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Climate change, global economy among top priorities for 2008: UNDP chief

Climate change, global economy among top priorities for 2008: UNDP chief

UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis
Climate change and the world economy are among the top development priorities for this year, the head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced today in New York.

Kemal Dervis, UNDP Administrator, began his press briefing by expressing sadness that 2007 drew to a close with the terrorist attack on the UN in Algeria, which claimed the lives of 17 of the world body’s staff.

He stressed that UN staff security is paramount, and noted that host countries are primarily responsible for ensuring staff safety.

The Administrator identified climate change, the world economy, governance and UN reform as the main development concerns for this year.

The landmark UN-backed climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia, last month – where nearly 200 countries agreed to launch a two-year process of formal negotiations to tackle the problem of global warming – “was a modest success in the sense that there was a kind of basic agreement, but the real work is now only beginning,” he pointed out.

The meeting highlighted the difficulties in ascertaining how the burden of the issue would be shared between developed and developing nations, Mr. Dervis said.

For its part, UNDP will facilitate the debate surrounding climate change and showcase the different approaches – including cleaner forms of energy, energy efficiency and land use management – that can be taken to tackle the problem, he noted.

As an example, UNDP has launched the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) carbon facility which gives people in wealthy countries the opportunity to invest in clean energy technology in the South.

This year, the world faces a situation in which economic growth is driven by developing emerging market economies, such as China, as rich nations face the potential of an economic slowdown, the Administrator said.

If developed countries experience recessions, “the challenge for development to maintain its pace despite what is happening in the rich economies will be more difficult,” he stated.

Regarding governance, which comprises a large portion of UNDP’s work, Mr. Dervis observed that although democratic elections are much more frequent now than they were two decades ago, they alone are not a “sufficient condition” for democracy.

“We see in many countries a tendency to perceive the democratic process as a winner-take-all process,” he said, emphasizing the importance of a system of checks and balances that prioritizes individual and minority rights.

Finally, UNDP will continue with its efforts to push ahead with the “One UN” initiative, with evaluation reports having been submitted by the pilot programmes – from both UN agencies and government partners – in eight countries.

Under this scheme, the various UN agencies, funds and programmes operating in each of the eight pilot countries are grouped together under one leader, programme and budget to maximize efficiency and eliminate duplication.

Seeking to clarify misunderstandings about the “One UN” programme, the Administrator said that “the objective is not and has never been to merge the UN institutions into one large organization or even two or three large organizations.” Rather, it seeks to harmonize the UN’s efforts and also to encourage the donor community to pool their funds to decrease the probability of duplication.

UNDP’s board will meet next week and a joint meeting of the UN funds and programmes will take place the week after, and Mr. Dervis said he hopes to promote the scope of the reforms at the gatherings.