Our Perspective

      • Climate change talks in Doha: What’s at stake for poor countries? | Helen Clark

        03 Dec 2012

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        Climate change adaptation in India. Photo: UNDP in India

        As thousands meet in Doha this week for the latest round of climate talks, it’s crucial to zero in on what a lack of progress could mean for the world’s least developed countries. Poor people in developing countries face the greatest risk from climate change. It exacerbates existing vulnerabilities and as for example in Africa, it’s the poor that are bearing the brunt of climate change through drought, flood, hunger, and more. If we don’t make progress towards a new global agreement on climate we risk undermining gains in the developing world, threatening their lives, their livelihoods, and their countries' prospects. We don't need to wait for a global climate agreement or the post-2015 development agenda to be negotiated by United Nations member states. There is plenty which can be done below that level by sub-national governments, communities, civil society, and the private sector. Indeed, that is where much of the energy was to be found at Rio+20! What’s encouraging is that more and more developing countries are already working hard on adaption to climate change and mitigation. For instance Ethiopia, a large least developed country, has adopted a low carbon, climate resilient, green economy strategy. The issue now is how  Read More

      • The unfinished business of the AIDS response | Mandeep Dhaliwal

        29 Nov 2012

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        HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care programme in South Sudan. Photo: UNDP South Sudan

        HIV responses worldwide have achieved remarkable progress. At the end of 2011, more than 8 million people were accessing life-saving HIV treatment—a 20-fold increase from 2003. New HIV infections have also dropped sharply in numerous countries, including some with high HIV prevalence. But social exclusion, inequalities, and human rights violations continue to drive the spread of HIV and other diseases, with a disproportionate impact on women and marginalized populations. These include men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, sex workers, and transgender people.  According to a 2012 report by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, discriminatory and punitive legal environments, violence, and other abuses are also helping spread HIV. Doing a better job of enforcing protective legislation and ensuring that social protection policies cover those affected by HIV can contribute to more inclusive, effective, and efficient HIV responses—leading in turn to reduced inequalities and more resilient people and communities. For the first time in the history of the AIDS response, domestic investments in HIV have surpassed international assistance: 80 countries increased domestic investment in national HIV responses by more than 50 percent from 2006-2011. All the more reason to strengthen national capacity for implementing rights based  Read More

      • International justice begins at home

        21 Nov 2012

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        Timorese Judges being sworn in and taking oaths. Credit: UNDP Timor Leste

        The restoration of justice and the punishment of those who commit human rights abuses can be vital first steps in peacebuilding; both for countries recovering from conflict, and for societies trying to overcome the trauma of violence. In March this year, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the first permanent criminal court mandated to investigate and prosecute those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity, handed down its first judgment since being established in 2002. Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was found guilty of using children under the age of 15 in armed hostilities. This judgment inaugurated a new age where the ICC acts as a court of last resort. This notion, called “complementarity,” forms the founding principle of the ICC, which believes that the primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting serious crimes rests with national authorities and states. If countries are willing and able, justice is best delivered where the crimes occurred. However, many post-conflict countries do not have the capacity to conduct such investigations. Even if the political will exists, domestic judicial systems often lack adequate witness protection services, prison facilities, and other resources to conduct fair trials. To realize the complementarity principle, there needs to be a closer relationship  Read More

      • 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 very  Read 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 to  Read 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 to  Read More

      • Optimism in the field of anti-corruption | Magdy Martínez-Soliman

        07 Nov 2012

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        "Fighting corruption is everyone’s business" Photo: Kenny Miller / Creative Commons

        Every year, corruption is estimated to cost more than 5% of global GDP (US$2.6 trillion). But its costs in terms of dignity cannot be calculated. Widespread rent-seeking and patronage have the power to undermine democracy and the rights of communities, especially those who live on the land of their ancestors, on mineral resources or surrounded by global commons.  These communities can then be subject to exploitation by companies or interest groups who push for environmental and social safeguards to be ignored or bypassed. High-profile corruption cases and publication of resources lost through illicit forms have begun tempting many to believe the fight against corruption is being lost. Weak anti-corruption agencies, porous institutions and opaque political party financing do not help. I would like to argue, however, that there is still hope for cautious optimism for the following reasons. First, even as gaps in enforcement and practice persist, over the years global instruments and related international initiatives have grown in number and fame. From international diplomatic conventions to new instruments to citizens armed with cellphones, fighting corruption is everyone’s business. Second, corruption has now been termed clearly as a governance deficit and a development challenge, rallying the forces that work on democratic  Read More

      • Men of the world, let’s unite for women’s empowerment | Martín Santiago Herrero

        05 Nov 2012

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        EMPOWERING WOMEN IS A TASK FOR EVERYONE. PHOTO: UNDP INDIA

        We continue to live in a world that is profoundly unequal, where the opportunities are not the same for men and women. Women represent 70 per cent of the world’s poor. On average their salaries are  10 to 30 per cent less than men’s for the same work, with the same tasks. Women are responsible for two thirds of the work carried out around the world, but receive only 10 percent of the benefits. They own 1 per cent of cropland, even though they perform 80 per cent of rural work. And as if this were not enough, two thirds (60 per cent) of women are victims of some type of violence or abuse (physical, sexual, psychological or economic) within or outside their homes. By continuing to deny this reality or leave the responsibility to women to "do something about it" themselves, the injustices against women are only exacerbated. We need to act, just as women's movements have done for years, but this time with greater support from men of all ages, and on a grand scale. A road less travelled until now is trying to debunk the underlying myths that sustain inequality between men and women:  Why do so many  Read More

      • UNDP has unique role to play in fighting non-communicable diseases | Olav Kjørven

        18 Oct 2012

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        Conditions have dramatically improved at the Haret Hreik health centre in the southern suburbs of Beirut, thanks to the UNDP ART GOLD programme. (Photo by Adam Rogers / UNDP)

        A year after the first UN High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases, The Washington Post this week convened an expert panel to review what progress has occurred and what work remains to fight diseases such as cancer, diabetes, stroke, and depression. A small invited audience on site and much larger audience online heard alarming statistics. Among them: One-third of humanity is projected to suffer from diabetes by the year 2050, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are leading causes of death and illness in developed and emerging economies alike—they account for the majority of health-care needs and spending and contribute to some 36 million, or 63 per cent, of 57 million deaths around the world every year. As the medical journal The Lancet has written, these diseases amount to a worldwide emergency requiring a global response that has to date fallen far short. According to the journal: “Despite the threat to human development, and the availability of affordable, cost-effective, and feasible interventions, most countries, development agencies, and foundations neglect the crisis.” Low- and middle-income countries bear the brunt, accounting for nearly 80 percent of global NCD deaths. These diseases drag down economic growth and can push families  Read More

      • What we owe our youth | Heraldo Muñoz

        16 Oct 2012

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        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

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