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UNDP development support services to middle income countries
Commissioning Unit: Independent Evaluation Office
Evaluation Plan: 2018-2021
Evaluation Type: Thematic
Completion Date: 08/2020
Unit Responsible for providing Management Response: Bureau for Policy and Programme Support
Documents Related to overall Management Response:  
1. Recommendation:

UNDP should revisit its positioning in MICs, including rethinking the incomebased approach. The HDI and/or other criteria should be utilized to create a more differentiated programmatic approach, which could also include new financial strategies to assist newly classified MICs.

UNDP should stimulate a broader discussion among development partners on the use of the HDI and other human development parameters for developing more differentiated programmatic approaches to support the wide diversity of MICs. Rethinking the income-based approach to programming is especially needed for recently classified MICs, whose development challenges are similar to those faced by least developed and low-income countries.  

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/20] [Last Updated: 2020/09/23]

UNDP acknowledges that there is wide heterogeneity among the middle-income countries and that the Human Development Index and other measures beyond income might provide a more accurate categorization of countries’ development challenges and therefore of appropriate programmatic approaches. For UNDP, programming and prioritization on the ground are primarily informed by country context and demand.

Rethinking the income-based approach requires a better understanding of different alternatives, examining potential thresholds, adequate development parameters to be considered, countries’ categories and financial implications. UNDP also recognizes that such a decision implies a deep transformation in both programmatic approaches and financial operations. Therefore, this decision rests with Member States in general and the Executive Board in particular.

UNDP recognizes that the middle-income country concept is a bidimensional (income and population-based approach) categorization of a complex reality, with middle-income countries home to 75 per cent of the world’s population and representing about one third of global GDP. UNDP has pioneered several indices and options which were explored, in the context of the 2018-2022 budget, to alter the GNI-based methodology for allocation of regular resources. Those options included the proposed use of the Human Development Index, inequality or Multidimensional Poverty Index or a hybrid. These proposals resulted in extensive discussions within UNDP and with the Executive Board as part of the preparation of documentation for approval by the Board. UNDP will engage with the Executive Board for a more adequate methodology to address the diversity and needs of the huge variety of countries classified as middle-income as it prepares its 2022-2025 budget, noting the financial context in which it is operating in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, the volume of available regular resources is not guaranteed and may be one of the main challenges as UNDP re-engages with the Executive Board in this discussion.


Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
1.1 Undertake an analysis of programmatic, operational and financial implications of utilizing the Human Development Index and other development parameters (to be defined) as the paradigm for country categorization, providing alternative scenarios.
[Added: 2020/09/23] [Last Updated: 2021/03/24]
Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Regional bureaux 2021/09 Initiated As an initial step, UNDP has been evaluating what would constitute ‘development’ and the desirable outcomes of its support, set against the expected long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic (captured in the vision paper ‘Beyond Recovery: A leap into the future’ ( and operationalized in its Covid-19 offer 2.0 ‘Beyond Recovery: Towards 2030’ This will inform subsequent analysis of according metrics, and possible options for country categorisation, required to capture progress on central issues of green and inclusive transition, leave no one behind, and resilience. History
1.2 Launch dialogue process with different stakeholders (donors, Executive Board members, other Member States, country offices, among others) to discuss implications of scenarios for middle-income countries.
[Added: 2020/09/23]
Executive Office Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Regional bureaux Bureau for External Relations and Advocacy 2021/06 Overdue-Not Initiated
1.3 Present options to alter the GNI-based methodology for allocation of regular resources as part of preparations for the 2022-2025 integrated resource plan and integrated budget
[Added: 2020/09/23]
Bureau for Management Services, Office of Finance and Resource Management 2021/09 Not Initiated
2. Recommendation:

UNDP should seek balanced programme portfolios in MICs, with development services support generating opportunities for strategic thought leadership aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of public policies and achievement of the SDGs. 

