Our Perspectives

In adaptation understanding economics is priceless

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In Ou Village, Siem Reap Province villagers are trained in planting techniques and drip irrigation installation as part of a climate-proofing agricultural practices adaptation project in Cambodia. Photo: Narith Mao/UNDP Cambodia

What is the right policy or incentive to encourage climate change adaptation? One could simply pick the one that is politically expedient and implement it. If it doesn’t work, make adjustments and try again. In many instances, this is exactly how public policy is defined, despite what is in textbooks or what best practice would suggest. Clearly, this kind of reactive approach has its limits. It doesn’t necessarily result in the most economically efficient choices being made. Understanding the economics of climate change adaptation is critical.  In a world with competing demands for limited resources, governments can ask critical questions to form the most efficient policy. For instance, what is the magnitude of climate change impact on a sector like agriculture? To what extent will households that rely on agriculture be affected? Where are these changes expected? What kinds of interventions will have the highest return in terms of social welfare improvements? Where and when should the investments be made? Adapt too soon, and the impacts may not be realized. Adapt too late and the investments are futile. The problem is that these questions, critical for policy formulation, are not well understood in developing countries, largely due to under-financing of research... Read more

Getting it right in Addis: Sustainable agriculture key to green growth and reducing poverty

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Indonesia’s palm oil smallholders, who produce about 40% of the country’s palm oil, are plagued by bad production techniques. Photo: UNDP in Indonesia

The Financing for Development summit in Addis is a decisive point in the process towards the post-2015 development agenda. World leaders, high-level policy makers, funders and finance ministers, among others, are expected to deliver the political will, policy reforms, and financial investments required to end extreme poverty by 2030. Agriculture and nutrition is one of the four key focus areas at the summit, along with sustainable infrastructure, social protection and technology. Already at the core of much of what UNDP does every day across the globe, this reinforces agriculture as a key pillar of our poverty reduction efforts in over 170 countries. The production of agricultural commodities, such as palm oil, beef, soy, coffee, and cocoa, plays a pivotal role in global efforts to improve livelihoods across the globe. Sadly, agriculture is also the main driver of deforestation today, and is threatening to devastate the very environment upon which we depend to survive. UNDP is engaged in promoting sustainable agricultural practices to improve the lives of millions of farmers through its Green Commodities Programme (GCP). If smallholder farmers, many of whom are women, are to be lifted out of poverty, we need to improve the economic, social, and environmental performance of... Read more

Nepal’s road to recovery is paved with collaboration

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In a park located in a central urban area in Kathmandu, Nepal, citizens who lost their houses are living in tents provided by international assistance. Photo: Naoki Nihei/UNDP

Looking down from a plane above Kathmandu, I was not able to clearly assess the degree of damage from the 25th April earthquake. In rural areas, most of the houses were destroyed. In Kathmandu, many whose houses were affected are living in tents outside of their homes. In late May, I travelled to Kathmandu to support Japan-UNDP cooperation to help the Government of Nepal in the reconstruction planning after the devastating earthquakes. I could see the colorful tents everywhere in the city, as we flew over it. Nepal was heavily affected by the earthquake and resulting aftershocks, bearing the loss of nearly 9,000 lives. After the earthquake, Nepal received support for emergency assistance activities from numerous countries, conducting life-saving missions and medical treatment activities. Once these activities settled down, the international society started assisting the Government of Nepal on a medium- and long-term reconstruction plan. UNDP was one of the main players for this planning exercise. In the process of post-disaster reconstruction, it is essential to first assess the degree of the damage and loss and then evaluate the financial needs for recovery and reconstruction. Based on this assessment, donors and aid agencies, as well as the affected country, can gain... Read more

Next time could be different – Towards risk-informed development finance

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State-contingent financing can help countries manage risk and deal with shocks more effectively. Photo: UNDP in Sierra Leone

In this blog series, our experts share their thoughts on key financing for development issues. History provides a stark reminder that sovereign debt crises have been and are a regular feature of international development and finance. This was captured, with a touch of irony, by Professors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff in their book: ‘This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly’. They argued that with every debt crisis we naively behave as if we are confronting it for the first time, and pretend that we have drawn the lessons that will save us from the next crisis. Yet, centuries of continued financial volatility and recurrent debt crises prove to the contrary. But is this the inevitable reality of international finance? Or can we think of new forms of risk-informed development finance? And can these contribute to reducing the risk of costly and socially taxing sovereign debt restructuring and defaults? The last two decades have seen growing interest in the adoption of state-contingent finance – i.e. financing modalities where debt service payments are linked to a country’s ability to pay. Informed by the 1980s sovereign debt literature (e.g. Krugman, 1988; Sachs, 1989), as well as by Robert Shiller’s work on Macro... Read more

There is no honor in barring women from voting

On 30 May, the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan went to the polls to exercise their hard-earned democratic right to choose their local leaders. But newspaper reports emerged of candidates, community elders, and religious leaders conspiring to bar women from voting.  In an earlier by-election, local media reported that out of 47,280 registered women voters, not a single woman cast her vote, following a decision by local leaders to ban women from voting. It is a depressing reminder that aspects of Pakistan’s political culture remain far removed from the democratic ideals that have characterized the struggle for democracy in this country. Pakistani women are serving in the armed forces and increasing numbers of women are joining the police; putting their lives on the line to protect their fellow citizens and serve their country. Such noble sacrifice and contribution should be a source of national pride and not diminished by those misguided few who believe their gender disqualifies them from voting. Such practices have no place in a democratic society. They should be consistently rejected and challenged by all those who subscribe to the concept of multi-party democracy and are committed to strengthening the democratic system in Pakistan. A glimmer of hope... Read more

