UNDP Associate Administrator's Statement at UNDP's 50th Anniversary Commemoration

Aug 17, 2016

UNDP Associate Administrator, Tegegnework Gettu


Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and Ministers here present,

Heads of Government Commissions,  

Colleagues from the UN System,

Members of the Diplomatic corps, 

Development partners,

Members of civil society organizations,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.


My heartfelt thanks to the Government of Ghana for organizing this event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of UNDP. We celebrated UNDP’s 50th Anniversary with a Ministerial Meeting in New York, earlier this year. About 85 Ministers came, 160 countries were represented. It was truly a celebration of five decades of partnership between UNDP and governments all around the world. Her Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana came. We thank her for her participation in the meeting and for her role as a UNDP Champion. Thank you, as well, for inviting me to be a part of it. I’m honored to be here in Ghana today, a country that is known for its historic struggles for independence, development and peace in Sub Sahara Africa.

It is no secret that Ghana’s attainment of Independence from the British in 1957 acted as a catalyst, paving the way for other sub-Sahara African countries to attain their independence. Ghana’s lead role in promoting Pan-Africanism is also well recognized. It is best captured in the famous proclamation of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to the effect that the independence of Ghana was meaningless without the total liberation of the rest of Africa. Dr Nkrumah went on to espouse a foreign policy for his administration with Pan-Africanism at its core, culminating in the 1963 Addis Ababa conference with 30 African Heads of State and Governments signing the historic Charter of African Unity, establishing the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) now the African Union (AU).

 At the global level, Kofi A. Annan of Ghana who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006 is credited for revitalizing the UN through a comprehensive programme of reform; strengthening the Organization's traditional work in the areas of development and the maintenance of international peace and security; advocating human rights, the rule of law and the universal values of equality, tolerance and human dignity; restoring public confidence in the Organization by reaching out to new partners and, in his words, by "bringing the United Nations closer to the people.  In April, 2000, he issued a report on the UN's role in the 21st century, outlining actions needed to end poverty and inequality, improve education, cut HIV/AIDS, safeguard the environment and protect peoples from violence. The report formed the basis of the Millennium Declarations adopted by national leaders attending the UN Millennium Summit that September.

Indeed, today, Ghana has continued to be that respected leader at regional and Africa levels on issues of regional integration, economic and social transformation, democracy, peace and stability – from contributing to tackling emerging conflicts in West Africa in the late 1980s onwards and more recently in the fight against Ebola in 2014 -2015. By offering to host UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), Ghana contributed immensely to the success of the fight against Ebola – a fight that was won in record time.  

Today’s event goes beyond commemorating UNDP at 50. It is, in many ways, also a celebration of the progress and the leadership shown by the countries of the developing world such as Ghana. In that context, it is a recognition of the areas where we were able to contribute and play a critical role as the developmental arm of the United Nations.

Ghana has made remarkable achievements since its independence in 1957 and it celebrated its own 50th anniversary not so long ago. The golden jubilee celebration and reviews and analysis leading up to the celebration highlighted many of the achievements that Ghana as a country has made. It also highlighted the areas where more needs to be done.

From the time of Ghana’s independence and nation building to now, it has, in fact, served as an inspiration to many people in Africa.  Indeed, it is considered as one of West Africa’s oldest and most resilient democracies.  Ghana’s National Architecture for Peace was the first official African national programme for peace building and remains one of the most respected frameworks for peace building and conflict transformations globally.

Ghana’s enviable economic and political stability and security is partly due to respect for the rule of law and the resilience of her democracy and institutions but also due to the investments Ghana has made.

As the first African country to experience Independence, Ghana had to quickly embark on an ambitious structural transformation of the economy to meet the aspirations of its people and to prove to the world what could be possible. The significant building blocks that were indeed put in place – think of the Akosombo Dam - and the extensive investments that were made in infrastructure have contributed to where Ghana is today. 

The experience of Ghana and other countries suggests that, in practice, this is an incredibly complex task and can take many years. Hence, no doubt, the focus of Ghana’s National Planning Commission, on developing a 40-year long term national development plan (NDLTP) to provide policy predictability and to plan for the large complex investments that take time to come to fruition.

