Our Perspective

Violence against women also hurts business and development | Suki Beavers & Benjamin Kumpf

29 Mar 2013

image A sexual violence survivor in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After receiving psycho-social support and vocational training at a multifunctional community centre, she is working as a local merchant and can guarantee a livelihood for her family. (Photo: Yves Sambu/UNDP DRC)

Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation – and this should be enough to trigger dedicated action. But this widespread violence also causes economic and development problems that remain invisible in most debates. Globally, seven in 10 women experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives, and three out of 10 at the hands of an intimate partner.   This results in huge direct and indirect costs, not only to victims and their families but also to businesses and countries. In addition to the impact on women’s health, education and participation in public life, the economic costs include health care and legal services; lost productivity and potential salaries; and the costs of prosecuting perpetrators. In Chile, a study found that women’s loss of salary as a result of domestic violence cost US $1.56 billion or more than 2 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. This is not a problem confined to developing countries: In the United States, the cost of violence against women by an intimate partner exceeds $5.8 billion per year. In Canada, annual costs have been estimated at 684 million Canadian dollars for the criminal justice system, 187 million for police and  Read More

Taking aim at lax arms control laws | Jordan Ryan

25 Mar 2013

image Following the installation of prefabricated armories in Kinshasa, DRC, the firearms of police officers stationed at Makala Central Prison and the military prison of N’Dolo are now numbered, cataloged and housed in secure storage facilities. This regulation of small arms and light weapons contributes to increased transparency and the professionalization of the public security sector. (Photo: Joseph Moura)

We need to better regulate the international arms trade. Today. Thanks in part to the efforts of organizations like the United Nations (UN) and its Member States, wars between countries are rarer now than at any other time in history. To be sure, tensions, such as between Pakistan and India, and North and South Korea still exist, yet intense conflicts, i.e. those resulting in more than 1,000 deaths in a year, dropped by half between 1980 and 2000, and continue to fall. But we can’t celebrate just yet. Armed violence still kills more than half a million people a year. As participants meet at the UN in New York try to agree on an international Arms Trade Treaty, the widespread availability of guns still causes suffering for millions around the world. While “traditional” warfare between states is subsiding, new types of violence have come to the fore. Asymmetrical conflicts, such as those in Afghanistan and Syria; inter community violence like we continue to see in Somalia; and violence linked to crime, such as what we are seeing in El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico are becoming new norms in many fragile countries. For every death from a recognized war, there are now  Read More

UNDP report cites new trends to celebrate—and more work ahead | Helen Clark

20 Mar 2013

image Bhutan, which pioneered “Gross National Happiness,” successfully backed a UN Resolution declaring March 20 the International Day of Happiness. Above, a panoramic view of Wangdue, Bhutan. (Photo: Gill Fickling/UN Photo)

Today marks the world’s first International Day of Happiness, thanks to a 2012 UN resolution declaring wellbeing a universal goal and calling for more inclusive, equitable growth to make wellbeing and happiness achievable for all. Wellbeing is very much on the rise, according to UNDP’s new flagship Human Development Report, which shows developing nations driving economic growth, lifting hundreds of millions of people from poverty and propelling many into a new global middle class. More than 40 developing countries have made greater than expected human development gains through investment in education, health care, and social programs, and open engagement with a world made smaller by information and communication technologies and globalisation. Among these is Mexico, which hosted the Human Development Report launch and is seen as a pioneer in devising proactive development policies, which have both expanded integration with global markets and proven innovative in social initiatives. In an unprecedented but little-noticed poll that challenges long-held assumptions, Gallup reported Feb. 25 that only 11 percent of Mexicans would emigrate now if they could—identical to the share of Americans who would choose to leave the United States. That finding reflects how our world is changing. So why are pollsters and researchers studying  Read More

Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda: Why does participation matter? | Veerle Vandeweerd

18 Mar 2013

image Elected women representatives in India use locally available resources to draw social maps and other micro planning tools. (Photo: Sephi Bergerson / UNDP India)

