Speech by the UNDP Country Director, Mr. Walid Badawi at the Regional Foresight Xchange for Development in Africa

Nov 30, 2015

Programme Director, Mr. Pierre Schoonraad,

Let me start by acknowledging the distinguished presence in the room.

Ms. Thuli Radebe, CEO of CPSI and all CPSI colleagues here present, thank you for accepting to co-organize this important regional event with us, we are honoured by the growing partnership with your organization and look forward to yet another successful regional event.

Distinguished Government representatives and senior officials from the African continent, including H.E. Mr Jose Brito, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Economy and Growth, and Development Planning of Cape Verde, welcome to SA and we look forward to your sharing with us your knowledge and insights

Representatives of the diplomatic corps here in South Africa including:

(H.E. Mr. Chua Thai Keong) The High Commission of the Republic of Singapore, we hope you will have time to interact with our colleagues from our Singapore Center and to see first-hand how the contribution of your government, through the center, are enabling UNDP to share your and other country experiences in public service innovation and excellence

The Royal Danish Embassy, for your support to UNDP’s overall core resources but more specifically to the innovation facility which is funding this, and other innovation initiatives here in Africa and globally.

Mr John Kruger of the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and all other DPME colleagues here present, we look forward to hearing about South Africa’s experiences in medium and long term planning and to seeing how we may be able to translate some of the outcomes of this workshop into the on-going work we have with DPME in support of the implementation of the National Development Plan.

Representatives of academia and other resource persons, we look forward to learning from your research and findings and how these can inform our deliberations

My UNDP colleagues including:

Mr. Simon Springet, RR Mauritius,

Mr. Lamin Manneh, RR Rwanda,

Mr. Marc Le Page, Regional Innovation Advisor

Mr. Arndt Husar and Mr. Peter van der Pol, from our Global Centre for Public Service, we are pleased to have you back again only this time in person. Our last encounter was during the UNPAN workshop in February where you gave us a foresighting teaser and we are now eager to learn more.

Other UNDP CO colleagues

All protocols observed (as we like to say here in SA).

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a special privilege and honour to welcome you all here today in South Africa on behalf of UNDP and its Resident Representative, Mr. Gana Fofang, who unfortunately could not be with us today owing to an unchangeable commitment.

Today’s development challenges are complex and interconnected. We live in a world of volatility, uncertainty, and unpredictability. This calls for innovation in the way we collaborate across organizational boundaries, so that we ensure we bring our collective strengths to the task of sustainable development. And it calls for innovative approaches to development which employ the whole range of new technologies and media to improve service delivery and engage citizens. Innovation is not an end in itself. It is about using the most up-to-date concepts and means available to get the best development results. It is for these reasons that in recent years UNDP has been stepping up its commitment and investments to incentivize innovation across all levels of the organization, with innovation now firmly anchored in our Strategic Plan 2014-2017.

UNDP’s approach to Innovation is quite varied and applies a wide range of methodologies and tools to tap into alternative and best available ideas, voices and technologies, supporting rapid experimentation and learning from experience. In 2014, with the Generous support from the Government of Denmark, UNDP established the innovation facility to finance innovative projects that address complex development challenges. With the introduction of this facility, notable results are already being seen across the continent and elsewhere around the world. These range from innovations in addressing issues of youth unemployment and stimulating SMME development, leveraging technology to improve service delivery, developing effective and rapid citizen feedback mechanisms, and providing strategic foresight services to governments to strengthen national planning systems and processes.

Indeed it is this latter topic of strategic foresight that brings us all together here today. As you may know, strategic foresight is the umbrella term for those innovative strategic planning, policy formulation and solution design methods that work with alternative futures. Over the next 2 days, we will learn much more about this exciting and innovative methodology.

The relevance of this foresighting event could not be timelier as it comes on the heels of the recent adoption by the UN General Assembly of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015 and as the world congregates in Paris this week to hammer out a new climate deal.

For both these global frameworks, as well as many others like them, foresighting can be explored as one approach to contextualize the commitments made and land them in the planning and policy frameworks of national governments. Indeed planning for and achieving the SDGs or any climate agreement that will follow, will require the identification and exploration of risks and opportunities that might lie ahead, they will also require consideration of alternative futures/scenarios and will no doubt call for deepening organizational adaptability and responsiveness. These are but some of the numerous facets of strategic foresighting which in the post 2015 era will no doubt gain more currency and application.

The next 2 days will offer a unique opportunity to share innovative experiences, identify challenges and consider practical applications of strategic foresighting in the region.  When all is said and done, this workshop should allow participating senior public service officials to initiate a foresight trajectory upon their return to their home countries, drawing on the knowledge and support of UNDP country offices, the regional center and the GCPSE.

For us here in UNDP South Africa, innovation is rapidly gaining momentum. An innovation team was set up in 2014 to help the office accelerate the integration of innovative practices across all programme areas. Partnerships with a number of leading innovation hubs have been forged and discussions are currently underway to identify programme entry points. One of the areas where innovation uptake was quite fast is our Governance programme, which forms part of our value add to strengthen the public sector.

This year in partnership with CPSI, UNDP supported the United Nations Public Administration Network (UNPAN) Annual Capacity Building Workshop to enhance participation of SADC member states on the portal and how to use it effectively to improve governance and expand the knowledge base on innovative practices in the region.  Following the workshop, the Country Office has engaged with CPSI to develop a long-term programmatic partnership.  Some of the emerging partnership areas include:

Institutional capacity building of the CPSI to carry out its mandate and expand its knowledge base to co-ordinate national innovation processes within the public sector;

Support the CPSI initiatives and national processes to create innovative knowledge products; and

Support the development and implementation of the community-based innovation advocacy programme.

Furthermore, UNDP and CPSI are currently running an innovation workshop series for the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to introduce and encourage staff, particularly young people, with innovative ideas and solutions to submit them to the leadership of the Department for consideration and possible adoption.  

In closing, it is my sincere hope that the participants in this Foresighting for Development workshop will make maximum use of the resources and knowledge available in this room to advance foresighting as may be applicable in your respective countries.  I wish this workshop every success.

Thank you!