Our Perspective

      • What does Rio+20 mean for sustainable development? | Helen Clark

        21 Aug 2012

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        The challenge arising from Rio+20 is how to advance economic, social, and environmental objectives simultaneously, lifting integrated policy-making to new levels. Photo: UNDP Sudan

        The significance and relevance of global summits like Rio+20 lie in their ability to connect people and influence what they are doing on the ground around the world to “think globally while acting locally”.  “The Future We Want”, the Rio+20 outcome document concludes that, for development to be effective, it must be sustainable. It highlights how environmental protection and economic development are linked, and gives equal emphasis to the social – or people-centered - dimension of sustainable development. The challenge arising from Rio+20 is how to advance economic, social, and environmental objectives simultaneously, lifting integrated policy-making to new levels. In some quarters, economic growth is looked at as antithetical to environmental protection. Rio turns such thinking on its head – encouraging us all to identify how entrepreneurship, job creation, and social protection can be generated through and linked to environmental protection. The voluntary commitments made by businesses, development banks, cities and regions, UN agencies, and NGOs and civil society activists were among Rio’s most significant outcomes. More than 700 formal commitments were registered, and more than $500 billion dollars were pledged. These commitments suggest that motivated leaders from across the economic and social sectors and subnational governments can help accelerate sustainable  Read More

      • From crisis to resilience: why inequality matters | Anuradha Seth

        17 Aug 2012

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        Kanchipuram is a small rural town about 75 km from Chennai in India. Its economy is heavily dependent on tourism, but a cooperation of women to grow their own food is helping the community to move forward. Photo: UNDP IPC-IG/Isa Ebrahim Ali

        Global financial and economic crises now occur so often they appear to have become a systemic feature of the international economy. We need now to rethink what’s behind these crises, recognize their unique impact on developing countries, and find ways to make these emerging economies more resilient in the face of serious shocks. One approach views currency, debt, or banking crises as driven mainly by fragile, imbalanced financial systems in developing economies. But this assumes markets are self-regulating and inherently efficient, which is open to question in many instances. Another focuses on identifying structural causes and the channels through which economies are exposed to crises. This approach regards the growing export-dependence of many developing countries as increasing their vulnerability to economic and financial shocks, although experts disagree on the specifics. But rising income inequality also poses major risks. The world’s richest five percent now earn in 48 hours what the poorest earn in a year. This staggering escalation in inequality fosters inefficiency, instability, risky investment behavior, and lower overall productivity. Understanding the links between income surging inequalities and worsening financial and economic crises is central to crafting policies that build resilience and promote less volatile growth. Income inequality reduces the purchasing  Read More

      • Building resilience: The importance of disaster risk reduction | Helen Clark

        15 Aug 2012

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        Haitian workers in a UN cash for work initiative pass rocks hand to hand along a line on the hilly outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Photo: UN/Logan Abassi

        In 2011 alone, almost 30,000 people were killed in 302 disasters, and 206 million people were affected. Beyond the toll on human life, the costs of disasters were estimated at more than US$ 2 trillion over the last two decades. Earthquakes and violent weather-related catastrophes helped make 2011 the costliest year ever for response and recovery from disaster. Yet, many countries are still not investing enough in prevention and preparedness, and many development actors are not prioritizing enough such support to poor countries. The result is another stark reality of our times – that striking inequalities persist, with global disaster risk disproportionately concentrated in poorer countries with weaker governance. From a development perspective, therefore, disaster risk reduction is vital for building a more equitable and sustainable future. Making investments in prevention and preparedness, including through civil defence exercises, is a necessary part of systematic efforts to increase resilience to disaster. Five priorities identified for action are: 1) to ensure that disaster risk reduction is a national and a local priority; 2) to identify, assess, and monitor disaster risks and enhance early warning systems; 3) to use knowledge, innovation, and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels;  Read More

      • Access to technology can help prevent violent conflicts | Ozonnia Ojielo

        07 Aug 2012

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        Mobile phones and other technology provide individuals with an opportunity to gain access to information and participation. Photo: UNESCO/Ian Redmond

