Our Perspective

      • Time to integrate traditional and formal justice | Olav Kjørven

        26 Sep 2012

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        Women take an active part at a village meeting in India.Photo: Sephi Bergerson/ UNDP India

        In some developing countries, informal or traditional justice systems resolve up to 80 percent of disputes, over everything from cattle to contracts, dowries to divorce. Disproportionately, these mechanisms affect women and children. A new report, commissioned by UNDP, UNICEF, and UN Women and produced by the Danish Institute for Human Rights, provides the most comprehensive UN study on this complex area of justice to date. It draws conclusions based on research in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Malawi, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, and 12 other developing countries. These systems, it concludes, are a reality of justice in most of the countries where UNDP works to improve lives and livelihoods and government capacities to serve. The evidence illustrates the direct bearing such systems can have on women and children’s legal empowerment, covering issues from customary marriage and divorce to custody, inheritance, and property rights. It’s time to engage squarely with customary justice systems and integrate them into broader development initiatives aimed at guaranteeing human rights and access to justice for all. These systems are often far more accessible than formal mechanisms and may have the potential to provide quick, inexpensive, and culturally relevant remedies. But traditional development models have for years paid them little  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

      • Every day in every country – should be and can be a day without violence | Helen Clark

        21 Sep 2012

        More than half a million people die violently every year - in armed conflicts; from criminal activity; and from violent attacks in their own homes. An estimated 1.5 billion plus people live in countries affected by war, violence, and/or high levels of crime. The absence of peace exacts a terrible toll. Armed conflict terrifies communities and makes development progress very difficult. Deep inequalities may be reflected in levels of violence – and will be exacerbated by it. For example, women and girls, who suffer discrimination in many places, are disproportionately affected by armed conflict. War increases their economic and social vulnerability. Yet it is possible to tackle these challenges decisively, and UNDP sees progress being made in a number of countries in which we work. For example: ·    This year El Salvador recorded its first murder-free day in over three years. Murders there have fallen by an average of 12 per cent since the introduction of gun-free zones; ·   Liberia is on the road to recovery from  many years of civil war, 2013 will mark a decade of peace there; and ·   In Angola, an arms amnesty led to the surrender of more than 76,000 illegal weapons. These examples all show that  Read More

      • Democracy is in the hands of youth | Heba El-Kholy

        15 Sep 2012

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        The quality of democratic process is increasingly questioned, as witnessed by youth rebellions in scores of countries, demanding better democratic governance. Democracy needs to be renewed, revitalized and reaffirmed as a continuous social and political process to ensure equal political participation of people in governance, irrespective of gender, cast, race and creed.  Democracy is more than a system of government and free and fair elections. Democracy works when all people can claim their rights, fulfill their responsibilities as active citizens and demand accountability from the government.  There is indeed a new awakening and new aspiration for better democracy and democratic governance. But young people must be given real opportunities and space to play a prominent role in this awakening. Almost 85 percent of young people live in developing countries—60 percent of them in Asia. In 2015, the population aged 15-24 years in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to reach 200 million. Democracy Education, the theme of this years’ democracy day, is about educating, enabling and empowering people to internalize the core values of dignity, justice and freedom and to become responsible citizens to make democratic governance work. The quality of democracy in the coming years will be shaped by the quality of  Read More

      • The end of the line for an insidious weapon of war? | Neil Buhne

        14 Sep 2012

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        Intact cluster bomb at war memorial in Seoul, Republic of Korea. Photo credit: Aaron Hartwell

        I remember first learning of “clusters” when I worked in Pakistan in the early 90s and saw injured Afghan children who had picked one up, losing an arm or their sight in the process. Cluster munitions destroy lives – very often those of children, in too many countries. They have killed thousands of civilians and continue to pose a threat, because they  are typically used in populated areas. According to a recent report, an estimated 94 percent of their victims are civilians and because these weapons are prone to failure they remain hazardous for many years, “efficiently” killing and maiming long after a conflict has ended. Once dropped, unexploded cluster bombs prohibit access to land that could be used for agriculture and development, and they are costly and time consuming to remove. This week, I was in Oslo where states, international organizations, and NGOs came together for the Third Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The Norwegians, instrumental in developing the Convention and committed supporters of the cause, were excellent hosts. For me it was one of those times when you see that our work is really worthwhile! The Convention which UNDP helped to draft, aims to  Read More

      • New technologies play key role in strengthening democracies | G. Fraser-Moleketi

        14 Sep 2012

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        A bank representative helps customers in Fiji manage their electronic bank accounts. (Photo: Jeff Liew/UNCDF)

