EU and UNDP: A partnership forged to help reduce poverty

06 Apr 2017

By: Enrico Gaveglia

With the unprecedented international humanitarian crises that currently confront the world today, development aid is increasingly becoming strained by limited availability of resources. International cooperation needs to be delivered with the highest level of efficiency and transparency and needs to effectively achieve sustainable and long term results. 

International aid, while limited in breadth and scope, is intended to be catalytic and spur the change needed to improve the quality of life of people in developing countries. Though development outcomes are very much dependent on developing countries themselves, international donors such as the European Union (EU) are committed to help alleviate poverty, strengthen national resilience and empower local communities through a more focused delivery of aid. How successful the development community is in helping societies respond to complex and multifaceted challenges will depend on its ability to draw from worldwide available knowledge, and to make continual improvements in the way assistance is designed, allocated, managed and delivered.    

The EU, despite internal political challenges and also faced with a humanitarian crisis at its doorstep, is and remains a major player in international cooperation, humanitarian and development aid. Sharing the same values and objectives, the EU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are natural partners – and they have been so for over 15 years, working in over 100 countries, including in the Philippines.

These shared values include transparency; respect for human rights and the rule of law; equal access to development opportunities for all; and fight against poverty around the world. A guiding principle of the EU-UNDP partnership is the joint effort to help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The main pillars of EU and UNDP’s partnership are democratic governance, peacebuilding and climate and disaster resilience. Human rights and gender play an important role as cross-cutting issues, while cooperation also includes other relevant areas for sustainable human development, such as migration and development. The cooperation takes place at the policy, advocacy, knowledge sharing and programmatic levels, each complementing one another. 

EU plays with no stringent dichotomy the humanitarian and development intersect, and this has proven to be the pull of the partnership between the EU and UNDP building on the early recovery nexus, which is too often not adequately financed in crisis response.

In the Philippines, UNDP has worked with the EU in providing significant humanitarian and development assistance for conflict-affected and disaster-stricken areas. For more than 20 years, UNDP and the EU have been supporting peacebuilding initiatives particularly in Mindanao, including: capacity-building for local leaders and other stakeholders on governance processes; strengthen networks of people and organizations, including establishing partnerships with local government units and civil society; and developing platforms that enable the youth and women to actively engage in peacebuilding.

In a disaster-prone country like the Philippines, it is therefore not a surprise that EU and UNDP are long-standing partners in helping people rebuild their lives and ensuring that they are better prepared against the natural hazards that frequent the country. Disaster preparedness is just as important as providing immediate humanitarian assistance. And in fact, preparedness investments are mitigating future humanitarian response. Disasters scale back years of development efforts and economic gains, pulling people back to poverty.

As we know Typhoon Haiyan which struck the Philippines in November 2013 was definitely one for the record books. The magnitude of the devastation has become the benchmark for typhoon resilience and recovery initiatives of the national government agencies, local government units, and the communities.

With EU’s support, UNDP was able to provide early recovery assistance to many affected communities, including in what is considered ‘Ground Zero’, Tacloban City. Providing support through cash for work initiatives on debris clearing and skills training gave people much-needed source of livelihood and employment. UNDP and EU then expanded their support to jumpstart a longer-term recovery program. With funding support of EUR 9.7 million (approx. Php508 million) from the EU and to be implemented until July 2017, Project RECOVERY complements the efforts of national and local governments in enabling the timely and sustainable recovery of Yolanda-affected communities and builds their resilience to future natural disasters.

With its Project Recovery UNDP has focused on: rebuilding disaster-resilient infrastructure; restoring livelihoods and jobs in farming and fishing communities; addressing land management issues and shelter construction models to ensure relocation of displaced people; and strengthening capacities for and linkage of national and local governance disaster response and preparedness.

Guided by the principle of building back better and safer, community evacuation centers were built through Project Recovery are designed and constructed to withstand a 300 KPH wind velocity, integrates water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and fitted with solar panels and generator set. These will also function as a multi-purpose community center during non-disaster events.

Project Recovery is also constructing 165 disaster-resilient core shelters with level 2 water system and electrical support facility in the cities of Tacloban and Ormoc and the municipality of Hernani in Eastern Samar. These housing units are constructed with counterpart in the form of sweat equity from the beneficiary families to ensure better ownership of the project.

The project has also assisted more than 2,000 people with employment and livelihood opportunities including on fish and seaweed processing, food production and handling, and sustainable agricultural management.

Development is a long process to take place but with collective efforts UNDP and the EU are helping to ensure a safer and resilient future for Filipino communities.

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Enrico Gaveglia is the Deputy Country Director of the United Nations Development Programme in the Philippines.