Our Perspectives

In high-risk areas, UNDP-Japan partnership delivers on human security

Japanese Ambassador for Palestinian Affairs Takeshi Okubo attended the Tokyo League table tennis championships in Gaza. The league uses sports to encourage Palestinian youth in the face of conflict and other hardships. Photo: Shareef Sarhan/UNDP PAPP

I’ll never forget watching the final match of the Tokyo League volleyball tournament. It was heart-warming to see the students, wearing their scarves known as Hijab, playing the game with delight, their eyes shining with joy. It seemed like a memorable experience also for the team, who have no opportunity to explore the world beyond the wall. As you might have guessed by now, the Tokyo League doesn’t play in Japan. The league, which began as an initiative of the Japanese Ambassador for Palestinian Affairs, Takeshi Okubo, competes 9,000 miles away in Gaza. The project also includes a female table tennis league and a football league for boys. I decided to visit the Middle East for my first mission as the head of the Japan Unit at UNDP in order to take stock of the impact of Japanese funding in this complex region. As part of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, the Japan Unit’s role is to raise and manage funding from Japan, but also to deepen the policy coherence between UNDP and Japan. Our work in the Middle East is a prime example of this partnership, which centres on realizing human security on the ground. During my mission, … Read more

Cyclone Roanu is a reminder: We must focus on preventing crises, even as we respond to them

As leaders gather for the World Humanitarian Summit, Cyclone Roanu has displaced half a million people in Bangladesh. Photo: UNDP Bangladesh

In this blog series leading up to the World Humanitarian Summit, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on responding to conflict and disasters. As the World Humanitarian Summit unfolds and leaders discuss the humanitarian impact of rising crises and disasters, half a million people are currently displaced in Bangladesh. Cyclone Roanu pummeled the Bangladesh coastline on 21 May with 55mph winds and floodwaters several feet high. Making landfall in the country’s southeast, the cyclone brought devastation to areas unaffected by cyclones for the past 25 years. Where there used to be crops there is now salt water – the sea surrounding even the cyclone shelter. UNDP is already on the ground in Banshkali, the hardest-hit area and the site of seven of the 24 confirmed deaths caused by cyclone. The embankment protecting the people living there caved in, flooding homes, crops and freshwater fish ponds.   Meeting with survivors and surveying the damage, our team learnt that in some areas, as many as 90 percent of houses may be damaged, leaving families without shelter for the oncoming monsoon season. Many are now sheltering on a raised road nearby.   Further south, in the Chokoria sub-district, the embankment had … Read more

Building a better future for Syrians in Turkey

Syrian Kurdish refugees cross into Turkey from Syria, near the town of Kobani. The war that erupted in Syria in 2011 has propelled it into becoming the world’s single largest driver of displacement. Photo: I. Prickett/UNHCR

In this blog series leading up to the World Humanitarian Summit, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on responding to conflict and disasters. As thousands leave Syria for safer lands, images of white tents and perilous boat journeys have flooded the world’s media. But there’s another side to this story. In Turkey, the host of this week’s World Humanitarian Summit, only about 10 percent of the approximately 2.75 million displaced people from Syria live in refugee camps. The rest live in towns and cities like many of us. Across the country’s southeast, Syrians are silently trying to make a living and blend in. Imagine this: you have new neighbours that you would like to know, but the language barrier and customs make it difficult to reach out. Or you want to find short-term employment, but until recently obtaining a work permit was nearly impossible. These are real-life situations faced by hundreds of thousands of ordinary men and women. Syrians now represent more than 50 percent of the population of Kilis and 22.5 percent of the population of Gaziantep. Over the last five years, more than 150,000 babies of Syrian parents displaced by the conflict were born in Turkey. As the crisis on the … Read more

Why building peaceful societies is part of the sustainable development agenda

Participants of the Sudan Peace Symposium, a gathering of national and international experts on peace and conflict issues. Photo: UNDP Sudan

We tend not to worry when things are going well. If people can take care of their daily business and send their kids to school without fear of violence, resolve disputes through a functioning justice system when the need arises, express their views both in private discussions and in public processes, feel they can truly contribute to decisions that affect their lives, and know effective institutions are in place to deliver basic services to their families and communities without interruption or the need for bribes, chances are they will be broadly content with the way their society is managed. But, if any one of these public goods is absent, or if their access to safety, health, education or livelihoods is threatened, concerns are likely to be expressed quickly – and often very loudly. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the importance of these public goods as being at the heart of sustainable development. There is a strong focus on peaceful, just and inclusive societies in the 2030 Agenda – and explicit recognition that there can be no peace without sustainable development and no sustainable development without peace. Where safety is routinely and casually under threat, it will be impossible to … Read more

World Humanitarian Summit: With a shared agreement on what to fix, we can save lives and end need

The humanitarian and development sectors need to find new ways to work together to help people in need. Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran/UNAMID

In this blog series leading up to the World Humanitarian Summit, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on responding to conflict and disasters. Many of the statistics around the World Humanitarian Summit are so big they can be hard to comprehend. Most importantly, there is the scale of the humanitarian challenges that led the Secretary-General to convene the Summit in the first place. It’s the 125 million people needing humanitarian assistance – the highest level since the Second World War. It’s the 60 million people who have fled their homes - half of them children. It’s the fact that armed conflicts last longer than before, and it’s the estimated 218 million people annually who are affected by disasters, with climate change adding further volatility to the mix. Secondly, there is the Summit itself. Over the last three years, 23,000 people in 153 countries were involved in the consultations. Then, on 23 and 24 May in Istanbul, around 6,000 participants are expected to come together for the Summit itself, including global leaders from government, business, aid organizations, civil society, affected communities and youth, among others. When the challenges are so overwhelming, and so many people have a role to … Read more

