Our Perspective

Financing for development in resource-rich countries

Photo: UNDP in Zimbabwe

In this blog series, our experts share their thoughts and lessons learned on key financing for development issues, in the run-up to the UN’s Financing for Development conference in July. For the past 10 years, prices of hydrocarbons, metals and minerals have been on the rise. Oil prices have risen from $50 per barrel in 2004 to $99 in 2007 and $115 in 2013. In the same period, the non-energy commodity-price-index increased by 112%. These price hikes were largely the result of rising global demand for natural resources. High commodity prices meant resource-rich countries could invest in social services. For instance, between 2002 and 2012, average per capita public expenditure on health of the 25 countries with highest shares of oil, gas and mineral exports increased by 65% from $112 to $219. Similarly from 2000 to 2010, average public expenditure on education increased by 11.86% compared to the decade before. However, the recent fall in commodity prices is threatening the availability of funds for development. Over the year ending in January 2015, The Economist’s commodity-price-index fell by 9.9% in dollar terms, with metal prices falling by 10.1%. Oil prices per barrel have fallen by 51.2%. The decline in commodity prices is... Read more

Nepal: A lesson in the risks climate change poses to disaster-prone countries

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April. Photo: Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi / UNDP Nepal.

As relief assistance rushes to Nepal after the earthquake, those efforts are being hampered by a number of factors. Weak existing infrastructure means many critical roads have been damaged. Remote mountain villages perched on hillsides require helicopters to distribute aid. Inadequate communications networks complicate the ability to understand and prioritise where relief is most needed. These are manmade factors. However, there are also climate-related factors that complicate search and rescue operations, impede convoys loaded with food, water and medical supplies, and exacerbate already difficult conditions for the displaced population. As a Least Developed Country, Nepal suffers through the worst impacts of climate change – droughts, floods, and food insecurity – despite bearing little responsibility for the carbon emissions now affecting our climate. As a UNDP climate change policy specialist based in New York, I was on mission to Kathmandu when the earthquake struck. My mission was to design a project to enable Nepal to access increased climate finance. With such funding, Nepal could better adapt to climate impacts in vulnerable sectors of the economy while putting the country on a low-carbon development path that encourages sustainable livelihoods. I came to design a climate change project; now I am getting an education... Read more

We must work with Nepal and other vulnerable countries towardsa more resilient future

In 2011, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark visited downtown Kathmandu for an 'eathquake walk' - a tour on disaster preparedness. Photo: Bikash Rauniyar/UNDP Nepal

Nepal’s Kathmandu valley has all of the factors that keep development experts up at night: a dense population, weak infrastructure, seismic activity, and hard to reach populations.   In 2011, I went on an official tour of downtown Kathmandu called the “Earthquake Walk.”  This tour, led by the government and other partners on disaster preparedness, was intended to demonstrate the vulnerabilities of residential and other buildings, including those of heritage and religious significance, to the next large earthquake that would strike the region one day. What I learned on the tour was alarming: so many buildings would be unable to withstand an earthquake of any magnitude, let alone the massive one which struck on Saturday.   It has long been known that a major earthquake could happen at any time in this vulnerable region. That is why UNDP and other development partners have engaged with Nepal for many years on disaster risk reduction and response initiatives.   The Government of Nepal has been spearheading efforts to tighten legislation around new developments and retrofit buildings. The costs of strengthening existing infrastructure, however, are very high, and are often beyond the means of least developed countries like Nepal. Continued assistance from development partners... Read more

Indigenous youth and the post-2015 Development Agenda

According to figures from ECLAC, there are more than 800 indigenous peoples in Latin America, with a total population of about 45 million. Photo: UNDP Colombia

“Children and youth are the future of humanity” (Álvaro Pop, Member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Youth Focal Point) Imagine that instead of excluding marginalized groups, we include them in the new international post-2015 development agenda. Now, imagine the future development agenda built on the enormous potential of indigenous peoples with their ancestral knowledge. Now combine this knowledge with the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit and the mobilizing and transforming capacity of indigenous youth. Wouldn’t you listen to these voices? We have decided that, yes indeed, we would listen to them and have provided them with the platform Juventud Con Voz (Voice of the Youth). It will serve as a forum for participatory dialogue in which the proposals and ideas of indigenous youth can be heard in order to have an impact, individually or collectively, on the post-2015 development agenda and to contribute effectively towards strengthening their organizations. Fifteen years ago, 189 heads of state committed to eradicate extreme poverty and multiple deprivations that threaten the well-being of individuals, with the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Despite the enormous progress towards achieving this ambitious project, the indignity of poverty is still violating the human rights... Read more

Breaking new ground: UNDP’s electoral lexicon

1.3 million women voted in the 2012 Libyan elections after a large public-awareness campaign encouraged them to participate. Photo credit: Samia Mahgoub/UNDP Libya

When the invitation came to present our Arabic Lexicon of Electoral Terminology to the Joint Inter-Agency Meeting on Computer-Assisted Translation and Terminology (JIAMCATT) conference held in New York from 8 to 10 April 2015, it seemed like perfect timing. Carlos Valenzuela, a leading senior international electoral expert and I worked on the lexicon for close to three years and felt proud to be able to present it to one the world’s main venues for computer-assisted terminology and translation. With its 481 terms, the lexicon has some intriguing features, even for seasoned terminology professionals.  The challenge facing the lexicon team was that there was little or no significant literature on electoral management in the Arabic language. So everything had to be sourced from the ground up. Apart from being the first attempt to provide the terms and definitions of the most important concepts and components of an election process, the lexicon also provides the Arabic language variations in use in eight Arab countries.  This was done by using a custom-made online collaborative writing tool with eight reviewers in each of the countries. Participants in the various JIAMCATT sessions were interested in the unusual mechanics of this groundbreaking work.  The particular strength of... Read more

