Our Perspective

      • Volunteering the future: A call to arms

        16 Oct 2014

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        (Photo: Zaven Khachikyan/UNDP in Armenia)

        How does volunteering make a difference? These days, we are trying to do development differently: to partner with less usual suspects for outside insights, and tap into local energy and initiatives. The ethos of volunteerism is exactly the same – it is not a supplement to the work we do; it is a natural component within it. And with whom do we partner up to do this? The answer, of course, is young people. They are the natural choice. Every year, over 6,300 UN Volunteers are mobilized to help build peace and bolster sustainable development in 130 countries worldwide. It’s a challenging task but one to which the UN Volunteers are wholly committed. During a recent visit to the UNDP Regional Centre in Istanbul, we discussed at length the many natural synergies between the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and our development work in Europe and Central Asia. We agreed that for UNV and for UNDP, the critical element is inclusion. To be truly inclusive, we will have to work harder to reach women, minorities, and other vulnerable groups. Volunteerism can be an essential part of that reach. Today, we have the largest cohort of youth in human history. Fifty percent  Read More

      • Questioning the ‘feminisation of development’ and the business logic

        18 Aug 2014

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        A PARTICIPANT in A WOMEN ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT PROGRAMME IN UPPER EGYPT. Photo: HEEWOONG KIM/undp.

        ‘Feminisation of development’ is a fancy phrase referring to the recent trend of seeing women as both beneficiaries and agents of change in development. This has become a popular approach and many of our programmes such as micro-loans, or skills trainings for women fit into this category. This new role is bolstered by a so-called ‘smart business’ logic. Based on this view, women’s empowerment is not only a rights or equity issue, but is also a good investment. UNDP and other UN agencies have, to a degree, subscribed to this logic saying that empowering women leads to better health, education and development overall; and many  of our programmes proved to be quite effective in producing results. For instance, the Conditional Cash Transfers programme provided to mothers in Latin America reduced inequality by 21 percent in Brazil/Mexico and 15 percent in Chile. An initiative targeting ultra-poor female-headed households in Bangladesh raised income by 36 percent and food security by 42 percent. But despite such success, there is mounting opposition against this trend, surprisingly, from the feminist schools. Sylvia Chant, a prominent gender and development scholar, strongly argues against this approach stating: “Women are enlisted as foot soldiers to serve in battles whose aims  Read More

      • Making sense of the world we live in: The development contribution

        08 Aug 2014

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        South Sudanese refugees in a Refugee Settlement in Northern Uganda. Photo: F. NOY/ UNHCR

        It’s hard to remember a time when more crises were jostling for space in the headline news, or when the world’s leading diplomats, like Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN Secretary General, were engaged in shuttle diplomacy on so many issues simultaneously. Top of mind by late last month were the conflicts in Gaza and eastern Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Mali, Nigeria. Meeting the costs of humanitarian relief is proving overwhelming. By the end of June this year, UN coordinated appeals for humanitarian crises had already reached $16.4 billion. This was before the latest conflict in Gaza began, and before a lot of the fighting in eastern Ukraine.  Could more be done to anticipate, prevent, or mitigate these traumatic events? The short answer is – yes and there is a compelling need to try to get ahead of the curve of future crises and disasters, to avert huge and costly development setbacks and lives lost.   Rough estimates suggest that for every dollar spent in disaster preparedness and mitigation, seven dollars will be saved when disaster strikes. It is also true that spending in fragile states which have been or still are immersed in conflict does  Read More

      • Development of, by, and for the people

        01 Aug 2014

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        The UN joint programme on Youth Empowerment in Montenegro is trying to apply user-led design so that young people come up with solutions to problems they are facing. Photo: Christian Schwier/UN in Montenegro

        Recently, I got a pretty awesome offer: Visit our country offices in Montenegro and Kosovo and see how they’d been doing development differently. Four weeks later I was in Pristina, then in Podgorica, and here is what I took away from my colleagues: 1. Keep momentum even in the face of disappointments and failures. New ideas require adjustments and refining. You probably heard how failure is just another stepping stone to success and how Walt Disney, Sidney Poitier, Albert Einstein all failed miserably at the start of their careers. Yet at the first sign of failure, most of us run and erase all tracks. Never be afraid to fail. 2. Don’t innovate for the sake of innovation. We have an edge over private sector companies that need to invest large sums in innovation: We have access. Access to a pool of technical expertise, good relationships with the governments hosting us, and the ability to convene people from all over the world, by virtue of our neutrality and impartiality. Innovation should only serve to complement this edge. 3. Dare to push the limits and do things differently: Innovation is not just about creating a Facebook page for our projects. In a recent campaign for social inclusion in Montenegro, the  Read More

      • Crisis in Syria: Civil war, global threat

        26 Jun 2014

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        Tents at Atme camp for internally displaced Syrians just over the border with Turkey. PHOTO BY JODI HILTON

        The horrific war in Syria continues to worsen and bleed beyond its borders. A cold calculation seems to be taking hold: that little can be done except to arm the parties and watch the conflict rage. The international community must not abandon the people of Syria and the region to never-ending waves of cruelty and crisis. The death toll may now be well over 150,000. Prisons and makeshift detention facilities are swelling with men, women and even children. Deaths by summary executions and unspeakable torture are widespread. People are also dying from hunger and once-rare infectious diseases. Whole urban centres and some of humankind’s great architectural and cultural heritage lie in ruins. Syria today is increasingly a failed state. The United Nations has tried hard to address the conflict’s deep roots and devastating impact. Our humanitarian and other efforts are saving lives and reducing suffering. But our fundamental objective -- an end to the conflict – remains unmet. The bleak prospects for peace have darkened further with the flare-up of violence and sectarian tensions in Iraq. The cohesion and integrity of two major countries, not just one, is in question. The following six points can chart a principled and integrated way  Read More

