The United Nations development agency is working towards bringing more focus to its efforts to reach global development goals, respond better to emergencies – based partly on lessons learned from the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami – and raise its transparency level up to wider UN standards, a senior official said today.
Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Ad Melkert, said it was particularly important to better coordinate its work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of time-bound targets to reduce poverty and other social ills, because July next year is the mid-point to achieving them by 2015.
“I’ve been quite concerned ever since I started at UNDP that many activities on MDGs [are] going on but a bit too dispersed and it’s my responsibility to bring them together. I’ve taken that responsibility and I think everybody can… work with that and that’s what we’re doing at the moment,” he told reporters at a press conference in New York.
Mr. Melkert said the agency’s strategy for the next few years focused on three main areas aimed at mitigating the effects of both “man-made crises and natural disasters” and addressing their root causes, because doing this was “vital to help countries attain the MDGs.”
“There are three lines along which we have taken initiatives now to make our own organization respond better to those situations… One is on what we call surge capacity, second is on drawing the lessons from the tsunami, and thirdly, launching new standards to improve programmes on disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration.”
“Surge capacity is… about getting the right people to the right place at the right time, responding rapidly to unforeseen crises and disasters. And we will… establish a human resources surge capacity of 50 to 60 trained and certified UNDP practitioners, crisis managers and operational specialists who can be quickly deployed,” he said.
Turning to lessons learned from the 2004 tsunami, he said the most important finding to emerge from wide-ranging evaluation studies was that people affected by the disaster were satisfied with the initial relief assistance but then became “increasingly less satisfied” with the longer-term recovery effort.
“Particularly with regards to re-establishing their livelihoods, and that is again this area of early recovery: making the change from the humanitarian relief to building your life again after disaster. And it means that more rules of the game are needed between donor organizations including NGOs (non-governmental organizations)… we have to tighten up quality control… and we look at possibilities for systems of international accreditation.”
Responding to a reporter’s questions on the lack of availability and detail of UNDP audits and the reported difficulty in getting media requests answered by the agency, Mr. Melkert said any report that he had told staff not to talk to the press was “absolutely totally ludicrous.” But he added he would like the agency’s transparency level to reach wider UN standards.
“Talking about transparency, the best criterion for me is my own transparency – I’d like to bring our procedures in line with the UN procedures, I think that should be normal, so I’m looking into that at this moment,” he said.