Technical Cooperation Programs - Evolution of undp

Although UNDP came into formal existence only in January 1966, it really began 20 years earlier, for it grew out of two long-established UN institutions.

In 1948, the UN General Assembly (GA) had decided to appropriate funds under its regular budget to enable the UN Secretary-General to supply teams of experts, offer fellowships, and organize seminars to assist national development projects at the request of governments. About the same time, many of the specialized agencies had begun to undertake similar projects. However, no sooner had the Regular Programs of Technical Assistance, as they were called, begun to operate than it became apparent that the money that could be spared from the regular budget would not meet demand. In 1949, the General Assembly set up a separate account for voluntary contributions toward technical assistance and decided to make it a central account to finance the activities not only of the UN itself but also of the specialized agencies. Machinery was established for distributing financial resources and coordinating projects, and the whole enterprise was called the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA), to distinguish it from the UN's technical assistance financed under the regular budget. The venture proved remarkably successful. Ten years after it had begun operations, EPTA was financing technical assistance in some 140 countries and territories. Between 1950 and 1960, the number of governments contributing funds had grown from 54 to 85, and the total annual contributions had risen from $10 million to $33.8 million.

In 1958, the General Assembly felt that it would be desirable to broaden the scope of UN technical assistance to include large-scale preinvestment surveys and feasibility studies on major national development projects that would lay the groundwork for subsequent investment of capital. These surveys and studies involved a much greater financial outlay than the kind of technical assistance then being undertaken, and the General Assembly decided to set up a new institution that would be run along lines similar to those of EPTA. Thus, the Special Fund was established to act as a multilateral channel for voluntary contributions to preinvestment projects, and as a coordinating center for the work of the various UN agencies. The Special Fund began operations in 1959; within three years, 86 governments had pledged over $110 million.

In January 1964, the Secretary-General formally proposed to the Economic and Social Council that EPTA and the Special Fund be merged into a single enterprise. The advantages to be derived from the merger were a pooling of resources, a simplification of procedures, improvement in overall planning, elimination of duplication, reduction in administrative costs, and a general strengthening of UN development aid. By August 1964, the Council had adopted recommendations for the merger, but because of the stalemate at the 1964 General Assembly, no action could be taken until the following year. On 22 November 1965, the General Assembly unanimously voted to consolidate the two operations, effective 1 January 1966, as the United Nations Development Programme.

Structure and Organization

Administrator and Executive Board. UNDP is headed by an administrator, appointed by the UN Secretary-General and confirmed by the General Assembly, who is responsible to a 36-nation Executive Board for all aspects of program operations. The board—representing every geographical region and both contributor and program countries—reports to the General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council. In addition to setting overall policy guidelines, the Executive Board examines and approves the volume of assistance allocated to each country over successive five-year cycles and must similarly approve all country programs. (The Executive Board began its work in 1994, replacing the 48-nation UNDP/UNFPA Governing Council, which had a similar composition and function. The Governing Council's decision-making almost always took place by "consensus" rather than by recorded voting.)

Regional Bureaus. Regional bureaus, located at UN headquarters, cover Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Arab states. There is also a Division for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. These offices serve as the administrator's principal links with the program countries. Together with bureaus or divisions for strategic planning, program policy and evaluation, program development and support, and finance and administration, they furnish UNDP's country-based Resident Representatives with day-to-day operational support.

Resident Representatives. Resident Representatives heading 131 program country offices function as field-level leaders of the UN development system. They are responsible for seeing that UNDP-assisted country programs are carried out effectively and efficiently. They act as chief liaison officers between government planning authorities and the executing agencies, help blueprint all activities from formulation to follow-up, and are responsible for ensuring that personnel, equipment, and facilities are utilized to best advantage.

