An Important Lesson from a UNDP Policy Meeting

photo 4UNDP (the United Nation Development Programme) held a retreat together with its key partners in a resort called Adulala in Debra Zeit, near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This retreat was held on the 19th to the 21st of February 2015, attended by ASC steering committee member Halima, who reflects on her experiences below.

The purpose of this retreat is that upon evaluating itself, UNDP found itself to be lacking or inadequate in reaching its clientele and thus not having the desired impact it planned to have. In order to address this, UNDP decided to change its structure thus creating regional structures dealing in different thematic areas.

This new regional structure dealing with Africa is based in Addis Ababa. The UNDP Regional Program Document for Africa Project is called “Fostering Resilience to Shocks and Threats in Africa”. The main expected outcome of this document is “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven and managed by its own citizens”. The meeting is trying to address the project outcome 3; Countries are able to reduce the likelihood of conflict and lower the risk of natural disasters, including from climate change.

UNDP gave a brief of outcome of the evaluation, its new structure, its planned program and the challenges they faced. The idea behind the retreat was to see how they could implement these changes, considering their partners input in their way forward, and walk together for greater impact. This to me is a very impressive way of working and can also be a daunting task for them. They questioned what worked, what didn’t work and the lessons learnt by the partners. This was deliberated extensively and it was interesting to note that the partners did not challenge the changes that were made. What they questioned, and focused on more, was the way of working, and the relationships.

All the different discussions that were held deliberated on what partnership meant, the type of partnership, the expectations and formalisation of the relationship. The emphasis was on equal and respectful relationships.

I came away with the learning that it is not what we do that is the most important but the how (process) and especially the relationships. The realisation of not being able to do much on your own and needing others to reach your goal was understood by most for a long time now. That by working together we can achieve more than the sum of our activities has also been realised. However the balancing of the relationship such that there is mutual respect and genuine give and take during the engagement is still not well understood and accepted by many. If we are able to balance our relationship then what we do and the outcome becomes richer.

The fact that the UNDP Service Centre was willing to discuss this with its partners and to work together to come up with a way forward is to me significant.

The fact that they are addressing ‘radicalism’ and not ‘terrorism’ for me was also a more realistic, refreshing and welcoming idea.

The fact that they were not there to just fund projects but to help test new initiatives and ways of doing things was also a wining formula.

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