The MDGs have been a powerful tool in influencing the policy agenda with a strong human development focus. During the next 1000 days until the MDGs deadline, we will focus on helping countries to accelerate MDGs progress. In order to help countries identify bottlenecks and accelerate results, UNDP introduced the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) in 2010. The MAF has been applied in 46 countries with considerable success. As we approach the MDGs deadline, the UN embarks on the most comprehensive global consultation ever undertaken. The post-2015 process is a truly global conversation, involving and engaging both developed and developing countries, civil society, youth, the private sector, parliamentarians, the poor and the marginalized. The next development framework should build on lessons learned through the MDGs so as to make sure that the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are adequately appropriated by national institutions and the civil society. The ongoing consultations have been raising a number of important aspirations for the SDGs. Firstly, there is a clear message calling for the full incorporation of the three strands of sustainability – the social, the economic, and the environmental. Secondly, there is a strong call for moving beyond GDP as for adequately measuring human wellbeing  Read More

‘Post-2015’: Failing to address disaster risk is not an option | Jo Scheuer

13 Mar 2013

image Haitians employed by UNDP-coordinated initiatives clear debris in post-quake reconstruction. The risk of disasters like the Haiti quake should be taken into consideration when development goals are created and implemented. (Photo: UNDP Haiti)

This week in Helsinki, the global community continues to consult on how it will follow up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set to expire in 2015. As we look to the future, one thing is clear: We can no longer afford to ignore disaster risk or the relationship between disasters and development. Disasters set back development achievements. This is obvious when a hurricane washes away a school. However, development decisions can also affect disasters – for example, when houses are built to a standard that doesn’t resist earthquakes. Sometimes the relationship is more nuanced; even an earthquake-resistant highway isn’t much good if it encourages poor people to move into a flood plain. Disasters must be part of the new development framework because it is the poor and marginalized who are most vulnerable to catastrophe. The 2010 floods in Pakistan and earthquake in Haiti, and the 2011 flooding in Thailand are recent clear examples of how, long after the debris is cleared, disasters still affect every single one of the MDGs. The poor are deprived of crops, homes, schools and health centers, and the struggle to escape poverty is reversed, sometimes by decades.   The total global cost of disasters in 2011  Read More

Public service for a new age | Olav Kjørven

12 Mar 2013

image An example of effective public service, a joint UNDP-GEF programme in Mongolia provides rangers with motorcycles to monitor and collect information on wild habitats. (Photo: Eskender Debebe/UNDP)

Separated in 1965 from the Federation of Malaysia, with no natural resources other than its people, Singapore set out as a new nation-state a half-century ago. With early support from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), it built an increasingly prosperous society on the basis of farsighted economic policies, stable and capable institutions, and a public service globally renowned for its excellence. Today, the city-state of Singapore ranks among the world’s wealthiest nations, with one of the most disciplined and efficient public sectors in the world. While every nation must walk its own path, Singapore’s experience offers a number of lessons. This week it hosted the first Public Service Dialogue organized by UNDP’s new Global Centre for Public Service Excellence, which will function as a convener and connector of “thinker-practioners” around the globe who aspire to advance public service for sustainable human development. In setting up this global square for advancing public service, Singapore is signaling both its readiness to share its unique experience as well as its openness to learn from others as the practice of public service – and governance more broadly speaking—faces new challenges and opportunities. The Arab Spring highlighted the inadequacies of administrations out of touch with their  Read More

The scarcity of women in peace negotiations | Roma Bhattacharjea

06 Mar 2013

image Women in Liquica District in Timor Leste hold up their voter registration cards as they wait to participate in Timor-Leste's 2012 Parliamentary Elections. (Photo: Louise Stoddard/UNDP Timor Leste)

