Our Perspectives

Decision time? First take a look at what makes you crazy

26 May 2017 by Jacinda Fairholm, Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Advisor, UNDP

In the Dominican Republic, UNDP created a risk analysis that improves knowledge about seismic threats and physical vulnerability of the Gran Santo Domingo area. Photo: UNDP
This post is part of a series from UNDP experts sharing their views and experiences in the lead up to the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction taking place in May and the World Reconstruction Conference in June. The most read New York Times article in 2016 was, ‘Why you will marry the wrong person.’ In a follow-up podcast, author Alain de Botton outlines how a romantic ideal obstructs a clear analysis and application of time-tested criteria before entering into, arguably, one of the most important decisions an individual can make. Marriage - at extreme ends both possibly rich and fruitful or miserably impoverishing - is often calculated in heady moments of euphoria and dreams. Poor decision making can have enormous emotional and financial costs, potentially spreading beyond the couple down to children and into the future. He suggests that the vetting process should include one key question: “What makes you crazy?” In other words, analyzing one’s flaws as well as considering what might be risky to the partnership or to one’s self, will result in a much  better decision over the long haul. Indeed, any significant decision should consider the risks, the payoffs and the costs.  Risk assessment. A pragmatic approach to making a … Read more

Tobacco: a threat to our oceans

24 May 2017 by Roy Small, Policy Analyst, HIV, Health and Development Group, BPPS, UNDP

cigarettes and plastic duck in waterCigarette filters are comprised of thousands of chemical ingredients, including arsenic, lead, nicotine and ethyl phenol, all of which leak into aquatic environments. Photo: flickr.com/photos/aceofknaves/
In the run up to the Ocean Conference in June, this blog series explores issues related to oceans, seas, marine resources and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life below water. Ask the person behind you what the public health enemy number one is. Chances are the answer will be tobacco. And for good reasons. Smoking, including secondhand smoke, kills more than 7 million people each year, most in the prime of their lives. Less well-known are tobacco’s negative impacts on sustainable development, including on oceanic systems. Yes, you read that right – tobacco is a significant threat to our oceans. Each year, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide, by far the most littered item, with a significant percentage finding their way into our oceans and onto our shores. The problem is only likely to get worse, particularly as smoking rates continue to escalate in many low- and middle-income countries. This “last socially acceptable form of littering” is far more than just an unpleasant aesthetic. Cigarette filters are comprised of thousands of chemical ingredients, including arsenic, lead, nicotine and ethyl phenol, all of which leak into aquatic environments. In one lab study, the leachate from just one cigarette butt, placed into no … Read more

Innovation for development in Africa: Focus on the public sector

23 May 2017 by Marc Lepage, UNDP Africa regional innovation expert

Innovation in the public sector often occurs as a pressing need arises for a solution that would deliver improved services with tighter budgets, to citizens with increasingly higher expectations. Photo: UNDP Burundi
Over the years there have been many definitions of innovation, which unfortunately left the concept rather belabored. The reality is that it is a journey that governments and public sectors need to undertake – with the aim to change the lives of citizens.  For us at UNDP, it is summed up by three principles:  No innovation happens in isolation. Innovation exists within a particular context, and is usually prompted and driven by a the ‘need to do better’. For example, in West Africa, the pharmaceutical sector faces a major challenge with counterfeit drugs flooding the country and putting lives of citizens in danger. A system that helps in differentiating between fake and genuine drugs, E- Pedigree tracks products from factory to pharmacy. Innovation is not high-tech. Innovation is 5% technology and 95% imagination. At a practical level, it is about analysing pressure points and thinking about creative ways of dealing with that. Steal with pride (and learn). In many instances, what constitutes the best knowledge would not be in our immediate or usual environment. It is highly advantageous to venture outside our comfort zone and explore partnerships for improved performance. Innovation in the public sector is not very different from other … Read more

Not just more, but better – effective financing of the SDGs

22 May 2017 by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, Director of the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support.

