The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) — the UN’s catalytic finance entity for developing countries—announced last week that Pradeep Kurukulasuriya (Sri Lanka) will commence his tenure as Executive Secretary for the organization.

In assuming the position, Kurukulasuriya as Executive Secretary will focus on strengthening the organization’s unique capability to crowd-in finance to scale development impact where the needs are greatest—a capability rooted in UNCDF’s unique investment mandate to blend and deploy grants, loans and guarantees as well as related advisory services, especially in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

“The UN Capital Development Fund is an integral part of the UN Development System’s offer to developing countries. It brings a unique capacity to operate in high-risk market conditions, without the constraints of credit ratings, and where it is most needed to address last mile challenges in deploying finance,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, who also serves as Managing Director for UNCDF.

“It is a perfect instrument to break through a glass ceiling that exists in financial markets and in financial engineering. UNDP is proud to welcome Mr. Kurukulasuriya in this new capacity to strengthen UNCDF’s capabilities to crowd in private capital for where it matters most.”

“It is time to get to work immediately. Time is fast running out to meet the Sustainable Development targets set for 2030. Developing countries, especially the least developed ones, are furthest behind, resulting in an inequitable context that is untenable for long-term prosperity. UNCDF, with its unique mandate of deploying blended finance solutions, must double down on its efforts to support the rest of the UN to collectively advance on the SDG agenda,” said Kurukulasuriya.

“I am excited, along with my colleagues at UNCDF, to put our collective shoulder to the wheel and help play our part in propelling the UN-led effort forward.”

Kurukulasuriya’s strategic focus as Executive Secretary will involve overseeing a business model for UNCDF that maximizes the value of the organization’s investment mandate to deploy grants, loans and guarantees in the form of blended finance.

This unique investment mandate in the UN System dates to the inception of UNCDF by the UN General Assembly in 1966, which stated that “The purpose of the Capital Development Fund shall be to assist developing countries in the development of their economies by supplementing existing sources of capital assistance by means of grants and loans(.)”

Another key priority will be to strengthen UNCDF’s internal risk management, oversight practices and operational business model so that the organization can play a scaled up role in LDCs.

By optimizing UNCDF’s investment mandate to crowd-in development finance for developing countries and LDCs, Kurukulasuriya will look to position UNCDF as an accelerating partner in service to governments to achieve their domestic development agenda, donors to achieve their international development priorities, and UN agencies as well as UN Country Teams to accelerate achievement of the Global Goals (or the Sustainable Development Goals) and the Doha Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries.

As part of the effort to support UN Partner Agencies, UNCDF will explore ways to enhance its long-standing partnership with UNDP and other UN Organizations, as per UN General Assembly directions.

Building on his 18-year career at UNDP—where he spearheaded partnerships with other UN organizations such as WHO, UNEP, and FAO; with multi-lateral development banks like Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; and with asset management firms such as Pegasus —Kurukulasuriya will identify opportunities that combine the UN’s global reach and development prowess with UNCDF’s unique ability to deploy financial instruments to mobilize and crowd-in finance.

This will include exploring ways to strengthen support to UNDP country offices and other UN organizations, as well as with the private sector, development finance institutions and multi-lateral development banks.

Overall, Kurukulasuriya will continue UNCDF’s commitment and practice to work in countries traditionally overlooked in the capital markets; namely, to provide UNCDF’s investment tools and capabilities primarily for the 45 least developed countries.

In the process, UNCDF will commit to working with partner governments as co-investors in financing national development plans while accelerating SDG achievement to ensure that we leave no one behind.

“It is only the power of the collective—governments, private sector, NGOs, the UN and most importantly, all of us—that will help address the challenges at hand in a materially impactful manner,” said Kurukulasuriya.

“I am excited about the prospects of continuing to work alongside my colleagues in UNDP, UNEP, FAO and UNICEF among many others who I have worked with for a number of years on nature, climate and energy related issues. Additionally, I am eager to now broaden such support to other development priorities, such as infrastructure, water and sanitation, education and the like, by utilizing the financial instruments of UNCDF, a unique capability in the entire UN system to support development.”

Kurukulasuriya is a Sri Lankan economist with a Ph.D. from Yale University.

He previously held the position of UNDP Executive Coordinator for Environmental Finance where he oversaw a US$ 5 billion nature, climate and energy finance portfolio across 140 countries.

In this role, Kurukulasuriya provided strategic leadership of partnerships with multilateral environment and climate funds as well as with the private sector, development banks, and private equity funds related to climate finance.

His experience included overseeing blended finance programming, results-based management and compliance with financial rules and regulations.

From 2019-2023, Kurukulasuriya led UNDP’s Nature, Climate, and Energy Practice, leading over 300+ personnel across headquarters and five regional hubs.

Previously, he led the development and oversight of UNDP’s Climate Change Adaptation portfolio.

Additionally, as a senior technical lead in the Global Environmental Finance team from 2010-2018, he played a key role in trebling UNDP's resource mobilization efforts for nature, climate and energy.

Prior to joining UNDP in 2006, he worked with the World Bank and an NGO in Sri Lanka.

The United Nations Capital Development Fund is the United Nations' flagship catalytic financing entity for the world’s 45 least developed countries (LDCs).

With its unique capital mandate and focus on the LDCs, UNCDF works to invest and catalyse capital to support these countries in achieving the sustainable growth and inclusiveness envisioned by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Doha Programme of Action for the least developed countries, 2022–2031.



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