United Nations Development Programme

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)[note 1] is a United Nations organization tasked with helping countries eliminate poverty and achieve sustainable economic growth and human development.[3] Headquartered in New York City, it is the largest UN development aid agency,[4] with offices in 170 countries.[5]

United Nations Development Programme
Emblem of the United Nations.svg
UNDP logo.svg
Logo of the UNDP
Formation22 November 1965
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersNew York City
(International territory)
Achim Steiner[1]
Parent organization

The UNDP emphasizes developing local capacity towards long-term self-sufficiency and prosperity. It administers projects to attract investment, technical training, and technological development, and provides experts to help build legal and political institutions and expand the private sector.[6] Assistance is provided at the request of national governments, and UNDP personnel frequently coordinate with local officials, nongovernmental organizations, and other international agencies.[7]

The UNDP operates in 125 counties and is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from UN member states. In addition to meeting national development objectives, its activities increasingly focus on fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as combating HIV/AIDS and ensuring environmentally sustainable development. The UNDP is governed by a 36-member executive board overseen by an administrator, who is third-highest ranking UN official after the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General.[8]


The UNDP was founded on 22 November 1965 with the merging of the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA) and the Special Fund.[9] The rationale was to "avoid duplication of [their] activities". The EPTA was set up in 1949 to help the economic and political aspects of underdeveloped countries while the Special Fund was to enlarge the scope of UN technical assistance. The Special Fund arose from the idea of a Special United Nations Fund for Economic Development (SUNFED) (which was initially called the United Nations Fund for Economic Development (UNFED).[10]

Countries such as the Nordic countries were proponents of such a United Nations (UN) controlled fund. However, the fund was opposed by developed countries, especially by the United States who was wary of the Third World dominating such a funding and preferred it to be under the auspices of the World Bank. The concept of SUNFED was dropped to form the Special Fund. This Special Fund was a compromise over the SUNFED concept, it did not provide investment capital, but only helped to bring pre-conditions for private investment.

With the US proposing and creating the International Development Association within the World Bank's umbrella, the EPTA and the Special Fund appeared to be conducting similar work. In 1962, the United Nations Economic and Social Council asked the Secretary General to consider the merits and disadvantages of merging UN technical assistance programs and in 1966, the EPTA and the Special Fund merged to form the UNDP.[11][12][13]


In 2019, UNDP's entire budget was approximately US$6 billion.[14]

Funding information tableEdit

The following table lists the top 15 DAC 5 Digit Sectors[15] to which UNDP has committed funding, as recorded in its International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) publications. The UNDP claims on the IATI Registry website that the data covers 100% of development flows.[16]

UNDP topped the Aid Transparency Index published by Publish What You Fund in 2015 and 2016. "The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) tops the Index for the second time with an excellent score of 93.3%, the only organisation to score above 90%".[17]

Committed funding (US$ millions)
Sector 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Sum
Security system management and reform 624.3 541.7 591.6 643.8 656.4 3,057.9
STD control including HIV/AIDS 415.9 421.4 412.1 465.2 483.5 2,198.1
Public sector policy and administrative management 216.3 299.3 372.2 456.9 462.9 1,807.7
Decentralisation and support to subnational government 256.7 327.5 302.7 338.4 505.8 1,731.1
Reconstruction relief and rehabilitation 249.0 282.5 338.1 376.5 422.0 1,668.2
Elections 157.8 267.8 330.3 279.0 149.8 1,184.7
Disaster prevention and preparedness 146.4 170.2 211.2 243.7 241.3 1,012.9
Energy policy and administrative management 113.3 157.0 198.9 212.3 316.2 997.6
General budget support 77.6 142.7 263.1 223.7 273.9 981.1
Social/ welfare services 108.7 149.4 155.4 219.4 195.2 828.1
Legal and judicial development 62.1 76.6 97.5 113.8 106.9 456.8
Environmental policy and administrative management 49.6 63.4 70.9 95.4 122.0 401.3
Power generation/renewable sources 42.8 44.4 60.3 101.0 125.2 373.7
Democratic participation and civil society 56.3 62.1 62.1 65.9 76.6 323.0
Human rights 28.1 45.5 52.4 88.5 56.2 270.8
Other 334.5 315.5 379.8 507.3 969.5 2,506.6
Total 2,939.5 3,367.1 3,898.5 4,430.9 5,163.6 19,799.6

UNDP links and coordinates global and national efforts to achieve the goals and national development priorities laid out by host countries. UNDP focuses primarily on five developmental challenges:

Democratic governanceEdit

UNDP supports national democratic transitions by providing policy advice and technical support, improving institutional and individual capacity within countries, educating populations about and advocating for democratic reforms, promoting negotiation and dialogue, and sharing successful experiences from other countries and locations. UNDP also supports existing democratic institutions by increasing dialogue, enhancing national debate, and facilitating consensus on national governance programmes.

