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Evaluation of the UNDP Strategic Plan, 2018-2021
Commissioning Unit: Independent Evaluation Office
Evaluation Plan: 2018-2021
Evaluation Type: Thematic
Completion Date: 03/2021
Unit Responsible for providing Management Response: Bureau for Policy and Programme Support
Documents Related to overall Management Response:  
1. Recommendation:

The UNDP role and value proposition. In the next strategic plan, UNDP should better define its role and value proposition in support of the 2030 Agenda and the COVID-19 pandemic response, with attention to the organization’s altered position at the country level following the reform of the United Nations development system; and should anchor its work on its most recognized comparative strengths, with particular focus on principles of inclusiveness and sustainability to build forward better with attention to leaving no one behind.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/03/30] [Last Updated: 2021/05/19]

UNDP acknowledges recommendation 1, which calls upon the organization to better define its role in support of the 2030 Agenda and the COVID-19 pandemic response. 

The 2030 Agenda remains at the heart of the strategic plan with the goal of supporting countries to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and pursue their development trajectories. Development challenges have grown in complexity over time, requiring new tools and solutions that address multiple challenges simultaneously. To meet the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda, including leaving no one behind, and of a repositioned and strengthened United Nations development system, UNDP will continuously refine and enhance its approach for a new era of development, building on its strong foundation of development experience, grounded in practice, performance and relationships of trust.

In the new strategic plan for 2022-2025, UNDP will make deliberate efforts to maximize the development impact of all the signature solutions with the aim of making breakthroughs across the 2030 Agenda. Supporting countries to further their strategies for leaving no one behind is pivotal during the decade of action, including a renewed focus on addressing underlying and root causes of the disadvantages and barriers faced by the most vulnerable and poorest, exacerbated by COVID-19. UNDP will strive to be a reservoir of knowledge, good practices and integrated inclusive and sustainable policies to meet the needs of people and the planet. Under the new plan, UNDP will support the next generation of country programmes and United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks with a focus on inclusiveness and sustainability for the COVID-19 recovery.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
1.1 Develop guidance to include inclusiveness and sustainability into a next generation of country programmes for the COVID-19 recovery in alignment with the new strategic plan
[Added: 2021/05/19]
Bureau for Policy and Programme Support (BPPS), Crisis Bureau, regional bureaux 2022/06 Not Initiated
1.2 Publish research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Sustainable Development Goals to guide country-level policy design and implementation
[Added: 2021/05/19]
BPPS, regional bureaux, Bureau for External Relations and Advocacy (BERA) 2021/12 Not Initiated
1.3 Prepare guidance to help countries integrate strategies for leaving no one behind into development plans, building on the work of the COVID-19 socioeconomic impact assessments and multidimensional vulnerability assessments
[Added: 2021/05/19]
BPPS, Crisis Bureau, regional bureaux 2022/12 Not Initiated
2. Recommendation:

To meet the increasing demands driven by the change in context brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, UNDP work on innovation should prioritize support to partner countries on digital transformation, address administrative bottlenecks that hinder innovation, ensure improvements to knowledge management systems and develop a more deliberate approach to tracking and scaling successful innovations that can accelerate result.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/03/30] [Last Updated: 2021/05/19]

UNDP accepts recommendation 2. In the strategic plan, 2022-2025, UNDP will expand its support to partner countries in areas of innovation and digital transformation and create opportunities to deliver more responsive and effective services to citizens.

Successfully scaling digital innovations is a key priority for UNDP. Throughout 2020, the Chief Digital Office has been piloting and developing systematic mechanisms to scale digital innovations across the organization, via the “Digital Sprint” initiative and later the “Digital X Scale Accelerator” initiative, which provides some resources and supports key innovations to scale, in close collaboration with the Strategic Innovation Unit and the accelerator labs. In 2021, UNDP will continue this initiative while addressing related administrative bottlenecks such as policies and processes.

Helping country offices and Governments navigate digital transformation has been a key priority for innovation and the digital agenda. At a more strategic level, the Chief Digital Office will work closely with the Strategic Innovation Unit to better serve countries with regard to the digital transformation agenda. Internally, UNDP will strengthen local digital capacities through the launch of the Digital Advocates Network. Designed as an agile learning network, it will allow UNDP to share digital expertise faster and create local delivery capacities. By implementing a “digital by default’' approach, UNDP is mainstreaming digital elements and ways of working into all programmes and projects. With the launch of the UNDP data strategy in March 2021, UNDP aims to become a data-driven organization and thus deliver more responsive and effective services.

