Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Remarks by Ambassador Joseph M. Torsella, U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform, at the UNDP Executive Board Meeting

Ambassador Joseph M Torsella
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, NY
June 13, 2011


Thank you Mr. President. The United States would like to thank Administrator Clark for her opening statement. We welcome her review of UNDP’s accomplishments, future tasks and challenges. We appreciate her leadership and reiterate our commitment to working with her to bring her Change Agenda to fruition.

At the last Board meeting in January, we outlined an emerging global development landscape with new donors, technologies, innovations, and partnership opportunities, all of which demand greater transparency for disclosure of management and program information. Administrator Clark’s Change Agenda serves as a good starting point to define UNDP’s role in this new and evolving environment. We would like to share some thoughts on how we might work toward achieving this objective.

One of the key tenets in the Change Agenda is an integrated approach to tackling poverty through promoting and sustaining broad-based economic growth and good governance. UNDP, as the UN’s flagship development agency with voluntary programs and universal reach, is well-positioned to help countries build the political and economic foundations for long-term growth.

In practical terms, we would expect UNDP to undertake more focused programs to promote good governance in areas such as rule of law and anti-corruption, which are at the core of the governance-poverty nexus. An integrated approach is essential to help remove the political, legal, and social obstacles that hinder the creation of economic, business, and employment opportunities by the poor and for the poor.

Crisis prevention and post-crisis reconstruction is another aspect of the governance-poverty nexus. Conflicts are often the symptoms of a lack of political institutions to mediate among competing segments of society. In addition to addressing the needs of citizens in immediate post-crisis reconstruction, UNDP’s longer-term crisis prevention and recovery work should link to efforts to build national political institutions and to promote democratic governance.

In these remarkable times a business as usual approach simply will not suffice. We welcome UNDP’s efforts, working with other members of the UN family, to help transition following the transformative events in the Middle East and North Africa regions. UNDP can play a valuable role to help those countries realize the aspirations of their peoples.

Reform for Greater Effectiveness

Mr. President, I now would like to turn to program results and outline some expectations of what the Change Agenda could help to achieve in this regard.

We fully agree with the Agenda’s assessment that organizational governance, leadership, culture and behavior are critical for UNDP to carry out its mission and deliver results. The Change Agenda comes at a time when UNDP management is taking a mid-point review of the implementation of the current strategic plan. As you’ve just heard, a group of countries delivered a joint statement on the Mid-term Review (MTR)--and we are grateful to Ambassador Parham for his presence today and his leadership on this issue-- outlining our concerns over the lack of clearly articulated program results, as well as our encouragement and expectation for improvement.

The United States believes that senior management’s leadership is crucial for the organization to be able to produce, demonstrate, and report program results project-by-project and country-by-country. An important action senior management can take in this regard is to ensure that country offices, which are the most basic units in UNDP’s results chain, comply fully with project evaluation requirements. Country offices not only must produce the requisite quantity and quality of project evaluations, but also must learn from evaluations to improve their operations

Transparency and Accountability

Finally, Mr. President, I want to conclude with the crucial issue of transparency and accountability.

As you know, the United States has been and remains a strong advocate for transparency and accountability. We remain committed to working with Board members and the management to bring UNDP to the high standards justifiably expected of public organizations receiving public funding.

We appreciate that UNDP has made progress over the last few years, including in the area of information disclosure to member states. At the same time, however, we should also acknowledge that the organization still has a long way to go on internal oversight and accountability, including donor access to program audits.

Both the management and majority of the Board members agree that the current information disclosure practice is untenable because, among other issues, it excludes institutional donors who have become important partners of UNDP. The United States believes member states and institutional donors, including the Global Fund, must have full access to UNDP’s internal audit reports, financial records, and other oversight information, and that UNDP should enhance collaboration with these institutional donors with respect to audits and investigations.

Looking forward, audit, oversight, and financial information should be made public while appropriately respecting individuals’ due process rights. The expectation should be maximum transparency and disclosure. The United States requests action to achieve that standard by the September board meetings, and strongly urges senior management to make this a top priority objective.

Mr. President, the United States remains a strong supporter of UNDP’s mission. We look forward to working closely with you and Board members during these meetings to achieve our shared objective of making UNDP a more effective and responsive organization.

Thank you.

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