UNDP slated by its own board

Michael Field at Stuff reports:

Former prime minister has been hit with a devastating critique of her United Nations Development Programme () in an official report saying much of its annual US$5.7 billion (NZ$6.8 billion) budget is only remotely connected to ending global poverty. The densely worded report by the UNDP’s executive board – Clark’s bosses since she became secretary-general in April 2009 – amounts to a stinging performance review. US media reports say she is leading a counter-attack claiming the study misses the point behind its work.  But the report paints a striking picture of a confused organisation seemingly unable to bring significant change to the world’s 1.3 billion poor people despite spending US$8.5 billion on fighting poverty between 2004 and 2011.

Anyone who knows the UN won’t be totally surprised by this critique. What is surprising is that it comes from the UNDP’s own executive board, which suggests major discontent internally.

A longer story is at Fox News, along with the full report and the management response.

Bottom line: after spending more than $8.5 billion on anti-poverty activities between 2004 and 2011—and just how much more is something of a mystery– UNDP has only “limited ability…to demonstrate whether its poverty reduction activities have contributed to any significant change in the lives of the people it is trying to help.”

Those devastating conclusions come in a densely worded, official “evaluation of UNDP contribution to poverty reduction,” which will be presented to the agency’s 36-nation supervisory board at its next meeting, which begins on January 28 in New York.

Among other things, the document casts significant doubt on the extent to which UNDP is actually living up to its declared identity as “the United Nations anti-poverty organization—a world partnership against poverty,” a claim the report says was made by UNDP’s then-chief—James Gustave Speth—in 1995.

Moreover, it lays a significant part of the blame for that failing on the way that UNDP has spread itself across a growing range of activities in the name of promoting “development” –from environmental projects to trade promotion and border management—that “dilute” its anti-poverty effort.

The normal problem of bureaucratic empire growing rather than focusing on actually achieving things.

I love the buzz words in the management response:

Towards the goal of transformational change in the context of poverty reduction, the UNDP theory of change represents a holistic, pragmatic and consistent approach that impacts the lives of people, particularly the most vulnerable. The theory of change presents an end-result of an empowered, resilient and equitable society. 

UNDP must be stuffed full of management consultants!

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