Our Perspective Articles

      • 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

      • Conflict has changed, and this needs to be reflected in the future development agenda | Jordan Ryan

        02 Aug 2013

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        Camp residents in Somaliland displaced due to drought or conflict. (Photo: Stuart Price/UN Photo)

        Ever since the creation of the United Nations in 1945, the global community has focused on addressing the challenges of inter-state conflicts. But in 2013, the face of conflict is changing. Today armed conflicts that cause 1,000 or more deaths per year have declined dramatically. More than 526,000 people still die violently every year, but the majority of conflict deaths occur during internal clashes, as opposed to during wars between states. New forms of violent conflict have emerged to take the place of traditional wars. These include inter-community violence, as in the DRC, Somalia and Syria, and violence linked to crime, as in many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. Today, for every death from a recognized war, there are nine casualties from gang violence and crime. This violence stunts efforts to lift people out of poverty, scars communities and makes women and girls more vulnerable to abuse. As world leaders prepare to discuss the new global agenda that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals from 2015 onward, recognizing the changing nature of conflict and addressing armed violence as a barrier to development have become top priorities. This will demand the building of institutions able to respond effectively to the  Read More

      • Nothing threatens the future as much as the debt of the past | Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

        15 Jul 2013

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        The Police Training and Development Unit of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) conducting a two-week training programme in criminal investigation at General Kaahiye Police Academy. (Credit: Tobin Jones/UN Photo)

        The "complementarity" principle embedded in the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court gives national criminal justice systems primacy in prosecuting serious international crimes. Whenever possible, international crimes should be tried by domestic courts, since this strengthens national ownership, legitimacy and confidence in the justice system. Transitional  justice is not a special kind of justice, but an approach to achieving justice in times of transition from conflict and/or state repression. I spoke recently at UNDP’s Annual Meeting on Strengthening the Rule of Law in Crisis-Affected and Fragile Situations about complementarity and the challenge for development actors (PDF) to effectively embed these efforts within transitional justice processes, rule of law assistance and the broader development framework. Holding perpetrators to account for serious violations is a complex and sensitive issue, which must be driven by the national society to be successful. Working with partners such as Denmark, South Africa and the International Centre for Transitional Justice, we can build and capitalize on the solid policy and knowledge base already developed. For example, UNDP and other UN agencies supported regional consultations in 2011 and 2012 in the Arab States, bringing together Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen to help national actors  Read More

      • Using laws to help tackle HIV/AIDS resonates widely | Helen Clark

        09 Jul 2013

        Laws which safeguard dignity, health and justice are essential to effective HIV responses. This was one of the main messages of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, an independent panel of eminent legal, political and public health experts convened by UNDP on behalf of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS. The Commission’s landmark report, HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health, which provides a compelling evidence base and recommendations on how the law can be used to protect people living with and most vulnerable to HIV, was launched at the United Nations on 9 July 2012. One year later, the understanding that laws, based on evidence and grounded in human rights principles, are a relatively low-cost way of controlling HIV and reducing stigma, is taking root. National dialogues on issues of HIV, human rights and law in 20 countries have brought people living with and affected by HIV together with those who shape, interpret and enforce laws. Judicial sensitization, parliamentary development and strengthening national human rights institutions are also important elements of taking forward the Commission’s recommendations. Overall, the Commission’s report has become an important legal and policy tool. For example, debates in the United Kingdom’s House of  Read More

      • Let’s follow Aqaba’s lead on urbanization and disaster risk reduction | Jo Scheuer

        03 Jul 2013

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        City of Aqaba, Jordan

        For the first time in history, a majority of the global population is urban, and this number is expected to rise. This isn’t necessarily bad — great cities can offer many benefits, especially when urban planning is prioritized. But cities present challenges when urban growth is fast, unplanned and unmanaged. These challenges include high population density, unregulated and unsafe construction methods, environmental degradation, and inadequate water and drainage systems. Lack of planning can create weaknesses, exposing dense populations to worse impacts from disasters associated to natural events. When a city doesn’t enforce building codes, for example, it runs the risk of high losses from earthquakes; poor and inadequate drainage systems can cause flooding and disease; disregarding shorelines and ignoring climate change can expose the populace to severe weather events. Only a few months ago in Bangladesh, more than 1,000 people were killed during the collapse of a single, improperly constructed building. What will happen then when there are hundreds of poorly constructed buildings and an earthquake occurs? The Aqaba Declaration notes that more than 56 percent of the Arab population lives in urban areas. In an urbanizing region, ensuring that cities are more resilient to natural hazards must be a priority.  Read More

