UNDP is the development network on the United Nations. On the ground in 177 countries and territories, UNDP offers both global perspectives and local insights to help empower lives and build resiliency in developing countries. The organization is also helping nations to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were set by the international community in 2000, by providing policy advise and on the ground solutions. For this purpose, UNDP focuses on four core areas of work:
- Poverty Reduction
- Democratic Governance
- Energy and Environment
- Crisis Prevention and Recovery
UNDP helps developing countries attract and use aid effectively along these areas. In all of its activities, the agency fosters human rights, capacity development and women’s empowerment. With an annual budget of over 5.5 billion dollars, UNDP is the largest multi-lateral organization that furnished democratic governance services. In 2012 alone, the organization spent 1.1 billion dollars in this area of work supporting 130 countries and over 1,800 projects.
The core pillars of UNDP’s democratic governance portfolio include:
- Electoral processes
- Parliamentary Development
- E-governance and Access to Information
- Public Administration Reform
- Local Governance and Local Development
- Access to Justice and Rule of Law
- Human Rights
- Gender Equality
UNDP and OGP
UNDP has been closely following OGP since its formal launching in New York on September 2011. In addition, several UNDP country offices have already provided support to national OGP processes. UNDP in Montenegro and Ukraine are two good examples here. Working closely with the CO in Kiev, national government counter-parts and the network of CSOs that was involved in the process, we prepared a short case study on UNDP’s involvement on the OGP process. The report here: https://www.undpegov.org/featured/UA.
Now that OGP has finalized the framework for multi-lateral engagement and UNDP has formally joined the initiative, it is time for the organization to engage more effectively with OGP. UNDP core strength lies on its network of country offices which serve as operational centers to support local stakeholders and implement national programmes. In most, if not all countries, UNDP is viewed as a trusted and impartial partner with effective convening power to bring together stakeholders that would otherwise not do so.
UNDP completed a rapid analysis of the OG national action plans in developing countries. Our analysis showed that between 85% and 90% of the priority areas contained in such plans overlapped with the democratic governance work UNDP is undertaking in such countries. In general, OGP action plans are quite ambitious and have set up timelines that seem very tight -usually two years or less. While this might be more realistic in industrialized nations, the same is not the case for developing countries, especially the least developed and low income countries.
UNDP Areas of Focus for OGP involvement
With all this in mind, UNDP can add real value to OGP by focusing in the following areas:
- Creating a developing country track (DCT) within the OGP context. Developing countries face multiple challenges and obstacles in designing and implementing OGP at the national level. And many of these are unique to them. These range from basic access and connectivity issues to the lack of a strong civil society and democratic culture, and lack of real political will and commitment from national governments to create a more open public sphere. An OGP DCT will focus on these issues, enhance current OGP processes and guidelines to factor them in and foster South-South cooperation so they can learned from each other. For a least developed country (LDC) hearing of or reading about the experience of say Canada or Finland might be interesting – but also foreign to their own local context as many of the processes and outputs presented might seem unattainable to them. DCT will help overcome these challenges while promoting other developing countries to join OGP.
- Supporting developing countries in the design of national action plan on a true multi-stakeholder basis. As a impartial development partner which is trusted at the national level, UNDP has a proven track record of bringing different (and some times even antagonistic) sectors and stakeholders together and achieve concrete results. The Ukraine case spells this out very clearly and can be used as a customizable template for other developing countries.
- Matching National Action Plan priorities with UNDP democratic governance programme portfolios. As mentioned above, there is close correlation between many national action plans and UNDP democratic governance programmes currently being implemented by national counterparts. In an initial phase, this are of work could identity two or three developing countries where synergies between action plan, actors and partners already exist and make the link between priority areas and ongoing governance programmes. Governments here will need to play a key role and be fully engaged in the process. UNDP can also help facilitate this at the country level. Linking the two will not only lead to financial savings and avoiding duplication of efforts but perhaps more importantly increase impact on the ground and accelerate implementation efforts on both sides of the equation.
- Assisting in monitoring/evaluation and impact assessment of national action plans and processes. For the last five years, UNDP has run the Governance Assessment Programme (GAP, http://www.gaportal.org/) which has developed a multi-stakeholder methodology based on national owner ship to assess governance related programmes and initiatives and suggest or develop benchmarks and relevant indicators (see http://www.gaportal.org/undp-supported). This can certainly feed into the work of the Independent Review Mechanism and make an important contribution, particularly in developing countries. As a starting point, UNDP and OGP could consider a joint assessment exercise in one of two developing countries and after comparing notes on theirn respective methodologies.
- Joining the various OGP working groups being created at the moment. OGP working groups on Parliaments and Open Data are being launched by OGP this year. UNDP can certainly join these and other relevant groups that fall within the are of democratic governance. Having UNDP in these groups can bring to bear the specific needs of developing countries as well as UNDP expertise on the various theme that comprise the area of democratic governance.