Our Perspectives

FGM ban begins a pivotal era for women and girls in The Gambia

Commemorations for the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting are especially significant for The Gambia this year, following the banning and criminalization of FGM/C. UNICEF photo

In November 2015, the practice of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) was banned and subsequently criminalized in The Gambia. This marks an important milestone in the country’s journey to end FGM/C and ensure that the fundamental human rights of girls and women are protected and fulfilled. The achievement places The Gambia proudly among 26 other African countries that have banned FGM/C through legislation. And it comes after years of work to raise awareness among individuals and communities, reinforced by intense advocacy with decision and policy makers. As a result, where FGM/C used to be a taboo, the subject is now openly discussed in Gambian homes and communities. The Joint UNFPA/UNICEF programme for the abandonment of FGM/C played a pivotal role in this critical transition for the women and girls of The Gambia. Support from the joint programme allowed for the sensitization and training of traditional and religious leaders, men, women, children, policy makers, law enforcement agents and circumcisers on the health and human rights effects of FGM/C. Once convinced, Islamic religious leaders and scholars became powerful advocates against FGM/C with influence at both the policy and community levels. FGM/C has been successfully integrated into the health professional school curricula, and … Read more

Managing the refuse of the refused

Looking at current waste management practices in the town of Elbeyli, Turkey. Photo: Alpert K. Doğan

Imagine yourself as the mayor of a small border province in Southeastern Anatolia five years ago. It is a big day for you. After years of petitions, meetings, and a heavy financial burden you are about to open a sanitary landfill site to serve your community for at least 25 years. You and your team are proud to make a lasting contribution both to the community and environment. You are reading about the events in neighboring Syria but hopeful that the conflict will end soon. Your heart is with them, as you think maybe of the distant relatives of yours living in Aleppo. Then refugees begin to arrive. First in a trickle, then a flow. Camps are erected, and you do your best to fulfill basic needs and cooperate with relevant government offices. You feel a little bit tired, but satisfied knowing that you’re helping out a neighbour in need. Fast-forward four years: There hundreds of thousands of refugees now residing in your tiny city, some camps now accommodate over 30,000 people. Every day you receive more complaints about municipal services. Waste and litter is everywhere, your few vehicles are constantly on the road, personnel are overwhelmed, your new sanitary landfill … Read more

Making airports fit for emergencies

Workers perform a GARD simulation at Rafic Harriri Airport in Lebanon. Photo: UNDP Lebanon

In March 2015, two major earthquakes hit Nepal, requiring a fast and vast humanitarian response. But authorities were forced to close the only international airport that could accommodate large aircraft, as its runway was deteriorating under the weight of the large planes. Delays ensued in the arrival of both relief goods and personnel. Nepal’s situation is not unique. During major disasters, authorities and relief suppliers often face serious delays due to the strain on capacities, leaving relief supplies piling up or emergency materials and personnel held up at customs. Managing the logistics of large scale disaster response is a complex operation. It involves military and civil agencies leading an effort that includes dozens or even hundreds of stakeholders. Logistics are further hampered by other factors: the lack of capacity to manage the huge inflow of relief materials, the inability to effectively coordinate with multiple stakeholders, the need to ensure compliance with customs and immigration regulations, and the inability to properly store and move goods, not to mention distribute them to the people in need. Airport preparedness is a key element of disaster preparedness plans. The capacity to manage the influx of humanitarian aid and personnel largely determines the quality of humanitarian … Read more

A recipe for sustainable development

The Roca Brothers have a walk at the food market in New York to look at the local food products. Photo: Freya Morales/UNDP

Food has always been a central part of our lives: the food in our parents’ restaurant where we grew up; food as an element of creativity, emotion, dialogue and discovery in our work. Food is an important part of our heart and soul. Over the years, we realized that how people experience food, cook, and preserve culinary traditions have a direct impact on the fundamental areas of life. What we eat affects our health, our economy, and our planet. When we learned about the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we wanted to be a part of this ambitious undertaking. Viewing food from the three perspectives of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental – helps us understand many of the challenges we have encountered in our culinary journey around the world. So we are excited to embark on a new journey together with the UNDP and the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund). We are highly concerned about the loss of food biodiversity in the world, the abandonment of indigenous cultures, and forgotten culinary traditions, all of which can lead to poverty and exclusion. We are concerned that, increasingly, more communities cannot choose what food to grow and how to … Read more

After conflict, functioning governments are key for peaceful and inclusive societies

Women voting in Libya. A transparent voting process helps increase the levels of legitimacy and trust from citizens towards their governments. Photo: UNDP Libya

