Our Perspectives

Sustainable development and sustaining peace: Two sides of the same coin

20 Jul 2017 by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support and Oscar Fernández-Taranco, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support

Just emerging from decades of conflict, Colombia sees the SDGs and an integral tool in its peacebuilding process.
More than 1.4 billion people, including half of the world’s extremely poor people, live in fragile and conflict-affected settings. The number is forecast to grow by a staggering 82 percent by 2030. Around 244 million people are on the move, with 65 million people in our world being forcibly displaced. You might assume that for countries in the cross hairs of these dynamics, the last thing on anyone’s mind right now is getting on track to achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If you did, think again. Sustainable development is key to sustaining peace and vice versa.  Sustaining peace, a concept endorsed by the UN General Assembly and Security Council, focuses on the importance of having a long-term, comprehensive vision in all responses to violent conflict, to end vicious cycles of lapse and relapse. Many countries in complex situations have embraced the SDGs as part of the solution. Afghanistan, for example, is presenting its plans at this year’s UN High-Level Political Forum, the global platform for SDG follow-up and review. At the same forum, Togo, a self-declared ‘fragile’ state, is showcasing its SDG initiatives for the second year running. And Colombia, one of the masterminds of the SDGs, considers them … Read more

Reporting progress on the 2030 Agenda: Navigating through the maze of the 17 goals

19 Jul 2017 by Eunice Kamwendo, Strategic Advisor, UNDP Africa

The goal is to help countries design an SDG implementation and reporting strategy that builds and maintains momentum, while enhancing integration and synergies between the goals on the short, medium and long term. Photo: UNDP
As countries implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, they face competing demands. There is the desire to embrace the entire framework as a whole on one hand, and the need to be practical and focused to achieve each goal, on the other. As UNDP supports SDG reporting at the country level as well as in the global arena, part of our role is to help countries tackle this and other challenges along the way. The global, regional and country reporting that was largely adopted for the Millennium Development Goals was goal-by-goal reporting. This might have worked well with fewer goals, but it also served to reinforce the sectoral approach to development. There is a need to think through options for reporting the SDGs in ways that would enhance integration effects and synergies, as well reduce the burden of reporting on all goals at the same time without taking our eyes off the objectives of the entire agenda. The annual High Level Political Forum (HLPF) offers a model that could be instructive. Held under the theme “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world”, the 2017 HLPF was convened this week and last at the UN Headquarters. This is a … Read more

Costa Rica abre el camino hacia el fin de los plásticos de un solo uso

18 Jul 2017 by Edgar Gutiérrez, Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica , María Esther Anchía, Minister of Health, Costa Rica and Alice Shackelford, Resident Representative, UNDP Costa Rica

Plastic in the oceanIn Costa Rica, 20 percent of the 4,000 tonnes of solid waste produced daily are not collected. Photo: UNDP
Costa Rica tiene planes ambiciosos e innovadores en su trayectoria de conciliar su desarrollo económico y social con el medioambiente. Hace una década el país anunciaba que sería neutral en carbono para 2021. Ahora anuncia otra meta para los próximos cuatro años: ser el primer país del mundo con una estrategia nacional integral para eliminar los plásticos de un solo uso. Todos ganamos: Costa Rica, las personas y el planeta. Si bien el país ha sido un ejemplo para el mundo al revertir la deforestación y duplicar su cobertura forestal de un 26% en 1984 a más de un 52% este año, hoy en día un 20% de las 4.000 toneladas de residuos sólidos que se producen diariamente no se recolectan y acaban siendo parte del paisaje de ríos y playas costarricenses. … Read more