In June 2020, UNDP launched SparkBlue, an online engagement platform that powers six corporate signature solutions through eight communities of practice, empowering 10,000+ users from all regions to co-create new knowledge and share real-time insights on Sustainable Development Goal solutions. Building on the momentum generated by SparkBlue, a knowledge management framework will be developed to advance implementation of the strategic plan 2022-2025. The UNDP approach to knowledge will leverage the organization’s ability to convene and connect, to be an innovator, advocate, partner and integrator—including with the public, private and financial sectors, the United Nations system and the broader development community.

In May 2020, the accelerator lab team, together with Columbia University, produced a strategy to scale up innovation in development inter alia by identifying different approaches to scaling up for innovation. The accelerator lab team is committed to implementing the strategy across the existing and new cohorts of accelerator labs. In addition, with the creation of the Strategic Innovation Unit and the pivot in approach for the Innovation Facility, UNDP will continue to explore a transformational approach to innovation through “deep demonstrations”.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
2.1 Develop a knowledge management framework to advance implementation of the strategic plan 2022-2025
[Added: 2021/05/19]
BPPS 2021/12 Not Initiated
2.2 Build “Digital Advocates Network” and implement a “digital by default” approach to all programmes and projects
[Added: 2021/05/19]
Executive Office (Chief Digital Office) 2021/12 Not Initiated
2.3 Implementation of UNDP data strategy
[Added: 2021/05/19]
Executive Office (Chief Digital Office) Bureau for Management Services (BMS) 2021/12 Not Initiated
2.4 Establish a system to track successful innovations and a governance mechanism to scale successful innovations linked to the Sustainable Development Goals
[Added: 2021/05/19]
Executive Office 2022/12 Not Initiated History
2.5 Capture and disseminate the lessons learned from the “deep demonstration” approach to scale successful innovations
[Added: 2021/05/19]
BPPS 2022/12 Not Initiated History
3. Recommendation:

Gender equality and women’s empowerment as a Sustainable Development Goal accelerator. UNDP should further articulate how to expand and achieve the concrete benefits of integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment as a catalytic development accelerator for the 2030 Agenda and the Goals. The Gender Equality Seal process should be recommended to all offices, with efforts to increase financial investment in gender across all areas. UNDP should more adequately equip the organization with staff specialized in gender who are able to implement systems that focus on gender-responsive and transformative results.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/03/30] [Last Updated: 2021/05/19]

UNDP accepts recommendation 3 and will continuously work towards integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment as a development accelerator. As part of this effort, UNDP country offices and regional hubs will prioritize investments in strengthening government capacities to formulate and implement public policies that deliver for all. The Gender Equality Seal for Public Institutions will target public institutions and provide a concrete road map to mainstream gender equality. UNDP will leverage the data on public policy responses collected and analysed by the UNDP—UN-Women COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker to open political, economic and environmental policy dialogues at the national level with public institutions and other social actors. Through the new Gender and Crisis Engagement Facility, UNDP will invest more in tailoring its responses in crisis contexts to the specific situation of women and girls, with transformational approaches to increase women’s leadership, economic empowerment and access to justice.

To equip senior leaders with knowledge on how to expand and further articulate the benefits of integrating gender equality and the empowerment of women as accelerators of sustainable development, UNDP will introduce a course on leadership for gender equality, targeting resident and deputy resident representatives.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
3.1 Launch the Gender Equality Seal for Public Institutions
[Added: 2021/05/19]
BPPS 2021/12 Not Initiated
3.2 Scale up Gender Equality Seal to reach 80 per cent of UNDP country offices and headquarters units
[Added: 2021/05/19]
BPPS, regional bureaux, Crisis Bureau 2025/12 Not Initiated
3.3 Conduct a leadership course on gender equality for resident representatives and deputy resident representatives
[Added: 2021/05/19]
BPPS, BMS 2021/12 Not Initiated
4. Recommendation:

Global Policy Network and country support platforms. UNDP should make more effective use of its Global Policy Network to improve mobility of expertise, with greater programming rigour through well-defined targets, milestones and effectiveness measures. In addition, a more comprehensive and strategic approach EVALUATION SUMMARY xvii should be promoted for the establishment of country support platforms, by advancing their conceptual framework and criteria for assessment and by providing mechanisms for practical support and guidance to promote portfolio- and systems-based approaches.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/03/30] [Last Updated: 2021/05/19]

UNDP agrees with recommendation 4. This ambition for the Global Policy Network is aligned with, and reflected in, the vision of UNDP as a learning organization, which is one of the key pillars of People for 2030. The strategy is aligned with business needs and capacity gaps identified through regular capacity mapping and capacity assessment exercises across the organization. The focus of the 2021-2023 people development strategy is on staff having ownership of their development journeys, with managers and the organization at large playing an enabling and supporting role, including through the systems, tools and processes of the Global Policy Network. 

