MBO Interview 1. Since 2009 was quite challenging due to the financial crisis. To which extent and in which manner it influenced UNDP work globally?
Mr. Alexander Avanessov, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Montenegro Mr. Alexander Avanessov has been UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Montenegro since 4th July, 2008. Prior to his appointment in Montenegro, he served as Deputy Resident Representative at the UNDP in Armenia from September 2004 to June 2008. He also served from 1994 to 2004 as Regional Program Manager and Program Specialist at the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS, and as Senior Regional Adviser at the UNDP Country Office in Russia. Mr. Avanessov was awarded a Master’s Degree and a Doctorate in International Economic Relations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Russia. He continued at the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Affairs as an assistant professor, lecturing on the Economy of Japan and the Economic Geography of the USSR. Between 1984 and 1986 Mr. Avanessov served as Second Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of International Economic Organizations. Here, he contributed to the formulation and promotion of several key initiatives that were taken up by the USSR in various UN bodies. Between 1986 and 1994 he worked at the Russian Mission to the United Nations, Department of UN Economic Agencies as First Secretary.
The global crisis has put at risk many hard won developmental gains in many parts of the world and has resulted in the loss of 30 million jobs worldwide as well as creating tremendous problems for many people, particularly vulnerable groups. For an organization like UNDP it has meant that we have had to become even more programmatically focused, cost-effective and coordinate more effectively our efforts with our development partners and major stakeholders. During this period we have initiated various interventions to help governments to respond effectively to the crisis, thus increasing the resilience of states in dealing with external shocks and move forward with their developmental strategies. We have also done this in Montenegro, where our activities have included analyses of the impact of the crisis, policy advice, stimulation of employment and entrepreneurship. At a global level, the UN system, including UNDP, actively participates in discussions within various international forums, including G8 and G20, advocating for development cooperation to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
2. In October 2009, UNDP Montenegro launched National Human Development Report 2009 recommending measures to make Montenegro become the Society for All. As we know, the global financial crisis has caused a severe downturn in the Montenegrin economy; GDP growth was estimated at between -5% and -6% in 2009. In the coming years the economy is expected to pick up during the next few years. However, macroeconomic stability and structural issues (as emphasized by prime minister Luksic in his inaugural address), such as competitiveness of local economies, promotion of small and medium enterprises, social development, anticorruption, development of local economies, and enhancement of the educational system, science and technology, will all feature strongly in the national agenda. I believe that this approach, with high attention to the problems of vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities, the RAE population and the unemployed, will make Montenegro more resilient to the crisis and ensure more sustained progress in human development and the attainment of national MDG targets. As expressed by UNDP administrator, Helen Clark, the latest global economic crisis reminds us of how vulnerable countries can be to external shocks. This is very relevant to Montenegro which has been so far quite dependent on the external factors, including FDIs or situation in the aluminium market. Unfortunately, as you can see from the recent analysis of the UN report on world economic prospects in 20112012, the global economic growth is anticipated to be weak. This underlines the importance of focusing on internal factors concerning economic growth in the country, based on its growing competitiveness. Let me mention, in this regard,
the enormous potential of Montenegro (very much untapped especially in the Northern part) for eco-tourism and green economy.
3. What kind of capacities you believe are the most important having in mind current economic situation especially at Western Balkans and in Montenegro? As you are aware, the development of national capacities is a key overarching component of the UNDP mandate. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of this work in Montenegro, especially now when the country is going through a very intensive EU accession process. I believe that capacity building starts from knowledge building, which includes also learning from international experience. I agree with the point of view expressed in the monograph belonging to the Academy of Science in Montenegro entitled ‘Montenegro in the XXI century’. It states that in an era of competitiveness, “in the process of building a knowledgeable society, not only will a higher level of education of the population be necessary, but also a greater level of integration into the world will be required”. In this regard, the UN system is a unique hub and a custodian of knowledge regarding various aspects of development. In the context of Montenegro, we are introducing this knowledge and best practices through the UN Integrated Programme and through agency specific country programmes and interventions of UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, and many specialized agencies such as UNIDO, FAO, ILO, WHO and UNESCO. In Montenegro UNDP has developed a comprehensive capacity development program to assess the capacity of many governmental institutions, both at central and local level. I should mention that in fact all UNDP projects have a capacity development component. Over the coming years, some of the main priorities will concern capacity development in such areas as adaptation and mitigation of climate change, sustainable development, preparation for the Rio summit in 2012 and celebration of the 20th anniversary of the proclamation of Montenegro as an eco-state, disaster risk reduction, support to civil society organizations, local administration and private-public partnerships, among others.
4. Montenegro ranks 49th on the index, with a Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.769, out of a total 169 countries. This ranking places Montenegro in the “high human development” category and ahead of all countries of former Yugoslavia except Slovenia, which ranks 29th and hence falls into the category of “very high human development”. Do you think we should be pleased with those results? I think that Montenegro should be proud of the progress it has achieved since gaining its independence. The country is now in the upper group, in terms of the human development index, which is an aggregate measure that gauges the situation in three areas: long and healthy life, access to knowledge, a decent standard of living.