by Dana Steinberg

At a March 7 Director's Forum, Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), underscored the need for a comprehensive global strategy to reduce poverty in developing nations.

Speaking to a crowd of nearly 200, Brown emphasized the need for powerful advocacy from numerous agencies working together to confront the multifaceted problems that plague developing nations. In addition to asserting that the multiple problems require multiple partners, Brown said that the magnitude of and costs of fixing such problems increase with time and therefore it's best, when possible, to intervene at the early stages. Brown said, "A small, pre-emptive investment in development saves the world a big bill later."

UNDP's current strategy places priority on the specific needs of individual developing countries. "Putting their agenda first has proven powerful," Brown said. His organization has renewed its advisory role, pushing for democratic governance—civil society, democratic institutions, human rights—essential to making external resources most effective.

UNDP also advocates local control. Brown said that decentralizing services, in such sectors as health and education, is the best way to bring services closer to individual communities, ensuring the quality of services and accountability. Some areas that developing nations have made priorities include the environment, pro-poor policies, disease control, and natural disaster and post-conflict relief.

Brown said that the United States should continue to build on its policies of the past decade by addressing debt relief, offering better trade access to developing countries, and creating favorable tax policies that offer incentives for development. He said that tax incentives and sound public policy would give poor countries a real boost.

UNDP publishes the Human Development Report, and Brown noted that the organization published 360 such reports this past year on individual countries, many of which are aware of their human development indices and are responding to the specific needs addressed in these reports.

Brown said he believes that the U.N. Millennium Summit goal of halving poverty by 2015 is attainable. He said that in addition to raising the incomes of the poor, the strategy also must include ways to improve access to education and health care, which constitutes a large part of improving the overall quality of life in developing countries.

A full transcript of Mark Malloch Brown's presentation will be available here soon.