It has been said that ‘you are only as good as your last success.’ As the United Nations Development Programme marks its 50th anniversary at the end of this month, we are forging ahead in that spirit, and not resting on our achievements.
But the incredible results we have accomplished across the world and especially in Asia and the Pacific are testimonials of an organization dedicated to the best in development.
Over the last five decades, UNDP has created shared history, credibility, and trust with governments. The bond is strong because often UNDP was the partner who helped to translate ambitious reform ideas into concrete, actionable plans that produced tangible results.
From creating a development plan for Singapore to supporting the growth of tourism in Thailand, from the introduction of the sustainable development concept in China, to the Doi Moi reforms in Vietnam, UNDP has worked with governments to build a better future for their peoples and brought about remarkable progress
But today Asia and the Pacific is a very different region.
Aid represented 13.5 percent of the total financial inflows in Asia-Pacific in 1990. By 2012, it had fallen to 3.4 percent. Now domestic revenues and private financial flows dwarf Overseas Development Assistance.
New specialized and more flexible players have entered the development space and UNDP is now one among many agencies and mechanisms for channeling support.
In 2016, UNDP is well-placed to provide high quality development support that can transform countries just as we did in Singapore in the 1960s.
As the development landscape evolves we too have transformed ourselves to meet challenging demands. It allows us to focus on the needs of governments in Asia and the Pacific. For instance:
o preparing effective sustainable development strategies based on decades of piloting, implementing and evaluating different approaches;
o designing innovative solutions for implementation and scaling up;
o blending international and domestic, public and private funding;
o creating multi-stakeholder partnerships;
o exporting successful solutions to other countries facing similar challenges; and,
o coordinating UN’s implementation of SDGs to ensure coherence and efficiency.
The challenge is that UNDP is still seen as a “donor” in many countries in the region. This perception creates obstacle for governments to co-finance programmes, which is one of the most effective paths to development success. Co-financing wholly engages the government, builds transparency, and fosters both knowledge sharing and accountability.
As Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam has said, UN agencies need to “update their operations to become the country’s development partners, instead of sponsors.”
In line with UNDP’s Strategic Plan 2014-17, our ambition is to remain as “heart and soul” of the UN development system, to provide high quality support that can lead to acceleration of progress on national and global development goals.
We will continue to foster an environment for innovation, strengthen our capacity in the areas of youth, employment, urbanization, migration, technology transfer, climate adaptation and mitigation, and ramp up our support on disaster preparedness.
Over 50 years we have helped bring about dramatic progress across Asia and the Pacific, hopefully by 2030 we will have helped countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Haoliang Xu is Assistant Administrator, and Director of Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.