Our Perspective

      • The Internet Gender Gap | Magdy Martinez Soliman

        10 Jan 2013

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        Special computer training course designed for deaf people in Damascus, Syria. Photo: UNDP in Syria

        The role of ICTs as development enablers is more widely understood today as access to new technologies, particularly mobile phones, has grown exponentially. Mobile phone subscriptions exceeded six billion by the end of 2012, three-quarters of which were in the developing world.  However, women are at a disadvantage: they are 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than men, according to the latest Broadband Commission Report (PDF, 2.4Mb). Development presents an opportunity to effectively address this and other gender gaps.  I am speaking here  about sustainable human development, about the ability to make choices and lead a healthy, long and educated life with all that we value. Let us bear in mind that ICTs are not neutral. Existing gender inequalities, pervasive in many countries,  can be exacerbated by ICTs, when unequal access to education for example turns into digital ignorance. Not having female teachers and lack of local security are powerful triggers of girls’ dropout. Women will not be able to access ICT community centers if safety issues are not properly addressed. We are determined advocates of democratic governance and for us women's access to ICTs is a governance issue. Public policies and the private sector need to address the  Read More

      • Arab world needs broad governance reform | Mohammad Pournik

        03 Jan 2013

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        Libyan students at Tripoli University attend the first ever United Nations human rights workshop. UN Photo/Iason Foounten

        High unemployment and inequality fuelled Arab Spring uprisings that began in 2010, but the Arab world needs broad governance reform to achieve sustainable, equitable growth. Ousting dictators alone isn’t enough. People want bread, but they also want social justice and freedom. Experts at the UNDP Regional Center in Cairo reached that conclusion after lengthy study, culminating in the Arab Development Challenges Report that has now been launched in capitals around the world.  Having spent nearly three decades in the field, I believe this is indeed the case—governance and rule of law are essential to the sustainable, inclusive development the Arab world so acutely needs. In Egypt, the problem wasn’t simply political exclusion--it was political and economic exclusion. Reform will succeed only when it addresses both. Unemployment remains a critical challenge, but reliably measuring joblessness is difficult in countries without unemployment insurance and a system of registering for it. Enormous challenges such as food security, water scarcity, and management of natural resource also remain. Arab states must invest better in managing water resources and improving irrigation and agricultural productivity and devise incentives for investment in renewable energy. Governance failures helped create this situation: Here we see institutions that perpetuate themselves, corrosive  Read More

      • A major step forward and a post-2015 challenge | Sheelagh Stewart

        24 Dec 2012

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        Women and girls in El Fasher, North Darfur, march for “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence”. UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran

        Rule of law is fundamental to development. People who don’t feel safe and think that their property may be stolen or destroyed, do not invest in the future. Why buy seed if the harvest will be stolen? Why invest in a business whose profits will be swallowed by corruption?  Who would send their daughter to school if they thought she was going to be raped on the way? Communities that cannot deal with the past cannot move forward. Transitional justice, which allows post-crisis communities to address legacies of violence and hold perpetrators to account is therefore critical. Without transitional justice, no meaningful social contract is possible. In each case, the rule of law allows people to look forward to a brighter future, in which they find opportunities to achieve their potential and in which legal protection exists for all. The world has shifted on its axis since 189 diverse Member States settled more than a decade ago on the MDGs, excluding any discussion of sensitive issues related to governance, access to justice, and human rights. But with the Cold War now long behind us and the Arab Spring having re-opened discussion of the social contracts that must necessarily underpin a cohesive  Read More

      • Climate change talks in Doha: What’s at stake for poor countries? | Helen Clark

        03 Dec 2012

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        Climate change adaptation in India. Photo: UNDP in India

        As thousands meet in Doha this week for the latest round of climate talks, it’s crucial to zero in on what a lack of progress could mean for the world’s least developed countries. Poor people in developing countries face the greatest risk from climate change. It exacerbates existing vulnerabilities and as for example in Africa, it’s the poor that are bearing the brunt of climate change through drought, flood, hunger, and more. If we don’t make progress towards a new global agreement on climate we risk undermining gains in the developing world, threatening their lives, their livelihoods, and their countries' prospects. We don't need to wait for a global climate agreement or the post-2015 development agenda to be negotiated by United Nations member states. There is plenty which can be done below that level by sub-national governments, communities, civil society, and the private sector. Indeed, that is where much of the energy was to be found at Rio+20! What’s encouraging is that more and more developing countries are already working hard on adaption to climate change and mitigation. For instance Ethiopia, a large least developed country, has adopted a low carbon, climate resilient, green economy strategy. The issue now is how  Read More

      • Democratic transition demands courageous leadership | Olav Kjørven

        09 Nov 2012

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        Tunisia Constituent Assembly Elections 2011

        Of late, we have witnessed dramatic change in many parts of the world. Autocratic leaders in the Middle East and North Africa have been ousted or forced to resign. Myanmar has embarked on a determined path towards reform. Economic, social and political reasons triggered these societal changes. Hence people’s call for “bread, freedom, dignity” in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, where we saw that political transition can – if rarely - happen almost overnight. But autocratic regimes leave legacies, economic structures, incentive systems and institutions that do not disappear as a dictator steps down or aside. Political rights, human rights, progressive social and economic policies, fair jobs and the primacy of the rule of law do not automatically follow moments of significant political change. One of the first choices the leaders of transition must make, therefore, is to be inclusive as they start to define their future.  For legitimacy and longevity, there must be sustained channels for dialogue and decision-making with all people – civil society and academics, the business elite and the military, the politicians and the public, especially the marginalized. This is the only way to renew trust and rebuild a nation’s social contract. This is most difficult. At the very  Read More

