Evaluation of UNDP Contribution to Poverty Reduction

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Evaluation Plan:
2009-2013, Independent Evaluation Office
Evaluation Type:
Thematic
Planned End Date:
01/2013
Completion Date:
01/2013
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
250,000
This evaluation focuses on the evolving role and contribution of the United Nations Development Programme in the reduction of multidimensional poverty. The evaluation considers UNDP work over the period 2000-2012 and covers its contribution across all its focus areas. The evaluation report includes findings and conclusions and provides recommendations for improvement. The UNDP management response is included as an annex to the evaluation report.

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Title Evaluation of UNDP Contribution to Poverty Reduction
Atlas Project Number:
Evaluation Plan: 2009-2013, Independent Evaluation Office
Evaluation Type: Thematic
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 01/2013
Planned End Date: 01/2013
Management Response: Yes
Focus Area:
  • 1. Poverty and MDG
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2014-2017)
  • 1. Capacities of national and local institutions enhanced to scale up proven MDG acceleration interventions and to plan, monitor, report and evaluate the MDG progress in the context of related national development priorities
  • 2. Inclusive growth and social equity promoted through pro-poor macroeconomic and fiscal policies that support income, employment and social protection of youth, women and vulnerable groups in a sustainable way
  • 3. Policies, strategies and partnerships established to enhance public-private sector collaboration and private sector and market development that benefit the poor and ensure that low-income households and small enterprises have access to a broad range of financial and legal services
  • 4. Strengthened national capacities to integrate into the global economic system and to negotiate and manage traditional & emerging development finance for inclusive development
  • 5. Strengthened capacities to mainstream action into national policies, plans and strategies on the socio-economic causes and consequences of HIV and the linkage to the health MDG
Evaluation Budget(US $): 250,000
Source of Funding:
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 250,000
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
Prof. S.R. Osmani Team leader
GEF Evaluation: No
Key Stakeholders:
Lessons
Findings
1.

Chapter 4 ASSESSMENT OF UNDP’S CONTRIBUTION

This chapter presents the findings of the evaluation, assessing the contribution of UNDP country programmes to poverty reduction by using three evaluation criteria – effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability – as defined in Chapter 1. Each of the findings is illustrated with the help of a number of examples drawn from different regions where UNDP works. It should be emphasized, however, that the cited examples do not constitute the whole evidential basis from which the findings are derived. The findings are based on the evaluation of a much wider range of evidence drawn from numerous documents and other sources mentioned in Chapter 1; the examples are used below for illustrative purposes only.

As also mentioned in Chapter 1, this evaluation does not cover all of UNDP’s work in the area of poverty reduction and could not capture using evaluative evidence some of the more recent initiatives undertaken by UNDP in support of the poverty reduction goal. The findings thus do not represent a snapshot of UNDP but rather a story of UNDP’s work over the last ten years. Moreover, since it bases the findings on evidence captured by evaluations, not all examples, good and bad, are included in the narrative. The lack of evaluations is in itself a finding that will be made clearer later in this chapter.

4.1 GENERAL FINDINGS ON UNDP CONTRIBUTION TO POVERTY REDUCTION

The previous chapter set out the strategic intent and corporate initiatives and strategies. This section will look at findings related to what actually happened in terms of UNDP’s interventions. While the next two sections separate upstream and downstream performance, there are some general findings that cut across the two and are presented here. 

Finding 1. UNDP has taken a pragmatic and flexible approach towards advancing the poverty reduction agenda that has varied across countries depending on the national context.


Tag: Rural development Climate Change Adaptation Effectiveness Relevance Gender Equality Women's Empowerment Human rights Justice system Health Sector Integration MDGs Country Government Post Conflict Education Inclusive economic growth Jobs and Livelihoods Micro-credit Poverty Reduction

2.

Finding 2. The resources UNDP devotes to poverty reduction are difficult to determine as poverty is addressed, to a varying degree, in all its focus areas. 


Tag: Crisis Response Efficiency Public administration reform HIV / AIDS MDGs Conflict Crisis prevention Poverty Reduction

3.

4.2 FINDINGS ON EFFECTIVENESS OF UNDP’S UPSTREAM INTERVENTIONS

This section evaluates the evidence on how effective UNDP has been in contributing to pro-poor policy development at the country level and examines the major factors that have had an impact on the degree of its effectiveness. As noted in the previous chapter, the majority of UNDP’s work in its poverty cluster is related to its upstream policy work. This proportion has also increased over time from approximately 40 percent by value of projects in the second MYFF to approximately 60 percent in the first four years of the UNDP Strategic Plan. UNDP’s upstream policy-oriented work covers support to strengthening the enabling environment for pro-poor policy-making as well as direct support to policy development, often using the same tools. The following analysis and key findings are structured by this distinction.

Finding 3. UNDP has been effective in embedding the agenda of poverty reduction from the multidimensional perspective of human development in national forums for debates and discussions on socio-economic development.


Tag: Effectiveness Civic Engagement Parliament Communication Country Support Platform Integration Knowledge management Ownership Policies & Procedures Inclusive economic growth Poverty Reduction Advocacy Policy Advisory Technical Support Data and Statistics

4.

Finding 4. When given the opportunity UNDP has effectively supported national efforts aimed at developing capacity for evidence–based pro-poor policy-making.


Tag: Effectiveness Efficiency Gender Equality Women's Empowerment Human rights MDGs Monitoring and Evaluation Results-Based Management Civil Societies and NGOs Country Government Capacity Building Inclusive economic growth Poverty Reduction Policy Advisory Data and Statistics

5.

Finding 5. Where UNDP has gone beyond support to creating a pro-poor enabling environment to direct support to pro-poor policy-making by national authorities, its success is less evident.


Tag: Effectiveness Impact Integration MDGs Policies & Procedures Country Government Jobs and Livelihoods Poverty Reduction

6.

Finding 6. UNDP’s success in the area of upstream work can be partly explained by its relationship with national authorities and its approach to broad participation.


Tag: Civic Engagement Human rights Donor relations Partnership Civil Societies and NGOs Country Government International Financial Institutions Capacity Building Advocacy Policy Advisory Technical Support

7.

4.3 FINDINGS ON EFFECTIVENESS OF UNDP’S DOWNSTREAM INTERVENTIONS

Beyond its work to support pro-poor evidencebased policy development, UNDP also plays a role in downstream work, aimed at implementing policies and directly supporting poverty reduction. The portfolio of activities is extremely broad and ranges from support to capacity development of local government officials to microfinance schemes and this in itself presents a problem for generalization. Moreover, as noted in Chapter 1, the evaluation will not identify what types of intervention are more effective than others, as this is often context specific. Rather it will attempt to identify the systemic issues that help or hinder UNDP’s contribution to poverty reduction. In this context the following are the key findings:

Finding 7. The contribution of UNDP’s downstream projects aimed at directly addressing poverty reduction is often unclear.


Tag: Effectiveness Impact Sustainability Gender Equality Women's Empowerment Poverty Reduction

8.

Finding 8. 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.


Tag: Tourism Effectiveness Integration Policies & Procedures Programme/Project Design Country Government Private Sector UN Country Team Capacity Building Inclusive economic growth Jobs and Livelihoods Poverty Reduction Trade and Development

9.

Finding 9. UNDP has generally made good use of partnerships within the UN but there are missed opportunities especially in relation to addressing non-income aspects of poverty.


Tag: Aid Coordination Gender Equality Women's Empowerment MDGs Partnership UN Agencies Jobs and Livelihoods Poverty Reduction

10.

4.4 FINDINGS ON EFFECTIVENESS OF OTHER FOCUS AREAS

The importance of UNDP’s whole programme to poverty reduction has been emphasized throughout the first chapters of this evaluation report. Chapter 3 pointed to the strategic intent to put poverty as the overriding objective of UNDP and what that means for other focus areas. The evidence suggests that there is indeed an important contribution. For example, the 2011 Sri Lanka ADR concluded that UNDP’s contribution to poverty reduction was far greater through its environment, governance and crisis work than through the poverty cluster, noting that although such programmes may not have had poverty reduction as their primary objectives they nonetheless had a considerable impact on the lives of the poor and vulnerable. 

Many evaluations have pointed to a central problem in facilitating ‘cross-focus area’ programme development, namely, the fragmented nature of UNDP’s operational structure. UNDP’s organization into separate practice areas, combined with dependence on external funding, steers programming in disparate directions instead of providing incentives for integration.

