Our Perspective

      • New technologies play key role in strengthening democracies | G. Fraser-Moleketi

        14 Sep 2012

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        A bank representative helps customers in Fiji manage their electronic bank accounts. (Photo: Jeff Liew/UNCDF)

        International Day of Democracy this year underlines the crucial role that informed people everywhere can play in realizing the benefits of democracy. The UN Secretary-General has called for focus and creativity in bringing democracy education to all, with special attention to societies in transition where this education is needed most—and where people often have much to learn about their rights and responsibilities under a democratic system.  The call for creativity in pursuing democracy education resonates uniquely at UNDP.  Since the early 1990s, we have harnessed the transformational potential of new information and communications technologies (ICTs) for development, promoting e-governance and access to information with the specific aim of empowering people to influence public decisions. The social movements we saw in the Arab awakening and elsewhere showed just how powerful these technologies can be—especially through social networks and mobile technologies that have “democratized” access to the public sphere and given a voice to people who previously had none. Mobile technologies have, further, seen explosive growth in developing countries, where nearly 80 percent of the world’s more than 6 billion mobile subscribers live. This phenomenon has unleashed a new wave of innovation by social entrepreneurs and civil society organizations, led by young people,  Read More

      • As the UN’s small arms review conference ends, what is needed to reduce violence? | Jordan Ryan

        10 Sep 2012

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        A child holds up bullets collected from the ground in Rounyn, North Darfur. (Photo: UNAMID / Albert Gonzalez Farran)

        You don’t have to look far to see the impact of armed violence. Just turn on the news. In New York two weeks ago, shots rang out at the Empire State Building as police were trying to stop someone with an illegal gun in a crowded area. Two people were killed and nine injured. Last year, Mexico saw more than 12,000 drug related murders. There is, on average, one death caused by guns every minute worldwide, and 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by conflict or high levels of violent crime.   This is not only happening in conflict countries; higher death-rates from criminal gun use are recorded in “peaceful” countries. Gun violence destabilizes legitimate governments and exacerbates poverty. For UNDP, armed violence is a development issue.  An international conference to curb the illicit trade in small arms wrapped up in New York on Friday September 7. States attending reviewed the implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, a political commitment among UN Member States.  The conference ended with Mexico, and other affected countries, urging the international community to make a stronger commitment to reducing the worldwide flow of illicit weapons. There remains, however, significant resistance  Read More

      • Rwanda: preparing for disaster is key to development | Auke Lootsma

        28 Aug 2012

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        Achieving sustainable risk reduction means taking into account a wide range of opportunities, such as boosting local participation, building people’s capacities and making women’s voice count.

        Across the world, both the number of disasters and their human and economic impact have been on the rise. In 2011, natural disasters killed more than 30,000 people and affected 244 million. That same year, resulting economic losses totaled USD 366 billion, the highest ever recorded. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of those affected live in developing countries, where the poor are exposed to much greater risk from natural hazards. This is especially true of the most marginalized, including women and girls. Rwanda is no exception to that rule. This year’s torrential rains have resulted in unprecedented floods and landslides, killing 32 people and destroying more than 1,400 houses and 2,222 hectares of land.  The extent of the damage has drawn attention to the interplay between climate change, land use, and overpopulation which are all serious development challenges Rwanda is facing. UNDP will continue to support Rwanda, as the post-2015 agenda for disaster risk reduction takes shape. Firstly, UNDP has been working with Rwanda to build disaster risk reduction into its development planning, from the local to the national level. Where disasters strike, we also strive to help the country build back better, creating opportunities for more resilient development. Secondly, laws,  Read More

      • Improving human development among indigenous peoples: The Chiapas success story | Magdy Martinez-Soliman

        22 Aug 2012

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        Indigenous peoples in Chiapas, one of Mexico’s poorest states, have seen improvements in human development after the adoption of MDG-focused social policies. (Photo: UNDP Mexico)

        In many ways, history has been hard on the southwestern state of Chiapas, home to Mexico’s largest indigenous population. Poverty has been persistent, with the state lagging behind on most socio-economic indicators.    In recent times however, Chiapas has led the way in setting an agenda to improve the life of its citizens. In 2009 the state adopted the Chiapas-UN Agenda and amended its constitution, making it the first in the world to mandate a Millennium Development Goals-guided social policy. As a result, addressing poverty and its causes became a priority in Chiapas, with a strong emphasis on initiatives to improve health, education, environmental sustainability and extreme hunger. Following this constitutional amendment, public spending from the government at the federal, state and local levels followed the MDG priorities, producing some impressive results in a short period of time. Chiapas experienced progress in education, measured by literacy and enrolment rates from 2008 to 2010. During the same period the state also had the fastest improvements in life expectancy at birth. Many indigenous communities of Chiapas were at the origin of the Zapatista uprising in the 1990’s, which succeeded in obtaining new rights for indigenous peoples but also divided and displaced much of  Read More

      • What does Rio+20 mean for sustainable development? | Helen Clark

        21 Aug 2012

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        The challenge arising from Rio+20 is how to advance economic, social, and environmental objectives simultaneously, lifting integrated policy-making to new levels. Photo: UNDP Sudan