Despite global climate pledge, indigenous activists are under attack

Historically indigenous peoples have assumed an important role in the sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems. Photo: UNDP Venezuela

Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres was the main promoter of the campaign against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in Honduras. In 2015, her work won her the Goldman Environmental Prize, the highest international recognition for environmental advocates. On 3 March 2016, her dedication to her people and the environment likely got her killed. In a recent report entitled “How many more?” Global Witness analyzes 116 murders of environmentalists in 2014 and confirms that three-quarters occurred in Latin America. The report states that Honduras is the most dangerous country per capita for environmental activists, with 101 killed between 2010 and 2014. Equally disturbing is that the percentage of indigenous victims like Berta rose to 40 percent in 2015. Among the deadliest occupations are fighting the hydroelectric industry, mining companies and agribusinesses. These numbers illustrate a serious paradox. 177 countries have signed the Paris Climate Agreement in which they commit to reducing carbon emissions and curbing climate change. Yet those who are leading the fight to protect the environment are being killed almost on a daily basis. This contradiction exists because the number of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that depend on natural resources for their economic and social development is growing. … Read more

Les migrants, une chance pour l’économie

Well-managed migration contributes to preventing crisis and supports achievement of sustainable development goals. Photo: UNDP FYROM

La mobilité humaine est inévitable et continue. Plus de 3% de la population mondiale vit hors de son pays d’origine, et ce chiffre ne cesse de croître. Les individus se déplacent pour accroître leurs chances de trouver un travail, étudier, rejoindre d’autres membres de la famille ou fuir persécutions, guerres, catastrophes naturelles ou simplement la misère. Il y a toujours eu des migrants. Du fait de la mondialisation, les mouvements de population sont plus rapides, mieux visibles et de plus grande ampleur. Si l’on ne peut empêcher la migration humaine — et pourquoi devrions-nous le faire ? — il est possible de rendre les mouvements de population plus sûrs en adoptant et en mettant en œuvre des régimes migratoires efficaces — un ensemble adéquat d’institutions, de lois et de politiques — qui procurent aussi des avantages multiples et durables pour le développement.… Read more

Predicting future impacts on SDGs in Brazil’s uncertain times

In Brazil, social programmes have had an impact on eliminating disease. Photo: Tiago Zenero/UNDP Brazil

Bolsa Familia, Brazil’s highly acclaimed conditional cash transfer programme has been an inspiration to many developing countries. But today, in the midst of the country’s worst political and economic crisis in decades, the future of this social protection system is becoming less certain.  The programme’s successes are well-known. It has helped to nearly eradicate extreme poverty and reduce inequality across the country. It has increased school attendance, reduced infant mortality and improved public health. It is a powerful force for women’s empowerment, with targeted benefits for pregnant and nursing women; 93 percent of card holders are women. Perhaps less known is the programme’s attention to data. In 2007, the Cadastro Unico was created as a single registry database to track socioeconomic and household data of low income families. Far-reaching efforts were made to verify potential beneficiaries for social programmes, with over 1,200 crews visiting homes across the country, deep in the Amazon and other rural areas. Today, the Cadastro Unico tracks more than 103 million people (around half of the country’s population) as recipients of Bolsa Familia and 13 other social programmes.   This extensive database has proven essential for optimizing programme delivery, ensuring services are delivered to the right people … Read more

The Goldilocks of gender data: Searching for “just right” on women in public institutions

Ensuring gender equality in public institutions starts with gathering strong data. Photo: UNDP Azerbaijan

The bad news first: we don’t know the exact state of gender equality in the world’s public institutions. The good news: once we begin monitoring this, it will be harder to ignore inequalities in the public service, which we anecdotally know exist on a global scale. The Sustainable Development Goals have thrust us into a data revolution and we have impetus to make sure it is a gendered revolution. Inclusive governance is at the core of SDG 16 on peaceful and just societies. And so, SDG 16 has set out to measure the composition of public institutions. Without this information, governments will not have the evidence necessary for designing policies that foster equal access to and opportunities within public administration. Nine months ago, a multidisciplinary graduate research group was formed at the University of Pittsburgh to work alongside UNDP in answering the call to action on finding the data on women’s leadership in civil service. As a first step towards designing an ideal tracking mechanism on women in public service, the 20 researchers began an in-depth hunt for what is already out there—searching for data that lends itself to easy analysis, that is regularly collected, easily accessible and is gender-disaggregated. By … Read more

Leave no one and no city behind

By Tammam Azzam, Freedom Graffiti II

In this blog series leading up to the World Humanitarian Summit, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on responding to conflict and disasters. The world has witnessed rapid and often unplanned urban growth. Cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost. Between now and 2030, the world’s urban population is projected to grow by 1.5 billion people. More than 90 percent of that urban growth will occur in areas located in the developing world, mostly in Africa and Asia. Urbanization and cities present opportunities for enhancing the economic prospects of countries and improving the lives of many. But rapid urbanization and rapidly expanding cities also pose challenges, especially to countries already grappling with a range of development priorities. Frequently, the urbanization process is poorly managed, resulting in inequitable, exclusionary and fragmented cities with marginalized populations. This can fuel an increased risk of violence. Conflict and violence present particularly significant challenges to cities in developing countries that are vulnerable to shocks and risks. This makes it necessary for humanitarian and development organizations to change their ways of working. “Leaving no one and no city behind” has to be a shared principle. UNDP recognizes the … Read more

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