UNDP Regional Director for Africa Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa as she addresses the first joint session of the Executive Board. Photo: UNDP/Weiying Zhu.

Remarks by Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa

Assistant Secretary- General and Regional Director
UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa

Joint UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board

First Regular Session 2019

UNHQ, ECOSOC Chamber

New York 22 January 2019

[As prepared for delivery]

Mr. President of the UNDP Executive Board,

Distinguished Members of the Executive Board,

Representatives of the Governments of Burundi, Niger and Togo,

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have the pleasure to present the Country Programme Documents for Burundi, Niger and Togo to the First Regular session of the Joint UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board for approval.

All the Programme Documents were developed with the respective Government partners and in consultation with a wide range of development stakeholders, including UN sister agencies, multilateral and bilateral partners, civil society, the private sector and the academic community. All three country programmes are informed by the UNDP Strategic Plan and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.  However, each one presents unique characteristics based on the specific development context and the national development priorities, necessitating a diversity of approaches adopted for implementation.

I will now touch briefly on each of the Country Programmes, situating our support in a broader context and highlighting the critical commonalities and the core elements.

Mr. President, Distinguished members of the Executive Board.

1.    BURUNDI continues to implement its national development agenda with a focus on enhancing community development and building social cohesion. It has made commendable progress in access to education and drinking water. The country achieved universal primary and lower secondary education. To address poverty and high levels of inequality, the Government has sought to improve citizens’ access to services and fundamental rights (rights to property including land, particularly for women, and rights to equality). It has done this through strengthening judicial institutions and administrative reforms.  Despite this progress, Burundi continues to face significant socio-economic and poverty challenges, with a high proportion of the population still suffering extreme poverty. This situation was worsened by the slowdown of economic growth due to political and security challenges in the past few years.

The Country Programme covering 2019 to 2023 is aligned with the National Development Plan 2018 to 2027, the African Union Agenda 2063, and the Sustainable Development Goals. Structural transformation towards elimination of extreme poverty is a key priority for the Government for the next 10 years. UNDP will contribute to the Government’s development agenda through three key pathways: first,  we will seek to develop rural non-farm sectors through innovative gender-responsive processing and manufacturing units and improve access to financial and non-financial assets; second, we will work to improve access to  basic social services, such as gender-sensitive, quality, administrative, health and judicial services; and third, we will support the promotion of sustainable energy sources. We will also establish early warning mechanisms to enable institutions and communities anticipate/prepare for and respond to disaster as well as adapt to climate change and create sustainable economic opportunities. In collaboration with other United Nations agencies, UNDP will contribute to strengthening the production of development data to objectively assess progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  

Mr. President, I will now present the case of Niger.

NIGER is the fourth largest producer of uranium in the world. The country is also endowed with rich deposits of gold, coal and crude oil. Economic growth averaged 5.2% in 2018.  However, Niger is also the country with the highest global demographic growth rate -- 3.9%. It is one of the world’s poorest nations, with a national poverty rate of 45.4%, and a per capita income of $420.  Key challenges to its quest for sustainable development include security threats at the borders with Mali, Libya, and Nigeria and persistently low commodity prices, which continue to expose Niger to serious macroeconomic risks. Population pressure, political instability, insecurity and recurrent natural crises have compounded food insecurity challenges and further burdened the country’s economic capacities.

The Country Programme which covers the period from 2019 to 2021, thus aims to support the Government to improve governance, peace and security for at-risk populations, especially in rural and border areas. This, we believe, is the foundation needed to further accelerate transformation for sustainable development. The programme acknowledges the dire need to leverage Niger’s demographic dividend, diversify the economy and create employment for the youth and women. The development pathway therefore combines innovative approaches to help alleviate poverty, prevent inequalities and violent extremism and simultaneously improve institutional and adaptive capacities. Strengthening cross-border security, governance and social cohesion are longer-term approaches that will be pursued in collaboration with national, regional and international partners. Amid the security crisis in neighbouring countries, Niger is a resilient country, and a good model for UNDP’s global offer on the SDGs through UNDP’s SDG acceleration platform based on data-driven solutions.

Distinguished members of the Executive Board,

Our third and final presentation, TOGO, though a low-income country, has recorded notable progress in SDGs 1, 2, 3, 5, 9,14 and 17, as efforts to eliminate poverty have resulted in the improvement of living conditions.  The poverty incidence decreased by 8.2 points in 11 years from 61.7% in 2006 to 53.5% in 2017. Economic growth over the past decade has averaged over 4%. The Emergency Programme for Community Development (known by its French acronym, PUDC), implemented by UNDP with cost-shared financial support of the Government of Togo, has helped to increase productivity and create strong attraction for private investment. PUDC has helped accelerate development through provision of basic services and infrastructure to underserved regions of the country. Despite the progress, challenges persist; the massive public investments have led to high debt levels of 81.3% of GDP, and rural poverty at 68.7% as against 37.9% in the urban areas. The Country Programme covering 2019 to 2023, targets rural and underserved regions of the country, to further economic diversification, inclusive growth and governance. UNDP will work to bridge the gap between access and quality of basic services and enhance the effective management of natural resources and climate change effects. UNDP will support reforms to improve rule of law, governance and the democratic system, and help strengthen national institutions’ capacity for greater effectiveness and accountability. Partnerships with both international, national and local actors will leverage technology transfer and innovation in the public and private sectors, particularly among youth through mentoring and the creation of innovation platforms to further employment creation.

Mr. President, Distinguished members of the Executive Board,

All three programmes are underpinned by a common development reality and the principle of engagement to “leave no one behind” by targeting the most vulnerable and marginalised. They all employ strategies that prioritise: poverty and exclusion, youth unemployment, women empowerment, promoting south-south cooperation, inclusive growth, deepening demographic dividends and sustaining peace.

We look forward to the Executive Board’s approval of the Country Programmes for Burundi, Niger and Togo, as well as the extension of the Country Programmes for the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Members of the Board, the Governments of Burundi, Niger and Togo, development partners and donors for their support to the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa and to all programme countries under the Bureau’s responsibility.

A warm thank you for your support!

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