Our Perspective

      • The world’s two top economic powers turn to an emerged Latin America | Heraldo Muñoz

        07 Jun 2013

        Participants in a micro-credit and skill-training programme in Bolivia tend to a sweet-onion harvest. Programmes like this one have helped thousands in Latin America emerge from extreme poverty. (Photo: UNDP Bolivia/Bolivia Produce)

        In the last six weeks, United States President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and President of China Xi Jinping all have visited Latin America and the Caribbean. Far from being a coincidence, the leaders of the world’s first and second largest economies are turning to a transformed Latin America and the Caribbean—defined increasingly by opportunity, growth, democracy and optimism. Yes, it’s the economy. In 2012, U.S. exports to the Caribbean, South and Central America totaled $205 billion, compared to $110 billion in exports to China. US exports to Mexico alone reached $216 billion last year. The bottom line is that Latin America has already emerged—and is not tied to any particular external partner. Brazil is the world’s seventh-largest economy; Argentina, Brazil and Mexico hold seats in the G-20; Chile and Mexico have joined developed countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).   Over the last decade, it has become a region of middle-income countries growing faster than the global average, reducing trade deficits thanks to a commodities boom , improved investments—and to growing domestic markets. The region has lifted 58 million people out of poverty and into the middle class since 2002. And despite some setbacks, the  Read More

      • Gearing up to support national transformation in Myanmar | Toily Kurbanov

        07 Jun 2013

        Micro-financed projects in Bangan Townships, Myanmar. (Photo: Mark Garten/UN Photo)

        After two decades of restricted operations and 18 months of unprecedented and ongoing national reform, UNDP — along with our partners and other international organizations such as the World Bank — is now poised to help Myanmar lift itself out of widespread poverty and isolation following 18 months of unprecedented opening and reform.   The road ahead is long and filled with challenges, but the promise and potential—given Myanmar’s large, young population, vast natural resources, strategic position next to emerging economies of China, India and South East Asia, and strong commitment to reform—are encouraging.   UNDP has worked in Myanmar since the 1960s, but in 1993 our mandate was restricted to interventions at the grassroots level, sidestepping the regime. We helped communities directly with livelihood support and infrastructure projects, such as building hurricane-resistant housing.   Now we’re engaging the government to help sustain the momentum behind its political and socio-economic reforms.   Our new country programme includes a major focus on responsive, transparent, democratic governance—a central component of UNDP’s work worldwide—in three priority areas.   The first supports institutional strengthening of local governments and civil society, while providing livelihood support and poverty reduction in border and ceasefire areas.   The second comprises  Read More

      • Development gains at risk without rule of law in Post-2015 agenda | Magdy Martinez-Soliman

        04 Jun 2013

        A woman waits to be served by one of UNDP Iraq’s Access to Justice legal help desks in Erbil, Northern Iraq. (Photo: UNDP Iraq)

        Rule of law is part of the structure of all societies. It reflects the shared notion that human dignity and justice matter, and that institutions and behaviours need to be geared towards the respect of such dignity, justice and fairness. Our field experience showcases how important well-structured justice systems and the rule of law are to deliver social services effectively and fight corruption.  Development without citizen’s participation and public accountability tends to be short-lived and fragile with a higher risk of corruption, repression and social conflict. Our role is to reinforce collaborations to support our national partners in their efforts to provide a more inclusive and just future for those in need. Accelerating progress in the remaining 1,000 days to the MDG’s target date is key. We are also supporting a global and open conversation on how the next development agenda should look after 2015 by engaging with people around the world. The energy and interest they are unleashing is unprecedented. People want to be heard. They want to have a say in setting the agenda, monitoring results and holding public officials accountable. For example, parliamentarians and civil society organizations in Dhaka and Manila, as well as national consultations with civil  Read More

