Organizations & Movements

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

September 28, 2011, 1:08 pm
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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), part of United Nations system, is a global development network that advocates for change and connects countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life.

UNDP is on the ground in 166 countries, supporting local solutions to development challenges and developing national and local capacities that will help them achieve human development and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Its work is concentrated on four main focus areas:

  • Democratic Governance
  • Poverty Reduction and Achievement of the MDGs
  • Crisis Prevention and Recovery
  • Environment and Energy for Sustainable Development

UNDP is based on the merging of the United Nations Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance, created in 1949, and the United Nations Special Fund, established in 1958. UNDP, as we know it now, was established in 1965 by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

UNDP has its headquarters in New York City, but works primarily through its offices in more than 140 countries. It operates in 176 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges.

Programme Areas

The programme focuses on helping countries build and share solutions to the challenges of democratic governance, poverty reduction, crisis prevention & recovery, environment and energy, and HIV/AIDS.

In these areas, UNDP focuses their efforts to creating desired results and making a global change for human human development.  These areas efforts include:

  • Poverty reduction: In this area, UNDP promotes inclusive and sustainable human development and works to reduce poverty in all its dimensions.  Efforts are focused on making growth and trade benefit everyone in developing countries.  UNDP invests approximately $1 million (US dollars) into poverty reduction efforts.

  • Democratic governance: Regionally, UNDP Regional Centres serve as hubs that link all offices and provide a wide range of services from advisory to programme management. Nationally, more than 130 UNDP country offices promote democratic governance at the request of governments, working in partnership with democratic governance institutions. Locally, UNDP supports efforts to improve local capacity to deliver basic services, especially to women and the poor - and to ensure their voices are included in political decision-making.  In 2010, UNDP help over 130 countries and devoted US$1.18 billion in resources to democratic governance, making UNDP the world's largest provider of democratic governance assistance.

  • Crisis prevention and recovery: In this area, UNDP assists countries in conflict management and disaster risks, while also providing aid for countries suffering after a crisis has occurred.  UNDP has conducted projects in Libya, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Pakistan and many other countries who have suffered losses caused by disasters or political unrest.

  • Environment and energy:  UNDP helps countries strengthen their capacity to address these challenges at the global, national and community levels, seeking out and sharing best practices, providing innovative policy advice and linking partners through pilot projects. 125 countries received UNDP support in 2010 on environment and sustainable development. UNDP has partnered with local governments in projects such as installation of solar panels or water filtration systems.

  • HIV/AIDS: UNDP works with countries to understand and respond to the development dimensions of HIV and health, recognizing that action outside the health sector can contribute significantly to better health outcomes. UNDP supports countries to integrate HIV priorities into national planning and implementation processes; strengthen governance and coordination of HIV responses; promote human rights and gender equality; and respond to HIV in at risk populations.  In 2010, UNDP provided aid, critical prevention treatments and access to antiretrovirals in 29 countries.

  • Women's empowerment: UNDP coordinates global and national efforts to integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment into poverty reduction, democratic governance, crisis prevention and recovery, and environment and sustainable development.  This area brings a voice for women in their local governance, hoping to bring women to an equal footing in the workplace, government, and societies across the globe.

  • Capacity development: UNDP provides policy advice, helps develop policy guidance, collects and provides evidence on what works and what doesn't, conducts research and analysis, and works as the in-house resource team for training country office and country team colleagues.  UNDP supports programme countries in developing national and local capacities for human development and achievement of the Millenium Development Goals. 

The Millenium Development Goals

In 2000, 189 Nations committed themselves to a global action plan designed to achieve eight anti-poverty goals by 2015.  These eight goals became known as the "millenium development goals" (MDGs).  The MDGs provide a framework for the entire UN system to work coherently together toward a common end.  These goals are as follows:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger: In this goal, there were three targets hoping to be achieved by 2015.  First, to reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day.  Second, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people.  Third, reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. Since setting the goal. the number of people living under the international poverty line of $1.25 a day declined from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion between 1990 and 2005.  

  2. Achieve universal primary education:  The target of this goal is to have children everywhere, regardless of gender, be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.  However, as of June 2010, it seems as though this goal will not be met.  Areas in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia still have high drop out rates, and one-quarter of all eligible children in Sub-Saharan Africa are not enrolled in schooling.

  3. Promote gender equality and empower women: The target set was to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.  Although significant progress has been made, this goal is not going to be met by 2015.  In 2008, there were 96 girls for every 100 boys enrolled in secondary education in developing countries.  However, the share of women globally with paid employment was 41% in 2008.  Unfortunately, in the areas that need change the most (Southern Asia, Northern Africa, and Western Asia) the percentage drops to 20%, and 32% in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

  4. Reduce child mortality: The target was set to reduce the number of child mortality rate for children under 5 years old by two-thirds.  Child deaths are falling, but not quickly enough. Between 1990 and 2008, the death rate for children under five has decreased by 28 per cent, from 100 to 72 deaths per 1,000 live births. That means that, worldwide, 10,000 fewer under-fives die each day.  Many countries have shown considerable progress in tackling child mortality. Almost one third of the 49 least developed countries have managed to reduce their under five mortality rates by 40 per cent or more over the past twenty years. However, the current rate of progress is well short of the MDG target of a two-thirds reduction by 2015.