UNDP has a comparative advantage in having both operational and conceptual/analytical arms, which it needs to use to the greater benefit of national partners. UNDP strategic thought leadership should be an integral component of country programming. It should support Governments in their efforts to rethink the effectiveness of public policies and prioritize actions for achievement of the SDGs. UNDP should continue to make use of its flagship products such as the HDI and MPI as entry points and maintain equality and social inclusion as central themes for development dialogue and advocacy in MICs. 

Under the new United Nations resident coordinator system, with UNDP no longer responsible for United Nations country team coordination, UNDP has an excellent opportunity to redefine and promote its strategic advisory capabilities, including through SDG integration and impact finance, as well as other cross-cutting areas such as climate finance and energy efficiency. UNDP should leverage its internal corporate knowledge networks effectively to respond to the diverse needs of MICs, including the Global Policy Network and knowledge- sharing initiatives such as SparkBlue. 

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/20] [Last Updated: 2020/09/23]

UNDP acknowledges the need for a balanced portfolio in middle-income countries that combines thought leadership with high programmatic impact. Both UNDP conceptual/analytical and operational interventions on the ground are always guided by national development plans and government-specific demands, supported by context analysis and theories of change and are in alignment with the Strategic Plan as articulated in country programme documents.

UNDP has realigned its policy function into a Global Policy Network to enable the mobilization of cross-practice, cross-bureau and multidisciplinary expertise globally across headquarters, regional hubs and country offices to provide more effective integrated responses to the complex development challenges countries face in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and responding to crisis in an integrated and coherent manner. This integrated approach is already being put in practice in the context of COVID-19, with the rapid deployment of high-level expert advisers and training on the use of analytical tools to complement the expertise of UNDP country offices to fulfil the lead technical role on the socioeconomic pillar of the United Nations response to the pandemic.

UNDP will continue to elevate its support to national Governments in implementing policies to ensure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, together with other United Nations system entities. UNDP will enhance its thought leadership by better harnessing its flagship products and tools and methodologies and developing specific products for evidence-based policymaking, in line with national priorities and context. Through its Finance Sector Hub, UNDP will continue to support middle-income countries in scoping sources of fiscal space, protecting people through social assistance and insurance systems, including through the work of Tax Inspectors Without Borders (a joint OECD-UNDP initiative) and integrated national financing frameworks.


Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
2.2 Tailor and build on new and existing corporate solutions to support integration and advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals for reduction of poverty and inequalities, leveraging expertise across the United Nations system and capitalizing on innovations from the network of country Accelerator Labs.
[Added: 2020/09/23] [Last Updated: 2021/05/17]
Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Regional bureaux Country offices and Accelerator Labs 2020/12 Completed Please see enclosed update on Kay Action 2.2 History
2.1 Advocate and roll out corporate flagship products and solutions such as the Human Development Index and Multidimensional Poverty Index, among others, to advance equality and social inclusion as central themes for development dialogue and agendas in middle-income countries.
[Added: 2020/09/23]
Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Regional bureaux Country offices 2021/12 Not Initiated
2.3 Launch the UNDP Sustainable Development Goal finance web platform, a place where all tools and experts for both public and private financing will be available; encourage and support country offices to use these tools and products effectively to build and strengthen an integrated approach to achieving the Goals in middle-income countries.
[Added: 2020/09/23]
Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Regional bureaux Country offices and Accelerator Labs 2021/12 Not Initiated
3. Recommendation:

UNDP governance work in MICs should maintain its focus on the effort to build inclusive and accountable institutions and strengthen the enabling environment for institutional reform. 

As UNDP alone does not have sufficient human and financial resources and standing to address the root causes of weak institutions, it should promote long-term change processes required for systemic transformation of accountable institutions, and seek to better leverage knowledge networks and multidisciplinary partnerships that include civil society as an essential actor with a crucial role to play in improving the quality of governance and demanding transparent, free and accountable institutions.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/20] [Last Updated: 2020/09/23]

In many middle-income country contexts, concerns with inequality, injustice and corruption have heightened tensions and highlighted the need for a new rights-based social contract. The COVID-19 crisis may serve to reinforce disparities, magnify tensions and worsen mistrust in governance systems. Weak State institutions may be unable to respond effectively to the pandemic, further reducing trust in governance systems. On the other hand, in some contexts, the crisis also provides opportunities to discuss the measures needed for transformation, including through leveraging the power of digital technologies to support accountable, effective and inclusive governance.

