Our Perspective

      • Road to Rio: Building a sustainable future we all want | Rebeca Grynspan

        22 Mar 2012

        image
        Sustainability needs to bring to the environmental dimension the economic and social objectives for green, inclusive and resilient growth. Development must be people-centered, promoting rights, opportunities, choices, and dignity. Photo: UNDP

        We have advanced in our understanding that development is not only about economic growth. Sustainability needs to bring to the environmental dimension the economic and social objectives for green, inclusive and resilient growth. Development must be people-centered, promoting rights, opportunities, choices, and dignity.  We need to empower women, youth and communities. Both the Report of the Global Sustainability Panel and the 2011 Human Development Report , and the United Nations Secretary-General  make a strong case for better integrating the economic, social, and environmental dimensions for sustainable development. 20 years ago in Rio these same three pillars where clearly stated as well. So the question is: What should be the priorities in Rio+20 to advance progress in sustainable development?  1 The dialogue needs to be inclusive - the environmental community, the social community, the private sector and other partners should be involved actively. 2 The integration of the environmental, social and economic pillars while engaging diverse actors - from energy companies to community groups - should be visibly included in the action plan. The Secretary General's initiative on Sustainable Energy for All is a good and important example for this. 3 To tackle complex and interrelated global challenges, countries need fair, effective  Read More

      • How to address surging violence in the Caribbean | Heraldo Muñoz

        20 Mar 2012

        image
        Twelve of the 20 most violent countries in the world are in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is home to 8.5 percent of the world’s population but accounts for 27 percent of all homicides. Photo: UNDP

        Twelve of the 20 most violent countries in the world are in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is home to 8.5 percent of the world’s population but accounts for 27 percent of all homicides. The consequences are devastating, as UNDP’s first Caribbean Human Development Report and an earlier report on human development in Central America show. The report Human Development and the Shift to Better Citizen Security showed that homicide rates have increased substantially in the last 12 years across the Caribbean —with the exception of Barbados and Suriname— while falling or leveling off elsewhere. The study covering Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago showed that a great deal of the violence stems from the transnational organized crime which has been active in the Caribbean. While murders in Jamaica dropped after the report’s completion to 1,124 in 2011, a seven-year low, the country has the highest murder rate in the Caribbean and the third-highest worldwide, only surpassed by El Salvador and Honduras. Lives are lost and damaged. Productivity, social capital—and the trust of citizens in their national institutions—are also hindered. Crime deters investment, diverts youths from jobs to jail, and absorbs funding that  Read More

      • Why Equity and Sustainability Matter for Human Development | Helen Clark

        17 Mar 2012

        image
        Dried up river bed in Rayer Bazar, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Inclusion and equity are indispensable for sustainable development. Photo: Mohammad Rakibul Hasan/UNDP

        Since 1990, the baseline year against which we measure progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. The world is within reach of seeing every child enrolled in primary school, and many fewer lives are being lost to hunger and disease. Overall people are healthier, wealthier, and better educated than ever before. Yet aggregate figures disguise some inconvenient truths: that ending poverty is a vast and unfinished agenda; that inequality is increasing in many countries; and that our planet’s eco-systems are under considerable stress.  The question which needs to be addressed is: What do we want our common future to look like? Uppermost in our minds must be the importance of integrated decision-making which seeks to weave together the economic, social, and environmental strands of sustainable development. Expanding access to sustainable energy offers a good example of how to advance all three pillars of sustainable development simultaneously. Living standards can rise, economic growth can be pursued, and environmental balance is maintained. Goals of equity and sustainability are advanced. Inclusion and equity are indispensable requirements for sustainable development. Just as development cannot be only about economic growth, nor can sustainability be only about protecting the  Read More

      • Remembering and learning from Fukushima | Kamal Kishore

        12 Mar 2012

        image
        Japan has developed disaster risk reduction systems, an investment that has paid off in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Photo: Patrick Fuller/ IFRC