Poverty reductionEdit

UNDP helps countries develop strategies to combat poverty by expanding access to economic opportunities and resources, linking poverty programmes with countries’ larger goals and policies, and ensuring a greater voice for the poor. It also works at the macro level to reform trade, encourage debt relief and foreign investment, and ensure the poorest of the poor benefit from globalisation. On the ground, UNDP sponsors developmental pilot projects, promotes the role of women in development, and coordinates efforts between governments, NGOs, and outside donors. In this way, UNDP works with local leaders and governments to provide opportunities for impoverished people to create businesses and improve their economic condition.

The UNDP united nation development programme International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) in Brasília, Brazil, expands the capacities of developing countries to design, implement and evaluate socially inclusive development projects. IPC-IG is a global forum for South-South policy dialogue and learning, having worked with more than 7,000 officials from more than 50 countries.

A 2013 evaluation of the UNDP's poverty reduction efforts states that the UNDP has effectively supported national efforts to reduce poverty, by helping governments make policy changes that benefit the poor.[18] Nevertheless, the same evaluation also states there is a strong need for better measurement and monitoring of the impacts of the UNDP's work.[19] The UNDP's Strategic Plan from 2014 to 2017 incorporates the recommendations of this poverty evaluation.[20]

Crisis prevention and recoveryEdit

UNDP works to reduce the risk of armed conflicts or disasters, and promote early recovery after crisis have occurred. UNDP works through its country offices to support local government in needs assessment, capacity development, coordinated planning, and policy and standard setting.

Examples of UNDP risk reduction programmes include efforts to control small arms proliferation, strategies to reduce the impact of natural disasters, and programmes to encourage use of diplomacy and prevent violence. Recovery programmes include disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, demining efforts, programmes to reintegrate displaced persons, restoration of basic services, and transitional justice systems for countries recovering from warfare.

Following the suspension of most foreign aid to Afghanistan due to its takeover by the Taliban, the UNDP took responsibility for funding most essential health services in the country, including the salaries of over 25,00 health care professionals.[21] This was observed as being outside the organization's usual development activities, and was facilitated by special licensing by the United States government.[21]

Environment and energyEdit

As the poor are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation and lack of access to clean, affordable water, sanitation, and energy services, UNDP seeks to address environmental issues in order to improve developing countries’ abilities to develop sustainably, increase human development and reduce poverty. UNDP works with countries to strengthen their capacity to address global environmental issues by providing innovative policy advice and linking partners through environmentally sensitive development projects that help poor people build sustainable livelihoods.

UNDP's environmental strategy focuses on effective water governance including access to water supply and sanitation, access to sustainable energy services, Sustainable land management to combat desertification and land degradation, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and policies to control emissions of harmful pollutants and ozone-depleting substances. UNDP's Equator Initiative office biennially offers the Equator Prize to recognize outstanding indigenous community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and thus making local contributions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Between 1996 and 1998, the UNDP sponsored the deployment of 45 Multifunction Platforms (MFP) in rural Mali. These installations, driven by a diesel engine, power devices such as pumps, grain mills and appliances.[22] By 2004, the number of MFPs in Mali reached 500.[23]

In 2012 the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) was established. BIOFIN brings 30 countries together to develop and implement evidence-based finance plans to safeguards biodiversity. BIOFIN has developed an innovative and adaptable methodology to guide countries to analyze the policy and institutional context for biodiversity finance; measure the current biodiversity expenditures; assess future financial needs, and identify the most suitable finance solutions to achieve national biodiversity targets.[24]


UNDP works to help countries prevent further spreading of and reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS, convening The Global Commission on HIV and the Law which reported in 2012.[25]

Hub for Innovative PartnershipsEdit

Major programmes underway are:[26]

World Map of Gender Inequality Index by country sourced from 2017 Human Development Report

Human Development ReportEdit

Since 1991, the UNDP has annually published the Human Development Report, which includes topics on Human Development and the annual Human Development Index.[27]

The Gender Inequality Index is one such topic discussed in the Human Development Report.


