Our Perspective

      • 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

      • Road to RIO: Sustainable Development as Freedom in the Arab Region | Kishan Khoday

        09 May 2012

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        Chants of freedom have reverberated across the Arab region calling for more transparent, accountable and participatory governance, action against corruption and human rights abuses and policy reforms to create an innovative, employment-generating economy. The systemic transition underway is compelling countries across the region to craft new social compacts to usher a new era of inclusive and equitable development. In that context, the history of unsustainable and inequitable use of natural resources —land, water, energy and minerals— will likely emerge as a focus for reform. Control over the environment has for decades been central to state legitimacy and power in this region, shaping the nature of autocratic and centralized systems of governance, and rentier economies, and influencing how sovereignty and statecraft function. The social compact in many countries has been defined by a balance between the state control over natural wealth and provision of social development results. But development is about more than charity, it is also about justice and accountability. The vulnerability of food, water and energy resources brings serious risks to sustaining development in the long-term and brings risks to achieving a more inclusive and sustainable model of development in the post-revolution era. With much of the region’s poor heavily  Read More

      • Saudi Arabia: Charting a low-carbon future | Kishan Khoday

        01 May 2012

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        Saudi Arabia has seen one of the world’s fastest rates of progress on human development indicators in recent decades. As noted in the 2010 Global Human Development Report, the Kingdom ranked fifth globally in terms of rate of improvement on HDI criteria, and third globally if measured solely by non-income HDI components of per capita access to health and education. In achieving High Human Development status, the Kingdom has relied heavily on export revenues from its world-leading oil reserves. It currently relies on oil for 80% of public revenues, 45% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings. But as Saudi Arabia looks to the future, attention is also placed on the need for a development model which goes beyond oil. Out of approximately 10 million barrels per day that the Kingdom currently produces, about 3 million barrels per day of oil equivalent (mboe) is used within the domestic economy, as the country relies heavily on oil-burning power facilities for electricity generation alongside rising demands from transport and other sectors. But some project that local demand could grow to as much as 8 mboe per day by 2030, owing to growth of population, urban energy demands and energy-intensive industry.  With global oil  Read More

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

        07 Mar 2012

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        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