United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) | Social and Environmental Compliance Unit (SECU) & Stakeholder Response Mechanism (SRM)

  • Overview

    The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was established in 1965 to serve as the UN’s global development network. It is headquartered in New York City but works primarily through its offices in around 170 countries and territories. UNDP advocates for change and connects countries to knowledge, experience, and resources to help people build a better life, supporting their own solutions to development challenges and developing national and local capacities that will help them achieve human development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

    United National Development Programme (UNDP)

    Created In: 1965

    Headquarters: New York, NY, United States

    Mission: UNDP works to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion. UNDP helps countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities and build resilience in order to sustain development results.

    The Accountability Office: Social and Environmental Compliance Unit (SECU)

    Established in: 2015

    Functions: Compliance Review

    Visit SECU’s website

    The Accountability Office: Stakeholder Response Mechanism (SRM)

    Established in: 2015

    Functions: Dispute Resolution

    Visit the SRM’s website

    As of 1 January, 2015, projects and programs supported by UNDP must follow UNDP’s Social and Environmental Standards (SES), the Social and Environmental Screening Procedure (SESP), and social and environmental commitments made by UNDP in the context of a specific project or program.

    Prior to 2015, UNDP projects and programs had to follow commitments reflected in the project/program documents, and, for projects supported by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), the Common Approach to Environmental and Social Safeguards for Multiple Delivery Partners.

    UNDP has published an Information Disclosure Policy on its commitment to making information about its programs and operations available to the public.


    The Accountability Office

    On 1 January, 2015, UNDP launched a new accountability mechanism to address concerns related to UNDP-supported projects and programs. The mechanism has both a compliance function and a dispute resolution function. Affected communities and individuals can choose to utilize either option or both.

    • The Compliance Function: the Social and Environmental Compliance Unit (SECU) conducts investigations to ensure that UNDP complies with its Social and Environmental Standards and Screening Procedure. It recommends measures to UNDP to address findings of noncompliance. SECU  issues a public report with this information. SECU’s Investigation Guidelines can be found here.
    • The Dispute Resolution Function: the Stakeholder Response Mechanism (SRM) helps project-affected stakeholders and UNDP’s partners (such as governments, non-governmental organizations, and businesses) to jointly address grievances or disputes related to the social and/or environmental impacts of UNDP-supported projects and programs.

    More information about SECU and the SRM is available here (Spanish, French)

  • Our Advocacy

    Accountability Counsel has worked to ensure that UNDP’s Social and Environmental Compliance Unit (SECU) and Stakeholder Response Mechanism (SRM) are effective avenues for remedy and accountability.

    Ensuring Meaningful Implementation of SECU’s Policies

    We actively contributed to the creation of UNDP’s accountability office, comprised of SECU and the SRM, and have pushed office to operate according to best practice. Our advocacy has included work to ensure that SECU fully implements its own policy. SECU’s policy allows for the accountability office to make recommendations to UNDP to bring non-compliant projects into compliance and mitigate any harm that results from the breach of UNDP’s social and environmental commitments. The general public, as well as the complainants and UNDP staff, are able to make comments on these recommendations, which are typically contained in draft compliance review reports.

    We sent a joint letter to SECU in February 2018 in response to one of SECU’s draft compliance review reports regarding the accountability office’s authority to provide recommendations for corrective action. The letter, which was also co-authored by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and Bank Information Center (BIC), expressed appreciation for SECU’s ability to make recommendations and called on SECU to make recommendations in all SECU cases that are clear, actionable solutions for enabling full project compliance and monitoring. We also encouraged SECU to ensure that these recommendations are based on meaningful consultation with the aggrieved party or parties so that the remedy best reflects their needs.

    In December 2018, we took the lead on a joint letter to the UNDP administrator, Mr. Achim Steiner, calling on the administrator to fulfill his important oversight role in the SECU complaint process. Although SECU’s investigation guidelines require the UNDP administrator to expeditiously make a final decision regarding steps to bring a project into compliance and/or mitigate any harm to affected people, the investigation reports for some of SECU’s cases had been awaiting the administrator’s review for months. We called on the administrator to follow the investigation guidelines and address the cases as soon as possible. In his response, Mr. Steiner highlighted UNDP’s responsibility to ensure accountability to those individuals and communities with whom UNDP works, and stated that final decisions in the cases would be forthcoming. The decisions were published on 4 February, 2019.

    Strengthening the Procedures for Proactive Investigations

    In April 2017, we submitted comments on SECU’s draft Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for proactive investigations, which allow SECU to initiate an investigation without requiring receipt of a formal complaint. We urged SECU to ensure that a proactive investigation would not prevent or prejudice a subsequent complaint to SECU on the same project. As a result of our advocacy, The final SOPs, which are included in the August 2017 update to SECU’s investigation guidelines, include safeguards to prevent such prejudice and ensure that proactive investigations complement, rather than replace, external complaints.

    Strengthening UNDP’s Engagement with Stakeholders

    In addition to our advocacy to strengthen UNDP’s accountability office, we have also worked to ensure that the institution has a strong approach to engagement with communities. In June 2017, we joined our partners at CIEL and the International Accountability Project (IAP) on a submission of recommendations for strengthening UNDP’s draft Guidance Note on Stakeholder Engagement. Our submission included recommendations for early and continuous engagement with communities throughout the project cycle. Additionally, we called on UNDP to ensure that information related to the existence, role of, and access to SECU and the SRM, including brochures and other resources, be publicly available in local languages.

  • Past Advocacy
  • Documents

    Institutional Documents

    Social and Environmental Compliance Unit Investigation Guidelines

    Stakeholder Response Mechanism: Overview and Guidance


    Documents by Release Date

    Dec 2018 – Accountability Counsel, and 22 partner organizations, sent a letter to UNDP Administrator Mr. Achim Steiner, requesting for Mr. Steiner’s expeditious review of social and environmental complaints stemming from UNDP activities.

    Feb 2018 – Accountability Counsel sent a joint letter to SECU in response to one of SECU’s draft compliance review reports regarding the accountability office’s authority to provide recommendations for corrective action.

    Aug 2017 – SECU released its updated Social and Environmental Compliance Unit Investigation Guidelines, which incorporated Accountability Counsel and other civil society organizations’ joint comments on SECU’s draft Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for proactive investigations.

    Jun 2017 – Accountability Counsel, International Accountability Project (IAP), and Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), submitted joint recommendations for strengthening UNDP’s draft Guidance Note on Stakeholder Engagement.

    Apr 2014 – Accountability Counsel submitted joint comments on the Draft Standard Operating Procedures for the UNDP Social and Environmental Compliance Unit.

    Jan 2014 – UNDP released Draft Investigation Guidelines for the Social and Environmental Compliance Unit (SECU)

    Jul 2012 – UNDP published its response to Accountability Counsel’s, and other global civil society organizations’ comments on the proposed UNDP Accountability Mechanism.

    Jun 2012 – Accountability Counsel submitted comments on the UNDP Proposal for Environmental and Social Compliance Review and Grievance Processes.

    Apr 2012 – UNDP released its proposal for Environmental and Social Compliance Review and Grievance Processes.