      • Youth hold the key to Somalia’s future | Sima Bahous

        28 Sep 2012

        For decades the world has heard only bad news from Somalia. Lawlessness, famine, piracy, and conflict have shaped our global view of this small, Horn of Africa country. The recent slaying of a member of Somalia’s new parliament underscores the severity of its challenges. Beyond the headlines, though, Somalia shows tremendous promise—it is strategically located, it has a promising agricultural sector, and recent estimates show that it may have a good deal of oil as well. But a better future will be driven neither by its location nor its natural resources: It will be driven by the country’s people—and Somalia’s hopeful youth hold the key. UNDP is today releasing its Somalia Human Development Report 2012, which focuses on the enormous potential that lies in empowering Somali youth to become an engine of peace-building and development in this country of stark contrasts. Today, 73 percent of Somalis are under 30, making theirs one of the world’s youngest countries. Typically, young people in conflict or post-conflict zones are viewed as either victims or aggressors, and indeed for decades Somali youth have known more than their fair share of violence and despair. Many young Somalis have never set foot in a schoolhouse— and still  Read More

      • Confronting daunting challenges to justice & security in the Arab region | Sima Bahous, Jordan Ryan

        24 Sep 2012

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        Millions of Libyans went to the polls to vote in the country’s first free nationwide elections in nearly five decades. Photo: An elated voter casts her vote. Photo: Samia Mahgoub /UNDP

        Just over a year ago, the Arab region began to witness unprecedented change, with several countries embarking on transitions towards more democratic governance. Strengthening the rule of law is a central challenge facing these countries. Expectations of citizens for accountable security institutions, impartial justice systems and the fulfillment of human rights are higher now than ever before. Recently, we met with two officials at the forefront of dealing with this challenge: Kamal Bashar Idhan, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Libya, tasked with ensuring that justice is delivered and human rights are upheld for all Libyans; and Said Mechichi, Secretary of State for Reform in the Tunisian Ministry of Interior who leads efforts on security sector reform in the country which triggered the Arab region’s wave of change. The challenges facing these two officials and the institutions they lead are daunting. Strengthening the rule of law in transition settings is one of the most difficult aspects of change. But it is also among the most important, and we were inspired by their commitment. UNDP has worked closely with countries in the Arab region — including Libya and Tunisia — to support their democratic transitions and national-led efforts to re-establish  Read More

      • The Doha Climate Round | Kishan Khoday

        18 Jul 2012

        At the end of 2012 countries will gather in Doha for the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). With countries having agreed last year to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the upcoming Doha gathering will see the start of work to design a successor emission reduction regime by 2015, meant to elaborate global emission reduction targets from 2020 onwards. COP18 in Doha is only the second time parties to the UNFCCC have gathered in the Arab region. The world has seen many changes since the Arab region’s first COP took place in Marrakesh, at the 7th COP in 2001. One fundamental change has been the rise of emerging economies to the center of the world economy, now a main engine of global GDP growth and a rising source of carbon emissions. The decision to hold COP18 and start the process of designing the post-2015 climate framework in Doha was controversial given its position as the world’s highest levels of per capita carbon emissions. But this could also be an opportunity to more constructively engage climate change issues with the Arab Gulf. While much attention has been placed on engaging a new constructive  Read More

      • ‘Green Economy’ is not the pathway | Rania ElMasri

        20 May 2012

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        Soon, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will convene – with the goal of defining “a sustainable development pathway that leads to a future in which the whole global population can enjoy a decent standard of living whilst preserving our ecosystems and natural resources.” In the 20 years since the first Rio conference, environmental institutions and environmental ministries have increased in number – while the environmental crisis has deepened and widened.  Alongside the global environmental crisis is the economic crisis – seen in the growing national, regional, and global inequalities.[1] Of course, the environmental crisis worsens the economic crisis, since a healthy economy cannot be built upon an unhealthy environment. Now, green economy is presented as a solution, built on what is economically permissible rather than on an environmental target based on the earth’s carrying capacity. According to the promoters of this concept, the green economy would maintain the market economy, designed on the basis of a conventional growth imperative.  The logic of the green economy is that the market is the place to manage ecology, and that only that which is owned and has a price can be protected, and thus the solution is to call for “better” economic  Read More

      • The Arab Region on the road to Rio+40 | Marwan Owaygen

        14 May 2012

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        It is true that the economic, environmental and social pillars of sustainable development are becoming universal; however the struggle persists on integration. To better understand and to easier conceptualize the integrated approach to sustainable development, there is a need to address separately the link between the economic and environmental pillars and the link between the economic and social pillars. With respect to the link between the economic and environmental pillars: For growth to be green, it has to ensure a sustainable use of natural resources and a low-carbon (or low-emission) development. These two elements are the two key drivers of green growth. In order to address green growth in the Arab Region, there is a need to assess the sustainable use of natural resources and the low-carbon development in this region.  According to the recently published UNDP Arab Development Challenges Report, sustainable use of natural resources is perhaps the most serious long-term development challenge facing the Arab Region. Water scarcity combined with water use inefficiency and depletion of groundwater resources, and productive land scarcity combined with land degradation and desertification are two major environmental challenges facing the Arab Region with direct impacts on water and food security. In the last  Read More