UN system in Turkey under new leader

01 Oct 2006

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UN Representation in Ankara welcomed its new UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative Dr. Mahmood Ayub in September 2006, following the departure of the former Representative Mr. Jakob Simonsen.

New Horizons - A renowned economist and expert on development issues, Dr. Ayub expresses his satisfaction to be now working in a country, which he says, he has cultural and emotional ties with...

Born in Pakistan in 1948, Mahmood Ayub completed his undergraduate education in the U.K., and received his PhD from Yale University in America. His expertise is in macroeconomic policy, private sector development, trade and capacity development issues. He has published widely on economic development issues, and speaks six languages (English, French, Spanish, Persian, Arabic (not fluent), Urdu, his mother tongue Pashto). Dr. Ayub is married to the internationally-acclaimed painter Mansoora Ayub, and the couple has three children.

Prior to joining the UNDP, Dr. Ayub served for almost 30 years in various capacities at the World Bank. His last assignment was as the Director of Strategy and Operations for Africa. At the World Bank, he worked in the research and strategy departments, but has also contributed many years in operations, including serving as the World Bank's representative in Egypt and Bolivia.

During the preliminary days of his assignment in Ankara, Dr. Ayub made several media interviews, in which he talked about the priorities of the UN in Turkey and the future prospects for UN-Turkey cooperation. Here is what he said:

" Reflecting the priorities of Turkey itself, the UN system’s strategic focus in this country has been on three key human development areas, which are at the heart of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. As you know, these goals are a set of time-bound development targets agreed to by 191 world leaders at the UN Millennium Summit in New York in 2000, aimed at reducing poverty by half by 2015 while addressing significant shortcomings related to health, education and environment.

The three key areas of focus are: first democratic governance, second poverty alleviation and the provision of adequate service delivery; and third the protection of environment. Needless to say these priorities are very closely inter-related.

In the area of democratic governance, the objective of the UN system is to support Turkey’s local administration reform, addressing rights-based issues including internally displaced persons, women’s empowerment, and participation in political processes and decision-making at the local and central levels. It also includes the use of information and communication technology as a means to increase transparency, efficiency, and participation in decision-making.

The challenge for the government and its development partners is to develop programmes that support productive activities, including women’s entrepreneurship and rural development in Eastern Anatolia. The challenge also is to achieve better human development conditions for Turkish citizens, with significant increases in life expectancy, school enrollment and adult literacy and substantial increases in per capita incomes, particularly in the poorer regions. A country is like a chain: it is as strong as its weakest link. So, regional disparities are an important challenge to Turkey’s development.

Finally, on environment, the UN agencies are working with Turkish authorities to address environmental degradation, and lack of access to clean, affordable water and energy services. Turkey became a signatory to the UN Framework for Climatic Change Convention in May 2004, and the UN agencies are supporting the Government’s efforts to address the challenges of Climate Change. We are also supporting the Government and civil society organizations to protect Turkey’s important bio-diversity environment, including a project along the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. " 

Mahmood Ayub, being the UNDP Representative in Turkey as well, also spoke about his views on the prospective strategic focus of UNDP in Turkey:

" The UNDP’s role in any country can be understood better in the context of the overall UN system. A stronger and more coherent UN will go a long way in resulting in a stronger and more effective UNDP. UNDP is one among several UN agencies active in Turkey. There are well over one hundred staff employed by the UN system in this country, and the UNDP employees are only one-third of these.

That said, the UNDP has been an important partner of Turkey for over fifty years. And I foresee its role becoming more prominent over the coming years. There will be some key strategic decisions needed. First, how to narrow the focus of our activities to those areas where the UNDP has a true comparative advantage. Second, how to rebuild the UNDP’s resource base through partnerships with international funding resources, private sector and, of course, the government, And third how to develop monitoring and evaluation systems that would measure the success of our pilot projects which can then be scaled up by other development partners such as the World Bank and the European Commission. "