Comments on PB Draft Startegy Paper

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Below are the set of comments I prepared upon request on the above mentioned paper.

1. Although the paper is divided in 4 separate sections, in reality it addressed 11 critical issues that UNDP will need to eventually address to continue to be a key player in the development arena. 6 of those issues are not directly related to PB or partnerships. The other 5 seem to fall under their realm…

2. The paper dedicates most of its text to non-PB issues, namely: 1.Context; 2.Multi-lateralism; 3. Case for UNDP; 4. UNDP’s unique role; 5. Leadership approach; and 6: UNDP’s business model (perhaps the weakest section of all). The paper contains 13 action points (out of a total of 28!! this in itself can be a challenge for UNDP)) regarding these issues.

3. Let us first focus on the broader, non-PB issues. As an opening shot, I think it is essential to distinguish between things that are under our DIRECT control and things that are not, things where we depend on others to get where we want to go. I believe issued raised in themes 1 and 2 (described in the above para) are well beyond out control.

4. Take for example the emerging “new development paradigm”. Just like the Washington consensus before, UNDP is not really a part of this. There are two issues here: one is the perception out there that UNDP is a field based agency that does programmes, projects and technical support. In this view, we “implement” development paradigms (such as human development). The other one is the apparent weak capacity of UNDP to be “up there” with the big boys and girls discussing stuff like this. And this relates directly to us here at BDP. In reality, stuff like this is more in the hands on the UN, as we have painfully learned from the G-20 meetings where UNDP is dwarfed by the WB, etc.

5. But in these sections there is an interesting thing. The paper does seem to agree that UNDP does not have the internal capacity to be discussing the new development paradigm (if there really is such a thing). This is clearly evidenced by the first recommendation which sort of forgets about BDP and ODS to mention just the two prime suspects. This recommendation is not only vague but forgets the role that the UN and even UNDG should play on this. Certainly, the UN should come with ONE voice to these issues and not with one voice per agency. Finally, one has to really wonder why other UNDP units were not involved (as far as I know, and I do not know much) in related discussions.

6. The core/non-core funding comes up strongly in these sections. We are all in agreement that UNDP mist move beyond this scheme that has not

quite work, specially in the years of crisis and declining resources. Action 4 is right on the money with the caveat that COs should be somehow involved and have also autonomy if they happen to have good contacts and networks with donors or emerging donors at the local level. This balance between HQ and COs seems to be missing in most of the critical issues raised by the paper. BTW, the rumor mill in indicating that UNDP is planning to refine the policy functions of UNDP (that is us, BDP) and take away all fund management from it. So this is probably related to the “centrally led” RM strategy..

7. It seems the paper does not link the fact that UNDP leads the UN system coordination (Action 5) to the policy and financial issue that require UN led response as ONE UN (the new development paradigm, the G-20 etc). It is precisely through this channel that UNDP cane lead a UN coordinated response backing up the SG, etc. in these processes. However, the paper does make this link when it comes to the WB (as depicted in Action 11).

8. The non-PB section of the paper has several references to the need for UNDP to move beyond government for national programme support and implementation and include a wide variety of of stakeholders directly into its programming portfolio and this enhance national ownership.This is probably easier to say than to do but in any vent this theme has various layers. One is that even withing governments, we usually do not include local governments when it comes to policy decisions and programming of resources. Decisions on this are usually centralized at country level and thus most local government have no voice (never mind vote) in such processes, Contrast this this the emergence of decentralized cooperation where donor cities and provinces are quite active, etc.

9. The second layer here is the fact that in many countries NGOs and civil society do see UNDP as being TOO close (cozy and comfy) to the government and thus do not trust us. Just as an example; NGOs in Egypt complained to UNDP about the police training programme that UNDP has been running for a couple of years. This is the same police that beat the peaceful demonstrators in Cairo recently, etc. So yes we can talk to CS on a global level (and that we have been doing for a while now, less now that before). But it will not be that simple at the country level (only on a case by case basis).

10. The third layer that is totally missed in the paper is the fact that in most countries, UNDP does not have the capacity to reach the “poorest of the poor” as e are usually urban based and focus on central government. This is a gap that we need to openly acknowledge to then address properly. UNDP does need to partner with local NGOs, CSOs, GROs, etc (and even small entrepreneurs and cooperatives to be able to reach the most vulnerable sectors of the population. And UNDP can still generate value added by promoting its development principles among them, by creating a network of local CSOs that can help deliver the MDGs and the IADGs at the local level, where development happens. And ICTs here can also play a critical role. And all this together should be part of a new development paradigm.

11. Action 7 directly addressed the work we do in BDP in terms of knowledge codification and policy development. For starters, the paper is weak here and it does not really suggest any concrete steps or make any new insights. Second, it fails to link this. “thought leadership”, to issues such as the “new development paradigm, etc. If anything,UNDP can contribute a lot by providing a good picture on the demand side of the equation, by presenting what are the issues developing countries are indeed facing and which sometimes get overtaken by global (supply) issues. There is need to balance this and UNDP could be a main contributor by putting developing country voices on the scene with larger amplifiers.

12. I believe we have discussed in the past wiithin DGG Management, and while I was PMing, the idea of the knowledge cycle (applied policy, implementation, evaluation, impact, and back to policies that can the be revisited. I think we should put this on the table once more and indicate that BDP’s role is to oversee the entire knowledge cycle and produce “useful and timely policy options” as the paper says.

13. The Business model presented in the paper should be revisited. As it is I am not sure I understand what it means (as if we take it at face value, hen we do everything and anything) and, perhaps more importantly, there are no logical links between any of the business processes presented in the chart.

14. Paragraph 77 also deals with knowledge products as just calls for the formation of a publications board which in theory will solve the issues mentioned there and also in the previous sections. One can easily see this as coming directly at BDP. In any event, a publications board will not solve anything unless we keep in mind at least for BDP the knowledge cycle I previously mentioned. It is not a question of the number of publications or better internal controls. It is a question of linking practice with policy and theory. UNDP has a huge “data lab” with some 15k programmes in more than 150 countries. Just by basic probability, some of them must be good and need to be used to create new knowledge, share it and revisit policies. A publications board cannot do this unless it is clear that this is the gap that need to be addressed.. The other issue is the role of the policy bureau on all this. How come an office with no substance (communications) can lead this? This music does not make me want to get up and dance…

Raúl

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