UNDP & Capacity Development

Capacity Development is central to all of UNDP’s work, with a focus on developing national systems for health, to ensure that country infrastructure, systems, and procedures are enhanced.

A comprehensive capacity development strategy of enhancing national health systems, rather than the more traditional, narrower approach of training and technical assistance (TA), creates greater resilience with a focus on long-term sustainability, leveraging UNDP’s global experience.

Why does UNDP focus on Capacity Development?

The 2030 Agenda provides an opportunity to take steps to build better systems for health – by strengthening health systems to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
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UNDP contributes to countries progress on UHC, so that all people can access essential health services, without having to suffer financial hardship; recognising the importance of protecting human rights, promoting the empowerment of women and girls to achieve UHC, and providing access to safe, affordable medicines and vaccines for all.

The UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-2021, and the supporting UNDP HIV, Health and Development Strategy 2016-2021, provide the strategic direction for capacity development for resilient and sustainable systems for health.

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Capacity Development through developing National Systems

UNDP works to ensure that any capacity development interventions benefit national programmes.
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In order to build resilience and to ensure greater sustainability, implementation under UNDP is delivered by national government, NGOs and private sector entities, with supporting capacity development. Greater national ownership is built by ensuring programme performance indicators are aligned to national strategies.

UNDP is not directly involved in implementation with the exception of pooled procurement where international competitive bidding through long-term agreements (LTAs) ensures value for money and a reduction in costs. However, in procurement UNDP works with national entities to ensure they have a central role in forecasting and quantification of health products, as well as using national storage and distribution channels.

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UNDP’s approach to Capacity Development

UNDP has built a comprehensive and sustainable approach to capacity development for health, based on experience in over 50 countries.
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It is built on a participatory process and a tried and tested methodology. The approach ensures that capacity gaps are identified and analysed and feed into prioritised capacity development plans and interventions which are implemented and monitored against performance indicators.

UNDP, working in partnership, has flexible frameworks to support moving towards a well-functioning public health programme. These frameworks are built on having trained and motivated health workers, a well-maintained infrastructure, and a reliable supply of medicines and technologies, backed by adequate funding, strong health strategic plans and evidence-based policies.
UNDP supports national entities to implement programmes through country systems, including; i) national health information systems; ii) national procurement and supply chain systems; and iii) public financial management systems, as well as implementing system strengthening capacity development plans, to address priority gaps and build greater resilience and sustainability.
To address risks and improve the delivery of services UNDP supports the strengthening of national and local oversight supported by civil society organizations, as well as removing human rights barriers, which are essential in ensuring that all communities are active, have a voice and are equal partners in planning and monitoring services.
One entry point for capacity development supported by UNDP is reviewing and enhancing national health policies and strategies and ensuring they are resilient and sustainable by being aligned to national and international norms and standards.
UNDP’s approach integrates support on human rights, gender equality and enabling legal and policy frameworks, at the same time further combining this by working with national entities to develop and implement resilient health interventions and programmes.
Whilst supporting the implementation and management of large-scale health programmes, UNDP places emphasis on capacity development including; participatory assessment, development and monitoring of capacities and systems of national entities to transparently and sustainably manage domestic and international health financing.
UNDP facilitates the capacity development of sustainable health programming and delivery by using standard operating procedures, clear performance indicators, together with monitoring and oversight, whilst working closely with national counterparts to strengthen national leadership and management.
UNDP recognizes that a knowledgeable, skilled, motivated and accessible health workforce is crucial for achieving health outcomes. Therefore, HRH strategies are a fundamental part of developing resilient systems for health and should outline the development of the health workforce and find sustainable solutions to the recruitment, education and retention of health workers, as well as health workforce planning.
Enhancing national health-related policy and programming in areas of UNDP expertise, including human rights, gender equality, key populations, enabling legal and regulatory environments, to promote access for all and to ensure services leave no one behind.
An End to End approach enables UNDP to respond to diverse requests considering different country contexts, including challenging operating environments, to provide health systems strengthening across a number of focus areas, including i) Legal and Policy Frameworks; ii) Programme Management; iii) Health Information Systems; iv) Procurement and Supply Chain Management; and v) Financial Management. Depending on the needs identified, UNDP can provide policy guidance, whilst accelerating health programme implementation, together with strengthening all the elements of functional capacities.
UNDP responds to demand from governments, stakeholders and donors to address cross-cutting issues, for example weak work planning and budgeting, where the solution lies in a ‘joined up’ approach strengthening a number of functional capacities such as programming, health information systems, financial management as well as procurement management. This addresses cross-cutting issues and enables the development of integrated solutions that help avoid silos.
By identifying, assessing and developing mitigating actions UNDP, working with stakeholders and partners, can take a risk informed approach to address poor performance and quality, reduce stock outs and tackle fraud. Capacity development for resilient and sustainable health systems is a prioritised and proactive approach to risk management, by improving quality and performance of health programmes and systems.
UNDP seeks out and utilises the latest innovation and technology for health which is central to supporting resilient and sustainable systems for health. This includes digitizing the supply chain last-mile to provide real time data, solar for health to ensure health clinics can provide sustainable and resilient services and real-time financial management and reporting to increase accountability.
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Principles for Capacity Development

The following principles guide UNDP’s Capacity Development for Resilient and Sustainable Systems for Health:
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  • Respect for and promotion of human rights and gender equality, that embodies fairness, integrity, transparency, as set out in the United Nations Charter.
  • Meaningful engagement of people living with HIV, key populations, other excluded groups and affected communities is essential for effective governance.
  • Building national ownership, capacity and resilience for effective and sustainable responses to HIV, health and related development challenges.
  • Being risk-informed to effectively cope with and recover from conflict, natural disasters and other humanitarian crises.
  • Being based on evidence - UNDP is committed to continually building the evidence base for action.
  • Delivery based on Value for Money (VfM), providing services of the right quality, level and cost.
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UNDP support in Challenging Operating Environments

An important area where UNDP develops capacity in is Challenging Operating Environments (COEs).
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These are countries that are characterized by weak governance and poor access to health services and require dedicated programmes to rebuild capacity. UNDP works to provide integrated support for policy and programme support, as well as the strengthening and utilisation of damaged national systems for health.

The widespread country presence of UNDP globally also serves as an operational platform for UN agencies and donor partners. UNDP is currently providing support to health systems in 60 countries, totalling US$1.3 billion in signed agreements. UNDP’s management enables health partners and programmes to integrate and operate effectively and efficiently in difficult operational contexts.

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Capacity Development for Resilient and Sustainable Systems for Health Strategy