Our Perspective

      • Where do human rights belong in development?

        14 Jun 2011

        Women benefiting from a law in India that made the right to work an enforceable right. Photo: UNDP

        While the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and human rights are often thought of as separate concepts, synergies exist in practice. Human rights approaches seek to address the root causes of development problems. As former Secretary-General Kofi Annan once said, “Human rights can be found at the heart of every major challenge facing humanity.” At the same time, human development embraces the range of social, economic, cultural, and political rights as defined by the international community. Human development is about expanding the choices people have to lead lives which they value, the resources to make those choices meaningful, and the security to ensure that those choices can be exercised in peace. Making these links between the human development approach and human rights instruments and international laws is consistent with the approach set out in the Millennium Declaration. The words of the Millennium Declaration are clear. “We will spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development.” Read the full Declaration By signing that document in 2000, Heads of State and Government committed themselves to upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;  Read More

      • Boosting progress on the Millennium Development Goals

        10 Jun 2011

        Ensuring all children get access to primary education is the target of MDG2. Photo: Picture This/P.P. Saha

        Since 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have served as a rallying cry for governments and peoples around the world. Without doubt, significant progress has been made. On average, people almost everywhere live longer and healthier lives, are better educated, and endure less poverty than ever before.  Additionally, according to the World Bank’s 2011 Global Monitoring Report on the MDGs, half of the countries now falling short of the MDG targets are not far away from them. Yet we are all aware of the obstacles in the way. Progress towards the Goals and targets has often been slow and uneven. Moving forward, development actors can do more to accelerate and sustain MDG progress. Narrow sectoral strategies must be replaced by a focus on the drivers of transformational change and by maximising the synergies across different strands of development work. For example, we need to back interventions which will have the greatest multiplier effects across the MDGs. UNDP identified a range of these in its 2010 International Assessment on achieving the MDGs. Initiatives which empower women are a powerful driver of progress across the Goals. Similarly, expanding access to energy can simultaneously help keep children in school, enable health services to function  Read More

      • Charting the future course of the global AIDS response

        09 Jun 2011

        Helen Clark at the 2011 High-Level Meeting on AIDS. Photo: UN Photo/Eskineer Debebe

        While the global annual rate of new HIV infections declined by nearly 25 per cent from 2001-2009, the epidemic continues to outpace the response. Two people were newly infected for each individual who started antiretroviral (ARV) therapy in 2009. Read the full report "AIDS at 30: Nations at the Crossroads". Thirty years into the epidemic, how do we renew HIV prevention to meet the target set for zero new infections by 2015? To get to zero new infections, the world needs a massive focus on prevention. First, we need to get rid of stigma and discrimination. We need to tackle the health and social inequalities, the myths, and the violence which drive the HIV/AIDS epidemic and stand in the way of effective prevention and treatment. Second, successful prevention needs strong leadership at all levels to bring HIV out of the shadows, to encourage people to make responsible choices, and to drive interventions which will meet the needs of vulnerable groups.  Third, legal frameworks need to accommodate effective responses to HIV. Where human rights are not upheld, genuine universal access to services is impossible.  The Global Commission on HIV and the Law convened by UNDP on behalf of the UNAIDS family is compiling  Read More

      • A new environment for adapting to climate change

        03 Jun 2011

        A local farmer harvests sorghum in the Sudan
        A local farmer harvests sorghum in the Sudan. Photo: UN Photo/Fred Noy

        Climate change disproportionately affects the most vulnerable communities in the world. The impacts of extreme weather events and natural disasters hurt poor countries the most where lack of resources and weaker infrastructures leave people less equipped to respond and protect themselves. Read UNDP Chief Helen Clark's remarks on adaptation at the United Nations 2010 Climate Change Conference in Cancun. Even gradual changes can be a huge additional burden on these countries, increasing the difficulties people face to simply secure food, water and a basic livelihood. Niger is one such country struggling to adapt to climate change. With 80 percent  of its territory covered by the Sahara desert and the semi-arid Sahel zone, Niger has been hard hit by frequent droughts with a dry season that lasts for 9 months of the year, putting rural livelihoods at severe risk.  Three years ago UNDP began supporting Niger, along with 19 other African countries, to develop strategies to help prevent some of the worst impacts of a changing climate. The US$92.1 million Africa Adaptation Programme, funded by the Government of Japan, aims to support countries like Niger create a stronger environment to prepare for, and adapt to, climate change. By sharing knowledge and identifying  Read More

      • Pulling Latin America out of the “inequality trap”

        25 May 2011

        Urban Housing in Mexico. Photo: UNHabitat

        When we talk about development in Latin America, there are many reasons to be positive.  While the global recession left many developing countries with greater challenges in striving to reach the MDGs, Latin American and Caribbean economies have recovered more rapidly than expected reflecting the region’s economic resilience. On a different front, the region leads the world in social programmes that give financial aid to people in poverty on condition for maintaining children in school and keeping up with vaccines and medical checkups, a huge boost to reduce poverty in 18 countries in the region.  In spite of strong economic growth and advances in tackling poverty, high and persistent levels of inequality continue to be a great challenge. While the region is not the poorest in the world, it is the most unequal, as measured by the Gini coefficient. "Ten of the fifteen most unequal countries in the world are in Latin America", said Head of UNDP, Helen Clark at the Fourth Latin America Ministerial Forum on Development. "Our priority must be to take the fight against poverty even further and make inroads into reducing inequality". While economic growth is important for long-term development progress, it does not automatically translate into  Read More

      • Indigenous peoples’ contributions to human development

        19 May 2011

        Delegate at United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Photo: UNDP

        This week 1,500 indigenous representatives have gathered in New York to discuss indigenous issues  related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. The 10th United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is an opportunity to reflect on the progress made in realizing the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples everywhere. It is also a chance to focus in on what can be done collectively to address the pressing priorities that remain. Expanding the rights, voice, participation and opportunities of the world’s 370 million indigenous people is essential to generate the kind of inclusive development that can build just, diverse and cohesive societies worldwide. Rebeca Grynspan, Associate Administrator at UNDP, opened the forum on Monday remarking, “Human development is not possible where discrimination, injustice, and social exclusion prevail, and where there is a lack of recognition that all groups bring value to society with their different worldviews.” Encouraging more effective dialogue and consultative process and strengthening access to justice remains a priority. This will help to bridge the cultural divide that gives rise to discrimination and exclusion and will increase the voice of indigenous people’s decision-making at every level. It will also help to  Read More

      • Changing our approach to the environment

        16 May 2011

        Solar solutions for a family in Mongolia. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

        Conventional models of development have done and continue to do huge damage to our planet. Productive soils are being lost to erosion and land degradation; water supplies are increasingly scarce or contaminated; and climate change is a present and pressing reality.  Business as usual cannot continue. Transformational solutions are needed to put us on a sustainable course, and achieving that will mean turning the old development models on their head. To start with, gone are the days when clearing the world’s great forests for other land uses can be regarded as synonymous with development.  Nearly 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from tropical forest degradation and outright deforestation.  Far sighted governments, including those of Indonesia and Norway, are working to tackle climate change by put REDD+ into action - the UN’s collaborative programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries – that  links development gains to forest preservation. But governments can’t produce the needed results alone. Win-win outcomes need to provide gains for local communities, and the private sector needs to be on board too.  In Brazil, for example, the soy industry has agreed not to purchase soybeans produced on rainforest lands deforested since  Read More

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