Our Perspective

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

08 May 2012

image 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

image 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

image 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

image 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

image 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

image 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

Road to Rio: Women 'out of sight, out of mind’| Helen Clark

11 Apr 2012

image Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia and former UNDP staff, is the first elected female head of state in Africa as well as Nobel Peace Prize winner. Photo: UNDP

Today, there are only eight women heads of state – representing slightly more than five per cent of the total.  This seems extraordinary in the second decade of the 21st century.  The global average of women holding parliamentary seats remains under twenty per cent, which is well below the thirty per cent target set in the Millennium Development Goals.  At the current rate of progress, that target will not be reached globally before 2025, and long beyond that in many countries.  That is too long for women and the world to wait. The proportions of women in national legislatures in the world’s regions range from roughly 22 per cent in the Americas and Europe (with the 42 per cent in Nordic countries pushing the average figures up) to 20.2 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, 17.9 per cent in Asia, 14.9 per cent in the Pacific, and 10.7 per cent in the Arab States.  Five countries – all in the Gulf and the Pacific – have no women parliamentarians at all. Only sixteen per cent of ministers are women, and most often they are allocated portfolios like those for social welfare, women, and children.   When women are “out of sight, out of  Read More

Road to Rio: Partnering for the sustainable future we want | Sigrid Kaag

10 Apr 2012

image Installation of diesel-fueled engines in Mali was a joint partnership of the governments of Mali, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNDP, as well as other partners. Photo: UNDP

When world leaders, NGOs, the private sector and others meet in Rio this June to discuss how to achieve a future we want, "sustainable development" will be the buzz word. But what does it actually mean and how can we achieve sustainable development?  Development that is truly sustainable must include economic, environmental and social aspects. It is paramount for the international community to forge strong partnerships with all parts of society to build a greener and more inclusive world.  But how can the international community establish successful collaborations between governments, the private sector and civil society to achieve the sustainable future we all want? Here are some possible solutions: - We need to focus on collaborations where there is a real, deep interest and rationale for the private sector to engage. Their engagement needs to be more than  philanthropic. - With support from the United Nations, governments and public organizations need to set policy frameworks and provide incentives for businesses to take action. - The United Nations can also help with systemic topics leading to large-scale investments, such as technology innovation or setting new rules and standards. - Finally, the UN can support large-scale change by establishing collaboration platforms and networks  Read More

Gender equality is central to democracy | Sezin Sinanoglu

04 Apr 2012

image Image from UNDP's documentary "The Glass Ceiling,” shining light on political inequality. Photo: UNDP Thailand

While the world's attention focuses on Myanmar's elections this week, we should not lose sight of a more regional concern about women's political participation in Asia and the Pacific. This part of the world has the distinction of having the lowest percentages of women in national legislatures of any region outside of the Arab states. Roughly 18.2 percent of national legislature seats in Asia are held by women, and only 15 percent in the Pacific. If you exclude Australia and New Zealand, it drops to just five percent. Globally, less than 20 percent of the world's parliamentary seats are occupied by women. We are still far from reaching the United Nations Millennium Development Goal target of at least 30 percent by 2015. Why does it matter if women are so poorly represented? Women's perspective and their participation in politics are prerequisites for democratic development and contribute to good governance. Moreover, Asia is home to two-thirds of the world's population, but economic progress will be limited without equal opportunity for men and women to influence political and economic decisions. There are some basic prescriptions that could set the scene for more political equality: - Establishing consensus among party leadership to promote women's  Read More

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