UNDP work on governance recognizes that resilience is manifest in the ability of countries to anticipate and prepare for shocks. This in turn depends on the technical capacities of organizations and institutions at the front lines of the development and crisis response to sustain core government functions, the overall functioning of national and subnational systems, and inclusive, trusted governance structures, based on rule of law, human rights and participation, as envisioned in Sustainable Development Goal 16. The UNDP offer 2.0, “Beyond Recovery: Towards 2030”, which promotes a forward-looking approach to COVID-19 recovery, identifies governance and support to the social contract as one of the four UNDP priority areas in the coming period. The UNDP governance offer in middle-income countries will maintain its focus on: (a) supporting national and local government institutions to uphold rule of law and human rights; (b) strengthening equitable public service delivery, including through strengthening subnational institutions, rights-based advocacy networks and people-centred e-government; (c) strengthening transparency, accountability and effectiveness; (d) promoting social cohesion and peaceful societies, and breaking with drivers of discrimination and bias; and (e) strengthening social capital – the habits, norms and systems for voice, inclusion and solidarity – and engagement with civil society, including through digital governance. These approaches will support long-term change, including creating the enabling environment required for systemic transformation.

Given the challenges of addressing root causes, as well as the lack of human and financial resources, partnerships, including with civil society, networks and the private sector at all levels will indeed be critical. Partnerships around Sustainable Development Goal 16 will be particularly important in this regard.


Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
3.1 With relevant United Nations entities and partners, support Governments of middle-income countries to prioritize accountability and transparency as integral to national COVID-19 response and recovery efforts by enhancing systems and institutions for checks and balances and integrating anti-corruption measures across the five pillars of the United Nations framework for the immediate socioeconomic response to COVID-19.
[Added: 2020/09/23]
Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Regional bureaux 2021/08 Overdue-Not Initiated
3.2 Draw on existing and new partnerships to deliver advisory support and tools on digital governance in middle-income countries, with a focus on enhancing knowledge, building capacities for a renewed public sector, shaping policy frameworks for responsive government and inclusive societies in the digital age, and reduction of digital and other inequalities.
[Added: 2020/09/23]
Bureau for Policy and Programme Support 2021/12 Not Initiated
3.3 Develop adaptive learning programmes and tools to assist middle-income countries to localize the Sustainable Development Goals through integrated, participatory local planning and delivery, supporting the partnerships required for local-level transformation to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
[Added: 2020/09/23]
Bureau for Policy and Programme Support 2021/12 Not Initiated
4. Recommendation:

UNDP should consolidate and sustain the results achieved to date under the environment, natural resources management and climate change programmes in MICs.  

The themes of environment, natural resource management, climate change and energy will continue to be critically important in MICs as economic and population growth will continue to pressure the global community. There is a strong link between the effectiveness of programme results in the area of environment and energy and the relevance of the overall UNDP programme actions. 

Many of the issues in the environment and energy sector have their grounding in governance. UNDP should capitalize more on its implementation role in environmental funding platforms such as the GEF to engage in high-level policy discussions with Governments of MICs and leverage domestic financing in addressing cross-sectoral institutional barriers to achieve scale and sustainability on environment and energy initiatives. UNDP should leverage its innovation agenda to come up with new business approaches to fully harness partnerships with private sector and United Nations organizations that have financing instruments which UNDP could use in MICs.  

