Our Perspective

      • Humanitarian challenges loom in developing Myanmar | Ashok Nigam

        31 Jul 2012

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        A young girl from Myanmar attends school at a refugee camp in eastern Bangladesh. Photo: Jared Katz, UNDP Picture This

        Myanmar is vulnerable to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. The United Nations and its partners—including national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—are working with the people of Myanmar to help build greater resilience in the face of both. The worst recent natural disaster, Cyclone Nargis, struck Myanmar on 2-3 May 2008. Around 140,000 people died and 2.4 million were severely affected. On Oct. 22, 2010, in the western coastal state of Rakhine, Cyclone Giri left 45 people dead and affected some 260,000. An earthquake on March 24, 2011, in the southern part of the Shan State, near the Thai and Lao borders, registered 6.8 on the Richter scale. These and other natural disasters have caused untold human suffering. Thousands upon thousands have had to rebuild their lives from scratch. Communal conflicts have also displaced large numbers of people. In all instances, local communities and state actors have responded first. Neighbors have heroically helped one another, and religious groups and community leaders responded instantaneously. Myanmar has learned from these disasters and communities have become more resilient. But the government now recognizes that international support can help further. As a trusted partner, the UN has delivered both developmental and humanitarian assistance in Myanmar and  Read More

      • AIDS 2012 offers hope, new responses | Emilie Pradichit & Mandeep Dhaliwal

        26 Jul 2012

        Washington—Science suggests an AIDS-free generation is within reach. We must reflect on lessons and human rights struggles of the last three decades of the AIDS response if we are to do better in delivering the best that science and innovation can offer to those most in need. More than 8 million people with HIV in poor and middle-income countries received AIDS medications last year, up from 6.6 million in 2010. Nearly 60 percent of the 1.5 million pregnant women living with HIV in poor countries also received medications in 2011, so their babies are less likely to be infected. Since this epidemic began, we have grappled with social and structural inequalities fuelling HIV. Presenters at the International AIDS conference this week called for enabling legal environments and urgent action against stigma, marginalization, discrimination, and criminalization on the basis of HIV status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Recommendations by the UNDP-led Global Commission on HIV & the Law report, “Risks, Rights & Health,” address many of these issues. Increasingly we hear calls for the abolition of laws criminalizing HIV transmission, exposure, and non-disclosure. At a session convened by The Lancet, data showed that criminalization of male homosexual practice was associated in African  Read More

      • Women Gain at Rio+20: Securing the Future We Want by Securing Gender Equality | Winnie Byanyima

        23 Jul 2012

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        The global development agenda is undergoing drastic changes, so how can we ensure that gender issues are adequately addressed in these processes? Photo: UNDP South Sudan

        The global development agenda is undergoing drastic changes, so how can we ensure that gender issues are adequately addressed in these processes? Rio+20 reaffirmed the goals of building an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable world. The representatives of more than 100 governments made over 690 voluntary commitments, including five specifically on gender equality.  But critical questions remain: Did Rio+20 adequately represent all global citizens? Will Rio+20 advance women’s rights worldwide? The outcome document references gender equality in 44 paragraphs. World leaders affirmed that gender equality and women’s participation “are important for effective action on all aspects of sustainable development.” The outcome document encourages donors and non-governmental organizations to fully integrate commitments and considerations on gender equality and women’s empowerment in development programmes and policies. The document made a “call for the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.” Despite proposals for powerful language that would have backed gender equality and women’s empowerment outcomes during the negotiation process, most were lost to numerous rounds of editing. The Rio+20 outcome document has been criticized as being too soft on gender equality. Women’s organizations have expressed disappointment with  Read More

      • E-governance can help boost democracy in developing countries | A. Degryse-Blateau

        19 Jul 2012

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        UNDP supports 222 e-governance and access to information projects in 92 countries.