Finding 10. There is great potential for advancing the cause of poverty reduction through UNDP’s activities in the democratic governance area, but UNDP’s record in harnessing this potential is mixed.


Tag: Effectiveness Anti-corruption Civic Engagement Election Justice system Local Governance Public administration reform Integration Partnership Programme Synergy Service delivery Poverty Reduction Social Protection

11.

Finding 11. Despite some success, there is untapped potential for integrating a poverty focus into UNDP’s environment and energy related activities.


Tag: Biodiversity Energy Environment Policy Effectiveness Efficiency Global Environment Facility fund Private Sector Financing Integration Poverty Reduction

12.

Finding 12. Poverty reduction has often been integrated into UNDP’s work in support of crisis prevention and recovery, but some opportunities to do so were missed.


Tag: Climate Change Adaptation Disaster Risk Reduction Recovery Health Sector Integration Project and Programme management Civil Societies and NGOs Country Government Conflict Conflict resolution Education Inclusive economic growth Jobs and Livelihoods Poverty Reduction

13.

4.5 FINDINGS ON EFFICIENCY

This section provides the evidence on the efficiency with which UNDP country programmes have contributed to poverty reduction. As noted in Chapter 1, the usual definition of efficiency, which relates to the efficiency of moving from inputs to outputs, is too project-oriented and difficult to ascertain in a broad thematic evaluation. Rather, the present evaluation will use an operational definition of efficiency as the extent to which UNDP maximizes the use of its resources by leveraging these resources for a greater contribution to poverty reduction. In other words, even if UNDP’s interventions were successful in achieving their objectives, could the contribution have been much higher for the same resources. This is especially important in the context of UNDP’s limited resources to address the huge challenge of global poverty reduction. It is an issue related to the findings in the previous section on the poverty reduction role of UNDP outside the poverty cluster. UNDP can have a greater contribution if it addresses poverty in more of its work.

There are also a number of generic issues that affect all UNDP interventions and have been raised in the past. As discussed earlier, not everything UNDP does is consistent with its overriding priority of poverty reduction, and even the activities that could be potentially poverty-reducing are not always given a pro-poor orientation. This reduces the efficiency of UNDP in terms of making the best possible use of its resources for the purpose of advancing its priority goal. The fact that resources are spread too thinly – a recurrent theme in ADRs – reduces efficiency even further. A thinly spread portfolio also leads to high transaction costs in relation to learning.

Notwithstanding the above, this section will focus on two related issues that concern leveraging UNDP’s resources for greater impact and surround the idea of scaling up. The EO has reported on the issue of scaling up (or lack of it) to UNDP management on a regular basis (for example, in the Annual Reports on Evaluation). BDP has responded to the challenge with a major effort168 (in partnership with the Special Unit on South-South Cooperation, UNCDF and regional bureaux) aimed at specifically addressing this issue with respect to local development and local governance interventions. The aim of the initiative is to build a strong knowledge base on the key enablers and conditions for scaling up, and support scaling up programming at the country level. Initial outputs include a series of case studies on scaling up for transformational change and a draft guidance note on scaling up. Ongoing activities include additional case studies featuring various pathways of scaling up; a learning module on scaling up (in collaboration with the UNDP Learning Resource Centre); an advocacy video on scaling up with specific country examples (in collaboration with the Communications Office). This section will look at two related scaling-up issues: (a) the expansion of a scheme in one place or to new areas; and (b) the expansion of an idea though linking lessons from downstream work to public policy. Linking these two ideas is the platform of learning, especially supporting national efforts to learn, so that projects and policies can be adapted based on what has been learned.

Finding 13. In many cases, no systematic effort has been made to maximize the benefits of innovative pilot and small-scale projects aimed at poverty reduction through facilitating their scaling up.


Tag: Efficiency Sustainability Innovation Capacity Building Poverty Reduction

14.

Finding 14. Efficiency is often compromised by the failure to forge constructive linkages between downstream and upstream interventions.


Tag: Efficiency Integration Knowledge management MDGs Programme Synergy Poverty Reduction Policy Advisory

15.

4.6 FINDINGS ON SUSTAINABILITY

This section evaluates the evidence on the sustainability of UNDP’s efforts at poverty reduction. As noted in Chapter 1, the sustainability criterion as used in the present evaluation does not relate to the sustainability of particular UNDP interventions per se, but to the sustainability of overall results, in this case a reduction in human poverty, to whichthey contribute. Sustainability of UNDP’s success in pursuing its goal of poverty reduction is to some extent outside its own control as it depends on extraneous factors such as availability of resources at the disposal of the country, ideological shifts in policy regime, emergence of conflicts and crises, etc. Nonetheless UNDP can do much to facilitate the greater likelihood of sustainability.

It has already been noted that much of UNDP’s work related to natural disasters and conflict is preventative. The same is true with work in the areas of environment or HIV/AIDS. All these have strong linkages to poverty reduction. The sustainability of the poverty reduction results to which UNDP contributes is, therefore, reinforced through the strong preventative stance of much of its work. At the same time, it may not be possible to fully assess the sustainability of the results to which UNDP only recently contributed: likelihood of sustainability is, therefore, identified.

The recent development effectiveness review of UNDP prepared by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) noted that findings on sustainability of benefits/results represent a significant challenge to the development effectiveness of UNDP. Although these findings affect UNDP’s contribution to poverty reduction, this section will not dwell on the generic findings on sustainability that have been identified in the past but note two important ones also identified in the CIDA report: (a) the absence in some programmes of an explicit programme phase-out strategy and (b) the lack of integrated sustainability considerations in the early stages of programme design. The section will now examine in more detail two findings more specifically related to UNDP’s poverty reduction work.

Finding 15. UNDP’s ability to firmly embed the notion of human development in the national discourse has increased the chance of sustainability of the results to which it contributes in the area of poverty reduction.


Tag: Sustainability Civic Engagement Integration Ownership Partnership Policies & Procedures Results-Based Management Strategic Positioning Civil Societies and NGOs Education Poverty Reduction

16.

Finding 16. Sustainability has also been enhanced in countries where UNDP has succeeded in improving national capacity for pro-poor policy-making. However, evidence for sustained improvement in national capacity is not widely found, especially in the countries where existing capacity happens to be the weakest.


Tag: Sustainability MDGs Ownership Country Government Capacity Building Poverty Reduction Policy Advisory

Recommendations
1

Recommendation 1. UNDP should forge stronger links with national stakeholders, especially civil society and academia, to ensure that the ideas and lessons it propagates through its flagship documents, such as NHDRs and MDG reports, may influence the national policy agenda.

While UNDP has been highly successful in embedding the cause of poverty reduction and human development in national discourses, it has achieved much less success in ensuring that the ideas and policies it propagates, for example through NHDRs and MDG reports, are actually incorporated into concrete policies adopted by national governments. To some extent, this is expected because as a development partner UNDP can only have a limited influence on policy-making, which depends on many other factors beyond UNDP’s control. But this cannot be accepted as an excuse for being satisfied with the status quo, because ideas are of no use unless they are put into practice. While recognizing that there are limits to what it can do, UNDP should make stronger efforts to influence policy-making, by utilizing the goodwill and leverage it enjoys in most countries as the most trusted and neutral development partner. For this purpose, UNDP needs to build stronger partnerships with relevant national stakeholders such as the civil society and the academia because, in the final analysis, it is the debates, dialogues and campaigns conducted by concerned nationals, rather than the advocacy of outsiders, that would shape national policies. UNDP should build bridges with them not only by involving them in some of its activities such as preparation of NHDRs and MDG reports, as it currently does to some extent, but also by trying to nurture and empower them in ways that are most effective in particular contexts. 

2

Recommendation 2. Programmes and projects undertaken by UNDP should be designed with an explicit pro-poor bias, always trying to add specific elements that would enhance the likelihood that the poor will benefit more than they otherwise would through general development interventions. Activities where it is impossible to introduce such an explicit pro-poor focus should be kept to a bare minimum and should be taken up only under strict guidelines with the strategic objective of leveraging the resources and ensuring the goodwill that UNDP will need in order to advance its mission of poverty reduction.