Companies are producing more responsibly, more sustainably

14 Jul 2017 by Paula Pelaez, Programme Manager, Business Call to Action

Factory workersMUJI is sourcing wool and wool products from Kyrgyzstan. Photo: MUJI
The world is becoming a riskier place to operate in. Populations are growing and feeding people is becoming trickier. Climate change is challenging our security and ability to make a living. Global markets have become more unstable. For companies, these global trends present both risks and opportunities, requiring them to rethink how to source and produce in a sustainable way. At the Business Call to Action, we work with companies who are applying sustainable principles in their daily operations. What have we learned from them? 1. Involve small producers: Engaging small-holder producers can help companies secure raw materials or ingredients locally and competitively. In fact, that can also help inspire innovation with new materials, designs, or products. Japanese lifestyle brand MUJI sources soapstone from local producers in Kenya and wool felt from Kyrgyzstan, training them to meet international standards. In Burkina Faso, L’Occitane sources quality shea butter – a key ingredient for many of their products – from women’s cooperatives. 2. Develop innovative solutions: Companies are helping smallholder farmers equip themselves against climate change, through access to better seeds, training in sustainable agriculture, or access to micro-insurance. Ignitia, a high-tech social enterprise, delivers tropical weather forecasts to farmers via text messages. Bangladesh-based vegetable retailer Direct Fresh advises farmers on sustainable pest-control, techniques … Read more

What kind of blender do we need to finance the SDGs?

13 Jul 2017 by Mara Niculescu, Partnership Development Analyst, UNDP Europe and Central Asia

A look at the current state of development funding shows a stark contrast between the price tag to eliminate poverty and protect the planet by 2030, and the actual financial resources that are available. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) says achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will take between US$5 to $7 trillion, with an investment gap in developing countries of about $2.5 trillion. At the same time, the most recent OECD DAC report shows that in 2016 the total official development assistance reached a peak of $142.6 billion, which is one order of magnitude smaller than the needs. Who is going to cover these gaps and how? The days of “funding” (out of a moral imperative) are over; instead, “financing” is seeing good investments for your money, while contributing to positive development. Under the new Development Agenda, it is the actual governments that hold a significant share of the resources needed to achieve the SDGs. The World Bank estimated that between 50 and 80 percent of what’s required will come from domestic resources. Private funding and private capital hold another great potential for growth – it is estimated that only about 10 percent of the current infrastructure investments come from … Read more

Spark, Scale, Sustain

12 Jul 2017 by Benjamin Kumpf, Policy Specialist in Innovation at UNDP

Mapping of the MaldivesDrone assisted mapping mission in the Maldives, a nation facing growing threat from rising sea levels and coastal storms. Photo: Vinita Aggarwal
This week’s High-Level Political Forum in New York will review progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Its theme “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world" makes reference to the accelerated pace of change, an indication of the determination UN Member States and agencies have to shift business as usual. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in April, “without innovation there is no way to overcome the challenges of our time” and added “to make sure that innovation works for all and not only a few”. Innovation is maturing as a dedicated field within the development and humanitarian sectors, combining emerging technologies with user-centric, behavioural and lean approaches. Our report ‘Spark, Scale, Sustain’, released this week, highlights how the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is investing to test and scale innovation, with support of the Government of Denmark. We invest in four main areas to unlock the potential of innovation for development with a focus on leaving no one behind: Alternative finance To reach the SDGs, national and local governments need new sources of capital to close an estimated annual gap of US$2.5 trillion in funding SDG efforts. UNDP supports countries across the globe to identify and test new funding … Read more

Working together for sustainable palm oil

03 Jul 2017 by Christophe Bahuet, Country Director, UNDP Indonesia

The Musim Mas palm oil plantation is set up and run by a collective of individual smallholders according to the guiding rules of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Photo: James Morgan/WWF International
Heated debates have surrounded the palm oil sector in Indonesia and its access to export markets, including the European Union. The issue is crucial for Indonesia as the world’s largest palm oil producer and largest exporter; about 16 million jobs depend directly or indirectly on this sector. Palm oil has also become a public issue in many consumer countries. Governments, parliaments and citizens are paying increasing attention to environmental protection and the sustainability of production patterns, which they expect national and international standards to guarantee. Through Sustainable Development Goal 12 on sustainable production, the world has committed to ensure production systems don’t harm the planet. A statement from the World Trade Organization’s Trade and Environment Committee came to mind: ‘The answer is not to weaken environmental standards, but to set appropriate standards and enable exporters to meet them.’ Although it was released a few years ago about the overall issue of sustainable production and consumption, the WTO Committee’s statement seems to bear an extraordinary relevance to the current debate in Indonesia. In its simple phrasing, it may also point to workable approaches to sustainable palm oil, around which consensus can be built. To be trusted, standards and certification schemes need to … Read more