It is time to focus on the real drivers of malaria

A mother and child recover from malaria in a hospital in Burundi. The Government provides free health care for pregnant women and children under five. Photo: Maria Cierna/UNDP

Eliminating malaria seems like a straightforward issue. The parasitic infection is transmitted to people through bites from infected mosquitoes. So if we prevent the mosquito bites, we avoid the infection. But decades of malaria control efforts show there is more to the story. Much of our vulnerability to malaria, it turns out, is determined by human actions. The conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age define to a great extent who is vulnerable to malaria and who is not. Malaria is both a result and a cause of a lack of development. We know that it is those countries with the lowest levels of human development that are most affected by malaria. And within populations, those living in the poorest circumstances also suffer disproportionately. We have long understood the impact malaria has on development. We are now better understanding the impact development has on malaria. The factors that determine malaria risk are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources. The key interventions to prevent malaria (bed nets, insecticide spraying, and access to treatments) are well known, but eliminating the disease will require a broader range of actions. Efforts to improve housing and infrastructure development, sanitation, agricultural... Read more

Africa and Climate Finance – The state of the debate

In this blog series, our experts share their thoughts and lessons learned on key financing for development issues, in the run-up to the UN’s Financing for Development conference in July. Africa is the region that has contributed the least to global greenhouse gas emissions but, along with Small Island Developing Countries, is among the most vulnerable to climate change. It is estimated that the cost of Africa's adaptation to climate change will be between $10-30 billion a year by 2030. This will not only cost governments billions of dollars, but threatens the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people. Climate finance to Africa has been growing considerably. Recent data indicates that USD 2.3 billion has been approved for 453 projects and programs throughout Sub-Saharan Africa since 2003. However, only 45% of approved funding is delivered for adaptation measures. In the run-up to the UN’s 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD), in Addis Ababa in July 2015, the UN’s regional commissions organized consultations aiming at providing inputs from a regional perspective. Some participants questioned whether climate finance should be part of the discussions, given that the UNFCCC is already focused on this issue, and that this will be... Read more

IATI and the UN System: Leading by example on open data

The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) represents a chance for the UN family to lead the movement toward greater openness, transparency, accountability and effectiveness in development cooperation. The IATI Standard, a common, open format for publishing data, makes it possible for anyone – a government official, an NGO project manager, a journalist, an ordinary citizen – to see clearly what is being funded where, by whom, and by how much. At the time of writing, eleven of the 32 members and observers of the UN Development Group are publishing to IATI. They are OCHA, UN Women, UNCDF, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UN-Habitat, UNICEF, UNOPS, WFP and the World Bank. This is a strong start – but it is by no means enough. Discussions around the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals highlight that greater access to information enables individuals to hold leaders and development actors accountable. One step towards mobilizing  resources for a common purpose is to publish information about them in a common way. In this critical year of transition for the global development discourse, the UN must be at the forefront of making development activity as open, transparent and traceable as current technology and resources will allow. The UN System must embrace... Read more

Five things we would do if we were really serious about finance for development

Reducing fossil fuel subsidies in favor of green energy. Photo: UNDP in Croatia

In this blog series, our experts share their thoughts and lessons learned on key financing for development issues, in the run-up to the UN’s Financing for Development conference in July. It is now widely agreed that finance for development discussions should not only be about more money for official development assistance or climate finance. They should be about aligning international and domestic trade and financial systems with the logic of sustainable development. This raises the question: What would financial systems look like if we were really serious about sustainable development? Here are five things we would do: 1) Triple bottom line accounting. Governments would ensure that Wall Street and other leading capital markets could not trade companies that do not report transparently on the social and environmental (as well as financial) consequences of their activities. 2) Crackdown on tax havens. The world’s leading governments would crack down on off-shore tax havens. At issue is not enforcing high tax regimes, or even preventing tax competition. It is about preventing tax evasion and tax avoidance by multinational corporations and the wealthy who can best afford to make use of tax havens. 3) Financial transactions tax. We would admit that global financial markets work... Read more

Vanuatu begins rebuilding but faces severe challenges

Cyclone Pam has passed, but Vanuatu residents will need months, if not years, to recover from its devastation. Photo: Silke von Brockhausen/UNDP

Descending into Vanuatu’s international airport in Port Vila, I could see the devastation Cyclone Pam caused on March 13, sweeping nearly two dozen islands.  What used to be a lush green landscape is washed brown by saltwater, trees are dead and uprooted, and houses have lost their roofs. More than half of the population was affected by the cyclone. 15,000 homes got destroyed and 96% of the country’s crops as well as coconut and banana trees are wiped out. A true disaster for a country that relies heavily on subsistence farming for food security and income. Two weeks into the emergency, I was meeting with communities in the capital Port Vila and witnessed the impressive resilience of the people of this island nation. Even though their need for basic humanitarian assistance such as food, water, medical aid and shelter was still high, people had started to rebuild their lives on their own. Roofs were being fixed, roads cleared, uprooted trees cut and piled up, damaged bridges restored and those who could were going back to work. One of the severe challenges communities are now facing is lack of employment and income. “Because of the disaster, markets are closed and women can’t... Read more

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