Our Perspectives

Our future is in cities: Add your voice and help shape a new urban agenda

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Most young people in Mongolia will grow up in cities such as Ulaanbaatar. Photo: Joseph D'Cruz

I first visited Mongolia in 2005. Like most people, I pictured it as a country of nomadic horse riders herding livestock across the vast steppes.  I was surprised to learn that almost three-quarters of Mongolians now live in cities and towns - with more than half the population in the capital Ulaanbaatar alone. In 1960, only 35 percent of Mongolians were urban, but that proportion has doubled in the last half-century. A similar transformation is happening in developing countries all around the world. Millions of rural dwellers are migrating to cities and towns, drawn by the prospect of better lives - or driven by poverty, conflict and natural disasters. Cities and towns are growing fast, swallowing surrounding countryside and transforming nearby villages into suburbs. This process is called urbanization, and it is one of the biggest stories in development today. As a development worker I used to focus on remote, rural areas and the poor communities living there. My first trip to Mongolia was to work on a UNDP project in the remote Gobi Desert. But most of the people we serve now live in urban areas, and the challenges (and opportunities!) of sustainable development are also increasingly urban. We’ve recognized … Read more

The challenge: How can international co-operation help to put sustainable development at the core of business models?

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By helping to create decent jobs and build resilient infrastructure, the private sector can be a key partner in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. UNDP photo

The private sector has always been an essential actor in development, credited with fostering wealth, innovation and jobs – and many a time blamed for negative externalities. So in this new era, what is different about the role and the responsibilities of the private sector in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? It is different because sustainable development cannot be achieved without the active involvement of responsible businesses. The private sector will be essential in creating sustainable, productive and decent employment, economic prosperity, resilient infrastructure that underpins sustainable development, and innovations that create green growth and opportunities for all, especially the poor. Also, it is different because the business community has been involved from the beginning in defining the new agenda for sustainable development. Their voice was heard loud and clear. A recent study reveals that 71% of businesses say they are already planning how they will engage with the SDGs and 41% say they will embed the SDGs in their strategies within five years (PwC, 2015). So they are part owners of the new framework for development. Finally, it is different because the drivers of change within the business community are evolving. Of course, there is the moral case, which … Read more

Opportunity in tragedy: A reflection on the Ecuador earthquake

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For all its devastating impacts, the recent earthquake could open up opportunities for Ecuador's most vulnerable communities. Photo: Jeannette Fernandez Castro

With a risk-informed approach to earthquake recovery, two of Ecuador’s vulnerable and exposed regions can not only protect against future disasters, but ensure progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. I took this picture in Muisne, one of the most beautiful towns in Ecuador, my home country.  Muisne is in the Province of Esmeraldas, in the northwest of the country and is, I feel, home to our best soccer players, the best “marimba” music, the best dancers and the best seafood. For all of its promise, however, the region is challenged by poverty and is exposed to natural hazards, vulnerabilities that hold back social and economic growth. This vulnerability was evident in April 2016 when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit this province as well as five others (including Manabí, where the biggest impact occurred), producing large-scale devastation. Housing and infrastructure were the most affected, with over 30,000 homes and 875 schools lost across all six provinces. While understandable, this loss of infrastructure – and related loss of lives and livelihoods – should not occur in the future. We have the ability to build better and stronger. This is especially important in earthquake zones and even more so in regions going through recovery. … Read more

We need more women in politics: Here’s how to make quotas work

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More than 600 women attended UNDP-supported policy forums to urge Moldovan MPs to adopt the 40 percent quota for the least represented gender. Photo: UN Moldova

The low representation of women in politics remains one of the most obvious obstacles preventing us from achieving gender equality in the world. In the Republic of Moldova, a medium income country in Eastern Europe that ranks 50th in the most recent Gender Inequality Index, we want to increase the pace of change and ensure that more women are getting involved in elections as candidates, voters, and electoral staff. In a context where gender inequality is constantly dismissed as a non-issue, we had to have data to back up our claims and push for change. So we partnered with the Moldovan Central Electoral Commission and developed the first-ever national set of statistics related to the participation of women and men in elections. To our surprise, the first thing we learned was that women in Moldova do get involved in politics. At the local level, there is a massive representation of women in political parties and in electoral bodies. However, the higher the decision-making level we were looking at, the fewer women we could find. For example, even though membership rates in political parties for men and women are strikingly similar, only two out of 46 political parties in the country are … Read more

Peacebuilding through parliaments

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Enthusiastic women parliamentarian candidates in Indonesia. Photo: UNDP

We look to our parliaments to represent us, adopt laws that protect our fundamental rights and freedoms, and distribute resources to those in need. In such ways, parliaments are uniquely positioned to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. So why is it that they are so often absent from discussions surrounding the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda and its implementation? The adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 in 2000 acknowledged the inordinate impact war has on women, and the pivotal role women play in development, peace and security. Recent resolutions stressed the need for including women in peace talks, to prevent violent extremism and foster post-conflict reconstruction. We have learned that the probability of peace agreements lasting at least two years increases by 20 percent when women participate in the process. The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals recognize the links between gender equality, strong institutions, peace and security.… Read more

La TICAD, un forum unique toujours d’actualité

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Nairobi, Kenya will host the sixth Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) from 27 to 28 August 2016.

