Our Perspective

      • In Serbia, a new era and new social contract are emerging | William Infante

        09 Jan 2013

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        Employers in Serbia now receive tax benefits for employing persons with disabilities. Photo: Centre for Independent Living of Persons with Disabilities, Serbia.

        When I was first posted to Serbia in 2001, the country and its people were still shaken and scarred by years of conflict. Returning in 2009 to lead the United Nations presence there, I was deeply impressed by the swift and substantive progress made. Belgrade had new trams and buses, neighborhoods and parks had been refurbished, and efforts to consolidate democracy, build a more inclusive economy, and establish credible mechanisms to fight corruption were well under way. Serbia is now emerging as an increasingly powerful source of security and stability in the region, contributing scores of peacekeepers to international forces, fighting organized crime, collecting and destroying some 100,000 illicit and unregistered firearms, and integrating women in the military and police forces. Ministries are moving to adopt individual anti-corruption strategies known as integrity plans, and dozens of investigations have opened since the new government took office barely six months ago. Parliament is engaged in more robust review and scrutiny, and its Speaker, Nebojsa Stefanovic, is spearheading a new initiative with UNDP to strengthen parliamentary oversight of spending. These and other governance initiatives aim explicitly to promote accountability, reduce vulnerability and risk of loss, and build the credibility and legitimacy of state institutions.  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 constituencies  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

      • Budgeting for climate change and disaster | Ajay Chhibber

        13 Dec 2012

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        It’s the extreme weather season in much of the world. Deadly cyclones, blinding rains, ensuing floods and mudslides are becoming the norm from the Philippines to Haiti to Pakistan. Storms and floods are sweeping across the globe with increased regularity and ferocity. Recovery costs are high. How can countries find funds today to build “climate resilient” roads, bridges, schools and other vital infrastructure to prevent losses tomorrow?   One answer is of course in more international finance under the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. This means that developed countries should take the lead in combating climate change and its adverse effects. They are more likely to have the technical and economic capacity to address climate change, whereas developing countries may not. But another part of the answer can be found when developing countries take a look at how climate change is reflected in their own national budgets and expenditures. While the debates continue internationally about who should cover the costs of reducing carbon emissions or adapting to climate risks, developing countries themselves are also responding to climate change by examining more closely their own domestic resources from their own existing budgets. In simple terms, this means looking through the national  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

      • The unfinished business of the AIDS response | Mandeep Dhaliwal

        29 Nov 2012

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        HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care programme in South Sudan. Photo: UNDP South Sudan

        HIV responses worldwide have achieved remarkable progress. At the end of 2011, more than 8 million people were accessing life-saving HIV treatment—a 20-fold increase from 2003. New HIV infections have also dropped sharply in numerous countries, including some with high HIV prevalence. But social exclusion, inequalities, and human rights violations continue to drive the spread of HIV and other diseases, with a disproportionate impact on women and marginalized populations. These include men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, sex workers, and transgender people.  According to a 2012 report by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, discriminatory and punitive legal environments, violence, and other abuses are also helping spread HIV. Doing a better job of enforcing protective legislation and ensuring that social protection policies cover those affected by HIV can contribute to more inclusive, effective, and efficient HIV responses—leading in turn to reduced inequalities and more resilient people and communities. For the first time in the history of the AIDS response, domestic investments in HIV have surpassed international assistance: 80 countries increased domestic investment in national HIV responses by more than 50 percent from 2006-2011. All the more reason to strengthen national capacity for implementing rights based  Read More

      • International justice begins at home

        21 Nov 2012

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        Timorese Judges being sworn in and taking oaths. Credit: UNDP Timor Leste

        The restoration of justice and the punishment of those who commit human rights abuses can be vital first steps in peacebuilding; both for countries recovering from conflict, and for societies trying to overcome the trauma of violence. In March this year, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the first permanent criminal court mandated to investigate and prosecute those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity, handed down its first judgment since being established in 2002. Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was found guilty of using children under the age of 15 in armed hostilities. This judgment inaugurated a new age where the ICC acts as a court of last resort. This notion, called “complementarity,” forms the founding principle of the ICC, which believes that the primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting serious crimes rests with national authorities and states. If countries are willing and able, justice is best delivered where the crimes occurred. However, many post-conflict countries do not have the capacity to conduct such investigations. Even if the political will exists, domestic judicial systems often lack adequate witness protection services, prison facilities, and other resources to conduct fair trials. To realize the complementarity principle, there needs to be a closer relationship  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

      • Remembering Sandy’s many victims

        09 Nov 2012

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        Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Nicaro, Mayarí municipality, Cuba. UN Photo/UNDP/AIN FOTO/Juan Pablo Carreras

        Hurricane Sandy, which caused mayhem when it made landfall here on 29 October, killed over 110 people in the United States. The cost of damage has been estimated at over US$ 50 billion in the US and the lives of millions of those in New York, where I live, have been disrupted. North America however, was in fact the last of many stops on Sandy's tour of destruction. Sandy was one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes on record. The Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and many other countries have suffered terrible losses. In Haiti, which has yet to fully recover from the 2010 earthquake, more than 54 people were killed and over 200,000 are now homeless. Health workers are scrambling to ensure that the storm damage does not hasten the spread of infectious diseases, including cholera. In Cuba, nearly a million people have been directly affected; the roofs of more than 43,000 homes have been ripped off by the high winds; at least 375 health centres and 2,100 schools have been damaged and many roads and bridges are impassable. Some 30,000 people have been displaced in the Dominican Republic. Here in the New York/New Jersey area, there is much to  Read More

      • We must act now to stop climate change | Helen Clark

        08 Nov 2012

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        A woman walks through a flooded market in Port au Prince. Hurricane Sandy passed to the west of Haiti October 25, 2012. Photo Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH

        The devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy reminds us once again of the destructive potential of extreme weather—even in a developed country such as the United States, and even with ample warning and swift emergency response. From Kingston, Jamaica to Jamaica, Queens, this “perfect storm” exacted a deadly toll that New York’s mayor said was even higher as a result of climate change. But while developed countries dig ever deeper to fund elaborate flood defense systems, compensate farmers, and adjust thermostats to accommodate hotter summers, the consequences of climate change in Africa can be catastrophic: Crops fail. People go hungry. We could, as a global community, make the transition to green and inclusive economies that tackle inequality, advance development, and stop the ongoing assault on our ecosystem. This begs the question: Why isn’t the world doing more? At the global level, policy responses lag well behind where science tells us they should be. Short political cycles discourage long-term thinking, particularly where up-front costs may be high. This is especially true in times of fiscal constraint and sluggish growth. Little appreciation exists, further, of how climate change undermines gains in the developing world, hitting hardest precisely those people who have contributed least to  Read More