Experience also suggests that this process can be profoundly destabilizing. Especially if the world market conditions prevailing at the time are not optimal. In Ghana’s case, the early attempts at transformation quickly ran into headwinds. She experienced a severe balance-of-payments crisis from the cumulative effects of the global oil crisis, the decline in commodity prices which had an adverse impact on export revenues, at the same time as which her nascent domestic industries required growing imports of capital goods.  

However, after various reforms and structural adjustments, Ghana then went on to grow faster than the average for sub Saharan Africa until recently. The discovery of oil in commercial quantities in 2007 and production in 2011 also made for new burst of new optimism.

While commodities are still important for Ghana’s exports, the rebasing of Ghana’s GDP in 2010 pointed to the tremendous growth in the service sector which had not been factored into the prevailing estimates of the size of its economy. On the back of this, it went on to be classified as a lower Middle Income Country. Today, over half of its GDP comes from the service sector.

Ghana has made major progress not only in terms of growth, but also in poverty reduction. It was one of the few sub Saharan African countries to meet the millennium goal target of having poverty by 2015. There have also been advances in the areas of social development and provision of services, even as there is still much to be done to meet the aspirations of its people to be a middle income country by 2035. Many important pieces of relevant legislation have been enacted and institutional arrangements improved to promote an inclusive and equitable society.

Ghana is viewed as a frontier economy by investors and has been an attractive destination for FDI (particularly in IT and service sectors, oil and gas) in the light of its very open economy, peaceful and stable environment and its growing consumer market.

Even as Ghana’s macro-fundamentals deteriorated significantly over the past few years and she faced an energy crisis, with the fiscal consolidation measures that have been adopted over the past year, growth is now found to be recovering and the energy crisis is on its way to being resolved.

Today, Ghana as is Africa, is at an inflection point. While there has been impressive economic growth, this has not always translated into inclusive growth for all Ghanaians. Risks from the recent slowdown in global growth, the unanticipated fall in commodity prices and emerging impacts of climate change underscore the importance of building resilience to economic and environmental shocks.

Let me add that today’s event is also a celebration of the long-standing partnership between UNDP and the Government and people of Ghana. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been a trusted partner of Ghana in its development and democracy journey. 

With Ghana’s return to constitutional democracy in 1992, UNDP is acknowledged for supporting several democratic and accountable governance reforms. These include assistance to, most markedly, the Electoral Commission, including the setup of its Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC); the National Commission for Civic Education, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, and the Economic and Organized Crime Office.

UNDP was instrumental in setting up Ghana’s notable peace infrastructure as well as the establishment of the National Peace Council and the Regional Peace Councils with the necessary legal foundation.  The Peace councils with assistance from UNDP, have been effective in mediating and addressing conflicts. Examples include the Dagbon Conflict (the most violent conflict in the country), the Bawku, Alavanyo and Nkonya conflict, as well as the Bimbilla Conflicts.

In collaboration with the ECOWAS Small Arms Control Programme (ECOSAP), the Ministry of the Interior, and the security sector institutions, UNDP assisted in setting up the Ghana National Commission for Small arms (GNACSA). UNDP through the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Center (KAIPTC) also supported the first comprehensive baseline report on the extent of proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Ghana and the establishment of a Master of Arts Programme in Gender, Peace and Security, at KAIPTC.

Supporting access to justice especially for the poor and marginalized has long been a priority of Ghana and UNDP has supported the country all along in this regard.  The Legal Aid Scheme has been assisted to expand its services to the poor and marginalized in deprived communities across the country. Currently, over 32 of such centres are operational across the country and provide a good example of how access to legal aid can be expanded in the rest of the country.

UNDP has supported efforts to strengthen Ghana’s Legal and Justice Sector with baseline surveys, reform programmes and assisting the Chief Justice’s “High Level Forum”, that brings together the leadership of the justice sector institutions for joint solutions.

Even as Ghana has focused on getting the fundamentals of its growth trajectory right, UNDP’s has sought to complement this agenda by highlighting the need to ‘go beneath the averages’ and to identify fiscal space for supporting the development agenda.

