Our Perspective

Africa: Navigating the grey scale

To transform economic growth into shared prosperity, African countries must boost employment creation. Photo: Aude Rossignol/UNDP Burundi

The recent news out of Africa offers a mix of optimism and gloom, defying simple theories that the continent is either rising or hopeless. What is missing in either of these narratives is the admission that development involves a process of ebb and flow, full of progress and setbacks. On that grey scale, economic growth can lead to increased levels of inequality and even co-exist with political instability and conflict. When this reality is taken into account, the question becomes not whether a country is growing but how to make the transition from economic growth to a situation of shared prosperity and stability. Breakthroughs are possible, and they can lead to marked improvements in the lives of ordinary women and men. Take Mauritius. The island nation has transformed itself from a poor sugar producer into a diversified, modern economy that exports textiles and excels at providing international financial services to the rest of the world. Ethiopia is another example. Over the past three decades, the country became one of Africa’s fastest-growing, non-energy economies and its exports have diversified to include leather goods, agricultural products and textiles. The government is investing massively to transform its agriculture, climate-proof the economy and eliminate child... Read more

Harnessing benefits from a cup of Colombian Coffee

Farmers in Colombia plant seedlings of native plants for a biological conservation corridor in an area of coffee farms. Photo: UNDP in Colombia

Today is the International Day of Biological Diversity, which has for me deep personal, professional and cultural significance. Working in Latin America and Caribbean region, I have witnessed firsthand the profound dependence that we all have on the natural world – especially people who work closely with the land and sea. In UNDP, we are committed to harnessing this reliance in ways that improve biodiversity and people’s lives. Thinking about the significance of this day and the importance of this work, I am reminded of Dora Garcia, a Colombian coffee farmer who participated in an innovative UNDP-supported, GEF-financed project. How surprised she was when she began receiving additional income based on the carbon sequestered by native trees she planted almost five years earlier! Mrs. Garcia is one of the coffee farmers who embraced this opportunity and received social, economic and environmental benefits when she decided to produce a cup of coffee spiced with biodiversity-friendly policies, sustainable practices, and ecosystem services. In Colombia, for over 50 years coffee has been the main engine of economic growth and development in the biodiversity-rich landscapes of the Andean region. Colombia’s excellent growing conditions, paired with an aggressive marketing campaign by the National Federation of Coffee... Read more

A data revolution for international financial flows?

Foreign direct investment in Burkina Faso in 2010 amounted to US$888 million including technical cooperation, according to the OECD. Photo: UNDP in Burkina Faso

How will we finance the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? Which countries need more resources and what kinds? Where does international finance – public and private – currently flow and where does it not? Answers to these question require reliable and easy-to-understand data on all international financial flows. In July, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, governments will agree on a framework for financing the new sustainable development agenda. This conference provides a window of opportunity to improve our haphazard approach to data collection and reporting on international financial flows. In one sense, we have unprecedented data at our fingertips. Yet if you were to ask the Heads of the UN, IMF and World Bank how much financing, say, low-income countries receive in a given year and from which sources, you would receive a very different answer from each. And for a variety of reasons. First, none use the same definition of ‘low income countries’. The World Bank Group has 34, the IMF has 60, while the UN uses a different label entirely – the least developed countries (LDCs) of which there are currently 48. Second, when it comes to reporting on international financial flows, the accuracy of the numbers obviously depends on... Read more

The hidden aspects of women’s poverty

A Hmong woman and her child in Viet Nam. According to UN Women, women do two and a half times as much unpaid work as men, including caring for children, the elderly and the ill. Photo: Kibae Park/UN

“Let’s make the invisible visible.” This statement, by Argentina Minister of Social Development Alicia Kirchner, captured a recurrent theme at the global conference on women and social inclusion, recently co-hosted by UNDP in Buenos Aires. Despite the gains that women have made over the past decades, there are still too many factors affecting women’s lives that are not recognized in public policies. Unless they are addressed, efforts to eradicate poverty and drive sustainable development will fall short. Topping this list is the substantial amount of unpaid work that women do throughout the world, in countries both rich and poor. According to a recent UN Women report, women do almost two and a half times as much unpaid care work as men, from caring for children, the elderly and the ill to preparing meals and gathering water and fuel for cooking. But despite this daily reality that women know all too well, official measures of poverty don’t take into account either the time women spend on unpaid work or the money they might spend to “outsource” this work – such as to arrange childcare so they can go to work. If these factors were recognized and included in poverty measurements, many more... Read more

Permanent Beta Six Ways to Innovate for Development for 2015 and Beyond

Locals gather at the launch of UNDP Haiti’s LIDE project during the SHIFT Week of Innovation Action in September 2014. Photo: UNDP in Haiti