In whatever UNDP does it is likely that some benefits will come to the way of the poor, even if nothing special was done to privilege the poor as beneficiaries. But if that is all UNDP is aiming for, then it is not taking its poverty-reduction priority seriously. Respect for the priority demands that in everything UNDP does it should consciously try to build in specific elements that would ensure that the benefits that flow from its interventions will accrue disproportionately to the poor, i.e., there must be a bias in favour of the poor. Imparting a deliberate pro-poor bias to everything UNDP does should be an overriding concern across its interventions. To ensure a sharper focus on this area, indicators of success in poverty reduction should be made explicit in all project documents, indicating precisely how the bias is to be imparted in the specific context and how the contribution to poverty reduction is to be monitored and evaluated. This shall allow UNDP to better measure its impact at all levels, and provide a more accurate basis for assessing its impact on helping to reduce poverty at beneficiary level. Such an approach will also help UNDP to improve its own monitoring and evaluation systems.

Many UNDP country programmes include a subset of activities that have very remote connection with poverty, if at all. For an organization that has been entrusted with the task of poverty reduction as its overriding priority, this raises concerns about how resources are directed. In its defence, UNDP has argued that it has often had to undertake non-propoor activities to bolster its inadequate core resources, and to use such activities to help it seek funds from agencies for which poverty reduction may not be the primary concern. The UNDP response should also be understood in the context that this has also been done to maintain the goodwill of national governments which often call upon UNDP as the development partner of the last resort to carry out an assortment of tasks that other agencies are not keen to take up. While there is some validity to this argument, and to that extent, it may be acceptable to include some general-purpose activities without any direct connection with poverty, the implication in practice is that many of UNDP activities over the years have resulted in less of an explicit connection with poverty. This means that there may need to be a reflection as to whether UNDP continues to project itself as a poverty-addressing institution, in the main. Unless this changes, in the immediate term such activities should be kept to a minimum, and undertaken within strict guidelines about what proportion of staff and other fixed resources can be devoted to them so that UNDP’s primary mission is not compromised.

In addition to the technocratic fixes, there needs to be change in mindset that complements the above. As noted in Chapter 2, UNDP’s Strategic Plan 2008-2013 is quite explicit in recognizing that each of the focus areas can and should contribute towards poverty reduction. In some country offices, the reason this recognition does not get reflected in much of UNDP’s work is the existence of a separate cluster on poverty reduction. Poverty must be everybody’s concern; and every focus area must justify ex ante the activities it undertakes by spelling out the likely contribution to poverty reduction and evaluate its performance ex post by using the observed contribution as one of the evaluative criteria. In some circumstances, the existence of the poverty cluster may reduce the incentive as well as the compulsion for integrating poverty concerns across the interventions by encouraging the idea among staff involved in other focus areas that poverty is somebody else’s concern. Country offices need to address the challenge of ending the compartmentalization of poverty-reduction activities while ensuring that the capacities to facilitate the introduction of a pro-poor bias across all activities are in place.

3

Recommendation 3. UNDP country offices should strengthen efforts to create more effective integration between thematic clusters and stronger partnerships with United Nations agencies, especially in terms of ensuring a sharper focus on non-income dimensions of poverty.

The interventions that UNDP undertakes in the areas of livelihoods, governance, environment and crisis prevention and recovery are often potentially complementary with each other, but these complementarities are not fully exploited by UNDP. The strategies to improve livelihoods would have a better chance of success if they are embedded in a system of governance that empowers the people and creates entitlements that people can defend through participation in the processes of governance. On the other hand, efforts to improve the system of local governance would have a better chance of success if people were convinced that better governance would contribute positively to their lives and livelihoods. Similar two-way complementarities exist between all the focus areas. In fact, potential synergies may extend even further to involve more than two focus areas. For instance, attempts to combine environmental protection with sustainable livelihoods may be strengthened by linking them with participatory local governance. UNDP’s current practice fails to exploit these synergies fully as it tends to remain confined too narrowly to the respective focus areas. Greater efforts must be made to integrate activities among the focus areas so that the poverty-reducing potential of all the areas can be harnessed together in order to achieve an outcome that is greater than the sum of the parts.

Since ILO is specifically mandated to promote the cause of employment and labour standards, and since the income dimension of poverty is crucially dependent on the creation of productive employment opportunities for the poor, it would seem logical to suppose that UNDP and ILO would be comrades in arms in the fight against poverty. A good deal of cooperation between the two organizations does in fact take place at global and regional levels (as noted in the findings), but UNDP’s country programmes are conspicuously weak in building partnerships with ILO. A serious effort must be made to remedy this weakness, including building and extending existing partnerships such as those in post-conflict situations. One possibility is to set up a funding mechanism such as the MDG Fund that can enable UNDP and ILO to undertake joint initiatives in support of labour-intensive growth. As for non-income dimensions of poverty, the natural allies of UNDP would be sister UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, UN Women and UNV, working together in the areas of education, health, gender empowerment and volunteerism. In practice, however, UNDP often has very little cooperation with UNICEF and WHO on the ground, usually based on the argument of division of labour. But if UNDP is to take seriously the multidimensionality of poverty, it cannot wash its hands off the non-income dimensions on the grounds that other agencies are dealing with them. Among all the UN agencies, UNDP is unique in being entrusted with the task of dealing with human poverty in all its dimensions, and as such it has an obligation to build strong partnerships with all other agencies that deal with some specific dimensions of poverty.

4

Recommendation 4. Downstream activities should be undertaken for the most part with the explicit strategic objective of contributing to something bigger than what those activities can deliver on their own by way of learning lessons for up-scaling or feeding into upstream policy advice relevant for poverty reduction. UNDP should incorporate into its system of performance evaluation for both its staff and its activities specific provisions that explicitly spell out the means as well as incentives for institutionalized learning so that lessons learned from successes and failures in each of its activities can feed into everything that UNDP does both across portfolios and over time.

There is an ongoing debate within UNDP on what constitutes the right balance between upstream and downstream activities and there has been a tendency in recent years to tilt the balance  in the upstream direction. While this tendency may be justified, there remains the question of precisely what purpose the downstream activities, to the extent they are undertaken, are supposed to serve. By their very nature, downstream activities would generally be targeted towards particular groups of population. Even if such activities succeed in conferring the desired benefits to the target population, by themselves their impact on poverty at the aggregate level is bound to be negligible because the target population will seldom be large enough to make a substantial difference to the bigger picture. In general, the only way they can have a larger impact is if the lessons learned from them – from both successes and failures – are systematically used to up-scale the interventions more effectively covering a larger swathe of the population, or to feed policy advice at the upstream level.

Currently, most downstream activities do not serve this broader objective; they are mostly carried out as stand-alone projects whose benefits, if any, often disappear with the termination of the project. This compromises both the efficiency with which UNDP uses its scarce resources and the sustainability of its contribution. UNDP should, therefore, make it mandatory that all its downstream activities are undertaken with the explicit objective of learning lessons from them – in a form that can be used by others. The project documents must be required to specify clearly what kinds of lessons are expected to be learned and the project termination reports must be required to distil the lessons learned and articulate them in a succinct form. Both the specification of expected lessons and the distillation of actual lessons should be accomplished through widespread consultation within the country office as a whole, preferably in conjunction with external experts, both within and outside the government.

Downstream activities are not the only area where UNDP demonstrates a distinct lack of learning. The problem is in fact quite pervasive, involving upstream activities as well. The absence of an adequate learning has been repeatedly noted by numerous evaluations of UNDP’s country programmes, as has the lack of a results-oriented culture in the organization. This is a serious impediment to maximizing UNDP’s contribution to poverty reduction, or any other objective for that matter. Sometimes some committed individuals have tried to make a difference, but the task of changing a deeply ingrained culture cannot be left to individual efforts alone. It is a systemic problem in the sense that the incentives that UNDP offers – in the form of sanctions and rewards – do not encourage systematic learning on the part of its staff in the country offices. The solution must be systemic as well. UNDP must find ways of altering the incentive structure by revising the criteria by which UNDP evaluates the performance of its staff and their activities. Accountability procedures may have to be set up at different levels, i.e., at the levels of individual staff members, focus area teams and the country office as a whole, so that individually and collectively the staff members find it in their interest to ensure learning from experience and transmission of the lessons learned.

1. Recommendation:

Recommendation 1. UNDP should forge stronger links with national stakeholders, especially civil society and academia, to ensure that the ideas and lessons it propagates through its flagship documents, such as NHDRs and MDG reports, may influence the national policy agenda.