Women are often disproportionately affected by conflict and violence; the time has come to give them a greater role in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. I recently had the honor of visiting Washington DC to participate in the launch of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, & Security, an initiative focused less on women as victims and more on involving them integrally in peace-building and conflict prevention. I have worked on these issues for two decades—and these are exciting times. UNSC Resolution 1325, adopted in October 2000, marked a major evolution from a world in which peace negotiations have long comprised men with guns pardoning other men with guns for crimes all sides committed against women. In December 2011, US President Barack Obama issued a US National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security cutting across the executive and legislative branches of the US government, with the aim of accelerating and institutionalizing the women, peace, and security agenda. UNDP is a key player in advancing inclusive governance, inclusive economic recovery, rule of law and access to justice, notably for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. UNDP also works in some 80 crisis countries, where we advance women, peace, and security on the  Read More

ICTs and MDGs: New opportunities on the development horizon | Raul Zambrano

01 Mar 2013

image In Albania, 2,128 public schools were equipped with computer labs and 589,000 students were taught how to use them. (Photo: UNDP Albania)

We must acknowledge the amazing and certainly unexpected growth in the use of mobile technologies and devices on a global scale. While at the beginning of the new millennium mobiles were practically nonexistent in developing countries, today almost 4.8 billion people use them. We have also seen the rapid emergence of social media and so-called Web 2.0 platforms. Unlike the Internet of the 1990s, social media empowers users to generate their own content and distribute it in real time to billions of people at almost no cost. Mobiles and social media are linked in multiple ways. Just recall the recent “Arab Spring” revolutions which capitalized on both, mobilized millions and triggered political change. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are not foreign to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), on the contrary. They are are an integral part of the Millennium Agenda as reflected in MDG 8, target 18, which calls on bringing access to ICTs for all. While this is a  commendable goal, the real development value of new ICTs stems from their transformational potential. ICTs can provide new and innovative solutions to traditional development goals. They can not only increase the efficiency and efficacy of public processes but also radically change  Read More

Toward peace, unity and growth in Kenya | Modibo Touré

28 Feb 2013

image Mr. David Ngige, the project coordinator of Nyeri Social Forum, carries out mock elections training at Gatitu Nursery school, a set polling station in Nyeri. (Photo: Ricardo Gangale/UNDP Kenya)

Next Monday, in a crucial test of Kenya’s new political system, millions of voters will head to the polls to elect a new president and a host of parliamentary and local representatives. With the 2007/2008 post-electoral violence on everyone’s mind, it would be easy to forget how much progress the country has made over the past five years. 2008 ushered in a new government coalition and a peace deal, paving the way for the adoption in 2010 of a constitution that would transform the country’s political landscape. Opportunities under the new constitution offered a wide-ranging set of reforms designed to break the cycle of corruption and tribal violence, including a decentralized system of government, independent courts, a new citizens’ Bill of Rights and increased numbers of women in public office. UNDP accompanied the reform process from the beginning, supported the organization of a peaceful constitutional referendum and assisted the government in the creation of a country-wide platform that has helped communities to report and respond to violence. Kenyans are justified in the very high degree of confidence which they have in the neutrality and capability of the bodies which will oversee the forthcoming elections – in particular the Independent Electoral and  Read More

Rare optimism in Serbia as corruption drops | Zarko Petrovic

22 Feb 2013

image Photo: Kenny Miller / Creative Commons

Public support for Serbia’s crackdown on corruption increased sharply in 2012, and confidence in state institutions is also rising. A new UNDP Corruption Benchmarking survey shows: —Twice as many citizens say their country is “on the right path,” while 25 percent say corruption decreased in the second half of the year —41 percent say corruption will decrease further in the next 12 months —The fraction of people who reportedly paid bribes fell to 8 percent, down sharply. In the vast majority of instances, bribes were not solicited; they were paid to get a service, or avoid a problem such as a traffic ticket —40 percent of Serbians say they “would not pay” if solicited for a bribe, while 33 percent said they would look for help elsewhere —71 percent endorsed “severe punishment” and 79 percent want “harsh legal sanctions” against graft and abuse Taken together, these findings may reflect public intolerance resulting from growing empowerment and increased trust in government. How do we account for this change? A new government committed to change, promoting transparency, good governance, and accountability — because it’s good for investment, good for business, good for jobs. Donors historically encourage countries to exhibit “will, conviction, commitment, and  Read More

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