Our Perspective

      • Road to Rio: Growth and employment need to be the heart of development | Magdy Martinez-Soliman

        15 May 2012

        Growth and employment are firmly back on the development agenda—and will be a key topic during the Rio+20 Conference next month. Photo: UNDP

        Growth and employment will be at the heart of a discussion taking place this week in Tokyo, organized by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the host Government of Japan on the ‘post-2015 development agenda’. The structural adjustment programmes that were common around the 1980-90’s, which sought to tackle intractable problems, ended up holding back development and growth—often  in a painful and insensitive way that exacerbated poverty and underdevelopment. Growth got a bad name.  But now growth and employment are firmly back on the development agenda—and will be a key topic during the Rio+20 Conference next month. The one Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target that relates to full, productive and decent work is unlikely to be met by 2015. The global financial and economic crisis have slowed growth, and led in turn to an employment crisis: Total global unemployment is expected to increase another 6 million over the next three years. to 206 million in 2016, up from 200 million today.  And this is not a challenge for developing countries only.  My own country, Spain, has nearly one in four working-age people out of work.  As a result, the growth agenda has currency with a large  Read More

      • Look beyond the obvious | Ajay Chhibber

        11 May 2012

        Better poverty measures are central for improving development programmes in India. Photo: UNDP

        India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's decision to set up a new panel for re-examining the measurement of poverty is a fresh opportunity to rethink India's approach towards poverty. The question is: if we no longer measure human progress by income alone, then why do we still use income as a measure of poverty? In 1990, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)'s Human Development Index (HDI) broadened the measure of human progress beyond income to include health and education. This idea had its initial skeptics but today HDI is an accepted measure of human progress. Twenty years later, UNDP, working with scholars of Oxford University, proposed a Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI). The MPI measures poverty by taking into account access to education, health, water, sanitation, etc. Such an approach will not only give us a better measure of poverty but it will also help widen our understanding of the nature of poverty. There are countries like China, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan, where the poverty rate based on the MPI is lower than the one based on income poverty because other criteria such as health, education and shelter come into play. Many countries have now started calculating both the MPI and income poverty,  Read More

      • From Aid to Coherence - Making Development More Effective | Helen Clark

        09 May 2012

        The policy coherence agenda is critical for achieving sustainable development and building the trust necessary between developed and developing countries to tackle global development challenges together. Photo: UN/Shehzad Noorani

        There is growing awareness that many of the most pressing challenges we face, from climate change to the spread of epidemics, the consequences of financial crises, and the forced displacement of people, require global solutions.  The focus must shift from aid effectiveness to development effectiveness.  Below, I am outlining some key policy areas where more coherence is needed: Trade and finance: Trade barriers are detrimental to the efforts of developing countries to grow their exports.  Climate change: Donors continue to invest in fossil fuel-based energy production. Migration: Recruiting health personnel from developing countries and investing in the health sector of those countries at the same time can be costly for donor countries and cause critical shortages of labor and a brain drain in developing countries. Investment policy: Without environmental, labour, social, and fiduciary standards, foreign direct investment may become exploitative of people, a country’s institutions, and the environment, instead of fostering economic growth and sustainable development.  Food security: Fears have emerged that other policies, like support for biofuel production in the global North to promote cleaner energy, contribute to raising food prices and jeopardize food security for food importing countries in the south. Tax and aid policies:  A lack of transparency  Read More

      • Road to Rio: Nations on a mission for sustainable energy for all | Veerle Vandeweerd