        The last decade has seen advances in technology that help us to understand other people’s realities and better listen to each other. Over five billion people—around 77 percent of the global population—own or have access to mobile phones worldwide and the top ten social networking sites in the world have more than 4.6 billion combined users.     As the technology to take advantage of these advances decreases in price, more people in developing countries who had no access to so much as a phone ten years ago are now able to benefit from these new tools to improve their lives; manage commerce; seek emergency assistance; advocate for their own interests; and now also take part in the prevention of violent conflicts. Peacebuilders are now taking advantage of the new possibilities to reduce conflict on a local and global scale. For example, during the 2010 constitutional referendum in Kenya UNDP-supported peace monitors were trained to collect local information and rapidly respond to messages received via text messages, enabling local peace committees to intervene and mitigate emerging conflicts. More than 16,000 text messages were sent by concerned citizens, and an estimated 200 potential incidents of violence were prevented in the Rift Valley region  Read More

      • A step forward against HIV abuses | Jeffrey O’Malley

        02 Aug 2012

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        A woman and her child at Epembe in Kaokoland, Namibia. UN Photo/Alon Reininger

        In a landmark but little noticed decision, a Namibian court ruled this week that state hospitals illegally sterilized three HIV-positive women. While the judge found no link to their HIV-positive status, his decision paves the way for legal action by other women who claim they were coerced into sterilization because they are infected with the virus that causes AIDS, as part of an effort to slow its spread in the southern African country. The women said they were given forms authorizing the procedure just before and after delivering babies by caesarean sections without being told what they were signing—while they were either in acute pain or in labor. This important decision affirms the rights of all women to the important standard of informed consent and points to the specific vulnerability of women and girls living with HIV with regard to their reproductive rights. A just-released report by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, an independent Commission convened by UNDP on behalf of the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), highlights the issues of coerced sterilization and forced abortion among HIV-positive women. The report, HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights, and Health, found that “coercive and discriminatory practices in  Read More

      • Humanitarian challenges loom in developing Myanmar | Ashok Nigam

        31 Jul 2012

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        A young girl from Myanmar attends school at a refugee camp in eastern Bangladesh. Photo: Jared Katz, UNDP Picture This

        Myanmar is vulnerable to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. The United Nations and its partners—including national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—are working with the people of Myanmar to help build greater resilience in the face of both. The worst recent natural disaster, Cyclone Nargis, struck Myanmar on 2-3 May 2008. Around 140,000 people died and 2.4 million were severely affected. On Oct. 22, 2010, in the western coastal state of Rakhine, Cyclone Giri left 45 people dead and affected some 260,000. An earthquake on March 24, 2011, in the southern part of the Shan State, near the Thai and Lao borders, registered 6.8 on the Richter scale. These and other natural disasters have caused untold human suffering. Thousands upon thousands have had to rebuild their lives from scratch. Communal conflicts have also displaced large numbers of people. In all instances, local communities and state actors have responded first. Neighbors have heroically helped one another, and religious groups and community leaders responded instantaneously. Myanmar has learned from these disasters and communities have become more resilient. But the government now recognizes that international support can help further. As a trusted partner, the UN has delivered both developmental and humanitarian assistance in Myanmar and  Read More

      • AIDS 2012 offers hope, new responses | Emilie Pradichit & Mandeep Dhaliwal

        26 Jul 2012

        Washington—Science suggests an AIDS-free generation is within reach. We must reflect on lessons and human rights struggles of the last three decades of the AIDS response if we are to do better in delivering the best that science and innovation can offer to those most in need. More than 8 million people with HIV in poor and middle-income countries received AIDS medications last year, up from 6.6 million in 2010. Nearly 60 percent of the 1.5 million pregnant women living with HIV in poor countries also received medications in 2011, so their babies are less likely to be infected. Since this epidemic began, we have grappled with social and structural inequalities fuelling HIV. Presenters at the International AIDS conference this week called for enabling legal environments and urgent action against stigma, marginalization, discrimination, and criminalization on the basis of HIV status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Recommendations by the UNDP-led Global Commission on HIV & the Law report, “Risks, Rights & Health,” address many of these issues. Increasingly we hear calls for the abolition of laws criminalizing HIV transmission, exposure, and non-disclosure. At a session convened by The Lancet, data showed that criminalization of male homosexual practice was associated in African  Read More

