Three and a half years ago I asked: why does the UNDP exist? Last night I chatted to a couple of UN staffers (albeit from different agencies). They also were unable to provide an answer.
In their opinion though, some of the other UN agencies do seem to work quite well in middle income countries, who know what they want and have the capacity to provide overall management / oversight, whilst the UN agencies source neutral technical inputs, albeit rather expensively, and provide emergency additional funds when required. The problem is when the recipient government lacks the vision to stake out real leadership on most substantive issues, and instead spend their time chasing more donor cash, which is then often spent ineffectually as focus turns to the next grant opportunity.
Any supporters of the idea of a UN mandate to replace the entire government for South Sudan might want to take a moment to pause and consider the humungous bureaucracy that would result, and how, if ever, it would be possible to dismantle such a beast without returning the country to chaos. The current feuding in South Sudan is a tragedy, but surely there has to be a better solution than to bring in the UNDP! (Thankfully there are excellent other reasons not to pursue this option, which does not appear particularly likely.)