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Social and environmental sustainability are fundamental to the achievement of development outcomes and shall be systematically mainstreamed into UNDP’s Programme and Project Management Cycles. Opportunities to strengthen social and​ environmental sustainability shall be identified at the earliest stage of Programme and Project design, realized through implementation and tracked through monitoring and evaluation. Social and environmental due diligence shall be undertaken for all Programmes and Projects.(2)
Programmes and Projects adhere to the objectives and requirements of the Social and Environmental Standards. The SES objectives are to: (i) strengthen the social and environmental outcomes of Programmes and Projects; (ii) avoid adverse impacts to people and the environment; (iii) minimize, mitigate, and manage adverse impacts where avoidance is not possible; (iv) strengthen UNDP and partner capacities for managing social and environmental risks; and (v) ensure full and effective stakeholder engagement, including through a mechanism to respond to complaints from project-affected people.​
UNDP will not support activities that do not comply with national law and obligations under international law, whichever is the higher standard (hereinafter “Applicable Law”). UNDP seeks to support governments to adhere to their human rights obligations and empower individuals and groups, particularly the most marginalized, to realize their rights and to ensure that they fully participate throughout UNDP’s programming cycle.
UNDP applies the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) Country Programming Principles to the development and implementation of Country, Regional, and Global Programmes. (3) These include the following principles: (i) human rights-based approach to development programming; (ii) gender equality; and (iii) environmental sustainability​. The SES reinforce application of these principles at the Programme and Project levels. UNDP screens and reviews its activities to identify opportunities to advance these principles and to identify potential risks that may require measures to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate potential impacts.
UNDP will ensure that compliance review and stakeholder response (or grievance) mechanisms are in place so that individuals and communities potentially affected by UNDP Programmes and Projects have access to effective mechanisms and procedures for raising concerns about the social and environmental performance of the UNDP Programme and/or Project. UNDP will ensure that its Implementing Partners and its own Programme and Project managers provide clear and constructive responses to potential grievances, correct non-compliance where it has occurred, and share the results of grievance processes.

UNDP will address social and environmental opportunities and risks in an integrated manner, recognizing the interrelatedness of social and environmental issues. UNDP will screen and review proposed activities for potential social and environmental risks and will ensure that potential adverse impacts are assessed and avoided, or where avoidance is not possible, minimized, mitigated, and managed.

Scope of Application ​​

UNDP will ensure that the objectives and requirements of the SES are considered throughout UNDP’s Programme and Project Management Cycle. UNDP will ensure that potential social and environmental risks and impacts as well as opportunities are systematically identified and addressed in all UNDP Programmes (4) and Projects. (5)
UNDP will ensure adherence to the SES for Project activities implemented using funds channeled through UNDP’s accounts, (6) regardless of Implementation Modality. In cases where implementation of the SES is found not to be adequate, UNDP will undertake appropriate measures to address shortcomings.
Most UNDP Programmes and Projects involve partners that contribute in-kind resources or parallel funding and apply their own policies and procedures to achieve common objectives. Therefore, while UNDP does not ensure compliance with the SES beyond those activities funded through UNDP’s accounts, UNDP reviews the entire Programme or Project for consistency with the requirements of the SES. All partners are bound to their respective commitments made within the partnership agreement (e.g. Country Programme Action Plan, Annual Work Plan, Project Document, Joint Programme Document, Letter of Agreement).
When the Implementing Partner (7) is a government institution (National Implementation Modality or “NIM”), UN entity, inter-governmental organization, or nongovernmental organization (NGO), it is responsible and accountable to UNDP for overall management of the Project. UNDP remains ultimately accountable to its Executive Board and respective cost-sharing donor(s) for the sound use of financial resources channeled through UNDP accounts and must ensure the quality of its support. Implementation of the SES is therefore integral to UNDP’s quality assurance responsibilities.

The SES are applied together with and complement other relevant UNDP policies and procedures, including UNDP’s Fast Track policies and procedures, (8) procurement policies and procedures, (9) and private sector partnerships policy. (10)​
​(2) The term ‘social and environmental’ should be understood to include the breadth of issues in the standards ​including the cross-cutting principles of human rights, gender equality, and environmental sustainability.​

(3) The UN Country P​​rogramming Principles include three normative principles (human rights-based approach, gender equality, and environmental sustainability) and two enabling principles (capacity development and results-based management). The three normative principles are reinforcing and offer ways to connect international norms and standards and agreed development goals to the development process. The human rights-based approach and gender equality share a basis in the norms and standards of international human rights treaties and instruments. For operational support, see UNDG Guidance Note on Application of the Programming Principles to the UNDAF (January 2010), at​.

(4) A “UNDP Programme” is a cooperation framework for effectively achieving development results through a set of Projects. Programmes outline priorities and outcomes that UNDP seeks to achieve together with other development partners. UNDP’s Programme management cycle in the POPP is specific to the management of: Country Programmes, Regional Programmes, and Global Programmes.

(5) A “UNDP Project” is a time-bound set of planned activities with defined resources which may be defined in a Project document or other relevant formats, such as a UN Joint Programme document or Country Programme Action Plan (CPAP) together with Annual Work Plan. Where Projects are undertaken as part of a Joint UN Programme, the UNDP Project is the portion of the Joint Programme for which UNDP is in charge.
(6) Excluding pass-through funds where UNDP serves only as the Administrative Agent.
(7) The “Implementing Partner” is the entity responsible and accountable for the overall management of a UNDPsupported Project. It is the entity to which the Administrator has entrusted the implementation of UNDP assistance specified in a signed Project Document along with the assumption of full responsibility and accountability to UNDP for the effective use of UNDP resources and the delivery of expected outputs. The Implementing Partner enters into an agreement with UNDP to manage the Project and achieve the results defined in the signed Project Documents. The accountability of an Implementing Partner is: to report, fairly and accurately, on Project progress against agreed work plans in accordance with the reporting schedule and required formats; and to maintain documentation and evidence that describes the proper and prudent use of Project resources in conformity to the signed Project Document and in accordance with applicable regulations and procedures (e.g. SES). Possible Implementing Partners include government institutions (National Implementation Modality), eligible UN agencies, inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), eligible civil society organizations (CSOs), and UNDP (Direct Implementation Modality).

(8) UNDP Fast Track operations, designed to more effectively respond to crisis and emergency situations, follow a set of Fast Track policies and procedures, available at
(9) See procurement provisions of UNDP’s Programme and Operations Policies and Procedures (POPP), including provisions regarding sustainable procurement, available at​ .

(10) UNDP’s Policy on Due Diligence and Partnerships with the Private Sector (forthcoming) stipulates due diligence requirements regarding such partnerships. Projects that may result from such partnerships would be subject to UNDP’s screening procedure and may trigger SES requirements.​