New Year, new goals, new approaches. It is the starting of the implementation and localization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the baseline year against which the 2030 Agenda will measure progress or set-backs. Fragile countries emerging out of conflict will likely be where it is most difficult to implement these goals. But this is also where it will be crucially important. In these countries, citizens are most deprived of basic public services and poverty is most acute. One Goal. The SDGs recognize the importance for governance-informed development with a specific goal on just, peaceful and inclusive societies. Goal 16 recognizes that sustainable development is not possible without peace and justice. And it is central in ensuring that societies’ aspirations for higher access and quality of public services will be achieved through core government functions (such as security and justice, public financial management, civil service and government employment, local governance, aid management) that are effective, responsive and inclusive. These core functions of government are essential for development and statehood. However, appreciation of their critical role has waned from international development practice and little has been published on public administration in fragile environments (Restore or Reform, 2014). Goal 16 seems to … Read more

A new ambitious vision requires new ambitious ways of working

Indian Railways is the single largest consumer of electricity in India, consuming 17.5 billion units a year. As track and passengers continue to grow, being more energy efficient, and exploring clean sources of energy is central to the Railways vision for the future. Photo: Dhiraj Singh/UNDP India

31 December 2015: During a visit to Kerala, India, I drive past gleaming malls and the skeleton of a new metro in a hometown virtually unrecognizable from my childhood. But I also see stubborn challenges, like the very poor left behind in this economy and the deteriorating quality of air and food. 1 January 2016: A new year begins, with a new era in the quest to combat poverty, inequality, and climate change. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) come into force, part of a “2030 Agenda” for the next 15 years, to achieve development where progress in one sector is not at the expense of another, where present gains do not threaten that of future generations. As the incoming UNDP Lead Advisor on the 2030 Agenda, it’s hardly surprising that I take an interest in this. But, personally, I find the SDGs (all 17!) far more compelling than the predecessor Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Why? At a time of seemingly intractable peace and development challenges, the fact that this Agenda was adopted unanimously by 193 governments is historic. The SDGs are not MDGs 2.0. They are broad, spanning economic, social and environmental aspects of development. They are bold and unapologetically normative … Read more

Del terremoto a la esperanza: el bienestar es más que ingreso, según un joven haitiano

Oriental was born in a slum area of Port au Prince. Before the earthquake hit, life had already hit him hard. Photo: Raul de la Fuente/Kanaki Films

Oriental nació en un barrio precario de Puerto Príncipe. Antes de que el seísmo lo castigara, ya lo había hecho la vida: a la edad de quince, era huérfano. Foto:… Read more

Burundi : Passer à la vitesse supérieure pour éviter une crise plus aiguë

To overcome the crisis once and for all, we must avoid short-term solutions and focus on youth and the employment of young people. Photo: Aude Rossignol/UNDP Burundi

La situation au Burundi est très préoccupante. Sur des problèmes de développement structurels vient se greffer une crise politique, avec un impact en terme de besoins humanitaires, de cohésion sociale et de situation des droits de l’homme, avec en fond un contexte historique connu, Ce qui est le plus visible du point de vue humanitaire pour le moment, ce sont les déplacés qui ont quitté le pays. Les déplacés internes sont beaucoup moins apparents car ils s’installent dans des communautés où ils se sentent en sécurité.… Read more

Unlocking the potential of youth

Youth participants of UNDP Sri Lanka’s Twinning Schools Programme caught in action whilst doing a music video for the song 'Colours'. Photo: UNDP Sri Lanka

In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on innovation in development practice. “Children and youth deserve a better future in their own country, not necessarily somewhere else. It is the responsibility of the adults not just to bring children to this world but contribute to creating a socio-political environment that is conducive for their advancement and well-being.” - Professor Siri Hettige, a senior sociology academic at the University of Colombo. We’ve heard many such calls for more opportunities for young people, the need to engage with them, and the responsibility of adults and institutions. But to me, these calls often miss a key point: the central role of youth themselves in shaping their own present and future. Youth make up almost a quarter of Sri Lanka’s population: 4.64 million or 23.2 percent.  Like youth globally, Sri Lankan youth have often been the focus of public attention for the ‘wrong’ reasons. I believe it is because we, as a society, often fail to recognise them for the ‘right’ reasons. We fail to highlight the positive contribution they make to society. We fail to place trust in them to lead. We fail to live up to our … Read more

Six ways to define poverty, according to 5-year-olds

Asked to define poverty, kids give insightful answers. Photo: Renato Contreras/UNDP Peru

Forget about the ‘grandmother rule’ of journalism—or the ‘aunt rule’, depending on the country. According to this principle, you have to explain your message as simply as possible so even your grandmother, or aunt, will understand. I wonder why it’s never the grandfather or the uncle. But that’s a whole other topic...  After lecturing to a group of 20 kindergarten students on what UNDP does (sustainable development, disaster risk reduction and other weird terms) I realize that the rule should be: communicate clearly enough so even a 5-year-old will understand your message. The easiest way to explain the concept of ‘resilience’ was to remind them of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. In the story, you’ll remember, the brick house (yes, the one that took more time and effort to build) was the only one that withstood the wolf’s ‘huffing and puffing’ (and very heavy wind and rain too, the children understood). Surprisingly, when I asked the group of New York City girls and boys from different cultural backgrounds what they thought poverty meant, they answered, in this order: “Not having a proper house.” “Not having a proper school.” “Not having enough to eat.” “In some places girls … Read more

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