      • On World No Tobacco Day, don’t use as directed | Dudley Tarlton

        31 May 2013

        A young man smokes in Timor-Leste. Tobacco use kills more people in Asia and the Pacific than in any other region. (Photo: UN Photo/Martine Perret)

        “Use as directed” generally suggests "do as the manufacturer tells you and you’ll be safe." Tobacco, used as directed, kills about 6 million people yearly, roughly half those who use it. That includes about 600,000 people sickened by second-hand smoke. May 31 marks World No Tobacco Day, and this year’s theme is “Ban tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship”— which are proven to increase tobacco use. Tobacco is the leading global cause of preventable death worldwide – and it kills more people in Asia and the Pacific than in any other region. In Southeast Asia, an estimated 1.3 million people die every year from tobacco-related disease. In the Western Pacific region alone, two people die every minute. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that tobacco use killed 100 million people in the last century and is on track to kill 1 billion people more by the end of this century. While high-income countries have historically consumed the most tobacco, low- and middle-income countries are closing the gap: Western European cigarette consumption has fallen by more than 25 percent since 1990, but African and Middle Eastern consumption has surged 57 percent during the same period. In Nepal, where UNDP recently took part in  Read More

      • Post-2015: One development agenda for everyone | Olav Kjørven

        30 May 2013

        Nearly 750,000 people from 194 countries have expressed their views so far on the future development agenda after 2015. Photo: UNDP Vietnam

        A “single, universal development agenda” built around “five transformational shifts” sits at the heart of the report handed over on May 30th to UN Secretary General (SG) Ban Ki-moon by the President of Indonesia on behalf the 27-member independent High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda. The panel, co-chaired by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, was established by the SG to inform his thinking on a bold but practical vision for the world we want. For the past year, the panel has deliberated what that jigsaw puzzle could look like, and how best to put it together. The resulting 80 pages give excellent food for thought. “It would be a mistake to simply tear up the Millennium Development Goals and start from scratch,” writes the panel in its report,“A New Global Partnership: eradicate poverty and transform economies through sustainable development”, (PDF) recognizing the difference it has made to have eight, simple goals to which everyone can subscribe. There can be no stronger basis for a new framework than showing that the existing one delivers, which allows us to lay the ground for even more ambition. The Report  Read More

      • We must rethink the role of aid for a new era | Jonathan Glennie

        29 May 2013

        The nature of international development co-operation is changing, fast.   It’s time for us to think more about how traditional “aid,” or official development assistance, fits in to the new landscape. Countries that recently reached middle-income status are taking centre stage, providing “horizontal” or “South-South” co-operation with other developing countries. Yet they also contain most of the world’s poor, so they still need support. This is one "known known," to borrow from Donald Rumsfeld, amid much uncertainty. "Known unknowns" are things we know we don’t yet fully understand, like the changing geography of power and poverty. Will the middle-income countries continue to rise? In the past, some fell back to lower-income status when shocks hit. Could there be a new middle-income trap, in which countries are forced to lower wages to compete, making the step up to higher value production even harder?   In his famous quote, Rumsfeld neglected to mention "unknown knowns." By this I mean things we think we know, but we’re actually wrong about. These include key aspects of the dominant (neoliberal) development model, now being challenged more than ever, such as the role of the private sector, the importance of agricultural development, regulation of the financial markets  Read More

      • Bangladesh tragedy exposes need for responsible globalization | Ajay Chhibber

        28 May 2013

        In Bangladesh, UNDP-supported local Community Development Committees help people establish small businesses such as weaving on a traditional hand loom. (Photo: UNDP Bangladesh)

