Our Perspective

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

        07 Mar 2012

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        Progress toward social justice and dignity will move only as fast as progress in empowering women. Photo: UNDP

        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

      • Rwanda: Gains made against poverty, a lesson for others | Auke Lootsma

        27 Feb 2012

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        Building Capacity in Rwanda. Photo: UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi

        Rwanda’s latest data release this month shows enormous improvement in the living standards of citizens over the past five years, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight internationally-agreed goals aimed at reducing poverty and improving education, health, gender equality and environmental sustainability by 2015. Over the past half a decade, Rwanda has posted an average annual growth of real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 8.4 percent, driven mainly by higher productivity in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Critically, the poor have benefited from this growth spurt.  Rwandans have developed their own homegrown initiatives in order to tackle poverty at the most local level. The “one-cow-per-family” programme, just to name one, provides families with milk for consumption and what is left over is sold for profit, improving nutrition and income at the household level.     Through government-led efforts the poverty rate fell from 56.7 percent in 2006 to 44.9 percent in 2011. If maintained over the longer term, this annual poverty reduction rate of 2.4 percent could put Rwanda in the company of Asian Tiger economies such as China, Vietnam and Thailand that have been able over many years to lift millions out of poverty while sustaining growth. There has  Read More

      • Powering sustainable energy for all | Ban Ki-moon

        17 Jan 2012

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        Solar panels provide clean energy in remote places. UN Photo.

        As a child growing up during the Korean War, I studied by candlelight. Electric conveniences such as refrigerators and fans were largely unknown. Yet within my lifetime, that reality changed utterly. Easy access to energy opened abundant new possibilities for my family and my nation. Energy transforms lives, businesses and economies. And it transforms our planet — its climate, natural resources and ecosystems. There can be no development without energy. Today we have an opportunity to turn on the heat and lights for every household in the world, however poor, even as we turn down the global thermostat. The key is to provide sustainable energy for all. To succeed, we need everyone at the table — governments, the private sector and civil society — all working together to accomplish what none can do alone. The United Nations is well-placed to convene this broad swathe of actors and forge common cause between them. That is why I have established our new initiative, Sustainable Energy for All. Our mission: to galvanize immediate action that can deliver real results for people and the planet. This is the message I will bring to the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi starting Monday. As I  Read More

      • Let’s put Haitians at the centre of rebuilding | Rebeca Grynspan

        11 Jan 2012

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        The Leogane debris management project in Haiti. Photo: Mariana Nissen/UNDP

        Two years ago this week, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the Caribbean island nation of Haiti, killing 200,000 and displacing 1.5 million people. The deaths and destruction highlighted the risks associated with a hyper-centralized government and population in Port-au-Prince, where hundreds of thousands of homes were demolished and 30 percent of civil servants lost their lives. In a matter of minutes, chronic challenges became urgent and acute, with life-or-death consequences in many instances. With the aim of “building back better,” UNDP has worked with other agencies not only to help Haiti recover but to make the country and its people more resilient, better prepared to weather any natural or man-made shocks the future will bring. That is our mission and our mandate, with Haitian people at the centre of every initiative. Since 2010, we have stepped up cooperation with the Haitian Government, expanding debris management and reconstruction while creating thousands of jobs. With 80 percent of Haitians living in poverty and some 60 percent jobless, we systematically privilege local employment and purchasing. We have helped create 300,000 temporary jobs since the quake, such as debris removal, river gabion or retaining wall construction, and garbage collection. This has given 60,000 families a chance  Read More

      • Allow the poor to define their future | Olav Kjørven

        02 Jan 2012

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        For growth to be inclusive, it must be sustainable and equitable. Photo: UNDP

