Statement by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye at UNDP Farewell Reception for Helen Clark

Apr 18, 2017

UNDP Farewell Party for Helen Clark

Statement by M. Abdoulaye Mar DIEYE, UNDP Regional Director

New York, 18 April 2017


I have been attending, lately, a series of Farewell parties for Helen Clark. I have heard a bouquet of testimonies on her leadership skills, her political acumen and her phenomenal human touch.

No wonder Forbes nominated her the 22nd most powerful woman in the World!

My testimony today will be about her contribution to development thinking and practice.

You all would remember that Helen joined the United Nations in April 2009. The World was just hit, in 2007-2008, by the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression. The crisis was also seen as a failing of “modern economics” and prompted the emergence of a new economic school of thought, precisely called the NET or “New Economic Thinking”, factoring in the usual classical economic thinking, disciplines such as politics, sociology, psychology and philosophy; and weaving in dimensions such as ethics, uncertainties, risks and resilience. The emerging “New Economy Movement” professed that the entire economic system must be radically restructured if critical social and environmental goals are to be met.

Helen has been a precursor in that school of thought. And that new school of thought is defined clearly in an interview she gave on 14 January 2011 to an Australian Newspaper, the New Statesman, when she was asked the following question:

“The (development) economist Peter Thomas Bauer once described aid as an excellent means of transporting money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. Does that hold true?”

No. “I don't think it holds true, because we are very much focused on systemic change, with a strong emphasis on equality”.

 “Systemic change” is indeed the new economics.

I have been privileged to have read and studied all of Helen’s 870 and so speeches and statements since she has been at the helm of UNDP. A phenomenal average of 2 to 3 speeches per week! For eight years in a row!

  • “Systemic change with a strong emphasis on equality” has been the melody of her development discourse.
  • “Systemic change with a strong emphasis on equality” has been the leitmotiv of the 7 Global Human Development Reports that she intellectually inspired.
  • “Systemic change with a strong emphasis on equality” has been the matrix of our very Strategic Plan.

I wanted us today to recognize and celebrate such a rich and seminal intellectual contribution in the corpus of knowledge in development economics. A generation ago, UNDP was a precursor in shaping the then new development paradigm, the “human development”; a generation later we can say that UNDP is a laboratory for the “New Economy Thinking”. And Helen has been a captain in the now prevailing “New Economy Movement”. And for that, we wanted to pay tribute.

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