Photo UN Sylvain Lechti - A woman in Goma greeting the Technical Support Committee of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region. Photo: UN Sylvain Liechti.
As discussions begin this week at the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development (FfD) Follow-up, we will no doubt be reminded that the costs of financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are enormous and that inadequate resourcing of the agenda is critically hindering progress. While the sum needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is unprecedented, the international community should remember there is no silver bullet to fund the SDGs. Bankrolling sustainable development cannot happen through global financing agendas alone, but should instead be built from a bottom-up, holistic and context-driven approach. As countries strive to manage increasingly complex financing flows at the national level, as domestic public and private resources increase, and as the sources of external resources diversify, we need urgent and targeted solutions. How then, given such a complicated landscape, can governments effectively mobilise and manage money for real development results? The concept of Integrated National Financing Frameworks (INFFs) acts as a guide for countries to assess the status of their overall financing frameworks and prioritise actions to help achieve the SDGs. These frameworks, cited as a crucial part of the way forward in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, prompt policymakers to take a holistic view … Read more

Dollars and 'Sense': Paying for Our Planet

22 May 2017 by Midori Paxton, Senior Technical Adviser, Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Tigers in IndiaIn India, a 2015 study valued six tiger reserves at US$24 billion and US$1.2 billion per year. People travel half the globe to see tigers. Photo: UNDP
Celebrating the International Day for Biological Diversity today serves as a strong reminder of the value of nature and ecosystems to human life and the well-being of our societies. As today’s celebration coincides with the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, it is worth noting the role biodiversity and ecosystems play as the backbone of tourism in many places, and equally worth noting the crucial role that the tourism sector can play in conserving biodiversity. This is undeniably a nexus to pursue, particularly for financing effective conservation.   I was lucky enough to spend many years living and working in Africa and Asia, regions where the interplay between biodiversity financing and tourism is strongly evident. In Namibia, tourism became the 2nd largest industry after mining, overtaking fisheries and agriculture in the 2000s.  In the country, sustaining tourism means maintaining nature – the very asset that draws visitors from around the world. A government commissioned study reveals that investment in enhancing national park management could yield up to 42% of economic return. Tourism in Namibia contributes to more than 20% of GDP and provides over 20% of the country’s employment. Community based tourism provides direct benefits and opportunities for people who live inside and … Read more

Internal compass for the implementation of SDG 14: putting local people and communities at the center

19 May 2017 by Sulan Chen is Programme Advisor- International Waters and Chemicals & Waste Management - UNDP

man repairing a fishnetIn Malaysia, the Small Grants Programme supported an initiative to address accidental capture of sea turtles in commercial and artisanal fisheries. Photo: SGP Malaysia
On 25 September 2015, world leaders adopted the comprehensive and ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since then, life has continued and gone on in thousands of communities around the world, for whom the SDGs are probably of little significance. Indeed, political declarations or statements, if left with no implementation on the ground, are barely anything more than good wills. If, on the other hand, SDGs are people-centered, the focus should be on local people, communities and the ecosystems they rely on for their survival and prosperity. This, in my view, is the internal compass for the implementation of the SDGs. Now that the upcoming Ocean Conference confronts the world to implement SDG 14: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”, there is a need to strengthen its implementation at the local level. Guided by this internal compass, the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (SGP) implemented by UNDP has provided financial resources and technical guidance to communities and civil society organizations for the environment and sustainable development. SGP actions are community-based initiatives that attempt to simultaneously address poverty reduction, environment and community empowerment. In Malaysia, SGP supported an initiative to address accidental capture of sea … Read more

Natural disasters don’t exist but natural hazards do

18 May 2017 by Martin Ras, Policy Specialist, Disaster and Climate Risk Governance, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

Hazards are natural events, occurring more or less frequently and of a greater or lesser magnitude, but disasters are due to risk-blind development. Photo: UN MINUSTAH
This post is part of a series from UNDP experts sharing their views and experiences in the lead up to the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction taking place in May and the World Reconstruction Conference in June. As I took the ferry home to Long Island City (New York City), I saw the start of a new water front residential complex on the East River. This in an area that was heavily flooded during hurricane Sandy.  I presume that a construction company/developer must have received a construction permit for this site and, I hope, have plans in place to manage any potential flooding that could occur during a future hurricane. It’s hard to be certain of course. In many cities, short-term economic interests often outweigh the clear benefits of proper land-use planning and building codes. This is especially true in developing nations where the institutional systems to manage and enforce said building codes are lacking or without any real power. What ends up happening is that there are little to no consequence for those who ignore the measures intended to keep people safe. To be clear – we have the engineering and technological capacities to avoid disaster impacts. Every day engineers and scientists come … Read more

