Speech by UNDP Ethiopia Resident Representative Eugene Owusu at theUNDP Environment and Energy Community of Practice Meeting for the Africa Region

Nov 11, 2014

Mr. Lebogang Motlana, Director of the UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa,

Colleagues from the Regional Service Centre,

Country Office Representatives and Environment Focal Points

Ladies and Gentlemen


It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to Addis Ababa - the political and diplomatic capital of Africa - and to this year’s Environment and Energy Community of Practice Meeting. Nkwan dena metachew, as they say in the lovely Amharic language!

The Environment and Energy work of UNDP is an important pillar of the overall work of our organization. And in the Africa region in particular, we cannot over-emphasise the central role of the environment and natural resources in advancing human development.

On this continent, Environment and Natural Resources are at the centre of people’s livelihoods and many economies are anchored on the extraction and exploitation of natural and environmental resources. But as we do know, the integrity of the environment and natural resources, their continued role in sustaining economic growth and human development, is significantly compromised by unsustainable use. This is where we, as UNDP, come in, and where we can leverage our presence on the ground in 177 countries to form a vibrant community of practice.  Our role is to shape the discourse and debate on the role that the environment and natural resources play in Sustainable Human Development and inform responsible and sustainable approaches to human-environment interactions.

A key part of our role is also to connect countries to best practices, to sources of knowledge and innovation to optimize the development benefits of the environment and natural resources. As expressed in the 2014-2017 UNDP Strategic Plan, our areas of work between now and 2017 focus on three main outcomes, which are also our three areas of work. That is helping countries:

1.  Build sustainable development pathways;

2.  Build and/or strengthen inclusive and effective democratic governance; and

3.  Build resilience

And I am sure you will agree with me that the sustainable use and management of environment and natural resources play a significant role in shaping these three outcomes. Sustainable management and inclusive governance of the environment can help households, communities and nations fight poverty and build resilience against shocks and disasters, and pursue an overall sustainable development pathway.

Crucially, the support we provide to governments and communities at the country level, which we pursue through Country Offices, is what defines how well we do, and how successful we will be, at contributing towards the achievement of these three outcomes that the Strategic Plan has set out.

Coming closer home, here in Ethiopia, as you drove to this Conference Centre this morning, I am sure you would have noticed that Addis Ababa is in the middle of a major overhaul. This is not an isolated development. Ethiopia is a country in a hurry to develop. It has set itself the goal of becoming middle income and also carbon neutral over the next decade.  

So as the UN/UNDP, the Government challenges us to be equally bold and innovative in terms of our support for the country and the ambitious development agenda expressed in the country’s overarching development strategy - the Growth and Transformation Plan - and in its Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy, which is the first CRGE strategy in Africa.

Colleagues, to succeed in meeting the expectations of the Government, we have had to ensure that our business model is fit for purpose; that we are providing the required thought leadership on CRGE policy work, and that we excel as an innovative development solutions provider to the CRGE agenda. The energy and environment portfolio is the largest in our Country Office, accounting for almost 40 per cent of our overall programme portfolio.  But we are constantly investing in ensuring maximum synergies across all our programme domains. For example our partners working on green technology are benefiting from developing their business skills through our Entrepreneurship Development Programme. Our pastoralist community development programme is benefiting from the Governance unit’s work on indigenous conflict resolution mechanisms.

The agenda for the next four days outlines the important issues that UNDP as a team needs to address over the remaining three years of implementation of the Strategic Plan, and beyond. I note that you will discuss how UNDP can support countries to adapt to and mitigate against climate change, conserve and sustainably manage biodiversity, including wildlife and forests, restore and rehabilitate degraded ecosystems and reduce pollution of water bodies and the atmosphere, and pursue sustainable energy pathways. Even more importantly, you will discuss how to mobilise core and non-core resources to help governments achieve these goals. Leading financiers such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and others are important partners to UNDP in designing sustainable environmental programs and interventions in line with national priorities.


As I conclude my remark, allow me to share three key take away messages with you:

First: UNDP needs to strengthen its voice, and its policy engagement needs to be consistent and uniform, as it advocates for African countries to enhance their investments in the sustainable use and management of environment and natural resources. Your Community of Practice can greatly help create a harmonized approach for UNDP’s policy advocacy, resource mobilisation and programme implementation across African countries.

Second: We need to take advantage of the post-2015 development agenda’s focus on inclusive and sustainable development to position UNDP at the centre of emerging development dialogue at the country and regional level.  The development landscape is shifting fast. We are no longer the only game in town. Far from it. Expectation is high from both governments as well as development partners and the onus is on us to continuously prove our worth by providing timely, innovative, smart solutions and being on the cutting edge of emerging development thinking. This challenge certainly applies to you, as the environment and energy community of practice.

Finally, a word on a subject that I am personally passionate about - and that is innovation. Innovation does not happen by chance nor does it happen in a vacuum. Innovation cannot be legislated; it takes deliberate policy actions, enablers, positive incentives and entrepreneurship to make it happen. You need to make all aspects of innovation central to your work. This is because for your work as the environment and energy community of practice to fully drive transformational and sustainable development on this continent, it requires smart actions anchored in knowledge and innovation.

Let me end by wishing you very successful deliberations and a very productive four days. But it would be remiss of me if I failed to use this opportunity to do a little commercial on behalf of Addis Ababa. Colleagues, Addis is a lovely city with a lot of pleasures to savour. During your stay here this week, I invite you to take some time out to enjoy Addis Ababa, and explore the many diverse entertainment and cultural feats that this lovely city has to offer!


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