Resident Representatives and other staff in UNDP's country offices also perform a variety of non-project-related development activities that make a significant contribution to UNDP's goals, and to the needs of its national partners. These include engaging in policy dialogue with national officials and providing them with development planning advice; furnishing technical advisory and general problem-solving services, often at the request of concerned sectoral ministries; assisting in mobilizing investment from both internal and external sources, as well as with follow-up investment advice and services; acting as a focal point for government needs in emergencies caused by natural or man-made disasters; assisting in the formulation, management, and evaluation of UNDP country programs; and, upon request, participating in the coordination of external assistance from other sources and in the preparation of well-balanced, effective national development programs.

Training and other support is offered on issues of special concern: UNDP's Division for Gender in Development helps to ensure that programs consider women's needs and interests; the Division for Nongovernmental Organizations promotes increased participation of NGOs and community groups in development activities; the Environment and Natural Resources Group ensures that the environmental impact of all programs is weighed; the Short-Term Advisory Services program sends skilled advisers to provide top-level technical and managerial advice in such sectors as agriculture, transportation, and industry.

Functions and Guiding Principles

The nature of UNDP and its activities has changed over the years. In part, this has been in response to the evolving requirements and interests of the program countries. The changes also have reflected global concerns for particular development problems and issues.

In the early 1970s, UNDP had to demonstrate its ability to replace a basic structure, which had served it well in its formative stages, with a "second generation" mechanism designed to determine the nature of UNDP's market with greater discrimination, and to deliver the required product with more efficiency. The cumulative impact of a number of intensive inquiries into development and development assistance—by the Pearson Commission, the UN Committee for Development Planning, Sir Robert Jackson's study of the capacity of the UN development system, and by some of the major donor countries individually—helped to fashion a new look for UNDP. The various studies agreed on needs for more deliberate matching of country requests for assistance with available resources; the introduction of forward and coordinated planning and programming; more careful and appropriate project design; and greater quality, timeliness, and efficiency of implementation.

The consideration of these matters by the UNDP Governing Council in 1970 produced a consensus on the future of UNDP that was endorsed by the General Assembly in the same year, translated into organizational and procedural changes in 1971, and brought substantially into effect during the next few years. The pivotal change was the introduction of "country programming." This involved the forward programming of UNDP assistance at the country level for periods of up to five years, identification of the role UNDP inputs would play in specified areas related to a country's development objectives, and the phasing of these inputs. Country programming, together with a similar approach to regional, interregional, and global activities, is designed to achieve the most rational and efficient utilization of resources.

A necessary counterpart to the introduction of UNDP country programming was administrative reform. The most important change involved decentralization—a substantial shift of power and responsibility for effective UNDP technical cooperation at all stages away from headquarters and into the program countries, where the UNDP Resident Representatives often play a lead role in UN development system activities within a country. Guidelines for the selection of these officials imply that, first and foremost, they should be effective managers, for it is they who cooperate directly with the governments to ensure the smooth functioning of development programs. In addition, they must intervene to help ensure more efficient implementation and more effective use of the results of project assistance. Upon request, they must be ready to play a vital part in the coordination of assistance from other sources with that provided by UNDP. In fact, under the restructuring of the UN development system mandated by the General Assembly, most UNDP Resident Representatives also are designated by the UN Secretary-General as Resident Coordinators of all UN operational assistance for development.

In 1975, UNDP further revised its programming principles to include "new dimensions" in technical cooperation, designed primarily to foster greater self-sufficiency among developing countries by relying more heavily on their own skills and expertise for development activities. Accordingly, UNDP redefined its role in technical cooperation to stress results achieved, rather than inputs required from the industrialized nations.

Seen from this perspective, the purpose of technical cooperation is to promote increasing autonomy with regard to the managerial, technical, administrative, and research capabilities required to formulate and implement development plans in the light of options available.

In the 1990s, UNDP made other changes that had a substantial impact on its programming, as well as on development thinking in general. In 1990 the Governing Council directed UNDP to focus its activities on six themes: poverty eradication and grass roots participation; environment and natural resources management; technical cooperation among developing countries (TCDC); management development; transfer and adaptation of technology; and women in development. UNDP has also adopted a "program approach," whereby funding is provided for comprehensive programs with integrated components rather than distinct, separate projects. This enables UNDP to deliver assistance that is more focused and has greater impact and sustainability.

