Our Perspective

      • 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

      • What the international community can do right now on Syria | Sima Bahous

        13 Jan 2014

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        Syrian refugees participate in SGBV awareness event at Kawrgosk Camp in Erbil, Iraq. Photo: Sarah Chardonnens/UNDP Iraq

        The tragic images of death, destruction, and suffering continue to pour out of Syria as the conflict nears the three-year mark.   More than 100,000 Syrians have been killed so far, with 6.5 million people now displaced from their homes by fighting. But Syria's plight is not just one of humanitarian suffering that will end when hostilities cease. With more than 50 percent of Syria’s population now living in poverty, this is a crisis that will have long-term implications for development. Ravaged infrastructure, collapsed services, economic disintegration and rampant unemployment — all a direct toll of the fighting — have now rolled back Syria’s development levels by at least 35 years.   More than 2.3 million Syrians have already sought refuge in neighboring Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt. Refugees now make up approximately 10 percent of Jordan’s population and 20 percent of all people living in Lebanon. This influx is changing the demographic balance in host countries and local communities, which threatens to stoke social tensions and increase competition for already-scarce resources such as land, water and jobs. The potential for instability is great. This Wednesday, the international community will meet in Kuwait to discuss financing for work underway to  Read More

      • Kuwait II Conference: An opportunity to bridge humanitarian and development responses to the Syria crisis | Gustavo Gonzalez

        12 Jan 2014

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        Syrian refugees. Photo: UNHCR

        The Second International Pledging Conference for Syria is an important milestone in using multilateral action to respond to humanitarian and development needs, and to contribute to efforts for peace. The conference will be on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 in Kuwait City and will be chaired by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon and hosted by the Emir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah. The success of this event is important for at least two reasons. Firstly, the conference is an opportunity to secure the resources needed to mitigate, halt and reverse the humanitarian and development catastrophe in Syria. Secondly, with peace talks for Syria due to begin in Switzerland on 22 January, the pledging conference is an opportunity to prepare the ground for a successful peace process and to show that the world is ready to help rebuild Syria and the lives of the millions of Syrians so far affected by this terrible conflict. The conflict in Syrian has produced the largest movement of people since the end of the Second World War. The loss and harm to life has been disastrous. The most plausible estimates indicate that at least 100,000 people have been killed  Read More

      • A resilience-based reading of the impact of the Syrian crisis in Jordan | Ibrahim Saif

        09 Jan 2014

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        Syrian refugees at Zaatari Camp in Jordan. Photo: Areej Abu Qudairi/IRIN

        This month Jordan will take part in the international pledging conference for Syria in Kuwait and will present its National Resilience Plan, detailing how the country is addressing the challenges related to the impact of the massive influx of Syrian refugees on the host communities.  Close to 600,000, Syrians who took refuge in Jordan now account for nearly 10% of Jordan’s population. Most of them (80%) live in urban and rural host communities across the country and not in camps. Coming at a most challenging economic period for the Kingdom, the sheer volume of the numbers has placed a critical pressure on the country’s social, economic, institutional and natural resources. Increased competition for access to public utilities, schooling, health services, infrastructure, and jobs is not only straining the budget, government services, and families, but it poses threats to social cohesion and peace. This argument may not be new, but it is now well-supported by detailed assessments and analyses of the impacts of the spillover of the Syrian crisis on the Kingdom, document in the recently completed “Needs Assessment Review of the Impact of the Syrian Crisis on Jordan (NAR).” The NAR indicates that the impact of the Syrian crisis on  Read More

      • A clash of generations: How high percentages of young people can fuel conflicts | Henrik Urdal

        20 Dec 2013

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        Refugees from Syria's conflict. (Photo: UNHCR)

        In a time of unprecedented demographic change — there will be an estimated 9.6 billion people mainly concentrated in cities around the globe by 2050 — population structures play a significant role in the overall peace and stability of a country. My research focuses on the correlation between populations with burgeoning numbers of young people, which social scientists call "youth bulges," instability, and conflicts. Around the world, 68 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, and Yemen, have demographic pyramids heavily skewed towards younger populations. Many of these countries, where more than 30 percent of the adult population is between the ages of 15 and 24, are currently experiencing violence or social or political unrest. While youth bulges are not the only cause of violence, when combined with low education, a failing job market unable to employ high numbers of young workers, and an inaccessible political system excluding youth from participation, the risk of conflict increases. The current conflict in Syria is a case in point. In 2000, Syria had the third-largest youth bulge in the world, as well as one of the lowest rates of secondary education in the Middle East and North Africa. As in many other countries in the region,  Read More

      • Human Rights Day | Ismail Ould Cheik Ahmed

        10 Dec 2013

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        By Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UN Resident Coordinator