The UNDP spends about 0.2% of its budget on internal evaluation of the effectiveness of its programmes.[28] The UNDP's Evaluation Office is a member of the UN Evaluation Group (UNEG) which brings together all the units responsible for evaluation in the UN system. Currently the UNEG has 43 members and 3 observers.[29]

Global Policy CentersEdit

The UNDP runs six GPCs, including the Seoul GPC on partnerships, and the Global Center for Public Service Excellence that issues the "Raffles Review" email newsletter on developments in public administration research.

UN coordination roleEdit

UNDP plays a significant coordination role for the UN's activities in the field of development. This is mainly executed through its leadership of the UN Development Group and through the Resident Coordinator System.

United Nations Development GroupEdit

The United Nations Development Group (UNDG) was created by the Secretary-General in 1997, to improve the effectiveness of UN development at the country level. The UNDG brings together the operational agencies working on development. The Group is chaired by the Administrator of UNDP. UNDP also provides the Secretariat to the Group.

The UNDG develops policies and procedures that allow member agencies to work together and analyze country issues, plan support strategies, implement support programs, monitor results and advocate for change. These initiatives increase UN impact in helping countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including poverty reduction.

Thirty-two UN agencies are members of the UNDG. The executive committee consists of the four "founding members": UNICEF, UNFPA, WFP and UNDP. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is an ex-officio member of the executive committee.

Resident coordinator systemEdit

The Resident Coordinator (RC) system coordinates all organizations of the United Nations system dealing with operational activities for development in the field. The RC system aims to bring together the different UN agencies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of operational activities at the country level. Resident Coordinators lead UN country teams in more than 130 countries and are the designated representatives of the Secretary-General for development operations. Working closely with national governments, Resident Coordinators and country teams advocate the interests and mandates of the UN drawing on the support and guidance of the entire UN family. It is now coordinated by the UNDG. [30]

Innovation FacilityEdit

The UNDP established the Innovation Facility in 2014, with support from the Government of Denmark, as a dedicated funding mechanism to nurture promising development interventions.[31]

The Innovation Facility offers technical assistance and seed funding to collaborators across 170 countries and territories to explore new approaches to complex development challenges. Since its inception, the Innovation Facility has fostered innovation labs across all 5 regions to better deliver and monitor SDGs.[32] In 2015, the Innovation Facility invested in 62 initiatives across 45 countries to achieve 16 SDGs.[33]


NSA surveillanceEdit

Documents of Edward Snowden showed in December 2013 that British and American intelligence agencies surveillance targets with the United States' National Security Agency (NSA) included organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme, the UN's children's charity UNICEF and Médecins Sans Frontières and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).[34]

Allegations of UNDP resources used by HamasEdit

In August 2016, Israel's Shin Bet security agency publicized the arrest of Wahid Abdallah al Bursh, a Palestinian engineer employed by the UNDP, stating he had confessed to being recruited in 2014 to help Hamas, the dominant Islamist group in Gaza. Among "various assignments" Bursh performed on behalf of Hamas was "using UNDP resources" to build a maritime jetty for its fighters; no further details were provided on this claim. Shin Bet also claimed Bursh had persuaded his UNDP superiors to prioritize neighborhoods with Hamas operatives when earmarking reconstruction funds for Gaza, which was devastated by the 2014 war with Israel.[35]

Alleged financial irregularitiesEdit

The UNDP had been criticised by members of its staff and the Bush administration of the United States for irregularities in its finances in North Korea. Artjon Shkurtaj claimed that he had found counterfeit US dollars in the programmes' safe despite staff being paid in euros. The UNDP denied keeping improper accounts and any other wrongdoing.[36]

Disarmament and controversyEdit

In mid-2006, as first reported by Inner City Press[37] and then by New Vision,[38] UNDP halted its disarmament programmes in the Karamoja region of Uganda in response to human rights abuses in the parallel forcible disarmament programmes carried out by the Uganda People's Defence Force.


The UNDP Administrator has the rank of an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. While the Administrator is often referred to as the third highest-ranking official in the UN (after the UN Secretary General and the UN Deputy Secretary General), this has never been formally codified.

In addition to his/her responsibilities as head of UNDP, the Administrator is also the vice-chair of the UN Sustainable Development Group.[39][40]

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.[41]

Achim Steiner is the current Administrator.[42] The five countries on the UNDP board have some influence over selection of the administrator.[citation needed]

The first administrator of the UNDP was Paul G. Hoffman, former head of the Economic Cooperation Administration which administered the Marshall Plan.