        The significance and relevance of global summits like Rio+20 lie in their ability to connect people and influence what they are doing on the ground around the world to “think globally while acting locally”.  “The Future We Want”, the Rio+20 outcome document concludes that, for development to be effective, it must be sustainable. It highlights how environmental protection and economic development are linked, and gives equal emphasis to the social – or people-centered - dimension of sustainable development. The challenge arising from Rio+20 is how to advance economic, social, and environmental objectives simultaneously, lifting integrated policy-making to new levels. In some quarters, economic growth is looked at as antithetical to environmental protection. Rio turns such thinking on its head – encouraging us all to identify how entrepreneurship, job creation, and social protection can be generated through and linked to environmental protection. The voluntary commitments made by businesses, development banks, cities and regions, UN agencies, and NGOs and civil society activists were among Rio’s most significant outcomes. More than 700 formal commitments were registered, and more than $500 billion dollars were pledged. These commitments suggest that motivated leaders from across the economic and social sectors and subnational governments can help accelerate sustainable  Read More

      • From crisis to resilience: why inequality matters | Anuradha Seth

        17 Aug 2012

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        Kanchipuram is a small rural town about 75 km from Chennai in India. Its economy is heavily dependent on tourism, but a cooperation of women to grow their own food is helping the community to move forward. Photo: UNDP IPC-IG/Isa Ebrahim Ali

        Global financial and economic crises now occur so often they appear to have become a systemic feature of the international economy. We need now to rethink what’s behind these crises, recognize their unique impact on developing countries, and find ways to make these emerging economies more resilient in the face of serious shocks. One approach views currency, debt, or banking crises as driven mainly by fragile, imbalanced financial systems in developing economies. But this assumes markets are self-regulating and inherently efficient, which is open to question in many instances. Another focuses on identifying structural causes and the channels through which economies are exposed to crises. This approach regards the growing export-dependence of many developing countries as increasing their vulnerability to economic and financial shocks, although experts disagree on the specifics. But rising income inequality also poses major risks. The world’s richest five percent now earn in 48 hours what the poorest earn in a year. This staggering escalation in inequality fosters inefficiency, instability, risky investment behavior, and lower overall productivity. Understanding the links between income surging inequalities and worsening financial and economic crises is central to crafting policies that build resilience and promote less volatile growth. Income inequality reduces the purchasing  Read More

      • Building resilience: The importance of disaster risk reduction | Helen Clark

        15 Aug 2012

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        Haitian workers in a UN cash for work initiative pass rocks hand to hand along a line on the hilly outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Photo: UN/Logan Abassi

        In 2011 alone, almost 30,000 people were killed in 302 disasters, and 206 million people were affected. Beyond the toll on human life, the costs of disasters were estimated at more than US$ 2 trillion over the last two decades. Earthquakes and violent weather-related catastrophes helped make 2011 the costliest year ever for response and recovery from disaster. Yet, many countries are still not investing enough in prevention and preparedness, and many development actors are not prioritizing enough such support to poor countries. The result is another stark reality of our times – that striking inequalities persist, with global disaster risk disproportionately concentrated in poorer countries with weaker governance. From a development perspective, therefore, disaster risk reduction is vital for building a more equitable and sustainable future. Making investments in prevention and preparedness, including through civil defence exercises, is a necessary part of systematic efforts to increase resilience to disaster. Five priorities identified for action are: 1) to ensure that disaster risk reduction is a national and a local priority; 2) to identify, assess, and monitor disaster risks and enhance early warning systems; 3) to use knowledge, innovation, and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels;  Read More

      • Access to technology can help prevent violent conflicts | Ozonnia Ojielo

        07 Aug 2012

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        Mobile phones and other technology provide individuals with an opportunity to gain access to information and participation. Photo: UNESCO/Ian Redmond

        The last decade has seen advances in technology that help us to understand other people’s realities and better listen to each other. Over five billion people—around 77 percent of the global population—own or have access to mobile phones worldwide and the top ten social networking sites in the world have more than 4.6 billion combined users.     As the technology to take advantage of these advances decreases in price, more people in developing countries who had no access to so much as a phone ten years ago are now able to benefit from these new tools to improve their lives; manage commerce; seek emergency assistance; advocate for their own interests; and now also take part in the prevention of violent conflicts. Peacebuilders are now taking advantage of the new possibilities to reduce conflict on a local and global scale. For example, during the 2010 constitutional referendum in Kenya UNDP-supported peace monitors were trained to collect local information and rapidly respond to messages received via text messages, enabling local peace committees to intervene and mitigate emerging conflicts. More than 16,000 text messages were sent by concerned citizens, and an estimated 200 potential incidents of violence were prevented in the Rift Valley region  Read More

      • A step forward against HIV abuses | Jeffrey O’Malley

        02 Aug 2012

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        A woman and her child at Epembe in Kaokoland, Namibia. UN Photo/Alon Reininger

        In a landmark but little noticed decision, a Namibian court ruled this week that state hospitals illegally sterilized three HIV-positive women. While the judge found no link to their HIV-positive status, his decision paves the way for legal action by other women who claim they were coerced into sterilization because they are infected with the virus that causes AIDS, as part of an effort to slow its spread in the southern African country. The women said they were given forms authorizing the procedure just before and after delivering babies by caesarean sections without being told what they were signing—while they were either in acute pain or in labor. This important decision affirms the rights of all women to the important standard of informed consent and points to the specific vulnerability of women and girls living with HIV with regard to their reproductive rights. A just-released report by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, an independent Commission convened by UNDP on behalf of the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), highlights the issues of coerced sterilization and forced abortion among HIV-positive women. The report, HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights, and Health, found that “coercive and discriminatory practices in  Read More

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