Our Perspective

What we owe our youth | Heraldo Muñoz

16 Oct 2012

image More than 30 youth organizations, young leaders and governmental counterparts will participate in a meeting in Mexico City to boost the involvement of young people in politics in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Photo: UNDP Mexico)

Today we kick off a three-day meeting in Mexico City to boost the involvement of young people in politics in Latin America and the Caribbean. More than 30 youth organizations, young leaders and governmental counterparts will participate. This is a crucial issue—and not only in Latin America. Almost half the world's population is under 25 and more than one third is aged 12-24. This fact, along with social and economic inequality among youth expressed in recent social movements like the Arab Spring, Spain’s 15M, Mexico’s YoSoy132 movement and the student protests in Chile reaffirm the need to address the young generation’s demands and recognize young people’s critical role in promoting social change. Of the 600 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean more than 26 percent are aged 15-29. This is a unique opportunity for the region’s development and for its present and future governance. The UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Reports have shown that young people have enormous potential as agents of change. But despite Latin America’s remarkable progress in reducing poverty and inequality—and its strides toward strong democracies with free and transparent elections—​​income, gender, ethnic origin, or dwelling conditions are all decisive barriers to young citizens’ rights.  Read More

Biodiversity and Ecosystems Essential for Human Development | Olav Kjørven

15 Oct 2012

image UNDP’s global biodiversity portfolio currently includes projects in 146 countries, covering an area larger than India and Indonesia combined. Since 2000, UNDP has helped leverage nearly US$ 5 billion in funding for biodiversity work around the world. (Photo: UNDP Lao PDR)

Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth in all its forms, and protecting that life is fundamental to eradicating poverty and advancing human development, as was reaffirmed at the Rio+20 Earth Summit. People rely on biodiversity and ecosystems for their livelihoods – to meet their food, water, energy and health needs - and to cope with climate change. A study from India in ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’ report, showed that ecosystem services contribute up to 57% of the GDP of the poor. When we lose species and ecosystems, we are losing essential services that sustain life. Recent assessments of global biodiversity find that species are continuing to decline and that the risk of extinction is growing; that natural habitats are continuing to be lost and are becoming increasingly degraded and fragmented. The 2011 IUCN Red List includes 44,838 species, of which 16,928 (38 per cent) are threatened with extinction. To halt this alarming trend, UNDP is calling for urgent action to achieve the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Strategic Plan and the 20 Aichi Targets. UNDP’s new Biodiversity and Ecosystems Global Framework, which is being launched this week at the Eleventh Conference of the Parties to the Convention on  Read More

What we call “natural” disasters are not natural at all | Jo Scheuer

12 Oct 2012

image Over 4,000 families in Cambodia wait to return to homes inundated by flash floods in September 2012. Photo: ActionAid Cambodia/Savann Oeurm

As you read this, over 4,000 families in Cambodia, where I used to live, wait to return to homes inundated by flash floods that have killed at least 14 people in the last few days. Most of these displaced people are subsistence farmers. Many will have lost everything they own, including their crops or food stores, and these floods may drag them further into a cycle of poverty. But these 4,000 Cambodian families are not unique. Every day around the world, disasters caused by natural hazards force thousands from their homes, strip people of their livelihoods and stop them from accessing schools, hospitals and markets. In 2011, the most expensive year on record for natural hazards, 106 million people were affected by floods, 60 million by drought, and almost 30,000 people were killed. Disasters put hard won development achievements at risk, reverse progress towards the elimination of poverty, and result in terrible suffering. But it doesn’t have to be like this. What we call natural disasters are not natural at all. A natural hazard only becomes a disaster when measures to mitigate its impact, such as earthquake resistant buildings, are lacking. We don’t have to resign ourselves to the devastation that  Read More

Elham test 2

10 Oct 2012

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The future we want needs legal empowerment and justice | Magdy Martinez

05 Oct 2012

image Roma in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. Photo: UNDP in Europe & CIS

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been successful on many levels. They could be understood by all. They could be implemented universally. They have become the development horizon for 140 governments in the South and the coherent cooperation agenda for another 50 governments of the North. Clear, quantifiable and time-bound goals and targets were at the core of this success. But new challenges have arisen. For development to be effective, inclusive and sustainable, governance values, systems and institutions are needed. Formulation of the post MDG development agenda needs to be a broad-based and inclusive process, which reflects the demands and priorities of the people most impacted by development policy, i.e. the poor and marginalized groups.   Recently, Ms. Aminata Toure, the Minister of Justice of Senegal, noted that while the youth in her country express patience with the slow pace of infrastructure and social development, they will no longer stand the injustice in their society. In last week’s Financial Times, George Soros and Sir Fazle Abed argue that legal identity and birth registration are universal rights and key to the enjoyment of many development goals including education, health and access to employment. It is a goal of legal empowerment of the  Read More