Another change has been UNDP's promotion of "human development," which puts people at the center of development, enlarging their choices and creating opportunities through which they can realize their potential and express their creativity. Human development does not measure a country's progress solely by its Gross National Product, but takes into account such factors as its people's access to health services, level of education, and purchasing power. Since 1990 UNDP has stimulated debate about this concept through the publication of an annual Human Development Report, written by an independent team of development specialists and published by Oxford University Press. Since then, a growing number of countries have received UNDP assistance in incorporating human development concerns into planning and the allocation of budgets.

Linking human development with its traditional emphasis on building self-reliance, UNDP has now embraced the concept of "sustainable human development" as the guiding principle underlying all its work. As defined by UNDP's administrator, James Gustave Speth, who took office in July 1993:

"Sustainable human development is development that not only generates economic growth but distributes its benefits equitably; that regenerates the environment rather than destroying it; that empowers people rather than marginalizing them. It gives priority to the poor, enlarging their choices and opportunities and providing for their participation in decisions affecting them. It is development that is pro-poor, pro-nature, pro-jobs and pro-women. In sum, sustainable human development stresses growth, but growth with employment, environment, empowerment and equity."

Within this framework, UNDP has identified three priority goals: (1) strengthening international cooperation for sustainable human development and serving as a substantive resource on how to achieve it; (2) building developing countries' capacities for sustainable human development; and (3) helping the United Nations become a powerful, unified force for sustainable human development.

From its inception, UNDP has been called upon to make its assistance available to all countries where it can be effective in helping to meet priority needs, provided that those countries are members of the UN or one of its affiliated agencies. This broad frame of reference is essential for protecting two of UNDP's most valuable assets—its universality and its large measure of freedom from political problems and pressures.

Planning and Programming

In the planning and programming of UNDP assistance, the largest role is played by the developing countries themselves. The process involves three basic steps.

First, an estimate is made of the core financial resources expected to be available to UNDP over a five-year period. This estimate is then divided up into Indicative Planning Figures (IPFs) for each country assisted, and for regional, interregional, and global programs. The IPFs are approved, and adjusted from time to time, by UNDP's Executive Board.

Second, with its IPF as a guide, each government draws up a "country program," outlining its priorities for UNDP assistance and allocating its share of UNDP resources among those priorities. Country program formulation—in which the UNDP's Resident Representative and locally based officials of other UN agencies usually participate—takes a number of factors into account. Among these are a country's overall development plans, the domestic resources that it can call upon for carrying out those plans, and the assistance expected from external sources other than UNDP. Each country program is then submitted to the Executive Board for approval.

The third step involves preparation of individual project requests—again usually in consultation with advisers from the UN system. These requests delineate each project's main objectives, its duration, its cost, and the respective responsibilities of the government and the UN system.

Allocation of Funds

UNDP IPFs for 1972–76, the first programming cycle, were largely determined by applying the same percentage of total UNDP resources actually committed to each country from 1967 through 1971 to the total of projected UNDP resources for the years 1972 through 1976.

Completely new criteria were established by the Governing Council for the 1977–81 "second cycle." Of the country programming resources expected to be available during those years, 92.5% was allocated largely on the basis of a formula involving each country's population and its per capita gross national product (GNP)—with this second factor being given somewhat greater weight in calculating each country's allocation.

Under the new criteria, about 13% of total resources was devoted to regional programs aimed at fostering development cooperation among neighboring countries or at achieving economies by making expertise available to several governments from a single regional base. There was also a separate IPF for global and interregional programs, such as "breakthrough" research on high-yielding strains of staple food grains.

On an overall basis, during the third cycle (1982–86), countries with per capita GNPs of $500 a year or less received 80% of total UNDP funding, as compared with 52% in the 1977–81 period and 40% in the 1971–76 period.