        Over one billion of us live without many of the basics that the other six billion take as given. In the least-developed countries, conflict, disaster and broader human insecurity impose structural limits on efforts to move from crisis to risk reduction and from growth to sustained development. Significant and sustained progress will require faster and better efforts. Beyond the critical issues of 'carbon footprints', 'low-carbon development',' green economy' and the economics behind saving the planet, we must draw attention back to the continuing challenge of ensuring that growth and development deliver for and with the poor and vulnerable. In its many forms - energy poverty, lack of access to water and sanitation, malnutrition or insecure access to food and lack of access to education and health - the scale and scope of global deprivation call current development policy and practice into question. How can we achieve sustainable development?                “For growth to be inclusive, it must be sustained and sustainable and that, for it to be sustained and sustainable, it must also be equitable", concludes the special issue of the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) Poverty in Focus magazine (pdf).  Growth, gender, poverty and the environment can no longer  Read More

      • Sustainable energy access critical for development in Africa | Helen Clark

        29 Dec 2011

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        Access to modern affordable energy services in developing countries is essential for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals. Photo: UN Foundation

        Almost 45 per cent of those who lack access to energy live in Sub-Saharan Africa, making up 69 per cent of the region’s population. They number 585 million people. Seventy eight per cent of those living in Sub-Saharan Africa use traditional biomass for cooking and heating (650 million). Energy needs extend well beyond having electricity available in homes. In Africa, where so many depend on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood, expanding access to energy for irrigation, food production, and processing is vital. It can boost agricultural productivity and rural incomes, and empower women who make up a significant proportion of the continent’s farmers. For UNDP, access to sustainable energy is critical for making societies more equitable and inclusive, and for encouraging green growth and sustainable development overall. We advocate for equity, inclusiveness, resilience, and sustainability to be the guiding principles for efforts to achieve universal energy access.  We recognize that different groups have different energy needs. Therefore, governments need to balance the financing of large-scale energy projects with support for the off-grid, decentralized energy solutions which will help meet the needs of the poorest and most marginalised people. Cleaner cooking and heating fuels and motor power for productive activities are also  Read More

      • Volunteering changes our world for the better | Helen Clark

        02 Dec 2011

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        One of the local volunteers participating in the UNV Sudan supported Diversity campaign in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: Ayman Suliman

        On the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers coming up Monday, December 5, we celebrate the work of volunteers worldwide and the contribution they make to the development and wellbeing of communities.   Every day, volunteers make a difference for the environment, for peace, for meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and much more.  There are countless examples of volunteering having an incredible impact. In Nepal, nearly 50,000 female community health volunteers, supported by UNICEF, UNFPA, USAID, and the Gates Foundation, have helped cut child mortality by two- thirds over the past fifteen years. Japanese Red Cross volunteers played an indispensable role in dealing with the aftermath of the terrible earthquake and tsunami earlier this year. UN Volunteers form a significant part of UN peacekeeping missions, making up around one third of the international civilian staff in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Liberia, and elsewhere. A guiding principle for UN Volunteers is that people closest to the problems are also often the people most able to contribute to the solutions. The first State of the World’s Volunteerism Report to be released on Monday says that there is still plenty of room in development for volunteer and citizen action.  Read More

      • Inclusive and sustainable growth is the answer | Ajay Chhibber

        23 Nov 2011

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        UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Zinedine Zidane visits one of UNDP's inclusive growth projects in Mali. Photo: UNDP

        As leaders of the G-20 countries grapple with the immediate euro crisis, we must look beyond to a more fundamental problem facing the world – rising inequality, joblessness and ultimately a lack of demand, causing deep recession. This is not a cyclical problem that will be addressed by stimulus packages but a more structural problem, inherent in the current growth process. Addressing inequality is crucial in responding to the current economic, food and climate change crises across the globe. As the spreading Wall Street protests indicate, inequality and a sense that the system only works for the top one percent is under attack across the world. Rising inequality and unemployment is also cited as a major factor in the Arab uprisings which are still playing out.  And rising food and fuel prices are again ringing alarm bells. Even in Asia where there has been a sharp acceleration in economic growth in many developing countries, rapidly rising inequality is causing concern, and the poor continue to suffer disproportionately from high food and fuel prices—in addition to being the hardest hit by an increasing wave natural disasters and rising sea levels. Rather than trying to compensate those left out of the growth process,  Read More

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