Statement at UNDP Segment discussing Evaluation Report on UNDP contribution to Poverty Reduction at UNDP Segment of the First Regular Session 2013 of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS

Jan 30,2013

Mr. President, I would like to complement the UNDP Evaluation Office for an excellent report on evaluation of UNDP contribution to Poverty Reduction. Our felicitations also to UNDP for having requested this exercise, on a very critical and pertinent theme, which has not just found resonance in the deliberations of this Board, but has also, received considerable attention within the QCPR Resolution.


Mr. President, we firmly believe that course correction is always a welcome exercise and any endeavour, which is based on facts and rationale, that have a sound evidence base, in this regard, is never too late! More so, when we are tackling what has been termed as the “greatest global challenge” of poverty eradication. That is precisely why the findings of the Evaluation Report on UNDP’s contributions are welcome and must find reflection in the Strategic Plan for 2014-2017.


I would therefore ONLY submit, the course corrections that the Evaluation Report has pointed that UNDP needs to make, so that we are able to put focus on what we need to do, rather than just delve on what we have already done. So these are what in my delegation’s view are the most pertinent for UNDP in terms of course correction :


One, finding number 8, of the Evaluation Report clearly points out and I quote : “Even when UNDP undertakes activities with an explicit poverty orientation, the approach often lacks a pro-poor bias and tends to rely instead on the trickle-down process. i.e., the idea that the benefits of any general development activities would somehow trickle down to the poor – and must incorporate specific measures so as to impart a pro-poor bias in the policy framework.


However, the present evaluation finds that when it comes to specific projects designed to support poverty reduction, the general tendency is to rely on the trickle-down process instead of making conscious attempts to introduce pro-poor elements in the project design. ” We do need to factor this and correct it at the earliest


Second, Conclusion 2, of the Evaluation Report points out, quote: “UNDP activities at the country level are often disconnected with overriding commitment to poverty reduction established and are not always consistently designed around an explicit bias towards the poor. While Poverty reduction remains the core focus area of UNDP and the principal objective of its work, by the time it gets to the country level, the focus on poverty reduction often becomes diluted.


So even though the overriding UNDP priority is poverty reduction, a large part of the activities it undertakes at the country level and the manner in which it undertakes them does not conform to this priority. Many of its activities have only remote connections with poverty, if at all. Examples include border management, helping to write reports on the country’s compliance with multilateral environmental agreements, advising on arcane aspects of trade promotion, and so on.”


Mr. President, these are the areas of concern that the report has identified and raised some very pertinent questions, that we do need to consider and factor in, as we plan our course correction for the future.


In fact Para 38 of the report, states and I again quote : “Even the activities undertaken within the poverty portfolio do not always have an adequate pro-poor bias. This is especially true of the projects related to international trade and private sector development. An agency that has explicitly declared poverty reduction as its overriding priority, UNDP should not be satisfied with the gains that are possible through the trickle-down process. Its priority demands that it should seek to maximize the gains for the poor by explicitly trying to impart a distinct pro-poor bias to whatever it does and that all programmes and projects give specific consideration to their effects on the poor.”


Mr. President, let me submit that we have also noted the response of the Management to the findings of the evaluation report, and find that the response summarises the crux of the matter in a sub- heading titled “targeted versus holistic” debate. The broad argument in the response being that since ‘non poverty streams of work also have very powerful impact of poverty reduction’, the direct targeting with a pro-poor policy approach may not be the best way around! Our submission to this element of management’s response is as follows :


First, allow me to begin with a purely illustrative example which would hopefully help understand the point we are trying to make, if you have a situation, when a person who has been deprived of drinking water for four – five days, is thirsty and on the verge of collapse, not just because he cannot afford it but he doesn’t even have access to it, would we be offering him, immediately the first source of water available nearest, or would we be looking at exploring options on whether to give him mineral or sparkle water ?


Today, we have more than 1.3 billion people still living below the poverty line of $1.25 a day. It would therefore be much better in the immediate run for all of us to first focus, on getting them out of their misery by investing in informed choices that they need the most and have an immediate impact, which can only be done through pro-poor policies like supporting job creation, investing in education, health, vocational training and other social enablers. This is NOT at all to belittle or say that ‘holistic approaches’ doesn’t work, but simply to submit that we do need to get our priorities right.


And our second submission in response to the Management Report, is that this is also the mandate 193 member states have given to UNDP in Para 73 of QCPR and called upon UNDP to focus on capacity building, employment generation, education, vocational training, rural development, and the mobilization of all possible resources among others which aim at achieving poverty eradication “


To conclude, Mr. President, we all know that all human endeavour including that of the development arm of UN System is indeed directed, in some way or the other, in achieving poverty reduction. We all appreciate that and acknowledge the same.


But given the complexity of the mounting challenge, it would be better to focus our collective energies through policies that bear dividend in the immediate run, for the sheer enormity of numbers we are grappling with, who are still stuck in abysmal levels of poverty, is still more than one sixth of humanity. This is what the Evaluation Report submits and we would like this very course correction to be incorporated at the earliest.


I thank you, Mr. President.

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