        08 May 2012

        Solar panels provide clean energy in remote places. UN Photo

        Jamaica is on a mission for sustainable energy for all. The government spent US$2.2 billion – or 40 percent - of its foreign exchange earnings importing fossil fuels in 2011. To make a change Jamaicans turned to the nature around them – sun, waterfalls and rivers – and invested in renewable energy. By 2030, 30 percent of Jamaica’s energy will now come from renewables. Jamaica is one of 29 Small Island Development States (SIDS) that came together at the Achieving Sustainable Energy for All Conference in Barbados this week to share their determination to be free from dependence on fossil fuels. Just weeks ahead of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development or ‘Rio+20’, these nations, with some of the highest energy bills in the world, put forward a list of commitments to change. By 2029, Barbados will reduce its fossil fuel bill by US$283million, Mauritius will increase the share of renewable energy to 35 percent or more by 2025; and Seychelles committed to produce 15 percent of energy from renewables by 2030. Timor Leste set out its timeline: by 2015, no households in the capital will need to use firewood for cooking; by 2020, 50 percent of energy will come from  Read More

      • Road to Rio: Empowerment, accountability and the rule of law | Magdy Martinez-Soliman

        07 May 2012

        In South Sudan, UNDP is supporting legal education and research to lay a strong foundation for a united, peaceful and prosperous society. Photo: UNDP

        Sustainable development is about ever-widening inclusiveness and transformation of impoverished people into empowered and informed citizens.  It is about governments being held accountable for the decisions they make. The three strands of sustainable development must go hand in hand along with civil and political rights. From our perspective, sustainable development must entail human development and democratic governance.  Why is it so crucial?  Because it is the poorest in the world who will bear the brunt of unsustainable practices, as their livelihoods and welfare are most closely linked to natural resources. Sustainable development boils down to the fundamental question of whether people have the opportunities to know their rights, claim their rights, voice their concerns and influence their future, and whether decision makers can be held accountable for policies that impact communities, their environments and livelihoods. ‘Triple win’ development policies can regenerate the global commons by integrating social development with economic growth and environmental sustainability.  Governance is the glue that binds together the three strands in policy and practice. Law and regulatory reforms should serve as a means to resetting the balance between economic efficiency, social fairness and environmental sustainability. This requires that legal and regulatory frameworks be assessed from a sustainability  Read More

      • Road to Rio: What should replace the MDGs? | Rebeca Grynspan

        01 May 2012

        A worker of "Cooperative Café Timor", Timor-Leste’s largest employer, raises a handful of coffee beans (UN Photo/Martine Perret)

        The main objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are as relevant today as before: to free people everywhere from hunger and poverty, ensure that they can live healthy lives, have access to basic education, sanitation, and clean drinking water, and that men and women are guaranteed equal rights, placing human development at the centre of the debate. Much progress has been made, such as halving extreme poverty, reducing infant deaths by nearly 12,000 fewer children each day and increasing the number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS 13-fold. But we are still a long way from achieving some of the goals and targets, including reducing maternal mortality and empowering women and girls.  Extreme poverty will only have been reduced by half as compared to 1990 levels, but not eradicated.  Achieving the MDGs by our target date must remain a top priority and the international community must not lose its focus and momentum on achieving the MDGs by the 2015 deadline.  In thinking about the post-2015 agenda, we must ensure that our approach reaches those left behind or at risk of being left behind: the poorest of the poor and those disadvantaged, stigmatized, or discriminated against because of their sex,  Read More

      • Haiti: The key to recovery | Marc-Andre Franche

        25 Apr 2012

        Haiti’s ability to successfully manage people and resources, establish and enforce norms, monitor and report progress, is foundational to its development. Photo: UNDP

        The difference in Port-au-Prince today is striking. The visible progress is testament to the limitless dedication of Haitians towards rebuilding their country. It also shows unprecedented support from the international community. As the humanitarian effort winds down, it is crucial to understand Haiti will continue to face humanitarian situations, but these must be integrated into medium and long-term recovery and development strategies.  The international community cannot forget Haiti and must scale up the quality and quantity of its support.  In particular, support should ensure Haitians are genuinely front and center of the reconstruction process.  For their part, Haitians and in particular the economic and political elites must revive the extraordinary sense of unity and solidarity which was so moving after the earthquake.  Urgent decisions on realistic actions plans that count on actual available resources are needed.  Agreements between the legislative and executive and between ministries regarding division of labor and issues of leadership are critical for any progress to materialize. Furthermore, improving the quality of aid requires new focus and investments to build durable Haitian institutions.  Haiti’s ability to successfully manage people and resources, establish and enforce norms, monitor and report progress, is foundational to its development. The government and the  Read More

