Our Perspectives

To promote women’s leadership in the public sector, we need better data

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Civil service support officers provide on-the-job training to their South Sudanese counterparts as part of a UNDP governance project. Photo: Brian Sokol/UNDP South Sudan

Public administration is the foundation of government and a major employer in most countries. As such, women’s participation in the civil service is vital for their economic empowerment as well as for mirroring the fabric of society in a country’s public institutions. Access to open data showing whether women are in fact equally represented in government is of paramount importance. It is the evidence that can tell us where improvements are necessary. While some progress has been achieved in terms of opening up data on women’s representation in other areas of public life, such as the political sphere, UNDP’s Gender Equality in Public Administration (GEPA) initiative has documented that data on women’s role in the civil service remains largely absent. This data gap is particularly dire when it comes to women’s access to decision-making positions. Existing evidence The first phase of GEPA culminated in a Global Report (2014), which synthesized the findings of 13 in-depth country case studies. The numbers show that globally, women continue to be underrepresented in the executive branch of government, particularly at decision-making levels: ·         In 11 of the 13 case study countries, women hold less than 30% of decision-making positions in public administration. ·         Women occupy... Read more

Youth: not simply human beings, but human becomings

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Zambian youth at a UNDP consultation. Investment in youth and their input is crucial to long-term and sustainable development. Photo: UNDP Zambia

In recent years, perhaps no demographic of society has been better reported on than young people. Why has there been so much human development interest? There are, I believe, at least 3 reasons: Human development is, by definition, forward looking. I remember a professor remarking that she preferred to think of the young not simply as human beings, but as human becomings. Last year’s Human Development Report (HDR) considered how people’s vulnerabilities change over their lives and showed how disadvantage early in life creates gaps that worsen over a lifetime. Disadvantaged children are on track to become the youths who do poorly in school or drop out. In the workplace, they perform the most menial work and earn the lowest wages. And when these young people have children, a cycle of inherited poverty begins and is repeated across generations. Moreover, youth is a time for transition: from childhood to adulthood, from school to work. But transition points are, as the 2014 HDR argued, particularly vulnerable moments: setbacks here can be especially difficult to overcome and can scar a young person’s chances for a better life.  “Multiple vulnerabilities, stemming from poverty, inequality, social exclusion and hazardous environments, reinforce and overlap with one... Read more

We need to get better at killing our darlings

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"The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up", painting by J. M. W. Turner, 1838.

In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on innovation in development practice. Reading James Whitehead’s post on the best ways to be innovative, I found myself nodding to most of his reflections. Particularly: ”I want to be working with people who are passionate about solving problems at scale rather than magpies obsessed with finding shiny new innovative solutions.” Yet, I felt something more needed to be said. The well-known side of innovation is the creative one. We identify novel ways of doing business, co-create new ideas with the end-users, and test them. The flip side of innovation is to discontinue practices for which we do not have sufficient evidence of impact or that are no longer relevant. It is not about technological progress per se but the readiness and ability to identify what works, what doesn’t, and to stop doing what should not be done. A colleague from our team likes to emphasize that “innovation is also about constantly killing your darlings.” Geoff Mulgan illustrated this point in a presentation a few years ago with the 1838 Turner painting of ‘The Fighting Temeraire.’ It depicts a battleship towed into harbor by a new steam-powered tug,... Read more

The 100 Day Dash for Climate Action

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A man looks out over the mountains in Parque Regional Todos Santos Cuchumatán, La Torre, Guatemala. The Environment and Poverty initiative in Guatemala is promoting the relationship between natural resource management and poverty reduction. Photo: Giovanni Diffidenti/UNDP Guatemala

Aug. 22 marks 100 days until the U.N. climate conference in Paris, France. Countries have made commitments, which give hope that an ambitious agreement may be possible. What makes an agreement ambitious? Above all, a push on all sectors and stakeholders so that development is climate-conscious and risk-informed. Development practitioners and climate experts need to work together. During the next 100 days, UNDP will do its part: Drawing on our climate change portfolio, which supports 140 countries, we will strive to share the lessons we have learned. From our collaboration in Latin America to expand wind energy, to our work on small-scale agricultural adaptation in Africa and Asia, we have gleaned best practices that showcase the tools and resources available to tackle climate change and sustain development. The ingredients are all there, the challenge now is to use Paris as a springboard to scale up those best practices and to seize the post-2015 opportunity. Read the entire post on Devex.   ... Read more

Too much, too little, never enough

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Benito Velasquez, a farmer from Torota, Bolivia, says erratic weather is affecting his crops. Photo: Dylan Lowthian/UNDP