      • Post-2015 agenda: Reinventing global decision-making | Olav Kjørven

        17 Apr 2013

        For the first time in history, the United Nations (UN) are engaging people all around the world in shaping a global agenda: the next development goals. We are breaking new ground using digital media, mobile phone technology and door-to-door interviewers to include as many individuals as possible in the debate on the future anti-poverty targets that will build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). To date, close to half a million people have taken part in the ongoing “Global Conversation.” The discussion takes place on several platforms: close to 100 UN Member States are organizing local workshops with the participation of young people, vulnerable women, people with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups;  eleven global thematic consultations are taking place online through the World We Want 2015 website, where people can contribute their ideas on issues such as inequalities, food security, and access to water; and the MY World survey, available in 10 languages, invites people to vote for six out of 16 priorities for the future development agenda. I presented the voices from the conversation to the High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and to the representatives of Member States who will ultimately negotiate the next set of goals.  Read More

      • Taking aim at lax arms control laws | Jordan Ryan

        25 Mar 2013

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        UNDP in Sudan

        We need to better regulate the international arms trade. Today. Thanks in part to the efforts of organizations like the United Nations (UN) and its Member States, wars between countries are rarer now than at any other time in history. To be sure, tensions, such as between Pakistan and India, and North and South Korea still exist, yet intense conflicts, i.e. those resulting in more than 1,000 deaths in a year, dropped by half between 1980 and 2000, and continue to fall. But we can’t celebrate just yet. Armed violence still kills more than half a million people a year. As participants meet at the UN in New York try to agree on an international Arms Trade Treaty, the widespread availability of guns still causes suffering for millions around the world. While “traditional” warfare between states is subsiding, new types of violence have come to the fore. Asymmetrical conflicts, such as those in Afghanistan and Syria; inter community violence like we continue to see in Somalia; and violence linked to crime, such as what we are seeing in El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico are becoming new norms in many fragile countries. For every death from a recognized war, there are now  Read More

      • Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda: Why does participation matter? | Veerle Vandeweerd

        18 Mar 2013

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        UNDP in Palestine

        The MDGs have been a powerful tool in influencing the policy agenda with a strong human development focus. During the next 1000 days until the MDGs deadline, we will focus on helping countries to accelerate MDGs progress. In order to help countries identify bottlenecks and accelerate results, UNDP introduced the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) in 2010. The MAF has been applied in 46 countries with considerable success. As we approach the MDGs deadline, the UN embarks on the most comprehensive global consultation ever undertaken. The post-2015 process is a truly global conversation, involving and engaging both developed and developing countries, civil society, youth, the private sector, parliamentarians, the poor and the marginalized. The next development framework should build on lessons learned through the MDGs so as to make sure that the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are adequately appropriated by national institutions and the civil society. The ongoing consultations have been raising a number of important aspirations for the SDGs. Firstly, there is a clear message calling for the full incorporation of the three strands of sustainability – the social, the economic, and the environmental. Secondly, there is a strong call for moving beyond GDP as for adequately measuring human wellbeing  Read More

      • Violence against women is neither inevitable nor acceptable | Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed

        08 Mar 2013

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        As we commemorate International Women’s Day, we look back at a year with shocking crimes of violence against women and girls worldwide. We all remember the story of the Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai who was shot on 9 October last year, while returning home on a school bus. In Yemen, some girls are forced to marry when they are still children, sometimes as young as eight years old. Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights. In Yemen, women and girls are victims of different forms of violence. Through a recent survey carried out by UNFPA it appears that harassment on the streets, mainly of women living in the cities, are among the daily aggressions they face. Other forms of violence are more hidden, often not well documented and many cases, especially of domestic violence, are often never reported. Gender-based violence is a global problem and gender-based inequality, exclusion and discrimination are at the heart of gender-based violence. In India, Dalit women experience high rates of sexual violence committed by men of higher castes. Indigenous women in Canada are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as a  Read More