        Two rights stand out in all open democratic societies: freedom of expression and access to information. E-governance—as in electronic, or technology-driven, governance—is about both of these. Efficient e-governance is an innovative and transparent way to deliver government services and exchange information with citizens in a convenient and transparent way, saving time and money. The mass digital migration from personal computers to mobile phone applications also brings new opportunities to boost e-governance. Over five billion people—around 77 percent of the global population—own or have access to mobile phones worldwide. In regions with no electricity, computers or internet access, mobile phones are increasingly helping spread mobile government, banking or health. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) supports 222 e-governance and access to information projects in 92 countries. More than 20 percent focus on the use of Information and Communications Technology to enhance citizens’ access to public information and 18 percent to deliver services more effectively. And there is a world of knowledge to be shared. In Korea, which won the UN’s global e-governance 2010 and 2011 awards, citizens can petition government, complain about government services, pay their taxes and apply for patents online. Businesses can get goods through customs quickly at a lower cost  Read More

      • A Visionary for a Better Tomorrow - Celebrating Nelson Mandela | Helen Clark

        18 Jul 2012

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        Nelson Mandela addresses the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall. UN Photo/P. Sudhakaran

        Nelson Mandela International Day is an occasion for us all to celebrate the vision of this extraordinary man for freedom, peace and justice; his service to humanity; and the hope for a better tomorrow which he represents to this day. Many in my generation in my country were inspired by Nelson Mandela’s vision, and were appalled and disgusted by the apartheid system in South Africa which grossly discriminated against people on the grounds of race. Dismantling that system and building a new free and democratic South Africa is the cause to which Mr. Mandela has devoted his life. In faraway New Zealand, the struggle for freedom in South Africa divided our small nation for many years. The major link between the two countries was rugby football, with the two national teams usually considered the best in the world. But South Africa’s team had a fundamental flaw – it was racially selected. In New Zealand, Maori players had long been prominent at all levels of the game. Yet up to and including the All Black tour of South Africa in 1960, Maori players were left at home when the All Blacks played there. A citizens’ movement to oppose that injustice and eventually  Read More

      • South Sudan: Reflections on one year after independence | Lise Grande

        11 Jul 2012

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        Computer training programme for women in South Sudan. Photo: UNDP South Sudan.

        This has been an impressive year, but a difficult one. Let’s first recognize South Sudan’s achievements. South Sudanese are building their country from scratch. During the six-year Comprehensive Peace Agreement period, South Sudanese made huge progress. Nowhere else have so few people working from such a low base done so much. 29 ministries, 21 commissions, ten state governments, a national parliament and ten state legislatures were established. More than two million people returned to South Sudan, the number of children attending primary school tripled, measles was reduced from epidemic levels and 6,000 kilometers of roads were opened, connecting major cities and towns. Despite this progress, the state building exercise facing South Sudan is the largest of this generation. The human development indicators are amongst the worst in the world, with 80 percent of the population living on the equivalent of less than 1 USD a day. 4.7 million people are estimated to be food insecure this year. Less than half of the civil servants have the qualifications needed for their post. Much more needs to be done to ensure that proposed measures of accountability and transparency deter any mismanagement of public resources. During this first year of statehood, the UN agencies  Read More

      • Renewing commitments for Afghanistan’s sustainable development | Rebeca Grynspan

        10 Jul 2012

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        Today, more than 20 percent of public civil servants in Afghanistan are women, and girls make up 34 percent of the seven million children in school. Photo: UNDP

        The international community and the Government of Afghanistan have just agreed on how to engage further in Afghanistan. This was a crucial outcome at a conference I recently took part in, gathering representatives from over 70 countries, civil society and international organizations in Tokyo on 8 July. Participants decided to renew and monitor mutual commitments for Afghanistan’s long-term social and economic development by pledging US$16 billion in aid through 2015, with the Afghan Government pledging to tackle corruption resolutely. This is a vital boost as Afghanistan continues its path towards assuming full responsibility for its future—including its security, governance and development. The country has made huge strides comparing to its own recent past, when girls did not go to school at all, few boys got past third grade and incomes were at the bottom rungs of international subsistence levels.  Afghanistan has experienced a four-fold improvement in the number of expected years of schooling and per capita income tripled in the past 10 years. Women have seen advancements. Today, more than 20 percent of public civil servants are women, and girls make up 34 percent of the seven million children in school. From 2000-2011, adolescent fertility rates decreased 40 percent and maternal  Read More