      • Women Gain at Rio+20: Securing the Future We Want by Securing Gender Equality | Winnie Byanyima

        23 Jul 2012

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        The global development agenda is undergoing drastic changes, so how can we ensure that gender issues are adequately addressed in these processes? Photo: UNDP South Sudan

        The global development agenda is undergoing drastic changes, so how can we ensure that gender issues are adequately addressed in these processes? Rio+20 reaffirmed the goals of building an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable world. The representatives of more than 100 governments made over 690 voluntary commitments, including five specifically on gender equality.  But critical questions remain: Did Rio+20 adequately represent all global citizens? Will Rio+20 advance women’s rights worldwide? The outcome document references gender equality in 44 paragraphs. World leaders affirmed that gender equality and women’s participation “are important for effective action on all aspects of sustainable development.” The outcome document encourages donors and non-governmental organizations to fully integrate commitments and considerations on gender equality and women’s empowerment in development programmes and policies. The document made a “call for the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.” Despite proposals for powerful language that would have backed gender equality and women’s empowerment outcomes during the negotiation process, most were lost to numerous rounds of editing. The Rio+20 outcome document has been criticized as being too soft on gender equality. Women’s organizations have expressed disappointment with  Read More

      • E-governance can help boost democracy in developing countries | A. Degryse-Blateau

        19 Jul 2012

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        UNDP supports 222 e-governance and access to information projects in 92 countries.

        Two rights stand out in all open democratic societies: freedom of expression and access to information. E-governance—as in electronic, or technology-driven, governance—is about both of these. Efficient e-governance is an innovative and transparent way to deliver government services and exchange information with citizens in a convenient and transparent way, saving time and money. The mass digital migration from personal computers to mobile phone applications also brings new opportunities to boost e-governance. Over five billion people—around 77 percent of the global population—own or have access to mobile phones worldwide. In regions with no electricity, computers or internet access, mobile phones are increasingly helping spread mobile government, banking or health. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) supports 222 e-governance and access to information projects in 92 countries. More than 20 percent focus on the use of Information and Communications Technology to enhance citizens’ access to public information and 18 percent to deliver services more effectively. And there is a world of knowledge to be shared. In Korea, which won the UN’s global e-governance 2010 and 2011 awards, citizens can petition government, complain about government services, pay their taxes and apply for patents online. Businesses can get goods through customs quickly at a lower cost  Read More

      • A Visionary for a Better Tomorrow - Celebrating Nelson Mandela | Helen Clark

        18 Jul 2012

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        Nelson Mandela addresses the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall. UN Photo/P. Sudhakaran

        Nelson Mandela International Day is an occasion for us all to celebrate the vision of this extraordinary man for freedom, peace and justice; his service to humanity; and the hope for a better tomorrow which he represents to this day. Many in my generation in my country were inspired by Nelson Mandela’s vision, and were appalled and disgusted by the apartheid system in South Africa which grossly discriminated against people on the grounds of race. Dismantling that system and building a new free and democratic South Africa is the cause to which Mr. Mandela has devoted his life. In faraway New Zealand, the struggle for freedom in South Africa divided our small nation for many years. The major link between the two countries was rugby football, with the two national teams usually considered the best in the world. But South Africa’s team had a fundamental flaw – it was racially selected. In New Zealand, Maori players had long been prominent at all levels of the game. Yet up to and including the All Black tour of South Africa in 1960, Maori players were left at home when the All Blacks played there. A citizens’ movement to oppose that injustice and eventually  Read More