Our Perspective

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

        08 Aug 2014

        image
        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 doesRead More

      • Development of, by, and for the people

        01 Aug 2014

        image
        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, theRead More

      • Crisis in Syria: Civil war, global threat

        26 Jun 2014

        image
        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 wayRead More