        As capital moves to find the cheapest locations for production in a race to the bottom, the ugly side of globalization is brought home to the world through horrific pictures of the tragic collapse of the Bangladesh textile factory. Poor regulations and standards are widespread in sweat shops across the developing world. Brand name buyers hide behind the fact they are unaware of the working conditions under which their cheaply sourced products are being produced. The Bangladesh tragedy shows how costly it is to ignore safety and working condition standards, when thousands are packed into unsafe buildings in order to reduce costs and increase profits. The government is now considering allowing unionisation and raising the minimum wage. Working in a textile sweat shop was a way out of rural poverty for thousands of Bangladeshi women, as is the case in many other parts of the developing world. But can we not do better by ensuring a minimum safety and decent working conditions for such workers? A few cents extra for the clothes we buy in fancy department stores is a price worth paying for those who died in Bangladesh and for the millions who toil under very harsh conditions in similar  Read More

      • Post-2015: Are women and men equally shaping future development goals? | Tracy Vaughan Gough

        27 May 2013

        A woman joins her two male co-workers at a brick field in West Bengal, India. (Photo: Joydeep Mukherjee/UNDP Photo Contest)

        Roughly half of the 700,000 people who have taken part so far in the UN’s global discussions about the future development framework are women and girls. Demand is increasing for both an individual goal on gender equality which would tackle underlying discrimination and for more emphasis on gender issues in general. This is partly because men and women do not always share the same concerns, as is illustrated by the MY World global survey. Data shows that both sexes agree on the top development priorities for their lives — a good education, better healthcare and an honest and responsive government — but a key difference is that women rank equality between men and women in ninth place whereas men rank it second to last, in 15th place.   Differences have also emerged during the 88 national consultations that are taking place around the world. In Kosovo for example, women said they were concerned about discrimination and social attitudes toward them, whereas men focused more on their status and health issues. In Egypt, female participants highlighted how violence against women and girls is used as a means to limit their public engagement.   Gender issues came up in many other Post-2015 platforms. A meeting  Read More

      • Africa's renaissance deserves continued support | Helen Clark

        24 May 2013

        Women in Burundi recycle waste as part of a programme to reintegrate returnees and ex-combatants into society. (Photo: UNDP Burundi)

        Many African countries have made significant progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.  Many more children, including girls, are getting an education than ever before. The proportion of people living in extreme poverty is falling.  The numbers of women elected to legislatures is growing, and the tide is turning on HIV. Meanwhile, there has been a rise in trade, investment and development cooperation with emerging economies, which have been successful in the fight against poverty. Over the past decade, nearly half the financing of infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa was provided by governments and regional funds from elsewhere in the South. The rise of Africa is thus associated with a rising South overall. A significant number of developing countries have transformed themselves into dynamic emerging economies with growing influence, and the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has fallen from 43 percent to 22 percent. This good news has been the result of pragmatic economic strategies, innovative social policies, and the willingness of proactive developing states to invest in physical infrastructure and human development. Africa’s battle against poverty and hunger is not yet over, but at UNDP we are confident  it can and will be won. The challenge now is  Read More

      • Indigenous peoples’ political inclusion enriches democracy in Latin America | Heraldo Muñoz

        23 May 2013

        "Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions." - Article 5 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (UN Photo)

        One of the most significant roles of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is to help boost indigenous peoples’ political participation. It is crucial to ensure that all people participate in political life and are active decision-makers—especially indigenous peoples. This is essential to overcome historical inequalities and discrimination. In Latin America and the Caribbean there are approximately 50 million indigenous peoples, about 10 percent of the total population. In Peru and Guatemala indigenous peoples account for almost half of the population, while in Bolivia they are more than 60 percent. Even though in Mexico indigenous peoples cover only 10 percent of the total population, Mexico and Peru contain the region’s largest indigenous population: about 11 million people. Mexico, for example, is advancing the ‘coexistence’ of indigenous peoples’ legal systems with the national legal system. It is not an easy process. The indigenous peoples’ representation at local and national levels, including dispute resolution methods, can differ widely and also spark tensions. However, indigenous peoples have shown that they are aware of how modern democracies work, as well as the limitations imposed to their political participation. For this reason, indigenous peoples have been adapting their traditional knowledge systems and their institutions  Read More

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