Our Perspective

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, nine of the 32 members and observers of the UN Development Group are publishing to IATI. They are OCHA, UN Women, UNCDF, UNDP, UNFPA, 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 openness and... Read more

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

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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

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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

What contributes to a successful election?

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Africa's most populous nation and biggest economy, Nigeria has surprised the world by conducting largely peaceful elections. Photo: UNDP Nigeria

On 28 March 2015, Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and biggest economy, surprised the world by organising largely ‘peaceful’ presidential and national assembly elections. At a time when the National Human Rights Commission was reporting dozens of deaths from pre-election violence in more half the states in the country, and with analysts predicting more of the same, the country managed to conduct a credible poll, setting an example worth sharing. Without the commitment, goodwill and resources of power brokers across the country, Nigeria’s achievement would not have been possible, despite the overwhelming acceptance among Nigerians that it was time for change. Here are some take away lessons: Role of the National Peace Committee (NPC): National leaders on their own accord established a National Peace Committee that was instrumental in mediating differences between the political parties and building confidence. The Committee persuaded presidential candidates sign two peace pledges in the run-up to the elections— assuring that they would abhor violence and ethnic based campaigning, and promising that they would accept the results of the elections. Monitoring Mechanism: UNDP provided support to the National Peace Committee by providing monitoring assistance through civil society, promoting consensus, establishing mechanisms to track incidents of electoral performance... Read more

How can cooperation between local authorities help to achieve universal access to water and sanitation

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Internally displaced people (IDPs) in Bannu, Pakistan gain access to water through a UNDP-supported project. Photo: UNDP/Pakistan

Water is essential for local development, particularly for sectors such as health, agriculture, economic development, education and environment. However, 748 million people in the world lack access to an improved source of drinking water and 2.5 billion people live without basic sanitation facilities. Water scarcity mostly affects less developed countries and rural areas, preventing their citizens from living a healthy and productive life while also resulting in huge annual economic losses. To provide universal access to water and sanitation by 2030, US$ 27 billion are needed annually. Official Development Assistance (ODA) covers approximately one third of the target but 17 billion are still missing. Local and regional authorities can contribute to filling the endemic resource gap that cripples water interventions. I believe local to local cooperation is an important part of the solution but to make it fully effective we need to improve its modus operandi. The benefits of an integrated approach Thousands of regional and local actors are willing to transfer financial resources and expertise to countries with scarce access to water. France and the Netherlands have passed a legislation that commands sub regional authorities to use 1% of their fiscal entries to water cooperation. Other countries such as Spain,... Read more

The need to boost youth participation and inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean

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The region has more than 150 million young people between 15 and 29 years but a closer look into LAC parliaments reveals that young people are scarcely represented. Photo: UNDP/El Salvador

Democracy is widely supported in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). However, institutions and policymakers don’t always enjoy the same positive perception, according to recent Latinobarómetro surveys. Young people in the region have been playing a key role in recent peaceful demonstrations that demand more effective and transparent governments. And they do so not only by taking to the streets but also by playing a role in their own communities and — increasingly — on social networks. The region has more than 150 million young people between 15 and 29 years but has a great challenge ahead: curbing inequality in decision-making and public policy shaping. Institutionalized gaps must be closed if we want to achieve more equal societies: for women, men, lesbian, gays, bisexuals, transgendered and intersex, and people of African and indigenous descent. A closer look into LAC parliaments reveals that young people are scarcely represented, especially women. Among members of parliament, only 2.7 percent of males and 1.3 percent of females are under 30 years old — despite the fact 1 in 4 Latin Americans is young. Today’s young people are also the best educated in the history of LAC, and we need to facilitate their participation in decision-making,... Read more

The political economy of illicit financial flows

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. Tax evasion has often been the hallmark of the elites. In ancient Rome, the upper class viewed tax as ‘the mark of bondage.’  Two millennia later, Leona Helmsley, the wife of a real estate billionaire in New York, reportedly said: ‘Only little people pay taxes’. But the Roman Empire collapsed because the tax on land was largely passed on the poor, and later on the middle classes, while the elite carried less and less of the public financial burden. Today, both developed and developing countries alike face similar problems. Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) such as tax avoidance and evasion, embezzlement of national resources, trade misinvoicing, and smuggling of goods and capital across borders, are widespread phenomena and occur for a range of reasons, including theft, corruption, high political or economic instability in the originating country or higher returns on investment in the destination country. Although these problems can affect all countries, it can be particularly prevalent (and harmful) in natural resource-rich states with weak governance such as Nigeria, Gabon and Equatorial... Read more

If it is not rights-based, it is not real human development

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In Mozambique, UNDP is putting an emphasis on human rights in its development work. Photo: UN/Mozambique

Today, as we witness widening inequalities within countries, intensifying competition around scarce natural resources, and the continued exclusion of marginalized groups, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) are more relevant than ever.  They are the cornerstones of our national systems for the promotion and protection of human rights, essential to sustaining development and successful implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. In the past year alone, UNDP partnered with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to support the establishment of NHRIs in Botswana, Samoa and Sao Tome and Principe. We continue to provide capacity-building support to foster human rights protection, by establishing the mechanisms for handling of complaints in several member states or by supporting the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process in others. In Mozambique, for example, UNDP is assisting the National Human Rights Commission in monitoring places of detention. These practices emphasize what states should do to prevent and address negative impacts from infringements of human rights, and to ensure protection for people whose rights have been adversely affected. The importance of the role of National Human Rights Institutions is heightened by the recent rise in social tensions and violent extremism around the world.  Human rights... Read more

Inside UNDP: Jorge Alvarez

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Jorge Álvarez with community members from UNDP’s sustainable land management project in Las Bambas, Apurímac, Peru. Photo: UNDP/Peru

Jorge Álvarez, from Peru, is an agricultural engineer who has worked for UNDP for over five years and is on the roster of Peruvian national experts of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He is motivated by the desire to raise public awareness on the importance of taking care of the planet and its resources, to generate tangible changes in his country, and to leave to his children a legacy of a cleaner and sustainable Peru. 1. What do you do for work?  I manage the portfolio of energy and environment projects of UNDP in Peru, including more than 18 projects being implemented and another ten in the design/pre-implementation stage.  The projects are classified in five areas: climate change, biodiversity, desertification, environmental quality and environmental funding. 2. How long have you worked for UNDP? How did you end up working for UNDP? Where were you before?  My first experience with UNDP was as National Coordinator of "The Second National Communication on Climate Change" project, but worked at the Ministry of the Environment. I then became a Programme Officer and have worked in this position for over two years. Prior to UNDP, I worked for the National Environmental Council,... Read more

How will small island states finance our ambitious Sustainable Development Goals

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Helen Manvoi and her children stand in front of what used to be their outdoor toilet in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Photo: Silke Von Brockhausen/UNDP

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. “Our development has been wiped out,” said Vanuatu’s President as Cyclone Pam laid waste to pretty much the entire South Pacific nation. It is reported that over 90% of the capital’s buildings have been damaged; disease outbreaks and food and water shortages are now a major concern. Millions, if not billions, will be needed to provide emergency assistance to affected communities and to rebuild the country’s infrastructure.  With major shocks such as these so common, how can small states – from Barbados to Cabo Verde to Samoa – better plan for such emergencies? And will the international community make sure that adequate finance is made available?  Small states often have special challenges when it comes to raising resources. Most often rely on one or two key industries, in particular tourism, for the majority of their exports. For countries spread out over many islands, revenue collection may not be cost-effective, yet remote communities still require basic social services. Many small states have reduced poverty and improved key social indicators over recent years.... Read more

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