In 1985, the Governing Council decided that for the fourth programming cycle (1987–91), countries with 1983 per capita GNPs of $750 or less a year were to receive 80% of IPF resources, reflecting UNDP's emphasis on assisting the poorer countries.

In the fifth programming cycle (1992–96) countries with yearly per capita GNPs of $750 or less received 87% of national IPF resources.

For the period 2001–03, 12% of IPF resources went to 74 middle-income countries, and 88% of IPF resources were distributed to 70 low-income countries, with yearly per capita GNPs of $900 or less.

Implementation in the Field

UNDP is primarily a funding, programming, monitoring, and coordinating organization. Over the years, the bulk of the field work it has supported has been carried out by UN agencies and regional commissions, and by regional development banks and funds. Increasingly, UNDP is also calling upon national institutions and nongovernmental organizations for project execution.

The executing agencies, as they are called, perform three major functions. They serve as "data banks" of development knowledge and techniques in their respective specialties. They help governments plan the individual sectors in their country programs for UNDP assistance. As a rule, they recruit the international experts, purchase the equipment, and procure the specialized contract services needed for project execution.

The choice of a particular agency to implement any given project is made by UNDP in consultation with the government of the developing country. Though a single agency is always in charge of a particular project, often two or more collaborate in providing the services required.

Through its Office for Project Services, UNDP directly implements those activities that are not carried out by other executing agencies, providing a full range of management services, including procurement and finance.

The progress of field work is monitored through periodic reviews, involving UNDP country office staffs, government officials, and experts of the executing agencies. A modern computer-based management information system provides a continuous flow of operational data from the field. When required, special missions are sent to program countries to evaluate project work.

Systematic efforts are made to stimulate follow-up investments on surveys, feasibility studies, and other appropriate projects. These activities—which often begin at very early stages of project implementation—involve cooperation with all likely and acceptable sources of development finance—internal and external, public and private.

In a larger sense, however, most projects have a "built-in" follow-up component because they are deliberately planned to create permanent institutions or facilities that will be taken over by national personnel. Thus, many projects—particularly in training, applied research, and development planning—not only continue but also significantly expand their work after UNDP support ends.

Typically, some 5,000 projects, ranging from two to five years in duration, have been under way in any given year. Since 1993, however, UNDP has been making a deliberate attempt to sharpen its focus. It became more selective in what it would finance, concentrating in particular on capacity-building initiatives that gave priority to the poor, to creating employment, to advancing women, and to regenerating the environment. The largest share of UNDP core resources in both 1994 and 1995 went to Latin America and the Caribbean, followed by Asia and the Pacific, Africa, the Arab states, and Europe.

Total expenditures for technical cooperation activities by UNDP in 1994 were US $1,036.5 million, covering not only direct country programs but also the costs of UNDP program planning, management, and coordination by 133 offices worldwide and at UNDP headquarters in New York, and project implementation services by 31 executing agencies.

Voluntary contributions between 1994 and 1997 were distributed as follows: good governance, 28%; public resource management for sustainable human development, 25%; poverty eradication and livelihoods for the poor, 23%; environmental resources and food security, 22%. The remaining 2% was allocated to other programs.

Financing and Expenditures

UNDP is financed in several ways. First, the developing countries themselves pay a large share of the costs of their UNDP-assisted projects. Their funds are used for the salaries of local personnel, construction and maintenance of project buildings and facilities, and the purchase of locally available supplies and services. Second, almost every member of the UN and its associated agencies makes a yearly voluntary contribution to UNDP's core resources. Third, cost-sharing contributions make up a growing portion of UNDP's income. These are resources provided in convertible currency by program country governments, or by another country or organization to share in the costs of particular programs. In 1994 it became clear that the biennial budget would have to be reduced further to keep administrative costs in line with declining core program resources. Between 1992 to 1995 US $53.6 million was cut from the administrative budget, primarily through a 26% staff reduction at headquarters and 8% at the country level. Between 1992 and 1997, UNDP reduced its administrative budget by 19% in real terms and decreased total regular staff by nearly 15%. Regular staffing at headquarters was decreased by 31%. As of the late 1990s, a zero-growth budget policy was in effect and resources were being deployed from headquarters to the country offices.