While UNDP has been highly successful in embedding the cause of poverty reduction and human development in national discourses, it has achieved much less success in ensuring that the ideas and policies it propagates, for example through NHDRs and MDG reports, are actually incorporated into concrete policies adopted by national governments. To some extent, this is expected because as a development partner UNDP can only have a limited influence on policy-making, which depends on many other factors beyond UNDP’s control. But this cannot be accepted as an excuse for being satisfied with the status quo, because ideas are of no use unless they are put into practice. While recognizing that there are limits to what it can do, UNDP should make stronger efforts to influence policy-making, by utilizing the goodwill and leverage it enjoys in most countries as the most trusted and neutral development partner. For this purpose, UNDP needs to build stronger partnerships with relevant national stakeholders such as the civil society and the academia because, in the final analysis, it is the debates, dialogues and campaigns conducted by concerned nationals, rather than the advocacy of outsiders, that would shape national policies. UNDP should build bridges with them not only by involving them in some of its activities such as preparation of NHDRs and MDG reports, as it currently does to some extent, but also by trying to nurture and empower them in ways that are most effective in particular contexts. 

Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31] [Last Updated: 2020/07/04]

Engaging civil society and academia has been normal UNDP practice in its substantive work and programmatic exercises at the country level. For example, NHDRs have systematically involved academia and research institutions at the national and sub-national levels. In India, the Human Development Report for West Bengal was led by academics in Jawaharlal Nehru University. The country MDG reports engage civil society and the private sector. In programmatic activities such as MAF at the country level, involvement of multi-stakeholders in the roll-out is a pre-requisite. UNDP result-oriented annual reports have recently introduced requests to country offices to report on partnerships and engagement profiles, which include civil society and academia. UNDP will take further actions to ensure systematic engagement of multi-stakeholders in the processes of its substantive and programmatic work.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
1.1. Include engagement of civil society and academia as a critical step in knowledge product quality assurance procedures.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
BDP, regional bureaux, country offices, HDRO 2013/06 Completed In the roll out of numerous poverty reductions oriented initiatives, such as the MAF roll out and implementation of action plans, BDP continues to critically engage with CSOs and academia at the country level as part of the implementation and validation of knowledge creation and programmes on the ground. Additionally, all Poverty Practice knowledge products and services are regularly quality assured internally and externally, including peer reviews by leading scholars and development practitioners. In the context of the post 2015 development framework discussions, engagement with civil society and academia is the underpinning of national, thematic and global consultations and outreach efforts through MyWorld. On the regional front, leading think tanks in the Russian Federation and Central Asia have been engaged in providing feedback on the Central Asia human development papers. Another good example of collaboration with academia is the RBEC and London School of Economics joint publication of the regional Development and Transition newsletter, which inter alia featured LSE faculty/experts providing critical assessments of RBEC regional and national results reporting. During 2005-2012 RBEC cooperated with the Central European University in holding regional human development courses at which regional experts provided quality assurance of concept notes for regional and national HDRs, and other knowledge products and programming. HDRO has continued to promote the development of National Human Development Reports (NHDRs) as vehicles to ensure engagement of civil society and academia in the production of high quality knowledge products. Indeed, the R/NHDR toolkit presents this as among the first steps in starting the development of a Human Development Report. The importance of this is stressed in the new quality assurance guidelines that have been uploaded in the POPP in 2013. HDRO also seeks to promote these principles through regional training courses for NHDR teams, for which COs are encouraged to bring in participants from civil society and academia. A Central Asia regional workshop was conducted in late 2013. 2016 update: UNDP standard operating procedures require external peer review of all global and regional knowledge products, including relevant civil society and academic partners. UNDP engages civil society and academia in the design and validation of country programming and knowledge products, including country programme documents and Millennium Development Goals acceleration action plans. The operating framework of the UNDP Civil Society Advisory Committee states that members provide substantive inputs to the development of key UNDP strategies and policies across its areas of focus. The forthcoming UNDG guidelines on sustainable development goals reporting suggest specific channels to facilitate civil society involvement in reporting local progress, including face-to-face and electronic platforms.Regional and national human development reports continue to be vehicles for local thought-leaders, academic institutions and civil society organizations to engage in national and global debates related to poverty. UNDP focal points are tasked with facilitating civic engagement at every stage of production. History
1.2. Report on partnership and engagement with civil society and academia in Result-Oriented Annual Report (ROAR).
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
Country offices, regional bureaux, BDP, OSG, BERA 2014/12 Completed ROARs for 2013 increasingly capture partnerships with CSOs and academia. A quick mapping of Country Offices reports, notably from the RBEC region, document good results on engagement with civil society and academia. 2016 update: All UNDP country offices, through the results-oriented annual report, are asked to report on their cooperation with the private sector, civil society organizations and academia. In 2015, 29 per cent of country offices reported cooperation with Southern-based civil society organizations, compared to 12 per cent in 2014. In 2015, cooperation with academic and research institutions increased by 19 per cent. According to its Integrated Results and Resources Framework, UNDP strengthened civil society capacities in 21 countries in 2014, supporting their engagement in development- and poverty-related debates, including groups representing women, youth, and other marginalized groups. In 2015, the number jumped to 37 countries, while 32 country offices worked to strengthen the enabling environment for civic engagement. By the end of 2017, UNDP expects to have helped 48 countries strengthen the capacity of civil society to engage meaningfully in pro-poor policy debates and action. The Integrated Results and Resources Framework includes an output on establishing frameworks for civic engagement. Country offices, and other parts of UNDP, regularly report on progress against this output. Additionally, to capture the extensive work promoting citizen participation, UNDP has proposed including a question on how opportunities for citizen participation are being expanded as a result of UNDP activities (results-oriented annual report, 2016). History
1.3. Support countries develop over 40 "third generation" MDG reports serving as evidence to inform the post-2015 development agenda, with guidance on engaging civil society and academia.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
BDP and regional bureaux 2014/12 Completed UNDP continues to respond to country demand to devise strategies to tackle the unfinished business of the MDGs, including in new, emerging areas that would inform the post-2015 development agenda, including through the development of MAF action plans and post-2015 implementation knowledge In this context, it continues to facilitate country reporting on the final impact of the MDGs (with support to 40 countries in 2013), while enabling the transition to the new global agenda. Guidance on MDG reports was issued in 2013. At the regional levels, Bureau for Development Policy through its poverty group and regional bureaus and service centres have continued to provide technical support to the drafting of national MDG reports. In the CIS region, for instance, support was provided to: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan in producing such reports. These reports will be used as input for a UN regional MDG report. In the Arab States region, support was provided to: Lebanon, Morocco, PAPP, Somalia, and Tunisia. In the Africa region, support was provided to: Botswana, Comoros, Cote d Ivoire, DRC, Guinea, Lesotho, Namibia, Mauritius, Seychelles, Rwanda, and Togo. In the Asia and Pacific region, support was provided to: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. In the Latin America and Caribbean region, support was provided to: Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, El Salvador, Haiti, Mexico, and Uruguay. To date, UNDP, in its role as the scorekeeper for the MDGs, has supported the production of over 420 government MDG country reports. The next of MDG monitoring at country level will encourage governments to set the baselines for the SDGs/post-2015 development agenda, including both the unfinished business of the MDGs and indicators for measuring sustainable human development. In this context, it continues to facilitate country reporting on the final impact of the MDGs (with support to 40 countries in 2013), while enabling the transition to the new global agenda. At the regional levels, BDP/PG and RBx/RSCs have continued to provide technical support to the drafting of national MDG reports. In the CIS region, for instance, support was provided to: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan in producing such reports. Following on the UNDG regional directors? team decision, these reports will be used as input for a UN regional MDG report. In the Arab States region, support was provided to: Lebanon, Morocco, PAPP, Somalia, and Tunisia. In the Africa region, support was provided to: Botswana, Comoros, Cote d?Ivoire, DRC, Guinea, Lesotho, Namibia, Mauritius, Seychelles, Rwanda, and Togo. In the Asia and Pacific region, support was provided to: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. In the Latin America and Caribbean region, support was provided to: Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, El Salvador, Haiti, Mexico, and Uruguay. To date, UNDP, in its role as the scorekeeper for the MDGs, has supported the production of over 420 government MDG country reports. The next of MDG monitoring at country level will encourage governments to set the baselines for the SDGs/post-2015 development agenda, including both the unfinished business of the MDGs and indicators for measuring sustainable human development. Currently, UNDP is mobilizing resources for this initiative. 2016 update: As the Millennium Development Goals score-keeper, UNDP worked with its national partners to facilitate periodic, inclusive reviews on progress towards the Goals. At least one national Millennium Development Goals report was produced by each of the 156 UNDP programme countries. Governments led their production, working with UNDP and United Nations country teams to engage the full range of stakeholders, including from marginalized and vulnerable communities.In 2013, a UNDP amendment to the UNDG guidance note on MDG reporting recommended that governments consult with stakeholders to mine lessons on their experience in implementing the Goals. The resulting 55 â??third-generationâ?? national Millennium Development Goals reports, suggest that the multiple manifestations and underlying causes of poverty were increasingly analysed, better understood and better reflected in Goals-focused initiatives. Civic engagement underpinned UNDP efforts to build consensus on the post-2015 global development agenda, particularly to ensure the inclusion of poor and marginalized communities. Global thematic debates brought world-class experts, advocates and think tanks into the conversation; and the global My World survey allowed the participation of over 10 million people. History
2. Recommendation:

Recommendation 2. Programmes and projects undertaken by UNDP should be designed with an explicit pro-poor bias, always trying to add specific elements that would enhance the likelihood that the poor will benefit more than they otherwise would through general development interventions. Activities where it is impossible to introduce such an explicit pro-poor focus should be kept to a bare minimum and should be taken up only under strict guidelines with the strategic objective of leveraging the resources and ensuring the goodwill that UNDP will need in order to advance its mission of poverty reduction.

In whatever UNDP does it is likely that some benefits will come to the way of the poor, even if nothing special was done to privilege the poor as beneficiaries. But if that is all UNDP is aiming for, then it is not taking its poverty-reduction priority seriously. Respect for the priority demands that in everything UNDP does it should consciously try to build in specific elements that would ensure that the benefits that flow from its interventions will accrue disproportionately to the poor, i.e., there must be a bias in favour of the poor. Imparting a deliberate pro-poor bias to everything UNDP does should be an overriding concern across its interventions. To ensure a sharper focus on this area, indicators of success in poverty reduction should be made explicit in all project documents, indicating precisely how the bias is to be imparted in the specific context and how the contribution to poverty reduction is to be monitored and evaluated. This shall allow UNDP to better measure its impact at all levels, and provide a more accurate basis for assessing its impact on helping to reduce poverty at beneficiary level. Such an approach will also help UNDP to improve its own monitoring and evaluation systems.

Many UNDP country programmes include a subset of activities that have very remote connection with poverty, if at all. For an organization that has been entrusted with the task of poverty reduction as its overriding priority, this raises concerns about how resources are directed. In its defence, UNDP has argued that it has often had to undertake non-propoor activities to bolster its inadequate core resources, and to use such activities to help it seek funds from agencies for which poverty reduction may not be the primary concern. The UNDP response should also be understood in the context that this has also been done to maintain the goodwill of national governments which often call upon UNDP as the development partner of the last resort to carry out an assortment of tasks that other agencies are not keen to take up. While there is some validity to this argument, and to that extent, it may be acceptable to include some general-purpose activities without any direct connection with poverty, the implication in practice is that many of UNDP activities over the years have resulted in less of an explicit connection with poverty. This means that there may need to be a reflection as to whether UNDP continues to project itself as a poverty-addressing institution, in the main. Unless this changes, in the immediate term such activities should be kept to a minimum, and undertaken within strict guidelines about what proportion of staff and other fixed resources can be devoted to them so that UNDP’s primary mission is not compromised.

In addition to the technocratic fixes, there needs to be change in mindset that complements the above. As noted in Chapter 2, UNDP’s Strategic Plan 2008-2013 is quite explicit in recognizing that each of the focus areas can and should contribute towards poverty reduction. In some country offices, the reason this recognition does not get reflected in much of UNDP’s work is the existence of a separate cluster on poverty reduction. Poverty must be everybody’s concern; and every focus area must justify ex ante the activities it undertakes by spelling out the likely contribution to poverty reduction and evaluate its performance ex post by using the observed contribution as one of the evaluative criteria. In some circumstances, the existence of the poverty cluster may reduce the incentive as well as the compulsion for integrating poverty concerns across the interventions by encouraging the idea among staff involved in other focus areas that poverty is somebody else’s concern. Country offices need to address the challenge of ending the compartmentalization of poverty-reduction activities while ensuring that the capacities to facilitate the introduction of a pro-poor bias across all activities are in place.

Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31] [Last Updated: 2020/07/04]