La sixième Conférence internationale de Tokyo sur le développement de l’Afrique (TICAD), qui se tiendra à Nairobi les 27 et 28 août prochains, devrait attirer plus de 6 000 représentants des gouvernements, des organisations internationales, de la société civile et des organisations du secteur privé. Créé en 1993 pour encourager et promouvoir les partenariats internationaux pour le développement de l’Afrique, ce forum a vu le jour au milieu des « décennies perdues pour le développement » du continent africain, lequel était alors aux prises avec les contraintes des programmes d’ajustement structurel et incapable de reprendre son souffle. En cette fin de guerre froide, les principaux bailleurs de fonds, à l’exception notable du Japon, s’interrogeaient sur la pertinence de l’aide au développement accordée à l’Afrique.… Read more

La paz: oportunidad para el medio ambiente en Colombia

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Peace will usher in an opportunity to showcase the environmental potential of the Colombian regions in addition to generating dynamic economic and social development. Photo: UNDP

Hoy más que nunca necesitamos optimismo y la firme convicción de que estaremos mejor con la Paz que con la guerra: en lo social, económico y ambiental. El conflicto armado ha dejado una inmensa huella ecológica y ha limitado las posibilidades de desarrollo de Colombia en torno a su biodiversidad. Sobran los ejemplos de impactos directos del conflicto sobre los bienes y servicios de la naturaleza: la siembra de minas antipersona (Colombia es el segundo país con mas víctimas, después de Afganistán); episodios de violencia en áreas protegidas; la deforestación provocada por la expansión de los cultivos ilícitos; el crecimiento de la minería ilegal, la deforestación y la degradación de suelos, entre otros.… Read more

Growth in social protection renews optimism towards sustainable development

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Worker at the Warrap State Hospital, South Sudan. Photo: UN/JC Mcllwaine

The media often supplements talks of the Global South with illustrations of humanitarian tragedies and persistent development bottlenecks. However, this traditional news coverage overlooks a very positive and impactful transformation taking place in Africa and the Global South: the impressive growth in social protection systems, the establishment of new foundations for advancing sustainable development and for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Social protection programmes are among the most successful development experiences the world has seen in recent years. They have proven to be key in developing countries' efforts to fight poverty and hunger, as demonstrated by the substantial progress made in poverty reduction through the adoption and expansion of social protection schemes in countries such as Brazil, Ethiopia and Senegal. Making the transformation towards sustainable development by 2030 will require substantial changes in development practices. The steady increase in the number and quality of social protection systems throughout the Global South brings renewed hope and one of the most positive changes the world has witnessed in recent decades. In Africa, 48 countries have established flagship programmes, with more than 120 different initiatives being implemented. Seizing this positive change as a catalytic force to advance sustainable development is a must. As an … Read more

A legacy of private sector engagement in Africa

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More than 11,000 smallholder farmers benefit from support to develop regional agro-food value chains. Photo: UNDP

In the last 12 years, UNDP in Africa has invested into innovative programmes that produced encouraging results, incentives, and insights on how the private sector can contribute to inclusive growth through inclusive businesses and markets. UNDP’s long term goal in this area is to foster Africa’s capacity to produce and grow in line with the African Union Agenda 2063 and the universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UNDP Growing Sustainable Business (GSB) initiative built, from 2003 to 2011, multi-stakeholder partnerships to support businesses with a clear triple bottom line capable of impacting positively on profit, people and planet. Bionexx, for instance, a company based in Madagascar, managed to grow the production of artemisinin, a key ingredient in anti-malaria pills, from 0 to 12 metric tons using an outgrower network of close to 10,000 farmers through financial support and technical assistance to set-up the outgrower scheme – a clear success in terms of providing a guaranteed higher value market to smallholder farmers and increasing their income. GSB grew from a few pilots in Africa to established programmes in over 15 countries across four continents. In 2010, there were over 50 projects in the GSB global portfolio distributed among seven sectors. GSB has … Read more

Latin America and the Caribbean: Looking beyond income to build on recent progress

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In Latin America and the Caribbean, 25 million to 30 million people risk falling back into poverty. Photo: UNDP

The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean experienced historic economic and social transformation in recent years. This has led to a considerable reduction in poverty and inequality and to advances in closing gender, labour and education gaps. These achievements are the result of a favourable economic environment as well as proactive social inclusion policies. Despite this, 25 million to 30 million people risk falling back into poverty—a third of those who left poverty from 2003 to 2013. The most vulnerable are the newly employed, women and workers in the informal sectors of the economy. Many face social exclusion that cannot be resolved with higher income, such as discrimination due to ethnic or racial group, skin colour, sexual identity, migrant status or disability.… Read more

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