Farewell after five years to UNDP Head

Claudio Providas in 2016 at Bacau at a UNDP project ''Protection and maintenance of small scale infrastructure.'' This was the inauguration of communal water solutions with Ministry of State Administration in Bacau Municipality. (Pic: UNDP)

Voices from the Field

By Ian Mannix (UN)

 14 May, 2019

 Claudio Providas arrived at the United Nations in Timor-Leste in 2015 to his first assignment in the Asia-Pacific Region, with an open mind. 

Post conflict setting and emerging development context weren’t new to him. Claudio started 26 years earlier with the UN in Mozambique, when the peace agreement was signed and disarmament and reintegration process was starting.

After working in New York (headquarters), Bolivia, Ecuador, Trinidad & Tobago and Surinam, he had a good understanding of the needs in countries which suffer conflict, inequality and post-colonial challenges.

''Timor Leste is a wonderful story of how the international community came together to support the independence and aspirations of the people,’’ he says now, as he prepares to leave after four years as head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

“It has made enormous achievements in the 19 years since independence.

''But when I arrived in 2015, our office faced the need to undertake a massive reorganizing given the development finance context and the needs and expectations from our beneficiaries, counterparts and donors.''

UNDP is one of a dozen or so UN agencies, funds and programmes, working in the in Timor-Leste, after the UN peace keeping role ended in 2012 and the UN mission left starting a new phase of technical assistance and development support.

The UNDP’s main role is of policy advice and capacity development, very much focus on connecting countries to its global knowledge network accumulated over 40 years with presence in 160 countries. Its motto is ‘’Empowered lives and resilient nations.’’ 

''That means having good people,’’ says Mr. Providas. Most UNDP offices are run by ‘’Nationals” who live and understand the country and its needs. The Timor-Leste office is no different.

‘’A good office is accountable, responsive and client focused, and that’s what we need here in Timor-Leste.’’

The team recovered from the disruption of the restructure and is now one of the most high performing of all UNDP offices in the region based on metrics and management indicators.

''Our regular surveys also reveal that staff are proud to work for UNDP Timor-Leste, a place free of harassment and where people feel empowered.

''I am proud to have worked with this team at the UN Development Program. After the restructuring they were able to grow and improve. Last year we were first in terms of delivering outcomes, of all the 25 UNDP offices in the region.

''The country is very open and friendly and we enjoy a trusted relationship with counterparts, many former UN and UNDP staff themselves. The programs which support Timor-Leste are now very nimble and responsive and our team has taken up the challenge of always working for the people of Timor-Leste.’’

The UNDP has undertaken a multitude of programs in the past five years including establishing a project to empower young people to build their own lives, create employment and inspire each other.

Mr. Providas saw an ''an empty space’’ around young people.

''Two thirds of the people of Timor-Leste are young, which is both a challenge and an opportunity. In fact the biggest risk was that this big group would be overlooked.

''Young people told us they felt they didn’t have a part to play in debates around the future of the country. We identified economic opportunities and voices - meaningful participation - as areas we could make a difference.’’

Among the projects UNDP assisted with were a the SDG Roadmap, the research on Youth with the National Human Development Report, a youth innovation centre; training for young people in how to create business and jobs; and how to inspire each other.

‘’We were hoping to have youth centres in all Municipalities soon.

‘’But we are attracting new partners; youth are more engaged ,forward thinking and they are building 21st Century Skills for 21stCentury Challenges.

‘’We feel we have raised issues and positioned advocates for better way to achieve the sustainable development goals the Timor-Leste Governemnt is focussed on.’’

Mr Providas is leaving to head the UNDP office in the Islamic Republic of Iran, in the Middle East where a new set of challenges awaits.

‘’Our job is to support the people of Iran in their own development aspirations. The UNDP has a wealth of global experience. 

''But Timor-Leste will always be in my heart, it has its own way of seducing people.''


Claudio in Gleno, with Haoliang Xu, UNDP Assistant Secretary General and Regional Director for Asia Pacific, 2017 (pic UNDP)

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