With organizational commitment to human development, dedication to poverty elimination and concrete actions ensuring poverty focus in thematic areas, UNDP has been on track. The challenges are three-fold: (a) consolidation of the above approach; (b) broad-based integration of a poverty focus across areas and in more country programmes; and (c) developing country-level staff capacity to ensure such integration. More concerted actions will be undertaken on diagnostic assessment tools, methodologies and frameworks, guidance notes, practice tool kits, and dissemination of lessons learnt from real programme. Through dialogue with national counterparts and by reflecting national priorities, a more deliberate, evidence-based approach to programming will be developed that emphasizes a policy-based, broader poverty reduction approach and focused poverty interventions. Developing national capacities and promoting more deliberate, concrete, evidence-based programming, with appropriate monitoring and assessment, will help to inform policies and contribute to scaling up policies and results. This theory of change will help to conceptualize and design appropriate poverty-focused initiatives in different focus areas, developing required implementation plans and rolling out necessary monitoring and evaluation exercises.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
2.1. Develop guidelines and a practical tool kit with project examples of how to design pro-poor programme in the area of democratic governance, energy and environment, HIV and AIDS, and crisis prevention and recovery.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
BDP, BCPR, LRC together with country offices 2015/06 Completed The recommendations and committed action plans were put forth before the new strategic plan IRRF finalization and before the structural review process. Based on the original TOR for this action, initial desk reviews have been conducted. Key pro-poor indicators have been proposed for all relevant outcomes. 2016 update: Explicit guidelines and toolkits have been developed in all UNDP thematic areas (see sample list in annex 3). These publications enable UNDP country offices to maximize the poverty reduction impact of their initiatives. The 2015 UNDP publication Mainstreaming environment and climate for poverty reduction and sustainable development, for example, elaborates approaches that have worked to maximize poverty reduction and environmental objectives. UNDP prospectuses and policy briefs released in 2015 also elaborate on the UNDP integrated approach towards the eradication of poverty. History
2.2a. Ensure designated capacity in poverty clusters (teams) in the country offices, regional service centres and headquarters to advise and support other practices to design, monitor, implement and evaluate programmes with explicit pro-poor bias.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
Country offices, regional bureaux, BDP, BCPR 2015/06 Completed The Poverty Practice is currently undertaking a mapping (connected to the guidelines mentioned above in 2.1) to determine service needs to design, monitor, implement and evaluate programmes with explicit pro-poor bias. On the regional front, methodological approaches are piloted on the selection of appropriate national and regional baselines and targets for the poverty-related indicators in the UNDP programmes. 2016 update: In March 2016, the UNDP project document template was revised to require a description of the development challenge the project seeks to address, provide evidence of how it relates to national/ regional/global development priorities for women and men, marginalized and excluded groups and therefore, explain why it is important for reducing poverty, curbing inequality and exclusion. This requires all projects to elaborate on how they intend to reduce poverty, and incentivize staff to design projects, in consultation with policy advisors, with specific poverty reduction targets and clear theories of change, from the outset. The reorganization of UNDP in 2014 sought in part to avoid compartmentalizing poverty reduction (highlighted by the evaluation), by organizing staff in thematically integrated practices. All practices are responsible for delivering long- and short-term poverty reduction results by building more peaceful, just and cohesive societies; working to safeguard and restore essential ecosystems important to the welfare of the poor; strengthening governance and accountability; generating livelihoods; and laying the ground for productive, inclusive economies. History
2.2b. Poverty teams in crises countries and in regional service centres acquire skills on UNDP programming in crises response with a focus on livelihoods and economic recovery programming, including linkages with other practice areas such as crises governance and conflict prevention.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
Country offices, regional bureaux, BCPR 2014/03 Completed BCPR organized a well-attended global community of practice meeting in 2013 (33 country offices) convening programme staff from poverty and CPR units. The GCOP focused on experiences and lessons learnt on livelihoods and economic recovery in crisis and post crisis settings and provided training on UNDP signature products in this area. The GCOP also focused on training in crisis governance especially local government/institutional capacity and conflict development analysis in crisis and post crisis situations. In follow up to this meeting, a GCOP platform was established and continues to promote the sharing of experiences and lessons learned on livelihoods and economic recovery across the UNDP COs globally. Further training activities in this area are programmed for 2014. In March, a SURGE training was organised for countries in Southern Africa. Poverty and governance teams from Liberia, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe, to name a few, participated. One day was devoted to training on the livelihoods and economic recovery signature products, and the link to governance and conflict prevention. On the regional front, RBEC since 2008 has been leading the UN-system?s Central Asia Regional Risk Assessment process, which has focused on integrating poverty/vulnerability analysis and social impact assessments with capacity building for humanitarian/ emergency responses and disaster risk management in this sub-region. It has also ensured that the activities of the DPA/BCPR UN working group on Belarus have been well informed by evidence-based analyses of growing threats of poverty, social exclusion, and socio-economic vulnerability in this country. 2016 update: In 2013, staff from poverty and crisis prevention and recovery units from 33 countries were trained to assess and deliver economic recovery and livelihoods â?? including through emergency employment, enterprise recovery, community infrastructure rehabilitation, debris management and local government support (participatory planning). In 2014, 2015, and 2016, similar such trainings were held for staff with diverse expertise â?? involved in UNDP crisis-response (â??SURGEâ??). In 2015 over 100 colleagues were trained in immediate post-crisis livelihoods generation â?? including through debris management, municipal solid waste management, infrastructure rehabilitation, enterprise recovery, and cash-based interventions. A global platform and community of practice facilitates ongoing exchange and learning on economic recovery and livelihoods in both (post-) crisis and non-crisis contexts among UNDP staff, at all levels and in all thematic areas. History
2.3. Include pro-poorness and environmental sustainability as one of the criteria in the project appraisal committee checklist.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
OSG, Regional Bureaux, Country Offices 2014/02 Completed UNDP took concrete steps to develop an organization wide approach to project quality assurance. This tool will integrate Gender Marker, CD Tracker, Social and Environmental Standards, as well as pro-poorness criteria, all of which will feed into the QA system. The tool was piloted in a series of countries and will be launched in 1Q 2014. 2016 update: In 2015 UNDP adopted social and environmental standards for all projects and programmes, aligned with the integrated objectives in 2030 Agenda. The standards integrate the gender marker, the capacity development tracker, environmental standards, sustainability, human rights and pro-poor criteria. They require staff to analyse risks and the interlinkages between objectives, elaborating how they will achieve poverty reduction while advancing environmental, gender, crisis prevention, governance and other objectives.The criteria for project appraisal requires the inclusion of explicit â??strategies to effectively identify, engage and ensure the meaningful participation of targeted groups/geographic areas with a priority focus on the excluded and marginalizedâ?�. Projects are rated on how well they â??prioritize marginalized and excluded populations and engage them in the design of the project â?? in a way that addresses any underlying causes of exclusion and discriminationâ?�, as well as potential social and environmental risks, opportunities and adverse impacts. History
2.4. Analyse programmes that crosscut multiple practice areas and contribute to poverty reduction, such as MAF programmes in different thematic areas, to tease out the successful factors and lessons learnt.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
Country offices, regional bureaux, BDP, BCPR 2013/12 Completed As with deliverable 2.1, this deliverable and its time-frame has been slightly adjusted in lieu of the structural review, accordingly a consultancy TOR to implement the deliverable will be launched soon. In general, a second global report featuring trends and results globally was produced and launched in September 2013, Accelerating progress, Sustaining Results. This report was informed by the discussions and papers presented at the Global MDG Conference held in Bogota in February 2013 with participants from academia, multilateral organizations, governments, NGOs, and others. Further lessons with the MAF implementation and acceleration will be extracted to inform the implementations of the SDGs beyond 2015. In several regional contexts, results from implementation of MAF action plans provided a very good basis for analysis given their cross-cutting nature. 2016 update: Country programme documents are required to use evaluations and evidence to identify what has worked and what has not, and apply those lessons to inform programming priorities. Corporate standards for project implementation require staff to regularly assess the theory of change to determine if it holds true in practice, including by considering social and environmental impacts and risks and ensuring that they are successfully managed and monitored. The country programme documents criteria require evidence that targeted groups are being systematically identified and engaged â?? prioritizing the marginalized and excluded. This incentivizes measures to target the poorest, and generates evidence that they benefit from UNDP support â?? thus directly addressing a concern noted in the evaluation. Reports against this criterion must be reviewed by country-level managers; shortcomings are flagged as requiring a review and management response to improve programming. A 2014 evaluation of UNDP contributions to the Millennium Development Goals, highlighted the Millennium Development Goals Acceleration Framework, UNDP-facilitation of lessons learned and its flexible approach to implementation as significant strengths and contributions to achievement of the Goals. A United Nations Chief Executives Board review of Acceleration Framework implementation concluded (noting examples) that it had successfully facilitated the application of lessons learned from practice to achieve results. History
3. Recommendation:

Recommendation 3. UNDP country offices should strengthen efforts to create more effective integration between thematic clusters and stronger partnerships with United Nations agencies, especially in terms of ensuring a sharper focus on non-income dimensions of poverty.

The interventions that UNDP undertakes in the areas of livelihoods, governance, environment and crisis prevention and recovery are often potentially complementary with each other, but these complementarities are not fully exploited by UNDP. The strategies to improve livelihoods would have a better chance of success if they are embedded in a system of governance that empowers the people and creates entitlements that people can defend through participation in the processes of governance. On the other hand, efforts to improve the system of local governance would have a better chance of success if people were convinced that better governance would contribute positively to their lives and livelihoods. Similar two-way complementarities exist between all the focus areas. In fact, potential synergies may extend even further to involve more than two focus areas. For instance, attempts to combine environmental protection with sustainable livelihoods may be strengthened by linking them with participatory local governance. UNDP’s current practice fails to exploit these synergies fully as it tends to remain confined too narrowly to the respective focus areas. Greater efforts must be made to integrate activities among the focus areas so that the poverty-reducing potential of all the areas can be harnessed together in order to achieve an outcome that is greater than the sum of the parts.

Since ILO is specifically mandated to promote the cause of employment and labour standards, and since the income dimension of poverty is crucially dependent on the creation of productive employment opportunities for the poor, it would seem logical to suppose that UNDP and ILO would be comrades in arms in the fight against poverty. A good deal of cooperation between the two organizations does in fact take place at global and regional levels (as noted in the findings), but UNDP’s country programmes are conspicuously weak in building partnerships with ILO. A serious effort must be made to remedy this weakness, including building and extending existing partnerships such as those in post-conflict situations. One possibility is to set up a funding mechanism such as the MDG Fund that can enable UNDP and ILO to undertake joint initiatives in support of labour-intensive growth. As for non-income dimensions of poverty, the natural allies of UNDP would be sister UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, UN Women and UNV, working together in the areas of education, health, gender empowerment and volunteerism. In practice, however, UNDP often has very little cooperation with UNICEF and WHO on the ground, usually based on the argument of division of labour. But if UNDP is to take seriously the multidimensionality of poverty, it cannot wash its hands off the non-income dimensions on the grounds that other agencies are dealing with them. Among all the UN agencies, UNDP is unique in being entrusted with the task of dealing with human poverty in all its dimensions, and as such it has an obligation to build strong partnerships with all other agencies that deal with some specific dimensions of poverty.

Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31] [Last Updated: 2020/07/04]

On both fronts, actions are on track, but further measures will be initiated. For example, in crises countries, UNDP will promote stronger integration between thematic clusters, particularly the crisis prevention and recovery and the poverty reduction and environment clusters, in adopting integrated post-conflict, post-disaster recovery frameworks and designing and implementing programmes. On the second front, MAF roll-out provides a unique platform for collaborating with other United Nations organizations on non-income aspects of poverty - e.g. with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) on hunger and food security (Central African Republic and Niger), with UNFPA and WHO on maternal mortality rate (for example in Ghana and Uganda). Efforts on both fronts will be strengthened, consolidated and institutionalized.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
3.1a. Continue supporting multi-practice and multi-agency joint initiatives that aim at building synergies to achieve poverty reduction results, such as MAF, integrated strategy of local governance and local development and the Poverty Environment Initiative.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
Country offices, regional bureaux, BDP, BCPR 2014/12 Completed UNDP continues to support, as determined by the CEB, over 60 countries that have developed MDG Acceleration action plans to implement and achieve results, including through partnership with the World Bank at the CEB. With the support of the UNDP-UNEP joint Poverty Environment Initiative, over 25 countries have now in place poverty and environment mainstreaming strategies. On the regional front, all RBx have supported the adoption and implementation of MAF action plans at the country level. For instance, in Africa, 23 countries are being developed and implemented action plans with RBA and BDP?s support (Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, CAR, Chad, Cote D?Ivoire, Ethiopia (sub-national level), Democratic Republic of Congo, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia). In the CIS region, MAF action plans are being developed and implemented in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. In Latin America and Caribbean, MAF action plans are being developed and implemented in Belize, Colombia (at sub-national level with over 75 local action plans), Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Dominica, El Salvador, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica and Peru. In Asia and Pacific, MAF action plans are being developed and implemented in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, PNG, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Vietnam. On the regional front, all RBx have supported the adoption and implementation of MAF action plans at the country level. For instance, in Africa, 23 countries are being developed and implemented action plans with RBA and BDP?s support (Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, CAR, Chad, Cote D?Ivoire, Ethiopia (sub-national level), Democratic Republic of Congo, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia). In the CIS region, MAF action plans are being developed and implemented in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. In Latin America and Caribbean, MAF action plans are being developed and implemented in Belize, Colombia (at sub-national level with over 75 local action plans), Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Dominica, El Salvador, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica and Peru. In Asia and Pacific, MAF action plans are being developed and implemented in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, PNG, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Vietnam. MAF roll-outs in other countries are currently under consideration for 2014. 2016 update: UNDP supported over 60 countries in developing and implementing Millennium Development Goals acceleration action plans on issues related to poverty, including through partnerships with the World Bank. With the support of the UNDP-United Nations Environment Programme joint poverty-environment initiative, over 25 countries have poverty and environmental mainstreaming strategies in place. Working with the World Bank and the European Union, UNDP has been a key partner in the delivery of post-conflict and post-disaster needs assessments, to mitigate the impact of crises on the poorest. Countries involved have included: Lebanon, Nepal, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Yemen. UNDP is a key partner with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and others on the â??Decent Jobs for Youthâ?? initiative, which aims to ensure policy and country-level joint coordinated action for young women and men, especially the poor and vulnerable. UNDP has partnered with the Peacebuilding Support Office, ILO and the World Bank on the links to employment and peacebuilding to ensure increased policy coherence and evidence-based programming on peacebuilding. In 2015, UNDP and its partner organizations developed guidelines to support national partners and stakeholders to effectively implement the sustainable development goals at the subnational level, in particular to empower poor and vulnerable communities. History
3.1b. In at least three crises countries, UNDP will promote a stronger integration between thematic clusters and collaboration with key partners under GEF at the country level by: i. adopting integrated post-disaster or post-conflict country and recovery analyses; ii. jointly designing and implementing (CPR and poverty reduction clusters) sustainable livelihoods and economic recovery programmes.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
Country offices, regional bureaux, BCPR 2013/12 Completed See progress made under 2.2.b. RBEC is working closely with DOCO and the UNDG regional Programme Support Group to support and provide quality assurance vis-à-vis the next wave of UNDAFs that are now being prepared in 12 RBEC countries in order to ensure that CPR and poverty reduction considerations are well featured. 2016 update: In crisis countries, UNDP strives to achieve crisis prevention and recovery, poverty reduction and environmental objectives simultaneously, through integrated post-conflict, post-disaster recovery frameworks and programmes. The structure of country offices increasingly reflects this emphasis (post-crisis livelihoods recovery, environment and poverty reduction are housed in a common unit). The quality assurance process of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework includes criteria to ensure that crisis prevention and recovery and poverty reduction are approached as interlinked objectives. UNDP is implementing a number of integrated flagship programmes targeting the poorest and most vulnerable in crisis-affected communities with services involving livelihoods stabilization, basic service delivery, social protection, social cohesion and the rule of law. These include the Yemen Resilience Programme, the Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme, host community support programmes in Jordan and Lebanon in response the Syria Crisis; the Syria Resilience Building Programme; the Nepal and Philippines disaster response and recovery programmes; and the community security and livelihoods stabilization programme in the Central African Republic. In 2013, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) entered its 6th tranche, with new guidelines and templates for programmes and projects. UNDP strengthened the guidelines to ensure poverty outcomes across its community-level work. GEF guidelines for community-based work include indicators on the generation of livelihoods for poor and vulnerable people. Djibouti is a good example of GEF efforts to achieve integrated, poverty-reducing outcomes in a post-conflict setting. GEF-supported adaptation measures are addressing water scarcity â?? a limiting factor for agricultural productivity and livelihood security. Climate resilient agro-pastoral practices, such as using date-palm trees to protect gardens from extreme heat, have been introduced. The sale of resulting agricultural products has diversified incomes. In addition, communities have benefited from more secure water infrastructure, including boreholes and solar pumps, increasing water availability and reducing the time spent collecting water. History
3.2. Develop new joint initiatives with other UN agencies as needed in advancing the poverty reduction agenda.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
UNDP, UNCDF, UNV, and relevant UN agencies 2014/12 Completed UNDP coordinates with the UN system through a number of fora joint initiatives for poverty reduction. For instance, through the MDG Task Force ? an UN wide platform to advance MDG achievement as related to poverty reduction issues ? UNDP coordinates with the system ways to enhance support to countries on MDG acceleration efforts. In the context of UN wide initiatives, such as the System-wide Action Plan on Youth (Youth-SWAP), UNDP works closely with UN agencies to advance country support in these areas. Within the post-2015 context, RBEC is working closely with UNECE, UNICEF, ILO, IOM, UNEP, and the regional offices of other UN agencies to develop common approaches to assessing the regional lessons of the MDGs, developing new programming in the poverty-environment nexus, replicating good practices in social protection that can be brought from other regions, and exploring the prospects of harnessing migrant worker remittances as a source of development finance. Within the post-2015 context, RBEC is working closely with UNECE, UNICEF, ILO, IOM, UNEP, and the regional offices of other UN agencies to develop common approaches to assessing the regional lessons of the MDGs, developing new programming in the poverty-environment nexus, replicating good practices in social protection that can be brought from other regions, and exploring the prospects of harnessing migrant worker remittances as a source of development finance. A partnerships with the World Bank and other UN system agencies within the rubric of the Chief Executive s Board (CEB) for MDG Acceleration helps direct join support to most pressing bottlenecks to MDG achievement in selected countries. As a result, significant resources from the Bank and other partners is being channeled directly to countries. A new partnership (Partnership for Action on a Green Economy( was initiated and formally joined (with UNEP, ILO, ILO, UNITAR) in summer 2014 to help advance poverty reduction in the context IN of a green economy in developing countries. 2016 update: The Millennium Development Goals Gap Task Force served as a United Nations-wide platform that successfully advanced achievement of the Goals through its focus on Goal 8 and donor contributions. A similar United Nations-wide structure (the inter-agency task force) has been put in place to coordinate support for implementation of the sustainable development goals. UNDP works with United Nations partners to advance country support â?? through the United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Youth, new programming in the poverty-environment arena, and replication of good practices in social protection and to promote the adoption of social protection floors.A partnership with the World Bank and other United Nations organizations within the rubric of the Chief Executives Board for acceleration of the Millennium Development Goals initiated United Nations system-wide support to help overcome pressing bottlenecks to achievement of the Goals in selected countries. The Partnership for Action on a Green Economy was initiated and formally launched in 2014, with the United Nations Environment Programme, ILO, and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research to help advance poverty reduction within a green economy context. In 2015, UNDP and ILO, together with the Economic Commission for Europe, the United Nations Childrenâ??s Fund and the World Bank, initiated a joint project to promote inclusive labour markets in the western Balkans, and in 2016 UNDP initiated a new inter-organization joint initiative on measuring poverty in the Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States region. History
4. Recommendation:

Recommendation 4. Downstream activities should be undertaken for the most part with the explicit strategic objective of contributing to something bigger than what those activities can deliver on their own by way of learning lessons for up-scaling or feeding into upstream policy advice relevant for poverty reduction. UNDP should incorporate into its system of performance evaluation for both its staff and its activities specific provisions that explicitly spell out the means as well as incentives for institutionalized learning so that lessons learned from successes and failures in each of its activities can feed into everything that UNDP does both across portfolios and over time.