Youth hold the key to Somalia’s future | Sima Bahous

28 Sep 2012

For decades the world has heard only bad news from Somalia. Lawlessness, famine, piracy, and conflict have shaped our global view of this small, Horn of Africa country. The recent slaying of a member of Somalia’s new parliament underscores the severity of its challenges. Beyond the headlines, though, Somalia shows tremendous promise—it is strategically located, it has a promising agricultural sector, and recent estimates show that it may have a good deal of oil as well. But a better future will be driven neither by its location nor its natural resources: It will be driven by the country’s people—and Somalia’s hopeful youth hold the key. UNDP is today releasing its Somalia Human Development Report 2012, which focuses on the enormous potential that lies in empowering Somali youth to become an engine of peace-building and development in this country of stark contrasts. Today, 73 percent of Somalis are under 30, making theirs one of the world’s youngest countries. Typically, young people in conflict or post-conflict zones are viewed as either victims or aggressors, and indeed for decades Somali youth have known more than their fair share of violence and despair. Many young Somalis have never set foot in a schoolhouse— and still  Read More

From the street to the Parliament: A growing democracy | Cihan Sultanoglu

28 Sep 2012

Kyrgyzstan has become the first country in Central Asia to adopt a parliamentary democracy and UNDP, a key partner in the country since its independence in 1991, played an essential role in helping draft the country’s new constitution. The latest changes in government, in September 2012, were carried out fully in line with this new constitution, and Kyrgyzstan saw a smooth and peaceful transfer of power. UNDP helped organize parliamentary hearings, trainings and study visits for the members of parliament and staff.  We also supported the creation of parliamentary information channels, such as a website, a dedicated radio and TV service. We will continue to work with the Parliament to improve the budgetary process and strengthen the audit system – to further promote accountability. Today, Kyrgyzstan’s government and parliament are closer to representing the voters’ will than anywhere else in Central Asia.  As Parliament Speaker Asylbek Jeenbekov recently said, “Kyrgyzstan is steadily moving from an aggressive street democracy to a parliamentary democracy”. However, high levels of poverty – touching nearly 50% of the population in some regions – youth unemployment, low participation of women in government, corruption, drug trafficking, ethnic tensions and environmental pollution are still challenges the country must face.  Read More

Time to integrate traditional and formal justice | Olav Kjørven

26 Sep 2012

image Women take an active part at a village meeting in India.Photo: Sephi Bergerson/ UNDP India

In some developing countries, informal or traditional justice systems resolve up to 80 percent of disputes, over everything from cattle to contracts, dowries to divorce. Disproportionately, these mechanisms affect women and children. A new report, commissioned by UNDP, UNICEF, and UN Women and produced by the Danish Institute for Human Rights, provides the most comprehensive UN study on this complex area of justice to date. It draws conclusions based on research in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Malawi, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, and 12 other developing countries. These systems, it concludes, are a reality of justice in most of the countries where UNDP works to improve lives and livelihoods and government capacities to serve. The evidence illustrates the direct bearing such systems can have on women and children’s legal empowerment, covering issues from customary marriage and divorce to custody, inheritance, and property rights. It’s time to engage squarely with customary justice systems and integrate them into broader development initiatives aimed at guaranteeing human rights and access to justice for all. These systems are often far more accessible than formal mechanisms and may have the potential to provide quick, inexpensive, and culturally relevant remedies. But traditional development models have for years paid them little  Read More

Confronting daunting challenges to justice & security in the Arab region | Sima Bahous, Jordan Ryan

24 Sep 2012

image Millions of Libyans went to the polls to vote in the country’s first free nationwide elections in nearly five decades. Photo: An elated voter casts her vote. Photo: Samia Mahgoub /UNDP

Just over a year ago, the Arab region began to witness unprecedented change, with several countries embarking on transitions towards more democratic governance. Strengthening the rule of law is a central challenge facing these countries. Expectations of citizens for accountable security institutions, impartial justice systems and the fulfillment of human rights are higher now than ever before. Recently, we met with two officials at the forefront of dealing with this challenge: Kamal Bashar Idhan, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Libya, tasked with ensuring that justice is delivered and human rights are upheld for all Libyans; and Said Mechichi, Secretary of State for Reform in the Tunisian Ministry of Interior who leads efforts on security sector reform in the country which triggered the Arab region’s wave of change. The challenges facing these two officials and the institutions they lead are daunting. Strengthening the rule of law in transition settings is one of the most difficult aspects of change. But it is also among the most important, and we were inspired by their commitment. UNDP has worked closely with countries in the Arab region — including Libya and Tunisia — to support their democratic transitions and national-led efforts to re-establish  Read More

Every day in every country – should be and can be a day without violence | Helen Clark

21 Sep 2012

More than half a million people die violently every year - in armed conflicts; from criminal activity; and from violent attacks in their own homes. An estimated 1.5 billion plus people live in countries affected by war, violence, and/or high levels of crime. The absence of peace exacts a terrible toll. Armed conflict terrifies communities and makes development progress very difficult. Deep inequalities may be reflected in levels of violence – and will be exacerbated by it. For example, women and girls, who suffer discrimination in many places, are disproportionately affected by armed conflict. War increases their economic and social vulnerability. Yet it is possible to tackle these challenges decisively, and UNDP sees progress being made in a number of countries in which we work. For example: ·    This year El Salvador recorded its first murder-free day in over three years. Murders there have fallen by an average of 12 per cent since the introduction of gun-free zones; ·   Liberia is on the road to recovery from  many years of civil war, 2013 will mark a decade of peace there; and ·   In Angola, an arms amnesty led to the surrender of more than 76,000 illegal weapons. These examples all show that  Read More

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