UNDP the UN’s Development Programme has come under scathing criticism by Fox News, an American news organization familiar to Seychellois through the Fox cable television channel.
George Russell editor-at-large of Fox News writing earlier this year said: “The $5.7 billion United Nations Development Program bills itself as the U.N.’s flagship anti-poverty agency, but when it comes to actually helping the world’s 1.3 billion desperately poor people, that description appears to be more of a facade, according to a report commissioned by UNDP itself that is slated for closed-door discussion at the end of this month.”
The report is entitled “Evaluation of UNDP Contribution to Poverty Reduction” and was presented to the Executive Board of UNDP in February this year. The evaluation covers the period since 2000 and included all UNDP actions in a country. What is available in the public domain is a densely worded 13-page Executive Summary.
I have read this document and I don’t believe it takes on the aggressively negative stance described by Russel. I think Russel has done the UN, developing countries and the world’s poor a disservice with this biased article. In general, the evaluation found UNDP’s work to be very useful. However, out of 16 Findings only 4 are completely positive.
The first Finding says “..the effectiveness of UNDP efforts at poverty reduction has been boosted by its ability to adapt its approach to the particular national context. UNDP has shown awareness that the same approach will not work everywhere..”. The evaluation also “..found strong evidence that UNDP has made a valuable contribution towards establishing the agenda of poverty reduction from the multidimensional perspective of human development”.
Criticism includes “Despite some success, there is untapped potential for integrating a poverty focus into UNDP environment and energy-related activities”, as well as “The resources UNDP devotes to poverty reduction are difficult to determine...”.
The first Recommendation states that UNDP should forge stronger links with national stakeholders, especially civil society, to ensure that there are actual changes on the ground. This is vital for us in Seychelles where civil society is taking on a far more important role than ever before but lacks resources and support to be effective at a national level.
The last words are somewhat disturbing: “...the lack of learning is a serious impediment to maximizing the UNDP contribution to poverty reduction, or any other objective for that matter”. It continues “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”.