The country support platforms have contributed to new tools to design, manage and evaluate interventions of a systemic nature. The process of analysing complex and “wicked” problems incorporates a systemic approach in mapping, deep listening and sense-making. UNDP will advance the learning and experience of the country support platforms through integrated platforms that contribute to navigating complex challenges by cultivating and managing rich networks of actors with a focus on wider relational dynamics across many entities; break down silos through co-creation processes; and tap into the collective intelligence of the United Nations ecosystem through an integrated portfolio approach.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
4.1 Develop and implement Phase 2 of People for 2030, ensuring UNDP Focus Area 4. Closing the capacity gap, in alignment with the strategic plan, 2022-2025
[Added: 2021/05/19]
BMS 2025/12 Not Initiated
5. Recommendation:

Results-based management and learning. UNDP should holistically redesign its entire results and performance monitoring and reporting framework and system, with (a) indicators better aligned to the timeliness and utility of data and methods that can help more credibly measure results; (b) more ambitious milestones; and (c) greater focus and guidance for consistently capturing and promoting learning for country offices to improve results and accelerate achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/03/30] [Last Updated: 2021/05/19]

UNDP welcomes the evaluation’s acknowledgement of its continuous efforts to strengthen results-based management and systems and acknowledges recommendation 5. UNDP is strongly committed to General Assembly resolution 75/233 on the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system, which underscores the importance of results-based management. UNDP will be guided by the resolution with regard to the system-wide performance and results in relation to the 2030 Agenda.

The design of UNDP results-based management and relevant systems has been guided by and adheres to the United Nations Sustainable Development Group Results-based Management Handbook. As requested by the Executive Board in its decision 2017/6, the approaches to results reporting on the strategic plan were harmonized with those of UNFPA, UNICEF and UN-Women, along with the architecture of their integrated results and resources frameworks.  

UNDP acknowledges the challenges related to the current results-based management approach and systems, including unavailability of timely data of several Sustainable Development Goal indicators at the impact and outcome levels. In the past, UNDP has demonstrated tangible results and showcased consistent achievements in transparency and accountability, solidifying its position as a strong partner and key player in United Nations development system reform. In designing the integrated results and resources framework for the strategic plan, 2022-2025, UNDP will improve several elements, building on the solid results architecture and database built in 2018-2021. 

In accordance with the 2020-2023 information technology strategy, UNDP will holistically redesign current the results planning, monitoring and reporting systems by leveraging the new enterprise resource planning system and streamlining a wide range of existing platforms. This new architecture will enhance capability for results planning, performance monitoring and sharing lessons and learning to improve results at all levels and increase transparency. Underpinned by a new central repository of data for both operations and programmes, a knowledge management platform, benefiting from the use of artificial intelligence, will enable UNDP personnel to learn lessons across the organization and to share valuable knowledge and experience. Modernized collaboration platforms will accelerate knowledge-sharing by connecting people who can contribute more effectively together to further improve decision-making and increase programme and project performance and results.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
5.1 Develop the integrated results and resources framework of the strategic plan 2022-2025, adhering to General Assembly resolution 75/233 and harmonized with UNICEF, UNFPA and UN-Women
[Added: 2021/05/19]
Executive Office, BPPS, Crisis Bureau, BERA and regional bureaux 2021/09 Not Initiated
5.2 Holistically redesign the results planning, monitoring, lessons learning and reporting system (the corporate planning system) that links results at all levels to support the implementation of the strategic plan 2022-2025 by streamlining the new enterprise resource planning system and existing platforms
[Added: 2021/05/19]
Executive Office, BPPS, BMS, BERA and regional bureaux 2022/12 Not Initiated
6. Recommendation:

Management and operations. To deliver fully on the promise in the Strategic Plan to evolve and innovate its business model, UNDP should fully operationalize adaptive management, additional funding models and financing capabilities to support systems transformation for countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This should address constraints to the funding of integrated programmes, portfolios, platforms and innovation and allow the organization to move away from operating mainly with projectized funding.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/03/30] [Last Updated: 2021/05/19]

UNDP agrees with recommendation 6. Increasing the levels of quality funding (un-earmarked and lightly-earmarked resources) forms an important part of the overall UNDP resource mobilization strategy. It aligns with the funding compact and the mutual commitment between Member States and the wider United Nations development system towards increasing the share of regular resources and thematic and pooled funding.