  5. Improve maternal health: In this area, two goals were set: to achieve universal access to reproductive health & inadequate funding for family planning is a major failure in fulfilling commitments to improving women’s reproductive health and reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio.  This target is far from being reached.  More than 350,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, almost all of them — 99 per cent — in developing countries.  New data show signs of progress in improving maternal health — the health of women during pregnancy and childbirth — with some countries achieving significant declines in maternal mortality ratios. But progress is still well short of the 5.5 per cent annual decline needed to meet the MDG target of reducing by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio by 2015.

  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases: Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it, and to halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.  Currently, the number of new HIV infections fell steadily from a peak of 3.5 million in 1996 to 2.7 million in 2008. Deaths from AIDS-related illnesses also dropped from 2.2 million in 2004 to two million in 2008. Although the epidemic appears to have stabilized in most regions, new HIV infections are on the rise in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Globally, the number of people living with HIV is continuing to increase because of the combined effect of new HIV infections and the beneficial impact of antiretroviral therapy.

  7. Ensure environmental sustainability: In this area, there were four goals set: (1) integrating the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes while reversing loss of environmental resources, (2) reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss, (3) reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, and (4) achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020.  Some targets are well within in reach, while others seem to be falling short.  The world will meet or even exceed the drinking water target by 2015 if current trends continue.  By that time, an estimated 86 per cent of the population in developing regions will have gained access to improved sources of drinking water, up from 71 per cent in 1990.  With the issue of sanitation, half the population of developing regions still are lacking basic sanitation, making the 2015 target appear to be out of reach. At the current rate of progress, the world will miss the target of halving the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation, such as toilets or latrines.  Unfortunately, deforestation, species threatened by extinction, and urban poor has been on the rise.

  8. Develop a global partnership for development:  To achiece this goal there were six targets set: (1) develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system, (2) address the special needs of least developed countries, (3) address the special needs of landlocked developing countries and small island developing States, (4) deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries, (5) in cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries, and (6) in cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.  Aid is increasingly focused on the poorest countries, with the least developed countries receiving about a third of donors’ total aid flows.  For most donor countries, aid remains well below the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income. Only five donor countries have reached or exceeded the UN target: Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. In terms of aid volume, the largest donors in 2009 were the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Organization Structure

caption UNDP Organization Structure | Taken from UNDP


The UNDP Administrator holds the rank of an "Under-Secretary-General" of the United Nations.  The Administrator is often referred to holding the third highest-ranking official position in the UN, after the UN Secretary General and the UN Deputy Secretary General.

In addition to his or her responsibilities as head of UNDP, the Administrator is also the Chair of the UN Development Group.

The position of Administrator is appointed by the Secretary-General of the UN and confirmed by the General Assembly for a term of four years.  The Administrator is responsible for chairing the UNDP meetings. caption Helen Clark - UNDP Administrator | Taken from UNDP website

As of March 2009, the UNDP Administrator is Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand.  Helen Clark took this position after Kemal Dervi?, a Turkish politician and economist.

Associate Administrator

The Associate Administrator is the second highest ranking within UNDP.  While the Administrator chairs the UNDP meetings, the Associate Administrator represents UNDP at these meetings.

Rebeca Grynspan was appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the position of UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator effective 1 February, 2010. Before joining the United Nations, Ms. Grynspan was elected Vice-President of Costa Rica from 1994 to 1998. 

Executive Board

The UNDP Executive Board is made up of representatives from 36 countries around the world who serve on a rotating basis. Through its Bureau, consisting of representatives from five regional groups, the Board oversees and supports the activities of UNDP, ensuring that the organization remains responsive to the evolving needs of programme countries.

According to General Assembly Resolution 48/162, the functions of the Executive Board include:

  • To implement the policies formulated by the General Assembly and the coordination and guidance received from the Economic and Social Council;
  • To receive information from and give guidance to the head of each fund or programme on the work of each organization;
  • To ensure that the activities and operational strategies of each fund or programme are consistent with the overall policy guidance set forth by the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, in accordance with their respective responsibility set out in the United Nations Charter;
  • To monitor the performance of the fund or programme;
  • To approve programmes, including country programmes, as appropriate;
  • To decide on administrative and financial plans and budgets;
  • To recommend new initiatives to the Economic and Social Council, and through the Council, to the General Assembly, as necessary;
  • To encourage and examine new programme initiatives;
  • To submit annual reports to the Economic and Social Council, which could include recommendations, where appropriate, for improvement of field-level coordination.

The Economic and Social Council elects members of the Executive Board in May each year. Members are elected for three-year terms, with the exception of the Western European and other States group, which has determined its own internal rotation policy.



Mangino, K. (2011). United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Retrieved from


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