There is an ongoing debate within UNDP on what constitutes the right balance between upstream and downstream activities and there has been a tendency in recent years to tilt the balance  in the upstream direction. While this tendency may be justified, there remains the question of precisely what purpose the downstream activities, to the extent they are undertaken, are supposed to serve. By their very nature, downstream activities would generally be targeted towards particular groups of population. Even if such activities succeed in conferring the desired benefits to the target population, by themselves their impact on poverty at the aggregate level is bound to be negligible because the target population will seldom be large enough to make a substantial difference to the bigger picture. In general, the only way they can have a larger impact is if the lessons learned from them – from both successes and failures – are systematically used to up-scale the interventions more effectively covering a larger swathe of the population, or to feed policy advice at the upstream level.

Currently, most downstream activities do not serve this broader objective; they are mostly carried out as stand-alone projects whose benefits, if any, often disappear with the termination of the project. This compromises both the efficiency with which UNDP uses its scarce resources and the sustainability of its contribution. UNDP should, therefore, make it mandatory that all its downstream activities are undertaken with the explicit objective of learning lessons from them – in a form that can be used by others. The project documents must be required to specify clearly what kinds of lessons are expected to be learned and the project termination reports must be required to distil the lessons learned and articulate them in a succinct form. Both the specification of expected lessons and the distillation of actual lessons should be accomplished through widespread consultation within the country office as a whole, preferably in conjunction with external experts, both within and outside the government.

Downstream activities are not the only area where UNDP demonstrates a distinct lack of learning. The problem is in fact quite pervasive, involving upstream activities as well. The absence of an adequate learning has been repeatedly noted by numerous evaluations of UNDP’s country programmes, as has the lack of a results-oriented culture in the organization. This is a serious impediment to maximizing UNDP’s contribution to poverty reduction, or any other objective for that matter. Sometimes some committed individuals have tried to make a difference, but the task of changing a deeply ingrained culture cannot be left to individual efforts alone. It is a systemic problem in the sense that the incentives that UNDP offers – in the form of sanctions and rewards – do not encourage systematic learning on the part of its staff in the country offices. The solution must be systemic as well. UNDP must find ways of altering the incentive structure by revising the criteria by which UNDP evaluates the performance of its staff and their activities. Accountability procedures may have to be set up at different levels, i.e., at the levels of individual staff members, focus area teams and the country office as a whole, so that individually and collectively the staff members find it in their interest to ensure learning from experience and transmission of the lessons learned.

Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31] [Last Updated: 2020/07/04]

UNDP has undertaken concerted efforts in scaling up and micro-macro linkages. The organization will further consolidate it in focus areas and processes. The organization has recently strengthened the knowledge base in promoting the scaling-up agenda, aiming at feeding lessons learnt into upstream policy advice. On the second issue, UNDP has been working on an integrated resources results framework, including financial and human resources and measurable quantitative and tangible qualitative results. Incentive mechanisms with a clear transparency and accountability framework are also being addressed. Measures will be taken to develop capacities in country offices, make a cultural shift in attitude and work-culture in order to provide effective support to countries and help them formulate real-time data and monitoring to ensure development effectiveness.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
4.1. Roll-out the guidance on scaling up development programmes for transformational change to over 30 countries covering all regions.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
Regional bureaux, BDP, BCPR 2014/12 Completed The scaling-up guidance key messages have been integrated into the new strategic plan, new guidance for CPD development, and have been rolled out during the process of programme alignment. Over 30 countries countries have already applied scaling up guidance in programme designs, especially programme addressing local development issues and poverty reduction, including 16 supported by Asia Pacific scaling up fund, 10 supported by ROK-UNDP trust fund, and 6 more to be supported by ROK New communities programme. 2016 update: Guidance for scaling-up and learning from downstream projects and programmes was integrated into the country programming guidelines and template. In keeping with the UNDP quality standards and assurance processes, all country programme documents are required to demonstrate how they used evidence from evaluations, studies and lessons from practice regarding what worked, and what did not, to inform programming priorities and design. Theories of change must be elaborated in all projects and programmes, including to explain how downstream initiatives are designed, from the outset, to trigger transformative or broad-based change, creating a path for scaled-up poverty reduction. UNDP quality standards for implementation require ongoing assessment and monitoring of the degree to which theories of change holds true in practice, and adapt implementation on the ground to maximize learning and keep the initiative on track so as to achieve scaled-up impact. History
4.2. Launch and disseminate e-learning platform on scaling-up with practical guidance and relevant examples from all practices.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
BDP, BCPR, LRC 2013/12 Completed Content finalized and platform has been launched. In 2016, UNDP launched a new learning system the Talent Development Centre which hosts a number of learning instruments, including web-based courses, certification programmes, and an online learning library with materials relevant to cross-thematic poverty approaches. It also connects peers through social learning and collaborative tools linked to the UNDP Yammer. In 2016, UNDP introduced the Sustainable Pathways Network with the aim of fostering discussion among colleagues on sustainable development, including the eradication of poverty in all its forms as they relate to country work. The network allows members to post queries, and provides a space for sharing news, innovative good practices, lessons learned, and relevant information on events and publications. A knowledge management gateway was introduced in the Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States region in 2016, offering an e-learning, information management and collaboration/networking platform; the Regional Bureau for Africa is preparing to follow this approach with the launch of its own knowledge gateway. History
4.3. Design and implement incentives linked with resource allocation and result recognition to support country office learning culture.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
Regional bureaux 2013/06 Completed For example, substantive support and feedback have been provided to RBAP on successful scaled up interventions submitted by COs. Documentation of those successful experiences enables teasing out lessons learned which in turn could feed into upstream policy advice on poverty reduction. RBEC in 2009 designed and implemented a week-long tailored course on the economics of development, transition, poverty reduction, and sustainable development for UNCT staff and national partners, that was conducted in four Central Asian countries. 2016 update: Organization-wide, integrated results-based work planning is improving alignment with strategic plan outcomes and strengthening accountability for poverty reduction results. The annual business plan of UNDP â?? tied to strategic plan outcomes and outputs â?? is used to inform and help determine the work plans of individual units, as well as the corresponding objectives of individual staff members. History
4.4. Establish in at least three crises countries innovative approaches of real-time monitoring systems for UNDP recovery initiatives in order to improve accountability to crises-affected populations and effective capturing and sharing of lessons learned to inform policies.
[Added: 2013/04/05] [Last Updated: 2016/07/21]
Country offices, regional bureaux, BDP, BCPR 2013/09 Completed Three crises countries were identified, including Somalia, Uganda and Kenya. Rationale for each country is summarized below. Somalia has developed a data base for M&E Information System that is accessible to donors, affected communities and other partners through a password system. This M&E Information system provides real time data/information on programme/project. The CO also uses satellite system for remote monitoring in areas not accessible due to insecurity. Under the Northern Uganda Recovery Programme, an assessment was conducted to identify the requirements for setting up data/information management systems in place. Subsequently, an inventory with tools for tracking savings, production income per household was developed for the supported rural farmers. The inventory is targeting over 12,500 farmers whose profiles will be regularly updated. Under the Northern Kenya Recovery Programme, UNDP has trained government officers on use of data collection and analysis tools. These include officers from Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Gender and Youth, NDMA, working at the community level to ensure real-time monitoring. The data collected is used for reporting in their respective ministry's annual reports. 2016 update: UNDP applied remote and real-time monitoring in various crisis affected contexts, including Syria and Yemen. Modalities for field monitoring included community-based monitoring, site visits, and third-party monitoring through a private firm or national or international non-governmental organization recruited by UNDP. UNDP Nepal, in partnership with the local team at the Microsoft Innovation Centre, created a mobile application that tracks and coordinates logistics, personnel, and payments, better enabling the Government to administer the rebuilding effort.UNDP supported Somalia in developing a monitoring and evaluation database accessible to donors, communities and other partners, providing real-time information on programmes and projects. UNDP Somalia uses a satellite system to remotely monitor areas that are insecure or inaccessible. Somali farmers are using the technology to address climate-related challenges, including increased rainfall variability, floods and droughts. In Uganda, UNDP established a system of tracking the savings and household income (from crops) of 12,500 farmers to support economic recovery in rural territories. History

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