In support of the next strategic plan, UNDP will continue to emphasize the importance of flexible and predictable funding, noting its alignment with the funding compact. This includes efforts to encourage multi-year pledges and agreements, as well as contributions to thematic and pooled funding. In line with the management responses to the evaluation of UNDP development cooperation in middle-income countries (DP/2020/22) and the evaluation of UNDP support for climate change adaptation (DP/2021/7), UNDP will factor the broader topic of the allocation of programme funding to countries in its engagement with the Executive Board on the integrated resources plan and integrated budget, 2022-2025 and its midterm review. 

In line with the evaluation’s recommendation and as part of the design of the new strategic plan, UNDP is taking concrete steps to shift from a project-driven approach to fundraising and advocacy at the portfolio level, supporting efforts to attract better-quality funding that is less projectized and less transactional. UNDP has developed a portfolio acceleration protocol that has been rolled out to 40 offices and should continue to leverage it as a strategic asset. UNDP will explore using new and existing mechanisms and platforms to mobilize and channel funds to strategic initiatives as opposed to small individual projects. These strategic initiatives or “portfolio offers” in areas of work that best demonstrate the UNDP comparative advantage will be shaped by broad-based consultation with partners who share common priorities, while meeting UNDP strategic and corporate objectives.

In 2019, UNDP established the SDG Finance Sector Hub to bring coherence and scale to its work on financing for the Goals. UNDP supports countries with tailored service offers to advance financing for the Goals across different development contexts including fragile and conflict-affected countries and small island developing States. The service offers include flagship initiatives such as integrated national financing frameworks to align public financing to the Goals; “SDG Impact” to bring in the private sector; the Insurance and Risk Finance Facility to build resilience from national to local levels; and exploring the potential of digital finance with UNCDF. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
6.1 Provide regular updates on progress in the implementation of the funding compact commitments, including the shift to flexible funding, through the structured funding dialogues and accompanying reports
[Added: 2021/05/19]
Executive Office, BERA, BPPS, Crisis Bureau, regional bureaux 2023/12 Not Initiated
6.2 Develop a framework for the integration of portfolio approaches into UNDP internal programmatic and operational rules and regulations, systems and capabilities
[Added: 2021/05/19]
Executive Office, BPPS, BMS, BERA 2022/12 Not Initiated
7. Recommendation:

People management and capabilities. In recognition that the main asset of UNDP is its workforce, the organization should timely deliver on its “People for 2030” and learning and development strategies that can improve staff capabilities for systems thinking and transformation; reward high performance that is results-focused; and enable an innovative culture within the organization.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/03/30] [Last Updated: 2021/05/19]

UNDP welcomes recommendation 7, which seeks to ensure that People for 2030 is implemented, together with learning and development strategies to improve the capabilities of its workforce.

 

Launched in June 2019, People for 2030 aims to progressively transform the UNDP culture and capabilities to deliver better development results by equipping UNDP with a modern, forward-looking human resource function, which is both efficient and effective, addressing the root causes of issues identified in external management reviews, audit recommendations, evaluations and in the course of an extensive internal consultation exercise.

 

The initial phase covers the period 2019-2021 and focuses on re-architecting UNDP policies and approaches across the field of human resource management. It concentrates on nine focus areas: (a) “strive for excellence in the work that we do”; (b) “enhance the UNDP career experience”; (c) “deploy our people strategically”; (d) “develop our people and people managers”; (e) “take care of our people”; (f) “foster and leverage our diversity”; (g) “attract and select top talent”; (h) contract modalities; and (i) human resources effectiveness and people analytics.

 

The second phase of the People for 2030 strategy will be aligned with the next strategic plan, focusing on the implementation of the new human resources capabilities and policies, with the aim of ensuring that UNDP capitalizes fully on its workforce, which, as the evaluation points out, constitutes its main asset, in addition to progressively driving a change in organizational culture.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
7.1. Develop and implement Phase 2 of People for 2030
[Added: 2021/05/19]
BMS 2025/12 Not Initiated
7.2 Design and deliver a learning and development strategy, including an offering for programmatic and technical areas for all personnel in UNDP
[Added: 2021/05/19]
BMS, BPPS, regional bureaux 2021/03 Overdue-Not Initiated

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