El trabajo por la igualdad de género en Cuba desde la perspectiva de un hombre

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The UNDP Gender Seal has encouraged allies to government and civil society using new measures to promote gender equality in Cuba. Photo: Carolina Azevedo/UNDP

Gender issues and concerns relating to equality and fairness involve women and men, regardless of age, skin color, ethnic background, sexual orientation or gender identity. Men are in a position to do far more to contribute to gender equality in all walks of life, in workplaces, families, and other groups to which we belong. For those of us who lead forums in the field of development cooperation, this has to be more than a policy and institutional mandate. It must be a binding obligation that we dare not ignore and which makes us grow as people. The Gender Seal is a UNDP certification process that provides incentives for ensuring that offices and their programmes work towards equality between women and men. In Cuba, with the leadership of the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, have given our support to this process.  After months of diligent effort, I had the privilege of receiving, on behalf of my UNDP colleagues in Cuba, the ultimate certification honor: the Gold Seal. How did we achieve these positive results? We carried out a strategic, self-critical and forward-looking diagnostic assessment of the “health” of the office (results, progress, challenges) and its ability to achieve benchmarks for... Read more

Helen Clark statement on Pope Francis climate change encyclical

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Building resilience to climate change in the agriculture sector is a central issue in Lao PDR, where almost a third of GDP (29.9 percent) is generated through the agriculture sector, and approximately 80 percent of the population is engaged in agricultural activities. Photo: Luke McPake/UNDP Laos

Pope Francis today issued an encyclical in which he called climate change a “principal challenge” for humanity. In the 184-page letter, Pope Francis noted that the poor are the most vulnerable to climate change, and the Pontiff urged that “swift action” be taken to “confront the crisis.” United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark welcomed the Pope’s climate message: I welcome Pope Francis' very important contribution to the climate change debate through his encyclical on the environment and the poor.   The poor and the marginalized in our societies are the ones who are the most vulnerable to climate change, and are also the ones hardest hit by its impacts. UNDP works with developing countries to avoid what Pope Francis describes as an "economy of exclusion," and strives to enable progress and growth which benefits everyone. As we look forward later this year to the creation of sustainable development goals and the expected climate change agreement, we must seize this once in a generation opportunity to chart a new course for sustainable development which benefits everyone and protects our planet. This coming September, United Nations member states will meet at the sustainable development summit, where they will adopt a series of goals... Read more

Greening rice cultivation in the Philippines benefits the country and our world

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In the Philippines, rice is the most important crop and its agriculture represents 11% of the growing GDP of the country.

When I began supporting the Philippines Programme for rice cultivation, I saw it through the lens of climate change mitigation. The logic was, if we made some necessary improvements to cultivation methods, we could reduce greenhouse gas emission (GHG) and help mitigate climate change. This is especially important in a country where 29 percent of the GHGs come from rice cultivation. However, I quickly learned that although you might be driven and committed to work towards reducing global warming, it does not necessarily lead to the critical buy-in of stakeholders like the Department of Agriculture, the National Irrigation Administration, and farmers. Our Adaptation and Mitigation programme aimed to improve local cultivation techniques in order to lower GHGs. Irrigation techniques like the applied Alternative Wetting and Drying, allow for modification of water management for shorter periods of rice flooding and a reduction of methane emissions. The first phase of the program involves building capacity for these improved techniques and supporting farmers in diversifying their income sources through the production of mushrooms, vegetables or other crops. It was estimated that this would help the Philippines reduce GHGs by 36,455,063 tons of carbon dioxide. The programme would eventually be extended to the entire country... Read more

Costing crises and pricing risk: delivering on ‘sustainability’


In this blog series, our experts share their thoughts on key financing for development issues. Earthquakes. Cyclones. Drought. Conflict. The Ebola outbreak. Oil price collapses. Shocks and stresses of different kinds strain countries, communities and families, many of them seriously and have been shown to have set back development, sometimes for decades.  For the Financing for Development (FfD) negotiations, this issue is critical. Volatility is the world’s new normal. We must consider the financing consequences in a world where shocks, crises and emergencies are commonplace. Disasters and economic collapse can, in some cases, lead to increasing and unsustainable debt. The particular vulnerabilities of least developed countries and small island developing states is well recognised. We need a change of mindset to recognize that shocks and stresses are part and parcel of development processes in countries at all income levels. Therefore investments in risk and resilience need to be an integral part of the process. Practically speaking we need to do two inter-related things: calculate the cost of crisis and price fully the reduction of risk. For the first, we already have some figures. We know disasters have cost between 2 and 3 trillion dollars over 20 years, and that individual disasters impact... Read more

When it comes to governance, millions have an opinion


Recently, the world was gripped by a global corruption scandal, involving alleged bribes and kickbacks across continents and institutions. In May, ten times as many people tweeted about issues related to transparency, corruption, and ‘good governance’ than about health or food issues. But even before the FIFA scandal broke, ‘honest and responsive government’ was consistently one of the most tweeted development issues. People care what their governments do, and how politicians and officials manage the budgets entrusted to them. They also care whether they are free to express their views publicly. As we move towards a new global development agenda encapsulated in the sustainable development goals (SDGs), we must find a way to capture ordinary people’s views about those who govern them. Debates about measuring governance have often been highly technical, among statisticians and experts with numbers and concepts that baffle ordinary people. When the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were decided, a governance goal was not included because it was considered too difficult and controversial to measure. Yet in the last 15 years, enormous progress has been made in this area. There are now numerous expert assessments of different aspects of governance, and in recent years nationally representative surveys have been... Read more

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