      • Preparing for Disasters: A key to Development | Jordan Ryan

        03 Jul 2012

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        In the last decade, almost one million people have been killed by disasters and more than one trillion dollars have been lost. Yet only 1% of international aid is spent to minimise the impact of these disasters. #ActNow and join our campaign!

        Since the year 2000 one million people have lost their lives to disasters caused by natural hazards, and another one billion have suffered from the consequences of these catastrophes. The vast majority of those affected live in developing countries. Studies show that the poor of the world are exposed to much greater risk from natural hazards. Disaster risk reduction needs to be at the center of development. Every dollar invested in minimizing risk saves some seven dollars in economic losses from disasters. Investment in disaster risk reduction remains low around the world. It is estimated that between 2000 and 2009, donors provided the world’s 40 poorest countries with US $363 billion in development assistance, yet only one percent of this sum was allocated to disaster prevention. In addition to investing in risk reduction, attention needs to focus on building resilience in the face of recurrent disasters. Communities that repeatedly invest and reinvest in poorly planned projects will face a continuous cycle of recovery. To build back better requires an approach that embraces knowledge, an understanding of context and a willingness to improve. When planned well, recovery efforts can help restore and support development efforts, transforming communities while repairing and addressing immediate  Read More

      • Rio+20: Health is a sustainable development issue | Olav Kjørven

        22 Jun 2012

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        Technicians testing blood for HIV in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

        The global development framework is undergoing fundamental changes. Human challenges associated with climate change, decent work and access to quality social services are increasingly converging in the world’s developed and developing countries. The answers to these challenges revolve around the adoption of holistic, multi-sectoral national approaches that make use of best international practices, irrespective of where they come from. Nowhere are these new realities more apparent than in the health sector. Non-communicable diseases—cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases—are posing growing challenges for upper- and middle-income countries, as well as lower-income and least developed countries. In responding to the changing nature of global public health challenges associated with non-communicable diseases, I have three messages to share. First: many non-communicable diseases are a sustainable development issue. Up to ¼ of the disease burden could be prevented by reducing air, water and chemical pollution.   Second: Now more than ever, integration is the name of the game. Economic growth, environmental preservation and social equity can no longer be pursued as conflicting agendas. Let us look at the question of how to provide access to electricity for the 1.3 billion people who don’t have it worldwide? There is a carbon constraint that suggests that creating energy access  Read More

      • Universal access to energy: Getting the framework right | Veerle Vandeweerd

        19 Jun 2012

        Improving access to affordable and sustainable energy services is absolutely central to broader development efforts to reduce poverty, and improve education, health, gender equality and environmental sustainability. Globally, 1.4 billion people across the globe lack access to electricity (85% of whom live in rural areas), and 2.7 billion people (approximately 40% of the global population) rely on solid fuels for cooking and heating. Currently, the largest concentrations of the ‘‘energy poor’’ (that is, people who are both poor and lack access to sustainable modern forms of energy) are in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Recent projections suggest that the problem will not only persist, but in fact deepen in the longer term without an international recognition and commitment to effect change. The challenge of increasing access to sustainable and cost-effective energy for the poor has to be met by setting new and bold targets for financing and implementation at the global and country level. Given its capacity as the lead development organization of the UN, UNDP is supporting the publication of a Report on ‘‘Universal access to energy: Getting the framework right’’. This report is the unique outcome of collaboration amongst experts focused on addressing key issues emanating from Africa and  Read More

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