Confronting climate change in South Sudan

29 Jun 2017 by Jean-Luc Stalon, Deputy Country Director, UNDP South Sudan and Biplove Choudhary, Team Leader, Human Development and Inclusive Growth, UNDP South Sudan

Up to 95 percent of the people of South Sudan, or more than 11 million people, depend on climate sensitive sectors, including agriculture, forestry resources and fisheries. Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNDP
The man-made crisis in South Sudan has pushed the country back on multiple fronts, hampering agricultural production, disrupting livelihoods and the coping abilities of communities. These are but few of several compelling reasons as to why climate change risks in South Sudan should be a pressing worry at this point in time for the policy makers and international partners. Despite its having no role in contributing to global warming, the country is at once highly vulnerable and least prepared to address looming threats systematically across sectors. According to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2017, South Sudan is ranked amongst the five worst performing in the world alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Haiti and Liberia. Projections indicate that in South Sudan, global warming will be felt 2 ½ times more than the global average Up to 95 percent of people in South Sudan, or more than 11 million people, depend on climate sensitive sectors, including agriculture, forestry resources and fisheries for their livelihoods. Anecdotally, seasonal streams are beginning to dry up, affecting fishing communities in several parts of the country. Drier weather spells are also likely to be an underlying driver of increased deforestation and resource-based conflicts between … Read more

3 lessons from Equator Prize 2017 winners

29 Jun 2017 by Martin Sommerschuh, Programme Analyst, Equator Initiative, UNDP

Children planting mangroveThe village of Bang La has been sustainably managing a 192-hectare forest that has shielded the community from devastating disasters and improved livelihoods through increased fish catch. Photo: Community Mangrove Forest Conservation of Baan Bang La
The Equator Prize recognizes innovative community initiatives that promote nature-based solutions for local sustainable development. In the past 15 years, the Equator Initiative has highlighted the successful contributions of indigenous and local communities to the environment, poverty and climate challenges. The initiatives we work with have taught us that action at the local level is essential to achieve sustainable development. Today, the Equator Initiative announces the winners of the Equator Prize 2017, recognizing 15 new Equator Prize winners. They will be honoured at an award ceremony in New York in September. Over the past three months, I have had the privilege of leading the inspiring and sometimes nail-biting selection process – a three-stage exercise in which an independent Technical Advisory Committee chooses the winners. I am sharing here a few key lessons we learned along the way: 1.   Investing in nature is an effective and efficient pathway to sustainable development Because its mangroves were intact, the village of Bang La in Thailand was largely spared the devastating force of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. To ensure the mangroves can protect them and future generations, the community formed an association to legally protect their mangroves, for only a fraction of what … Read more

Housing by people: rebuilding lives and neighbourhoods after conflict

28 Jun 2017 by Matthew French, Programme Specialist, UNDP Iraq

Children sit on a step outside their home while a man works inside.Children wait outside while repairs are made to their home in Fallujah, Iraq. Photo: Lindsay Mackenzie/UNDP Iraq
The fall of Mosul to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2014 and the group’s quick advance across nearly one third of the country plunged Iraq into a deep political, social and security crisis. Almost 5 million Iraqis have fled their homes to safer areas in the country. Significant progress has been made to liberate towns and cities from ISIL, including the major cities of Ramadi and Fallujah in Anbar and large parts of Mosul in Ninewah. As of June 2017, more than 1.8 million people have returned to their homes in liberated areas. Iraqis who have returned have found their homes and neighbourhoods in ruins. Collapsed roofs, smashed windows, and broken doors are common. Household goods were looted or destroyed, fixtures and fittings damaged, and walls punctuated with bullet holes. The damage is not only a practical problem and safety hazard; for many Iraqis, the damage is a very tangible reminder of their immense suffering over the past years and makes it difficult to have hope in the future of a post-ISIL Iraq. UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) supports the Government of Iraq to rehabilitate public infrastructure and facilitate returns as quickly as possible. The … Read more