The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law

« Calling things by the wrong name adds to the affliction of the world. » Albert Camus.

United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

The UN Development Program (UNDP) was founded in 1965 by the General Assembly of the UN. It is a subsidiary organ of the UN, with its headquarters in New York.


UNDP is “committed to the principle that development is inseparable from the quest for peace and human security and that the UN must be a strong force for development as well as peace” (UNDP Mission Statement). The main goal of UNDP is to help countries develop the capacity to achieve “sustainable human development” and build “good governance” in an attempt to eradicate poverty. UNDP often coordinates with other UN organs and agencies: its Resident Representatives usually serve as Resident Coordinators of the operational activities of the UN system, coordinating development and humanitarian assistance.

It also “strives to be an effective development partner for the UN relief agencies. . . . It acts to help countries to prepare for, avoid and manage complex emergencies and disasters.” To this effect, it is one of the lead organs in the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), which aims to ensure coordination in humanitarian emergencies.


UNDP is controlled by an Executive Board consisting of thirty-six Member States, elected for four-year renewable terms. The administrator is elected by the Secretary-General of the UN, with the consent of the General Assembly. In April 2009, the former prime minister of New Zealand Helen Clark was appointed to this position. Eighty-five percent of the UNDP staff is based in the field.

UNDP has 132 country offices, with programs in 177 countries. The UNDP budget estimates for the 2010–2011 biennium, in net terms, are $828.3 million; 88 percent will be spent on development activities, 7.5 percent on management activities, 2.6 percent on United Nations development coordination activities, and 1.9 percent on special purpose activities. In addition to its regular programs, it administers certain special-purpose funds, such as the Integrated Drylands Development Program (IDDP), or the UN Volunteers, and it cofunds the Global Environment Facility as well as a Global Program on HIV/AIDS.


  • Its programs around the world focus on themes such as poverty eradication, environmental regeneration, job creation, and the advancement of women. In administering its programs, it draws on the expertise of national NGOs and individuals as well as on UN specialized agencies.
  • In 1997, UNDP launched a Human Development Report, which offers a new “multidimensional” way to measure poverty. The report suggests developing actions around six main axes: economic empowerment of the poor, promotion of gender equality, proactive economic growth for the poor, managing globalization with a greater concern for global equity, good governance, and “special actions for special situations.” This last policy suggestion includes establishing special measures of international support for countries facing extreme poverty for various reasons—for instance, social disintegration or conflict.
  • In terms of emergency situations, the Resident Representatives can organize relief efforts in direct cooperation with the Emergency Relief Coordinator for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). UNDP also tries to integrate rehabilitation projects into relief operations to alleviate the poverty that often further fuels tension. Finally, it also runs a Disaster Management Training Program in coordination with OCHA.

DisastersOffice for the Coordination of Humanitarian AffairsReliefUnited NationsWomen

UN Development Program (UNDP)

One UN Plaza

New York, NY 10017 USA

Tel.: (1) 212 906-5315

Fax: (1) 212 906-5364

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For Additional Information: UNDP. Annual Report 2006 . Available at .

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