The objective has been to focus attention on the importance of tackling socio-economic and spatial disparities. This was not just with regard to disparities in progress on the MDGs but also spatial patterns of growth which left regions and/or socio-economic groups behind.

Since 1997, Ghana with support from UNDP has produced and disseminated five National Human Development Reports, one regional development report focused on the Western Region, eighteen District Human Development Reports and six MDG Reports. Through support to Ghana Statistical Service UNDP, has also helped to shine light on non-monetary dimensions of poverty. These have helped guide the policy decisions at all levels in response to Ghana’s development challenges and have consistently highlighted the importance of focusing on the equity agenda.

Promoting development with equity is one of the focus areas of Ghana’s National Development Planning Commission (NDPC). UNDP has been a strong partner of the NDPC. NDPC led the development of the country’s major strategies like Vision 2020, subsequent poverty reduction and growth strategies, and the recent Ghana Shared Growth Agendas. UNDP is currently also contributing support for the formulation of the long term national development plan. 

With regard to measures to address the historical North-South development divide, the recommendations of the Ghana Human Development Report 2007, were prescient. In many ways, they foreshadowed the setting up of the Northern Development Fund and then latter the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), which according to the Act 805 (2010) has been tasked with accelerating development in what has been historically the poorest region of the country, spanning 54% of Ghana’s landmass.  UNDP followed up the recommendations by strongly supporting the transformation with equity agenda in the North.

Institutions and catalytic interventions can be considered to be the vital connectors through which implementation of policy and the delivery of services practically take place. UNDP is recognized for supporting the establishment of institutions such as the Ghana Stock Exchange, the Ghana Commodity Exchange and the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA).

GIMPA was in fact established in 1961  with support of the United Nations (UN) special fund project, the precursor to UNDP, as a key strategic institution to support the development of the public administrative system This centre of excellence is still going strong and also provides training services to countries in West Africa and beyond. Similarly, the EMPRETEC project, jointly sponsored by the UNDP, Barclays Bank, and the government of Ghana to deliver a broad range of training and consultancy services to growth-orientated SMEs has evolved into a vibrant EMPRETEC Ghana Foundation which provides training across the continent.

UNDP has also worked with the government in another area that is vital to Ghana’s sustainable development – the issue of the environment and energy. At the policy level, UNDP supported the development of key national documents such as the National Climate Change Policy, the Climate Change Master Plan, and Ghana’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to UNFCCC.

At the level of implementation, UNDP supported Ghana in finding ways to reduce wasteful and inefficient energy consumption. UNDP partnered with the Energy Commission to improve regulations and incentives. As a result the importation of second hand inefficient appliances has significantly dropped, and more and more households are appreciating the benefits of using energy efficient refrigerators.

Fifty years together is a long period and these examples are but `a few’ of the significant areas that UNDP has provided support. Looking forward, UNDP will continue to support Ghana to achieve its strategic priorities in advancing its democratic compensation, improving access to justice, protecting fundamental rights and freedoms, promoting peace and strengthening social cohesion while empowering women, youth and people with disabilities.

Following the adoption of the SDGs, UNDP is already contributing support to Ghana’s development of the 40-year Long Term Development plan, the medium development frameworks incorporating the SDGs, Africa Agenda 2063, COP21 and other priorities. To promote transparency and inclusion, UNDP will support analytical studies provide data and information for evidence-based planning, budgeting and domestic resource mobilization and spending.

 The 2030 Agenda provides an unprecedented opportunity for countries to free people from all forms of poverty, promote shared prosperity while respecting the natural boundaries of our planet. To fulfil its promise, however, we all need to adjust our way of working, of thinking, and of partnering, in response to the challenges that lie before us. We look forward to working together in new and transformative ways as well.

At the international level, we are grateful that Ghana is already set to play an important advocacy role with the selection of the President along with the Prime Minster of Norway, Ms. Erna Solberg to serve as co-chair for the UN Secretary General’s Group of sixteen (16) eminent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Advocates.

As we commemorate this UNDP@50 milestone, I am confident that the United Nations Development Programme’s close partnership with Ghana will continue to thrive and contribute to shaping the Ghanaian destiny.

I thank you.

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