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/20] [Last Updated: 2020/09/23]

UNDP works closely with Governments in middle-income countries to address their nature, climate and energy priorities in full alignment with their national development strategies. In this respect, UNDP supports the recommendation to leverage domestic and other financing to achieve scale in environment and energy initiatives with seed funding from vertical funds and in partnership with the private sector and other United Nations organizations. To this end, UNDP will continue to strengthen its work in:

  • Leveraging vertical funds to unlock parallel co-financing (public and private) to advance the Sustainable Development Goals; building capacities of State and non-State actors, at national, subnational and local levels, to integrate climate risks into policy/planning/budgeting/decision-making, including with private sector entities.
  • Responding to country requests with top-notch, cutting-edge technical know-how and knowledge to design interventions that not only meet the requirements and objectives of different funds, but also to crowd in partners and other sources of private finance for greater development impacts.
  • Exploring ways of using new innovative financial instruments such as innovation challenge awards and guarantees for catalysing private sector capital.
  • Assisting countries in identifying innovative solutions, by leveraging the UNDP Global Policy Network and its thought leadership.
  • Encouraging cross-cutting and cross-thematic programming to provide integrated solutions that will result in multiplier and dual development and environmental/climate benefits at scale, leaving no one behind.
  • Aligning solutions with those of other United Nations organizations, multilateral development banks, IFIs, development finance institutions and public domestic resources to bring about multiplier effects of development impacts.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
4.3 Deliver a COVID-2019 2.0 offer that tackles the challenges and meets the needs and aspirations of middle-income countries in a green recovery, including a focus on green jobs and livelihoods.
[Added: 2020/09/23] [Last Updated: 2021/03/24]
Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Regional bureaux Country offices 2020/12 Completed UNDP’s 2.0 offer to help tackle the impacts of Covid-19 ‘Beyond Recovery: Towards 2030’ ( was launched in June 2020. Within this framework, UNDP has identified three shifting trends, or “tipping points”, which will underpin and reshape its development support to middle-income countries: a strong shift in social expectations and trust indicating a deeper move towards rule of law, human rights and right-based offers; a shift towards accelerated energy transitions (likely to involve repurposing fossil fuel subsidies and introducing carbon pricing) and nature-based solutions; and tackling the likely debt overhang and fiscal stress post Covid-19, including scoping sources of fiscal space, protecting the poorest and most vulnerable groups, reducing inequalities, expanding social assistance and insurance systems, and restoring livelihoods and supporting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. History
4.1 Support the development of scaled-up environment and energy programmes in partnership with the private sector in at least three middle-income countries
[Added: 2020/09/23]
Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Regional bureaux Country offices 2021/12 Not Initiated
4.2 Support the development of scaled-up environment and energy programmes in partnership with other United Nations agencies in at least three middle-income countries.
[Added: 2020/09/23]
Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Regional bureaux Country offices 2021/12 Not Initiated
5. Recommendation:

UNDP should establish clear corporate norms for implementing private sector initiatives in MICs, including appropriate standards for programme staff and implementation processes.  

Private sector engagement is an important aspect of UNDP partnership, particularly in MICs. UNDP is placing greater emphasis on private sector funding partnerships, but there remains considerable ambiguity as to the derived benefits for all partners and insufficient consideration of reputational risks. UNDP should strike a balance between its role as convener of SDG platforms promoting impact investments and that of implementer of corporate social initiatives of large conglomerates. 

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/20] [Last Updated: 2020/09/23]

The UNDP private sector strategy seeks, in partnership with Governments, civil society and businesses, to make markets work for the Sustainable Development Goals, with a strong emphasis on inclusion of poor and marginalized communities. This strategy builds upon the long-standing adoption by UNDP of a market system approach, which is also the main basis for the work on private sector development and partnerships championed by a number of other international agencies. It is deploying a suite of service offers, in collaboration with other United Nations and non-resident agencies in areas such as sustainable value chains and inclusive business, gender equality in markets, digital finance and closing the energy gap. These are tailored to the specific country contexts in middle-income countries. Furthermore, several relevant initiatives that align business activities with the Sustainable Development Goals, in the context of COVID-19 include: 