“I beg everyone to think. It’s not just one country – we have to think about the whole world. We have to say this to our leaders.” Benito Velasquez has farmed a modest patch of land in central Bolivia all his life. “Climate change is taking place”, he says. “We have lots of work to do. Maybe in 50 years we can repair what we have destroyed. We have to repair it.” I have come to meet Benito to see firsthand how changing weather patterns are affecting Bolivian farmers. The interview is part of a visit to four countries on three continents, to document the effect climate change is having on agricultural communities. “The seeds we sow no longer flourish at the proper time”, says Benito. “You can see there are lakes and basins without water. ­ Benito plans for the dry and wet seasons, and plants crops according to knowledge that goes back generations. This expertise, based on the predictability of the weather, is designed to maximize the harvest. Lately, such systems are not working. The weather has become erratic, unpredictable, and extreme. At the time, we were unaware that Benito’s story will be repeated. In each place we visit,... Read more

L’Afrique à mi-chemin de ses Trente Glorieuses

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Africa's economic prospects are bright, but the continent loses about 4 percent of its GDP each year due to the exclusion of women from business and politics. Photo: Aziza Bangwene/UNDP in DRC

L'Afrique subsaharienne est sans doute le seul endroit au monde où les niveaux de vie n’ont eu de cesse de stagner, ou de se détériorer tout au long des années 1980 et 1990.

Les quinze prochaines années, couvrant l’Agenda de développement post-2015, peuvent bien consacrer l’avènement des Trente Glorieuses de l’Afrique, mais il faudra impérativement engager cinq dynamiques essentielles, pour consolider et porter à grande échelle, les acquis des quinze dernières années.... Read more

Comment les plus démunis peuvent-ils bénéficier du nouveau vaccin contre Ebola ?

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Community participation in immunization programmes results in higher coverage and reduces the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases. Photo: UNDP Liberia

Selon les chercheurs, le nouveau vaccin contre Ebola doit être conservé à moins 80 degrés Celsius. Comment réaliser une telle prouesse dans des pays aux climats tropicaux où l'infrastructure sanitaire est rudimentaire?

Notre expérience avec la réponse au virus du VIH nous a montré que la préparation des communautés est essentielle.... Read more

If you want it done take action

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Youth participate in a rubbish removal initiative in As-Salamieh, Syria. Photo: UNDP Syria

It pains me when people on social media comment that everyday civic engagement isn’t their responsibility and should be solely the work of governments and the UN. Civic engagement is defined as “individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern.” We don’t all need to be leaders, but we should all take part in our society. If we get a cut, do we treat ourselves right away or do we wait for a leader to bring us a Band-Aid? If we want an improvement in our community done right, our way, why shouldn’t we take initiative rather wait for permission from a leader to do it for us? Being a Burmese-American, I’ve been following the actions around the recent floods in Myanmar with interest. A great uncle’s rice mill is currently submerged in over 20 feet of flood water. Laymyatna, my father’s childhood town on the Ngawun River, is under water. But it is inspiring to see how Myanmar youth are taking action.  They have been instrumental on social media, amplifying global #SaveMyanmar crowdfunding campaigns, and providing updates for the Burmese diaspora. My uncle remarked in awe in an e-mail that compared to when Cyclone Nargis... Read more

10 ways youth can make an impact

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Actors participate in the Loy9 Drama in Romdoul Village, Cambodia. Television dramas, TV and radio talk shows, and online platforms encourage young Cambodians to learn, debate and share experiences on civic participation in an initiative funded by UNDP and produced by BBC Media Action. Photo: BBC Media Action

“We are addressing youth today, because youth have placed themselves on the top of the agenda.”–Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon Youth activism and engagement can bring about important social changes that are sometimes left behind. You don’t have to wait to be an adult to be an active member of your community. Your opinion matters and it should be heard. Here’s a list of ideas of how you can participate locally and globally: 1. Know your rights: You might not be able to vote yet, but all children and youth hold national and international rights. These rights are only of use to you if you are informed about them, so read up! 2. Learn about local issues: Is a roadblock affecting your commute to school? Are the new taxes affecting your family’s livelihood? Whatever the case, learning the issue will help in creating solutions that will have an impact on you. 3. Speak out: Speaking your mind online (through social media), and/or offline (at local meetings and gatherings) helps you assert yourself and your interests. Also, you never know who might be listening. Think before posting. Social media has a long memory and things can never truly be... Read more

Calling all superheroes for civic engagement

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Youth in Burundi frame themselves. Get involved in #YouthDay like them by sending in a photo of yourself and civic engagement. Photo: UNDP Burundi/Rossignol

“Civic engagement.” The superhero term of our time is facing a big problem. It is virtually meaningless to the exact group of people (those between the ages of 14 and 25) which it is supposed to inspire and engage. Walking the halls of UNDP, you often hear the sentiment that if we could just get more youth to engage in their communities, the world would be a much better place to live. Yes, civic engagement is how modern day superheroes are born and you could be one of them.                                But what exactly is “civic engagement”? What does it entail? What is it not? And how can youth really take part in it? Hang on tight, as we decipher the meaning and ways in which you, the world’s youth, can use this phrase to make a real change in our world. First things first: What is civic engagement? It means active participation! Picture yourself as the principle of your school or maybe even the president of your country. As such you have the authority, power, and resources to improve the lives of your community. What would you do? Where would you start? Who would you ask for help? In answering these... Read more

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