      • Road to Rio: The moral link to the global economic crisis | Olav Kjørven

        23 Apr 2012

        Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, argues that a key underlying failure in recent decades has been the almost complete decoupling of economics and policy-making from moral and conscientious reflection. Photo: UNDP

        I was honored to host a discussion with Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen in contribution to the post-2015 development dialogue on Friday in New York.  Our discussion, focused on the ‘ethos of inclusion’, took place as the global economy may be going through its worst crisis since World War II. What we have is a global, multifaceted crisis that brings to the fore existing deficiencies in policy making. It highlights the weaknesses of measuring progress only in terms of growth, as the 2011 Human Development Report stresses, and divorcing economic rationale from the social and environmental considerations of development. If these deficiencies are not addressed comprehensively and forcefully over an extended period of time, they threaten to reverse the impressive gains in human development the world has seen over the last few decades. But how did we get here and what can be done? Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, argues that a key underlying failure in recent decades has been the almost complete decoupling of economics and policy-making from moral and conscientious reflection. The framing of economics and economic policy as instruments to achieve broader human and social ends has been the subject of intense study by Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, John  Read More

      • Road to Rio: What kind of world do we want to live in? | Helen Clark

        17 Apr 2012


        I personally want to live in a sustainable and equitable world, where decisions taken at all levels are driven by respect for and promotion of people’s choices, freedoms and opportunities, while also respecting the boundaries of nature. For me, achieving sustainable development is not about trading economic, social, and environmental objectives off against each other. It is about seeing them as interconnected objectives which are best pursued together. The act and consequences of reducing environmental degradation, for example, can stimulate employment and reduce poverty. The reverse is also true: in degrading the environment, a country can undermine the long term prospects of its economy and society. Such ideas shaped discussions in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Known as the Earth Summit, it attracted more heads of states and governments than any previous UN meeting had, addressed an unprecedentedly broad set of concerns, and attracted record numbers of actively involved and newly empowered non-governmental organisations. In about two months, the international community will meet again in Rio, twenty years after the Earth Summit, for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or what is called Rio + 20. So often, discussions about sustainable development seem to focus on  Read More

      • Road to Rio: Putting resilience at the heart of development | Helen Clark

        16 Apr 2012

        How can we support countries in becoming more resilient towards these kinds of shocks?

        The threats to our world and to development are real and imminent. Nearly forty per cent of the global landmass is already degraded due to soil erosion, reduced fertility, and overgrazing. With a projected increase of the world’s population to almost nine billion by 2020, this stress will undoubtedly surge. Our political, social, economic, and technological tools and our policies need to step up urgently to address these challenges, and building resilience must be at the very heart of this effort.  For UNDP, achieving resilience is a transformative process which builds on the innate strength of individuals, their communities, and institutions to prevent, lessen the impacts of, and learn from the experience of shocks of any type, internal or external, natural or man-made; economic, health-related, political, or social. The question is: how can we support countries in becoming more resilient towards these kinds of shocks? Building resilience benefits from governance which is active, effective, honest, fair, and responsive and representative. When state institutions fail to guarantee access to justice and a functioning public service, and cannot provide an enabling environment in which people can flourish, communities become more vulnerable to the criminal or other violent entities which will fill any void.  Read More

The Speakers Corner








The Speakers Corner helps connect think tanks, academia, the media and the public to a diverse group of experts who can speak to UNDP’s commitment to “empower lives” and build "resilient nations.”

Visit the Speakers Corner