In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on innovation in development practice. As negotiations on finalizing the new development agenda heat up, one thing is clear - delivering on these goals will require investment in innovation. But what exactly does innovation mean in the context for development? It means to embrace complexity, acknowledging that there are no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions for the persistent, inter-connected development challenges across the globe. Innovations that lead to breakthroughs can only be created in partnerships. These are two of Nine Innovation Principles UNDP endorsed last year, together with seven UN entities and seven foundations and donors. We also launched the Innovation Facility with the support of the Government of Denmark. The Innovation Facility’s “Year in Review” report is just out. As we approach our first anniversary, we highlight six areas where UNDP will seek to innovate in 2015 and beyond. What, exactly, is the problem? We focus on understanding the problem based on available data. UNDP is working with UN Global Pulse and other partners on big data analysis to help give us and governments the most detailed picture possible with the data available. We also embrace ethnographic methods that help... Read more

Building back better in Nepal

To help the micro-entrepreneurs, UNDP is allocating resources so that they can rapidly restore their businesses. Photo: UNDP in Nepal

The earthquake in Nepal is a tragedy, and there can be little consolation for the large scale death and destruction— for the lives and livelihoods lost, or for the many who are seriously injured, shattered and living in a state of fear and despair. However, the earthquake also exposed many of the vulnerabilities that amplified the impact of the shock, and has opened up opportunities for the country to recalibrate its development trajectory. There are two important lessons that should be heeded as we go forward. First, there are already strong calls from the international community for Nepal to address underlying risks and build back better. This is crucial, but it will take time and resources, not the least of which will be financial and technical support to ensure that the more than 500,000 homes destroyed or damaged are rebuilt or repaired so as to withstand future quakes. Having served in Mexico and lived in Mexico City a decade after the terrible earthquake that hit the megalopolis, I can attest to what a serious, risk-informed, massive urban planning exercise looks like. Mexico D.F. was built back much better. While it won’t be easy in Nepal, it will pay off in the... Read more

Where are the trillions needed to finance the new development agenda?

Labour force participation of women is lower than men almost everywhere. Photo: UNDP in Honduras

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. While world leaders are focused on adopting a new set of sustainable development goals at the United Nations in September, a debate that has received far less attention is also raging: how to finance the new goals? A new paper (PDF) by the World Bank, IMF and other multilateral development banks argues that the new global development agenda will cost trillions of dollars, not billions. How can these trillions of dollars be mobilized? The scale of the challenge calls on us to have a broader and more sophisticated approach to financing. One way to mobilize these trillions of dollars is by eliminating discrimination against women. Yes, that’s right, eliminating discrimination is not only a matter of social justice. Discrimination and inequality of opportunity is also wasteful, because people are not enabled to contribute with their talent, creativity, and full potential to society and the economy. Consider this concrete illustration (PDF). In the United States, 94 percent of lawyers and doctors working in 1960 were white males. By 2008, this was reduced... Read more

Una oportunidad para la igualdad de género

There is a new opportunity to establish gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, essential foundations for inclusive and sustainable development. Photo: Javier Sagredo/UNDP

La Plataforma de Beijing contempla un mundo donde cada mujer y cada niña puedan ejercer sus libertades y opciones y hacer efectivos sus derechos, incluidos el derecho a vivir libres de violencia, a la educación, a ejercer sus derechos de salud sexual y reproductiva, a participar en la toma de decisiones, y a la igualdad de remuneración por trabajo de igual valor.... Read more

POPs Hunter: Smartphone game spreads a serious message about pollutants

Renowned conservationist and UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall shows support for the #StopthePops campaign during a visit to UNDP in Beijing. Photo: UNDP China

In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on innovation in development practice. Heptachlor, Mirex, Toxaphene, Endrin – these are not part of our everyday vocabulary, but without knowing it many of us come into contact with them on a regular basis. These and many others are known as Persistent Organic Pollutants or ‘POPs’. They are organic chemical substances that present a significant risk to people and the planet. For many people, it’s a difficult topic to understand. That’s why UNDP China is working to spread awareness of the issue, using innovative tools like gamification. Once these pollutants are released into the environment, they remain there for many years, as they don’t dissolve easily. POPs can travel long distances through air and water and can become widely distributed, accumulating in living organisms - wildlife and humans – the same way mercury often accumulates in fish. Research suggests POPs have cancer-causing properties and can disrupt immune, reproductive and nervous systems. The good news is that the world is taking action. In 2001, more than a 100 countries signed the Stockholm Convention on protecting human health and the environment from POPs. Governments that have signed the convention pledge... Read more

¿Qué tienen que ver las políticas de drogas y la nueva agenda de desarrollo global?

Photo: UNDP/Brian Sokol

Será muy difícil para algunos países de nuestra región, y de otras regiones del mundo, avanzar con buen pie en los nuevos Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible de la nueva agenda global de desarrollo si no se generan respuestas alternativas que reduzcan los impactos de las políticas actuales de drogas. Impactos tremendos en nuestras sociedades y en su capacidad de desarrollarse sosteniblemente, en nuestros sistemas políticos e institucionales, en nuestras economías, en nuestro medio ambiente, en nuestras mujeres, indígenas y jóvenes; en definitiva, en los más vulnerables.... Read more

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