According to provisional data for 2000, total net income for the year was $634 million, some $47 million below the net income figure of $681 million recorded for 1999.

Technical Cooperation Programs

Major contributors to UNDP's core resources in 2000
( US$ millions)
Japan $100.00
United States 71.69
Netherlands 65.91
Norway 65.81
Sweden 58.47
United Kingdom 53.14
Denmark 50.16
Switzerland 31.51
Canada 28.58
Germany 20.05
France 14.76
Italy 12.41
Belgium 11.56
Finland 11.46
Austria 5.43
Ireland 4.14
Australia 4.00
Spain 1.96

Total government in-kind contributions for 2000 for Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Arab States, and Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States totaled $9,188,100.

Technical Cooperation Programs

UNDP Total Government In-Kind Contributions in 2000 by region
( US$ thousands)
Africa $1,562.3
Asia and the Pacific 1,157.9
Latin America and the Caribbean 1,108.8
Arab states 1,536.0
Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States 3,823.1
TOTAL $9.188.1

Associated Programs

The UNDP administrator also is responsible for several associated funds and programs:

United Nations Capital Development Fund provides limited amounts of "seed financing" for such social infrastructure as low cost housing, water supply systems, rural schools, and hospitals; and for such "grass roots" productive facilities as agricultural workshops, cottage industry centers, cooperatives, and credit programs.

United Nations Sudano Sahelian Office works with 22 countries across the Sudano Sahelian belt of Africa, from Senegal to Somalia, designing projects in such areas as deforestation control, sand dune stabilization, and rangeland management; mobilizing resources to carry them out; and implementing them in cooperation with other UN agencies.

United Nations Development Fund for Women provides direct assistance to innovative and potentially replicable projects involving women, including those to reduce workload and increase income; helps to raise women's status in society; and works to ensure their involvement in mainstream development activities. (see UNIFEM).

UN Revolving Fund for Natural Resources Exploration helps underwrite searches for economically useful mineral deposits that developing countries could not otherwise carry out because of the high risk factor involved.

United Nations Volunteers program, established by the General Assembly in 1971, is administered by UNDP from its Geneva, Switzerland, office. Volunteers from 115 professions serve in both UNDP and UN-assisted projects, as well as in development programs carried out directly by host governments. Recruited globally, they are sent to a country only at the request, and with the approval, of the host government. Volunteers serve for two years and receive a monthly allowance to cover necessities. The average age of UNV specialists is 39, with an average of 10 years' experience in their field of specialization. The actual age ranges from the mid-20s to the 60s and 70s, as retirees are welcomed for their experience. In the first 20 years of the UNV's existence, its specialists completed 6,000 assignments.

The skills most in demand for UNV specialists are: agriculture, agronomy, animal husbandry, appropriate technology, audiovisual arts, business management, cartography, community development, computer programming, construction trades, data processing, demography, development administration, disaster preparedness, economics, education, electronics, employment for the disabled, engineering, environment, export promotion, fisheries, forestry, handicrafts, HIV/AIDS prevention, home economics, horticulture, logistics, marketing/trade promotion, medicine, nursing/midwifery, printing/bookbinding, public administration, public health, social work, statistics, teacher training, teaching English language, teaching math/science, technical trades/skills, urban/regional planning, vehicle/fleet maintenance, veterinary science, vocational training, women in development, and youth work.

In 2002, 4,844 men and women of more than 150 nationalities were serving in developing countries as vounteer specialists and field workers. UNV professionals work alongside their host country peers in four main areas: technical cooperation; community-based initiatives for self-reliance; humanitarian relief and rehabilitation; and support to electoral and peace-building processes.

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