        One year ago, a major earthquake struck off Japan's northeastern coast, causing a devastating tsunami. A massive tidal wave followed, overwhelming some of the tsunami protection systems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, killing thousands of people and forcing 100,000 more from their homes. While radiation at the nuclear site has now been contained, it will take years to decommission the plant and gauge the radiation impact it has had. Three simultaneous major disasters—earthquake, tsunami, and radiation leak—this was a crisis without precedent. Japanese authorities drew sharp criticism from domestic constituencies. But we must recognize that some parts of the Japanese disaster management system worked well, preventing losses of an inconceivable magnitude as might have occurred in many other countries. In earthquake-stricken areas, trains came properly to a halt, electrical systems shut down, people were evacuated, lives and property largely survived. Most of the damage stemmed from the tsunami and nuclear leakage. The lessons from Japan are complex:  Prevention pays. Japan has developed disaster risk reduction systems – building codes, systems for implementation of buildings codes, emergency response systems, and public awareness of disasters, painstakingly over several decades.  This investment has paid off.  Take Indonesia as another  example reinforcing this message:  Read More

      • Asia needs more of the 'fair sex' on political front | Ajay Chhibber

        09 Mar 2012

        image
        Image from UNDP's documentary "The Glass Ceiling,” shining light on political inequality. Photo: UNDP Thailand

        The political empowerment of women is critical to human development and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Worldwide, women continue to be under-represented in national parliaments, occupying less than 20% of seats and accounting for just 18% of government ministers. The Asia-Pacific region has the lowest percentages of women in national legislatures of any region outside of the Arab states 18.2% in Asia and in the Pacific just over 15%. However, if you exclude Australia and New Zealand, it drops to just 5%. The winds of change though are blowing, though. The Asia-Pacific region is growing fast and more people are reaping the rewards of development. The gender gap in school enrolments is closing and there are many examples of women outnumbering men entering university. But what good does education do when it is not met with opportunity? To achieve political equality, we must give women the support they need to develop their full potential: we must empower women to see themselves as leaders. Social, political, economic and legal barriers have hindered participation at all levels of government. To make gender equality a political reality, governments need to craft policies and programmes that build the economic power of women, promote  Read More

      • On Women’s Day, Remember Our Arab Sisters | Amat Al Alim Alsoswa

        07 Mar 2012

        image
        Progress toward social justice and dignity will move only as fast as progress in empowering women. Photo: UNDP

        Arab women have fought bravely over the last year to demand dignity and new freedoms. And their courage has been noted: In December, my Yemeni sister Tawakkol Karman became the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Prize for Peace, in recognition of her principled democratic activism. But launching transitions was the easy part. Across the region, Arab women are realizing that while moves toward democracy can bring hope for long-suppressed rights, they can also unveil deep-seated discrimination that threatens to set women back. In Tunisia, admirable efforts by the interim government to achieve parity in the Constituent Assembly elected last October were thwarted as most parties buried the names of female candidates at the bottom of electoral lists. In Egypt, where a 12 percent quota for women’s representation was scrapped in the early days of transition, the new 508-seat People’s Assembly includes only 12 women—less than 3 percent.  And last week Libyans celebrated one of their first democratic elections, for the local council in Misrata. The result? Twenty-eight men, zero women. What’s more, women activists have faced harassment—not only by security forces but also by men who oppose to their presence in public life. In several countries, some newly empowered  Read More

      • Rwanda: Gains made against poverty, a lesson for others | Auke Lootsma

        27 Feb 2012

        image
        Building Capacity in Rwanda. Photo: UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi

        Rwanda’s latest data release this month shows enormous improvement in the living standards of citizens over the past five years, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight internationally-agreed goals aimed at reducing poverty and improving education, health, gender equality and environmental sustainability by 2015. Over the past half a decade, Rwanda has posted an average annual growth of real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 8.4 percent, driven mainly by higher productivity in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Critically, the poor have benefited from this growth spurt.  Rwandans have developed their own homegrown initiatives in order to tackle poverty at the most local level. The “one-cow-per-family” programme, just to name one, provides families with milk for consumption and what is left over is sold for profit, improving nutrition and income at the household level.     Through government-led efforts the poverty rate fell from 56.7 percent in 2006 to 44.9 percent in 2011. If maintained over the longer term, this annual poverty reduction rate of 2.4 percent could put Rwanda in the company of Asian Tiger economies such as China, Vietnam and Thailand that have been able over many years to lift millions out of poverty while sustaining growth. There has  Read More