        International Day of Democracy this year underlines the crucial role that informed people everywhere can play in realizing the benefits of democracy. The UN Secretary-General has called for focus and creativity in bringing democracy education to all, with special attention to societies in transition where this education is needed most—and where people often have much to learn about their rights and responsibilities under a democratic system.  The call for creativity in pursuing democracy education resonates uniquely at UNDP.  Since the early 1990s, we have harnessed the transformational potential of new information and communications technologies (ICTs) for development, promoting e-governance and access to information with the specific aim of empowering people to influence public decisions. The social movements we saw in the Arab awakening and elsewhere showed just how powerful these technologies can be—especially through social networks and mobile technologies that have “democratized” access to the public sphere and given a voice to people who previously had none. Mobile technologies have, further, seen explosive growth in developing countries, where nearly 80 percent of the world’s more than 6 billion mobile subscribers live. This phenomenon has unleashed a new wave of innovation by social entrepreneurs and civil society organizations, led by young people,  Read More

      • As the UN’s small arms review conference ends, what is needed to reduce violence? | Jordan Ryan

        10 Sep 2012

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        A child holds up bullets collected from the ground in Rounyn, North Darfur. (Photo: UNAMID / Albert Gonzalez Farran)

        You don’t have to look far to see the impact of armed violence. Just turn on the news. In New York two weeks ago, shots rang out at the Empire State Building as police were trying to stop someone with an illegal gun in a crowded area. Two people were killed and nine injured. Last year, Mexico saw more than 12,000 drug related murders. There is, on average, one death caused by guns every minute worldwide, and 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by conflict or high levels of violent crime.   This is not only happening in conflict countries; higher death-rates from criminal gun use are recorded in “peaceful” countries. Gun violence destabilizes legitimate governments and exacerbates poverty. For UNDP, armed violence is a development issue.  An international conference to curb the illicit trade in small arms wrapped up in New York on Friday September 7. States attending reviewed the implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, a political commitment among UN Member States.  The conference ended with Mexico, and other affected countries, urging the international community to make a stronger commitment to reducing the worldwide flow of illicit weapons. There remains, however, significant resistance  Read More

      • Rwanda: preparing for disaster is key to development | Auke Lootsma

        28 Aug 2012

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        Achieving sustainable risk reduction means taking into account a wide range of opportunities, such as boosting local participation, building people’s capacities and making women’s voice count.

        Across the world, both the number of disasters and their human and economic impact have been on the rise. In 2011, natural disasters killed more than 30,000 people and affected 244 million. That same year, resulting economic losses totaled USD 366 billion, the highest ever recorded. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of those affected live in developing countries, where the poor are exposed to much greater risk from natural hazards. This is especially true of the most marginalized, including women and girls. Rwanda is no exception to that rule. This year’s torrential rains have resulted in unprecedented floods and landslides, killing 32 people and destroying more than 1,400 houses and 2,222 hectares of land.  The extent of the damage has drawn attention to the interplay between climate change, land use, and overpopulation which are all serious development challenges Rwanda is facing. UNDP will continue to support Rwanda, as the post-2015 agenda for disaster risk reduction takes shape. Firstly, UNDP has been working with Rwanda to build disaster risk reduction into its development planning, from the local to the national level. Where disasters strike, we also strive to help the country build back better, creating opportunities for more resilient development. Secondly, laws,  Read More

      • Improving human development among indigenous peoples: The Chiapas success story | Magdy Martinez-Soliman

        22 Aug 2012

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        Indigenous peoples in Chiapas, one of Mexico’s poorest states, have seen improvements in human development after the adoption of MDG-focused social policies. (Photo: UNDP Mexico)

        In many ways, history has been hard on the southwestern state of Chiapas, home to Mexico’s largest indigenous population. Poverty has been persistent, with the state lagging behind on most socio-economic indicators.    In recent times however, Chiapas has led the way in setting an agenda to improve the life of its citizens. In 2009 the state adopted the Chiapas-UN Agenda and amended its constitution, making it the first in the world to mandate a Millennium Development Goals-guided social policy. As a result, addressing poverty and its causes became a priority in Chiapas, with a strong emphasis on initiatives to improve health, education, environmental sustainability and extreme hunger. Following this constitutional amendment, public spending from the government at the federal, state and local levels followed the MDG priorities, producing some impressive results in a short period of time. Chiapas experienced progress in education, measured by literacy and enrolment rates from 2008 to 2010. During the same period the state also had the fastest improvements in life expectancy at birth. Many indigenous communities of Chiapas were at the origin of the Zapatista uprising in the 1990’s, which succeeded in obtaining new rights for indigenous peoples but also divided and displaced much of  Read More

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