      • Victims of female genital mutilation make harmful traditional practice a crime

        18 Jun 2014

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        ANTI-FGM MOBILE CARAVANS TO RAISE AWARENESS IN RURAL VILLAGES, EGYPT. PHOTO: UNDP EGYPT

        June 14th is the National Anti-FGM Day in honor of 12-year-old Bodour Shaker, from Minya, who died on the same date in 2007 as a victim of this inhumane practice. In June 2013, 13-year-old Soheir El Batea from Daqahalia suffered the same fate. As heartbreaking as these two tragedies are, their untimely deaths were not in vain: as a result of public mobilization, the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) was criminalized by law in 2008 and the first criminal case is currently under prosecution, respectively. FGM is a grave violation of human rights and one of the worst forms of discrimination against girls and women. FGM has been a taboo for many years in Egypt. Its practice has been widely accepted due to conservative mindsets, particularly in rural areas, and poor socio-economic and public service conditions. While prevalence rates remain high namely among older women, response of younger girls and mothers of new generations to FGM Abandonment Campaigns is much higher.  Data from the Demographic and Health Survey suggest that some improvements occurred over the last two decades; in 2008 among women aged 15-17, the FGM/C prevalence rate was 74% compared to a prevalence of 95% among women aged 30-34.  Read More

      • Development at the crossroads: Reflections from the Arab Region

        10 Jun 2014

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        Syrian refugees in Zaatari camp in the village of Zaatari, Jordan. photo: UNDP

        Recent years have seen dramatic changes in the Arab region and two aspects in particular are important for the region’s relationship with issues of development finance.  First, the expanding role of the region itself as a provider of official development assistance (ODA), with the Arab Gulf countries providing more than $3 billion to countries around the world each year - Saudi Arabia alone provided over $100 billion to almost 90 countries since the 1970s. While the volume of Arab ODA has attracted attention, important issues for the future will be a growing focus by Arab partners on development effectiveness, alignment with post-2015 priorities like sustainable access to energy and water, and applying social and environmental quality standards to manage risks in recipient countries.  Furthermore, while most Arab ODA has operated through bilateral cooperation channels and Arab multilateral platforms in the past, there are benefits to connectivity with other Southern donors. The centre of gravity in the global economy is shifting East at speed, and this means shifting lines of development cooperation as well.  Strategic alliances between Asian and Arab donors could be a powerful force for the common goal of supporting new development solutions in Africa, with both Arab and Asian  Read More

      • Creating opportunities for Youth: The Way Forward for the Arab Region | Sima Bahous

        31 Mar 2014

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        Photo: UNDP Jordan

        This week the United Nations Development Programme is convening a forum in Tunis to launch a new global strategy that puts youth at the center of all the work we do around the world. Around the world today, young people are shaping social and economic development, challenging social norms and values, and building the foundation of the world’s future. The strategy is important because it allows us to better recognize and tap into that energy for the benefit of all. Titled Empowered Youth, Sustainable Future, the strategy is centered on the vision that when youth are informed, engaged and empowered to contribute to sustainable human development, families, communities and nations grow stronger and are better placed to withstand the challenges of the world today.    It was a special honor for me, as Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States of UNDP that UNDP launched the strategy in Tunisia, an Arab country which today stands in a powerful position at the crossroads of youth and development in the Arab world. Here more than three years ago youth took leading roles in one of the most remarkable transformations that the Arab region — or indeed the entire world—has ever seen.  Their courage  Read More

      • Empowering the world’s largest generation of youth | Magdy Martínez-Solimán

        31 Mar 2014

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        Arab youth volunteering in Syria. (Photo: UNDP)

        Our world has 1.8 billion young people. One third of them live in countries that have suffered a violent conflict, and 75 million are unemployed. It is not time for business as usual, and as UNDP is launching its first global Youth Strategy, “Empowered Youth, Sustainable Future," in Tunis, working with young people, particularly those who are in need, is indispensable if we are to achieve sustainable human development. In the Post-2015 Consultations, youth are demanding education, jobs, honest and responsive governments, and participation in decision-making; they have innovative ideas and are willing to engage, even to take risks for the causes they believe in. Young voices not only deserve to be heard — young people need to be listened to and their views must count. Doors need to open up. UNDP is determined to play its part by strengthening its cooperation with young women and men themselves, their own organisations, other partners in the UN system, governments, civil society organizations, academia and the private sector. In a recent study, we showed how the political representation is systematically much older, in all regions of the world, than the society it represents and rules. The age gap needs to be reduced by  Read More

      • The Syria Crisis at Three Years | Sima Bahous

        16 Mar 2014

        This week the Syria crisis reached another ominous milestone, passing the three-year mark with no clear sign of an end to the death, destruction and suffering that have plagued the Syrian people since 2011. The tragedy of this crisis weighs heavily on all of our hearts and minds, and our thoughts must be with the hundreds of thousands of lives and livelihoods that have been lost or destroyed, the families torn apart, the communities made to suffer. More than 120,000 Syrians have been killed since fighting began. Over six million are now displaced from their homes. Women and children are suffering. Educations are on hold, businesses are shuttered, health centers destroyed. Altogether, Syria is now the most pressing humanitarian crisis in the world. Faced with the death, destruction and impoverishment of a whole nation and it's peoples, the only possible response sometimes seems to be stunned silence. But we must speak out because in the midst of horror there is hope. Communities themselves under stress in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt have received the more than 2.5 million refugees with extraordinary generosity. Families already living in poverty have opened their homes, and shared their livelihoods with Syrians seeking safer havens.  Read More