vulnerable. Reducing inequality and exclusion are at the moral center of the development agenda, and we appreciate the plan’s implicit call to raise the floor for all.

Third, we want to acknowledge the hard work that went into focusing the current draft on seven outcomes and three areas of work. This is an impressive achievement and the priorities you have identified strike us as precisely right. We were particularly glad to see gender equality and women’s empowerment identified as a top-level objective. We agree with the emphasis on democratic governance and the consistent attention throughout the plan to capable, responsive and accountable institutions that we know are an essential underpinning for development.

We also see as crucial your focus on risk and resilience to combat shocks and stresses – from natural disasters to violent conflict and others - that we see again and again undermine development gains. We also appreciate your effort to strike a balance between the last year of the MDGs and the first two years of a post-2015 development agenda that we are still in the process of defining.

Fourth, the plan’s emphasis on outcomes is crucial, as is your work to elaborate precise “theories of change” for how UNDP will contribute to each of them. The three areas of work identified in the plan – sustainable development pathways, inclusive and effective democratic governance, and resilience – are al compelling. They are also broad and will require ongoing assessment and vigilance to ensure that UNDP’s own contribution remains focused on distinct results. We therefore appreciate UNDP’s attention to baselines, metrics, and data disaggregation and your commitment to robust monitoring and evaluation. UNDP’s strengthened evaluation office will be an invaluable asset in this regard.

Further, we appreciate the plan’s acknowledgment that UNDP can’t “do it all,” but should instead focus on activities that have the greatest potential to drive development outcomes and that reflect UNDP’s clear comparative advantage. In this respect, we welcome further discussion about UNDP’s collaboration with other UN partners – particularly UN Women, DPA, DPKO, OCHA, and UNEP – as well as the agency’s work with partners outside the UN system -- to ensure the UN system draws on its full range of competencies in a strategic way.

Finally, let me turn briefly to management issues. UNDP is a stronger and more accountable agency today than four years ago. The consolidation of the Ethics Office and its functions, a strengthened evaluation office with independent and skilled staff, a strong audit and investigation capacity with publicly released reports – all of these measures have put UNDP on a stronger institutional footing. We also note with appreciation UNDP’s commitment to “delivering as one,” to harmonizing its strategies and practices with other UN agencies, and to new partnerships that help the whole system.

On this foundation, we look forward to the next chapter in UNDP’s important work, and to Administrator Clark’s own next chapter at the helm of the UN development system, and to our future cooperation.

Thank you.


PRN: 2013/093