Our Perspective

      • Democratic transition demands courageous leadership | Olav Kjørven

        09 Nov 2012

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        Tunisia Constituent Assembly Elections 2011

        Of late, we have witnessed dramatic change in many parts of the world. Autocratic leaders in the Middle East and North Africa have been ousted or forced to resign. Myanmar has embarked on a determined path towards reform. Economic, social and political reasons triggered these societal changes. Hence people’s call for “bread, freedom, dignity” in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, where we saw that political transition can – if rarely - happen almost overnight. But autocratic regimes leave legacies, economic structures, incentive systems and institutions that do not disappear as a dictator steps down or aside. Political rights, human rights, progressive social and economic policies, fair jobs and the primacy of the rule of law do not automatically follow moments of significant political change. One of the first choices the leaders of transition must make, therefore, is to be inclusive as they start to define their future.  For legitimacy and longevity, there must be sustained channels for dialogue and decision-making with all people – civil society and academics, the business elite and the military, the politicians and the public, especially the marginalized. This is the only way to renew trust and rebuild a nation’s social contract. This is most difficult. At the veryRead More

      • Remembering Sandy’s many victims

        09 Nov 2012

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        Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Nicaro, Mayarí municipality, Cuba. UN Photo/UNDP/AIN FOTO/Juan Pablo Carreras

        Hurricane Sandy, which caused mayhem when it made landfall here on 29 October, killed over 110 people in the United States. The cost of damage has been estimated at over US$ 50 billion in the US and the lives of millions of those in New York, where I live, have been disrupted. North America however, was in fact the last of many stops on Sandy's tour of destruction. Sandy was one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes on record. The Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and many other countries have suffered terrible losses. In Haiti, which has yet to fully recover from the 2010 earthquake, more than 54 people were killed and over 200,000 are now homeless. Health workers are scrambling to ensure that the storm damage does not hasten the spread of infectious diseases, including cholera. In Cuba, nearly a million people have been directly affected; the roofs of more than 43,000 homes have been ripped off by the high winds; at least 375 health centres and 2,100 schools have been damaged and many roads and bridges are impassable. Some 30,000 people have been displaced in the Dominican Republic. Here in the New York/New Jersey area, there is much toRead More

      • We must act now to stop climate change | Helen Clark

        08 Nov 2012

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        A woman walks through a flooded market in Port au Prince. Hurricane Sandy passed to the west of Haiti October 25, 2012. Photo Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH

        The devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy reminds us once again of the destructive potential of extreme weather—even in a developed country such as the United States, and even with ample warning and swift emergency response. From Kingston, Jamaica to Jamaica, Queens, this “perfect storm” exacted a deadly toll that New York’s mayor said was even higher as a result of climate change. But while developed countries dig ever deeper to fund elaborate flood defense systems, compensate farmers, and adjust thermostats to accommodate hotter summers, the consequences of climate change in Africa can be catastrophic: Crops fail. People go hungry. We could, as a global community, make the transition to green and inclusive economies that tackle inequality, advance development, and stop the ongoing assault on our ecosystem. This begs the question: Why isn’t the world doing more? At the global level, policy responses lag well behind where science tells us they should be. Short political cycles discourage long-term thinking, particularly where up-front costs may be high. This is especially true in times of fiscal constraint and sluggish growth. Little appreciation exists, further, of how climate change undermines gains in the developing world, hitting hardest precisely those people who have contributed least toRead More

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