        First of all, I wish to express my deepest condolences to the people of Yemen following the sad events of last Thursday. Our hearts are with families and friends of victims that were robbed the most basic human right of all – the right to life. I have the whole UN family in Yemen with me joining your grief of the lost lives and the wounded. Last week also witnessed a great leader and global role model reaching the end of a fruitful and inspiring life. As we celebrate Human Rights Day this year, we remember how this leader started a global struggle that we are now left to continue. Nelson Mandela once said that: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Our freedom and our rights depend on each other; we are called to protect not only our own rights, but those of our sisters and brothers, regardless of race, religion, tribe, nationality or gender. Respect for human rights principles stands at the heart of all the work we as the UN are doing. This is not merely because it is  Read More

      • Water More Important Than Oil for the Future of the Arab World | Sima Bahous

        28 Nov 2013

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        UNDP Lebanon

        Across the Arab world a consensus is emerging that the Arab peoples are facing a new transformation in their relation with the natural world.  If the last seventy years can be considered the era of oil in the Arab world, the years to come will be shaped to a much greater extent by how we make use of an even more precious resource: water. Today the Regional Bureau for Arab States of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is launching a new report on the future of water in the Arab region. Entitled the Arab Water Governance Report, the publication argues that the future will depend on whether the Arab countries can vastly improve the way water is managed. Oil and gas have allowed for significant modernization over recent decades including unprecedented improvement in human development, but continuing our progress requires us to treat our water with as much reverence as we have our energy resources – or even more. The report argues that the water challenges facing the Arab region are part-and-parcel of a much broader set of issues that are of paramount importance today.  From agricultural decline, to youth unemployment and indeed in many cases to civil unrest, most  Read More

      • Empowering youth as ‘the engine of transition’ in Yemen | Ismail Ould Cheick Ahmed

        22 Nov 2013

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        More than 73 percent of working-age youth in Yemen is jobless. Our Youth Economic Empowerment Project helps thousands of young men and women find employment and start small businesses. (Photo: UNDP in Yemen)

        Yemen is currently facing an explosive “youth bulge”: the country holds the world's record for fertility rate (5.4 children born per woman) and about a quarter of the population is aged 10 to 19, with 46 percent of them under 16.   In that context, it is hard to think of a successful transition in Yemen without the participation of the country’s youth, and their innovative contributions for the future. But Yemen’s investment in its human resources has been low — nearly 50 percent of Yemenis are illiterate in a mostly rural population of 25 million, more than 40 percent of the population is estimated to be “either hungry or on the edge of hunger", and 73.3 percent of working-age youth are jobless. A recent study assessing youth’s needs in this important phase for the country revealed that young Yemenis feel they do not get the attention they deserve and that they lack a creative environment and opportunities for scientific, cultural and technical talents.   Chronic poverty, inequity and lack of employment opportunities are also causes and triggers for conflict, internal wars and insurgencies. Young people deprived of opportunities can turn to activism or fall into despair, and the active presence  Read More

      • Women in conflict situations need justice | Roma Bhattacharjea

        18 Oct 2013

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        Sudanese women gather at workshop on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. (Photo: Soujoud Elgarrai/UNAMID)

        When conflict causes a breakdown in social order and the rule of law, inequalities increase and women bear the brunt of the violence. We should, however, not view women as mere victims, as they play a vital role in ensuring sustainable peace. On October 18 the UN Security Council will discuss this role, and reaffirm the right of women to access the rule of law and seek redress for human rights abuses during conflicts. More than a decade after Security Council Resolution 1325 was drafted, which, among other things, committed countries to protecting women and girls in conflict situations, women's voice, leadership and participation, safety, economic security, and access to justice are still distant goals. If all goes well, the Security Council will agree to a new resolution that recommits countries to changing this situation. Sexual and gender-based violence happen wherever there is armed conflict, even after peace treaties have been signed. Reducing violence against women and girls, however, allows girls to go to school, avoid early marriages, and helps decrease human trafficking. It allows women and girls to contribute to just and equal societies, which do not relapse into armed conflict. When the Security Council meets this week, the international  Read More

      • No democracy without diversity | Heba El-Kholy

        19 Sep 2013

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        Libyan women proudly show their inked fingers after voting in the general national congress elections on 7 July 2012. Photo @ Samia Mahgoub / UNDP

        Some say history repeats itself. In 2004, UNDP issued what I believe is one of the best of its global Human Development Reports, Managing Cultural Diversity. The report argued that managing cultural diversity is one of the central challenges of our time and that policy choices about recognizing diverse ethnicities, religions, languages and values “are an inescapable feature of the landscape of politics in the 21st century.” But we still need to debunk powerful myths, including the one that some cultures have inherent democratic values and are more likely to make progress than others. In 2004, as now, the UNDP HDR report showed there was no evidence to support the trade-off between accommodating certain cultures and promoting democracy. Yet sadly, many people still believe this, arguing that the “Arab Spring” is freezing into an “Islamic winter.” Over the years, I have seen that democracy cannot exist without diversity. My work with civil society and with the UN has convinced me that addressing diversity in its broadest sense remains one of the core challenges of the democracy and development agenda. This is one lesson from the wave of revolutions in the Arab region that took the world by surprise, toppling authoritarian regimes  Read More