Other holders of the position have included: Bradford Morse, former Republican congressman from Massachusetts; William Draper, venture capitalist and friend of George H.W. Bush who saw one of the UN system's major achievements, the Human Development Report, introduced during his tenure; Mark Malloch Brown, who was previously Vice President of External Affairs at the World Bank and subsequently became UN Deputy Secretary General. Kemal Derviş, a former finance minister of Turkey and senior World Bank official, was the previous UNDP Administrator. Derviş started his four-year term on 15 August 2005.

Nr Administrator Nationality Term
9 Achim Steiner   Brazil /   Germany 2017–
8 Helen Clark   New Zealand 2009–2017
7 Kemal Derviş   Turkey 2005–2009
6 Mark Malloch Brown   United Kingdom 1999–2005
5 James Gustave Speth   United States 1993–1999
4 William Henry Draper 1986–1993
3 F. Bradford Morse 1976–1986
2 Rudolph A. Peterson 1972–1976
1 Paul G. Hoffman 1966–1972

Associate AdministratorEdit

During meetings of the UN Sustainable Development Group, which are chaired by the Administrator, UNDP is represented by the Associate Administrator.[citation needed] The position is currently held by Tegegnework Gettu, appointed on 1 December 2015. He is also currently service as Director a.i., for the Africa Region.

Assistant administratorsEdit

Assistant Administrators of the UNDP, Assistant United Nations Secretaries General and Directors of the Regional Bureaus are

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ French: Programme des Nations unies pour le développement, PNUD


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  16. ^ "About - United Nations Development Programme - IATI Registry". Archived from the original on 21 September 2016. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
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  18. ^ "Evaluation of UNDP Contribution to Poverty Reduction". UNDP. Archived from the original on 31 July 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  19. ^ "Evaluation of UNDP Contribution to Poverty Reduction". UNDP. Archived from the original on 19 March 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  20. ^ "UNDP Strategic Plan: 2014-2017". UNDP. Archived from the original on 18 May 2020. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  21. ^ a b DeYoung, Karen (6 October 2021). "U.N. agency to pay salaries of Afghan health-care workers to help stave off humanitarian crisis". Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  22. ^ "Technological Innovation:Multi-functional Platforms in Mali". www.geni.org. Archived from the original on 3 March 2020. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  23. ^ Sovacool, Benjamin K.; Clarke, Shannon; Johnson, Katie; Crafton, Meredith; Eidsness, Jay; Zoppo, David (1 February 2013). "The energy-enterprise-gender nexus: Lessons from the Multifunctional Platform (MFP) in Mali". Renewable Energy. 50: 115–125. doi:10.1016/j.renene.2012.06.024. ISSN 0960-1481. Archived from the original on 13 April 2020. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  24. ^ Factsheet: The Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN). "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 June 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ "Global Commission on HIV and the Law". Archived from the original on 28 March 2021. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  26. ^ "The Hub for Innovative Partnerships". undp.org. November 2011. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  27. ^ "un.org". Archived from the original on 20 February 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
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  31. ^ UNDP's Innovation Facility Archived 25 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  32. ^ At a Glance Archived 4 February 2021 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  33. ^ 2015 Year in Review Archived 7 November 2020 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  34. ^ GCHQ and NSA targeted charities, Germans, Israeli PM and EU chief Archived 21 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine The Guardian 20 December 2013
  35. ^ Israel says U.N. aid used by Hamas Archived 28 March 2021 at the Wayback Machine Reuters 9 August 2016
  36. ^ "UN denies firing 'whistleblower'". BBC News. 7 July 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2007.
  37. ^ Lee, Matthew Russell (28 June 2006). "In Uganda, UNDP's Belated Announcement of Program Halt Leaves Questions Unanswered". www.innercitypress.com.
  38. ^ newvision.co.ug Archived 14 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine
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External linksEdit

  • Official UNDP web site
  • Jackson, R. G. A., A Study of the Capacity of the United Nations Development System. 2 vols, Geneva: United Nations, 1969.
  • Mitcham, Chad J. ‘Australia and Development Cooperation at the United Nations: Towards Poverty Reduction.’ In Australia and the United Nations, edited by James Cotton and David Lee, 191–221. Canberra: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Sydney: Longueville Books, 2013.
  • Mitcham, Chad J., Jackson, Sir Robert Gillman (1911-1991), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jackson-sir-robert-gillman-20715/text31511, published online 2016, accessed online 5 September 2017.