The Business Year

Helen Elizabeth Clark

ZAMBIA - Diplomacy

Sustainable Development

Administrator, United Nations Development Program


Helen Elizabeth Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Program on April 17, 2009 and is the first woman to lead the organization. She is also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all UN funds, programs and departments working on development issues. Prior to her appointment at the UNDP, Helen Clark served for nine years as Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving three successive terms between 1999 and 2008. Prior to entering the Parliament of New Zealand, Helen Clark taught in the Political Studies Department of the University of Auckland. She graduated with a BA in 1971, and an MA with First Class Honors in 1974. She is married to Peter Davis, a Professor at Auckland University.

Helen Elizabeth Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program, on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), socio-economic development in Zambia, and the global development agenda for the coming year.

Zambia is currently very active in the UN and all it processes. Zambia has a seat on the UN General Assembly’s open working group for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As well as this, Zambia has hosted the UN World Tourism Organization conference and is sending peace keepers to the Central African Republic. Therefore, a lot is going on in Zambia that is supportive of the UN system.

The aim of the SDGs is to complete the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Zambia did well on getting children to primary schools and pretty much every child in Zambia has had primary schooling. The prevalence of HIV and AIDS has also been reduced substantially. For Zambia as a country, it is important to focus on the significant inequalities in the country, in particular between rural and urban areas and between men and women. This means ensuring that no one is left behind in extreme poverty, with no school and inability to access healthcare. The SDGs are about people and the planet. If the environment is degraded, that has an adverse effect on the population. We see that in the climate ecosystem. Zambia is finding itself with less predictable rainfall, and there is a need to stop the loss of Zambian forests as well. An area, about the size of Zanzibar is lost every year. In the climate conference in Paris, Zambia will be presenting its REDD-plus plan, which is about reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. Zambia will have a comprehensive program that looks at forestry policy, agriculture policy, and energy policy. To tackle these issues, there must be a comprehensive government approach. Fundamentally, rural poverty is also an issue within forestry, because people need energy for cooking and heating. The UNDP has been working with Zambia on climate change issues and we support Zambia with is contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing forest loss. Finally, we had a very successful meeting over the last few days on the “HeforShe Campaign,” which is a major UN campaign to enlist men and boys in support of women’s equality. It focuses on issues like gender-based violence, underage marriage, and other issues like girls without education or healthcare.

In terms of the FfD conference, there are three main areas of interest that I would like to stress. Firstly, the commitment of developed countries to 0.7% of gross national income to be targeted for official development assistance was reaffirmed. Nevertheless, Zambia has already moved into the lower-middle income status and this donor money is channeled into low-income countries, as well as regions where catastrophic emergencies arise; like the Syrian crisis or South Sudan. There are a lot of humanitarian needs out there. The second tier is the issue of developing domestic resources. To develop the economy in a sustainable way, there is need to build capacity, attract more foreign and domestic investment and have a certain capacity to train. The third area of interest is that financing for development has to be risk-informed. We live in a world of great volatility. If you put all your eggs in one basket economically, you stand to be disadvantaged if that one commodity suddenly declines in value. Globalization certainly has its benefits, but it also brings increased exposures and countries have to be conscious of the risks if their economic basis is too narrow.

Despite Zambia being a low-to-middle-income country, many of its people are living in extreme poverty and there are many needs. On the other hand, Zambia has tremendous potential to grow its domestic economy and to get more value from the extractive industries, through the incorporation of local SMEs into the value chains for these industries. Tourism in Zambia has tremendous potential, so does agriculture. There needs to be a greater focus on broadening the base of the economy and bringing people into the tax net.

*Image: Maureen Lynch



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