UNDP Presents Framework for Ensuring No One is Left Behind
Photo by Peter Berko
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A UNDP discussion paper and framework for implementation examines what "leave no one behind" means in practice.

The paper identifies five factors that affect peoples' experience with poverty and calls for a holistic response.

At a side event held in the margins of the 2018 HLPF, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner highlighted that “averages hide a lot of very brutal truth,” but “we are not starting from zero” on the leave no one behind agenda.

9 August 2018: A UN Development Programme (UNDP) discussion paper looks at what leaving no one behind means in practice. The authors note that ensuring that no one will be left behind entails “taking explicit action to end extreme poverty, curb inequalities, confront discrimination,” as well as fast-tracking progress for those who are most marginalized.

The UNDP paper titled, ‘What Does It Mean to Leave No One Behind?,’ aims to stimulate dialogue and help generate consensus on delivering the leave no one behind agenda. The authors distinguish absolute deprivation from relative disadvantage, but note that both hinder peoples’ choices and capabilities to participate in or benefit from human development. The paper asserts that the disadvantages people face can be understood through a framework of five factors:

  • the discrimination they face;
  • where they live (geography);
  • socio-economic status;
  • how they are governed; and
  • vulnerability to shocks.

The paper also highlights the importance of intersectionality, as multiple factors often lead to a combination of disadvantages. Given the complex, multi-dimensional nature of poverty, the paper makes the case for a “holistic response” that “considers the severity and overlaps between different types of deprivation.” The authors also assert that all countries – even while data sets may be incomplete – have “some degree of evidence” of each of the five types of disadvantages.

By looking at these factors and three “mutually reinforcing levers,” the paper outlines how UNDP can support countries to: examine why people are left behind; empower those people; and enact change through policies, reforms and other interventions. Given the urgency of SDG achievement and leaving no one behind, the authors call for acting simultaneously on all three levers of change.

Within these workstreams, UNDP is undertaking assessments to gather evidence and strengthen national capacities, expanding opportunities for civil society, and building local governance systems that reduce inequality and exclusion. The framework is intended to inform both UN Country Teams’ public-facing work and that of national partners, as well as “the manner in which UNDP designs, implements, monitors and evaluates” projects.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner previewed some of the framework’s learnings during a side event at the 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), including the notion that “averages hide a lot of very brutal truth.” Convened by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the event reviewed 86 countries’ readiness to deliver on a leave no one behind agenda. Steiner also underscored that “we are not starting from zero,” as the development community has years of understanding on the issue, which has informed related UNDP initiatives such as the agency’s Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support (MAPS) work, which supports partner countries in their efforts to implement the SDGs.

The HLPF also featured a set of eight Voluntary National Review (VNR) Labs convened by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), with Lab 2 focusing on leaving no one behind. Feeding into the Labs, the UN Committee for Development Policy (CDP) released publications related to the concept of leave no one behind. [Publication: What Does It Mean to Leave No One Behind?] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on countries’ readiness to leave no one behind] [VSDG Knowledge Hub story on VNR Labs, related publications]

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