Signalling hope for a brighter future, revellers take part in the annual lantern festival in Thailand.

As we enter into 2018, what can we say about the next 12 months?

The world is witnessing an extraordinary time – a time of progress and promise in our global commitment to transform our future. The number of people living in poverty is falling, while the number of children going to school is on the rise. Hi- and low-tech innovations enrich our lives in countless ways, with the promise of many more breakthroughs.

At the same time, we face some complex, long-running challenges, which unfortunately will not fade into history with the end of one year and the start of another.

The devastating impact of climate change, polarized politics and ideologies, a breakdown in social cohesion that is manifesting in extremism, violence and conflict. A record number of people displaced from their homes, and the stark reality that half of the world’s wealth is held by just one percent of people. These are all familiar and persistent challenges that will continue to demand our attention.

But there is still room for optimism. For inspiration. For action.

This is because the universal commitments agreed by all countries two years ago, and known collectively as the 2030 Agenda, have also come with us into 2018. These are the goals that show us an ambitious, but clear, pathway to a safe and peaceful world in which each of us is free to live lives of dignity and opportunity, while we safeguard the planet for future generations.

We can also be optimistic because the United Nations, led by Secretary-General António Guterres, is undergoing system-wide reforms to remain effective, as more and different demands are made of it. And because within that context, UNDP is also sharpening its own focus.  

“The development landscape will continue to evolve, likely in unanticipated ways. From artificial intelligence to climate change, the world is on the cusp of dramatic changes, and for all these reasons, a dynamic, effective and future-focused UNDP embedded in the UN system is needed – now more than ever,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said.

We have laid out this new focus in our Strategic Plan, which takes effect today and is the blueprint for the evolution of our work over the next four years. The new UNDP envisioned in the plan acknowledges that solving these enduring problems will need all of us to work better together, at all levels.

No individual person, government, UN agency or civil society organization can hope to find the solution alone. This is why the new UNDP will reinvigorate one of its unique strengths: its ability to convene and connect innovators across societies, governments and the UN system. It will be a clearinghouse for cutting-edge ideas to overcome development challenges. The number one priority will be the greatest of those challenges – eradicating poverty. And the key 2030 Agenda principle of leaving no one behind and stamping out inequality will remain at the core of everything we do.

We are starting 2018 with a fresh focus and vision and look forward to working closer than ever before with our partners in the year ahead.

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