Responding to drought must be sustainable, not piecemeal

18 May 2017 by Siddharth Chatterjee, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya

Children fetching water in Dadaab, Kenya. Photo Leonard Odini/UNDP Kenya
Food security in Kenya has deteriorated significantly since the end of 2016. According to UNICEF, nearly 110,000 children under-five need treatment, up from 75,300 in August 2016. Waterholes and rivers have dried up, leading to widespread crop failure and livestock depletion. Malnutrition is widespread among children. In the hardest-hit counties of Turkana, Marsabit and Mandera, a third of children under five are acutely malnourished – double the emergency threshold. High malnutrition, when combined with an outbreak of cholera or measles, can lead to a surge in deaths among children and other vulnerable groups. Underfunded response We must urgently respond to this malnutrition crisis through treatment and prevention. Blanket supplementary feeding for young children and pregnant and lactating women can avert a catastrophic spike in mortality in the months ahead. By the time the Government had declared drought a national disaster, over 2.6 million Kenyans were in urgent need of food aid. This figure will increase unless an appeal for US$ 166 million to support the most vulnerable is met; less than a third of that amount is available so far. Don’t be fooled by the news of floods in recent weeks, this has done nothing to alleviate drought-induced malnutrition among children. Flooding is … Read more

Support Somalis Today

15 May 2017 by Mourad Wahba, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States

The looming famine has rendered large swaths of land uninhabitable. In Somalia, the ground is parched. Riverbeds are dry. There’s no vegetation left, livestock are dead, and countless livelihoods lost. Photographer:UNDP in Somalia
I was just in Somalia, one of four conflict-ridden countries in Africa and the Middle East facing drought, a crisis that places 20 million people on the brink of famine. The situation is dire. But with your generous support, we can avert catastrophe. We can save lives and we can restore dignity.   The looming famine has rendered large swaths of land uninhabitable. In Somalia, the ground is parched. Riverbeds are dry. There’s no vegetation left, livestock are dead, and countless livelihoods lost.   Without adequate rainfall, many Somalis’ sources of income – farming and raising livestock – have evaporated. Hundreds of thousands sold what little they had and walked for days to reach displaced person camps where they can drink clean water and get rations from time to time. Inside the camp, people sit in makeshift tents, waiting for the rain. Somalia is especially vulnerable because of a years-long conflict and lack of a working government. Thus the humanitarian situation is deteriorating rapidly.   But we can save lives if we act now.   Our most urgent push at UNDP is to prevent the crisis from flaring into famine. Early recovery programs, like our cash-for-work initiatives, are making direct, immediate impacts. … Read more

Urban Risks

12 May 2017 by Rajeev Issar, Policy Specialist, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP

Flooded streetWith a global population expected to be over 66 percent urban by 2050, and two-thirds of the urban environment remaining to be built, the opportunities to advance risk-informed and resilient urban development must be harnessed. Photo: UNDP Peru
This post is part of a series from UNDP experts sharing their views and experiences in the lead up to the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction taking place in May and the World Reconstruction Conference in June. Having lived my entire life in big cities, I always had a feeling that cities were safe from the vagaries of disasters -- which occurred in some distant rural area and never closer to home. Once in a while, incidents like rainfall induced flooding or mild earthquake shakings, which disrupted day-to-day life for some time, were shrugged off as one-off events. The sense of invincibility of the urban lives and livelihoods remained. It took my harrowing experience during the Mumbai floods of 2005 to break this myth and jolt me, and many others, out of self-induced slumber. One day of torrential rain brought the city to its knees, flooding nearly 70 percent of the city, causing over 1000 casualties and billions of dollars in economic losses. Myself and millions of others had to stay put indoors for nearly 5 days and suffer property and economic losses. It was further reinforced after a few years during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 -- by when I had moved to New … Read more