  • The recent UNDP focus in developing innovative global partnerships that do not necessarily provide direct financial contributions to UNDP (e.g., Microsoft, GSMA, Samsung, WhatsApp, etc.);
  • UNDP programme engagement with the private sector in middle-income countries (e.g., the Philippines, Turkey) focuses on multi-stakeholder platforms like the Business Call to Action to promote inclusive business impact and reporting; and the UNDP-Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Connecting Business Initiative on disaster response;
  • “SDG Impact” activities in middle-income countries such as the investor maps, in-depth country-level reports on investment opportunities to enable the Goals in targeted markets and sectors (e.g., Brazil);
  • The Gender Equality Seal for Public and Private Organizations has aimed to promote gender equality and women's empowerment in the business world. Since 2009, it has led to the creation of 16 national certification programmes, with more than 600 diverse companies in the fields of energy, telecommunications, service, logistics and tourism in Latin America.


UNDP is committed to risk-informed decision-making for private sector partnerships and has a dedicated, rigorous policy for due diligence with regard to such partnerships in its programme and operations policies and procedures. All private sector partnerships are informed by a risk assessment of the proposed partner and expected outcomes, which guides senior management in its decision-making, and are also supported as relevant by risk management and communication plans.


Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
5.1 In alignment with the UNDP private sector strategy, roll out a package of services to support small and medium-sized enterprises in middle-income countries as part of the COVID-19 response
[Added: 2020/09/23] [Last Updated: 2021/03/19]
UNDP Finance Sector Hub Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development 2021/01 Completed In close collaboration between the Crisis Bureau and the Finance Sector Hub (FSH)/IICPSD, a joint working group was initiated in order to support MSMEs in a holistic approach, being informed by The Socio-Economic Impact Assessments (SEIAs) that have been conducted in more than 20 countries by the Crisis bureau, in order to assess the needs of MSMEs in the wake of COVID-19. Together with United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, FSH hosts the Connecting Business initiative (CBi), which helps to set up and strengthen private sector networks to establish strategic alliances to support the government and the humanitarian, development, and peace actors. During 2020, the 11 CBi Member Networks consisting of 3,600 core members reached more than 17 million people through COVID-19 and other crisis response activities. Together with their partners, they raised US$45 million. To make MSMEs more resilient to risks including digital disruption and to ensure their economic participation, the COVID-19 Private Sector Global Facility has been founded in collaboration between UN Global Compact and ICC as a public-private partnership initiative, with a key focus on assisting MSMEs to accelerate their sustainable digital transformation, implementing sustainable e-commerce capabilities, and integrating MSMEs into sustainable procurement, responsible supply chains and delivery of essential services, to enhance digital resilience of MSMEs in the global south, dedicated to support youth and women-owned enterprises. The #InMotionDigital initiative in Ecuador, UNDP has assisted MSMEs in their COVID-19 early-stage digital journey including digital marketing, payment methods, and delivery processes. Furthermore, Business Call to Action initiative aims to accelerate progress towards the SDGs by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that engage people at the base of the economic pyramid as consumers, producers, suppliers, distributors of goods and services and employees. Lastly, FSH is assisting enterprises from start-ups to MSMEs align their business models with the SDGs through the Impact Venture Accelerators across a variety of thematic focus areas including climate, circular economy, Health-tech, fintech, and gender & youth. These impact accelerators are being run in 46 countries (including Indonesia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Turkey, Thailand, and others) in collaboration with different stakeholders such as Draper Venture Network and the Asian Development Bank. History
5.2 Support the deployment of the “SDG Impact” platform tools, products and services to middle-income countries, and leverage innovative financing and partnership solutions to mobilize private capital for the implementation of the Goals.
[Added: 2020/09/23]
UNDP Finance Sector Hub 2021/12 Not Initiated
5.3 Finalize update of the UNDP policy, guidance and tools for private sector due diligence and provide implementation support for the updated policy to build staff capacities for risk-informed approaches for private sector engagement.
[Added: 2020/09/23]
Bureau for Policy and Programme Support 2021/12 Not Initiated Policy update: December 2020 Implementation support: December 2021

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