50 photos from 50 years of UNDP

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the UN Development Programme, an agency at the heart of the United Nations’ work on improving livelihoods and ending poverty.

Working in nearly every corner of the world, UNDP’s work is vital to our shared vision for a world free from poverty, where every man, woman, and child can be educated, healthy, and have a livelihood they can be proud of. The UK has been one of the strongest supports of UNDP since its creation, contributing $76 million in core funding. We do so because without this dedicated agency of individuals around the world, the Millennium Development Goals and the 17 Global Goals would be little more than a pipe dream.

Without further adieu, from literacy programmes, to clean water projects, to the muppets, here are our favourite 50 photos from 50 years of the UNDP.


The 1960s saw the birth of an agency that hit the ground running. Photos from China, Iran, Senegal, and Pakistan showcase the wide variety of programs UNDP undertook from the very beginning. 
(Photo credit: UN Photo)
UNDP holds its very first meeting in 1966.
(L) Navigation and port project on Senegal River (C) Chinese ship and cadets arrive for training under UNDP maritime project (R) Forestry project in Pakistan
Adult literacy pilot project in Iran


1970s A decade following the UNDP’s birth saw programmes in Latin America, Africa and Asia ranging from agricultural support, reforestation, the protection of endangered species, and mineral exploration.
(Photo credit: UN Photo)
Grassroots agricultural improvement project in Bolivia assisted by UNDP
(L) Wildlife conservation project in Zambia (C) Soil management project in South Korea (R) Mineral exploration in Ethiopia
(L) Vegetable canning project in Lesotho (R) Rural development program in Ethiopia
(L) Quality of life improvement programme in Burkina Faso (R) Electrical instrument lab in Bombay made possible by UNDP


Vocational training, confronting marine pollution, and fighting desertification. Just a small sample of UNDP’s global projects in the 1980s.
(Photo credit: UN Photo)
(L) Woman being trained in handicrafts in Bangladesh through UNDP program (R) Young men from Sierra Leone getting vocational training
(L) Worker in experimental vegetable garden in Thailand thanks to UNDP income-generation project (R) Special Meeting with Prince of Nepal
(L) Young marine scientist working on solution to pollution in Cuba (C) Tree planting to prevent desertification in west Africa (R) Reforestation project in the Philippines


News projects, wider engagement, and the recruitment of some familiar faces to bolster the cause. The United Kingdom’s very own Mark Malloch-Brown takes the reigns of the growing UN agency.
(Photo credit: UN Photo)
Moving earth from a flood-damaged are in North Korea for future crop planting.
(L) Danny Glover becomes UNDP Goodwill Ambassador (R) Ambassadorial meeting of G77 with new Chairman
(L) Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf sits in on Special Committee against Apartheid (R) UNDP officials accompany a fact finding mission in Iraq
(L) Mark Malloch-Brown becomes UNDP Administrator (R) Well building project in the Central African Republic


Ever heard of the Millennium Development Goals? They laid the groundwork for the #GlobalGoals and UNDP was a big part in their implementation. More projects from India to Kosovo to Liberia.
(Photo credit: UN Photo and UNDP)
(L) UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Dikembe Mutambo meetings UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie (R) Mark Malloch-Brown address UN General Assembly
(L) New UNDP Administrator Helen Clark meets Maori King (C) Solar power project in Liberia (R) Destroying confiscated weapons in Kosovo
(L) Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown at MDGs press conference with UN Secretary-General and Bill Gates (R) Millennium Summit in UN General Assembly
Herders in Mongolia benefitting from UNDP empowerment projects
(L) UNDP potato jam project in Senegal (C) UN S-G Kofi Annan speaking at SIDS conference in Mauritius (R) World Chronicle meets with Director of UNDP MDGs Campaign
(L) Rural employment project in India (R) UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch-Brown meets HIV positive muppet from South Africa’s Sesame Street


New crises, new technologies, and challenges. 2010s saw the rises of conflicts not often seen in the modern era and offered Global Goals to give hope to the world’s billions that no one would be left behind.
(Photo credit: UN Photo, UNDP, UK Mission to the UN)
(L) Syrian refugees queue up for school in Turkey during Helen Clark’s visit (C) Human Development Report launch in Kenya (R) Helen Clark on CNN’s Emerge Twitter chat
(L) DDR program for ex-combatants in Cote d’Ivoire (R) Peace Caravan festivities in Goa Mali
Joint natural disaster exercise in Haiti
(L) Water distribution in Darfur (R) Cash for work program in the aftermath of earthquake in Haiti
Adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (aka #GlobalGoals) at UN Headquarters
Helen Clark speaking at the Supporting Syria and the Region conference in London where a record $11 billion was pledged to help those affected by the crisis