Our Perspectives

El Nino happens every 3-7 years. How can Africa be better prepared?

A farmer in The Gambia shows a dry tuft of rice in a drought period. Photo: FAO

Some 60 million people’s lives have been affected by the 2015-2016 El Niño phenomenon in the Horn and Southern Africa. It was the strongest El Niño since 1950. Severe droughts have led to crop failure and food insecurity, massive livestock and wildlife deaths and loss of livelihoods. Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have all declared drought emergencies. In South Africa, only one province, Gauteng, has been spared the emergency.   A total of 40 million people, or 22 percent of Southern Africa’s rural population, became food insecure. About 23 million of them needed immediate humanitarian assistance at a cost of US$2.7 billion. In the Horn of Africa, close to 24 million people were facing critical and emergency food insecurity levels as of June 2016. Ethiopia is the most severely impacted by the drought with about 10.2 million people in need of food assistance and emergency funding requirements of US$1.4 billion. The 2015-2016 El Nino was predicted and early warning data made available in most countries, yet little action was taken, exposing both a lack of political will and a resilience deficit.  Only half of the affected countries have updated disaster risk reduction contingency plans, while the rest have outdated plans … Read more

African countries need institutions that will direct investment to where it is needed most

Lusaka, Zambia. Zambia underwent major structural reforms in recent years to attract investment.

International investment has helped Zambia, like many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, become more integrated into the global economy over recent years. Inward investment flows have doubled since 2008 and Zambia has even started to generate some modest foreign direct investment outflows. Although the country has undertaken major structural reforms over the past two decades to make it a more attractive location for investment, the Zambian government realised that this was not enough. Research has shown that foreign direct investment in mining remains dominant, although flows to manufacturing and services have also shown an upward trend. And while the investment in mining has brought with it new technologies, there has been little impact on job creation. The government of Zambia created the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in January 2014 to help diversify investment away from mining. It aims to play a catalytic role in deepening and strengthening Zambia’s industrialisation capacity, supporting the creation of jobs and domestic wealth across all key economic sectors. The IDC evaluates, assesses and lowers investment risk by serving as a co-investor alongside private sector investors, thereby facilitating long-term financing for projects. The IDC’s initial investments in Zambia’s growth sectors are helping to increase foreign direct investment … Read more

Unleashing the entrepreneur spirit for economic growth in Jordan: Let me count the ways

UNDP sees entrepreneurship as a central driver of economic stability and supports initiatives that tap into local skills. Photo: UNDP Jordan

There's nothing quite like having a bunch of entrepreneurs in the same room to generate off-the-charts energy and inspiration for economic development and social progress.  I was fortunate to host a social innovation workshop in Amman, Jordan, with a collection of business starters and supporters to generate ideas for strengthening the entrepreneur ecosystem in the country.  The workshop was held on the occasion of the visit to Jordan of the UN Foundation's Global Entrepreneurs Council (GEC), a group of eight luminaries from around the world who support those creative and bold enough to start new businesses.  The Council, chaired by Ashish Thakkar, was in Jordan to better understand the issues facing local entrepreneurs, particularly those affected by conflict, including in host communities and refugees. UNDP sees entrepreneurship as a central driver of economic and social stability, and supports initiatives that tap into local skills, expertise, and resources to foster entrepreneurial spirit and success.  Entrepreneurs in Jordan currently face challenges of growth (how to migrate from micro to small, small to medium, etc.); and sustainability (how to keep their businesses going after initial support).  The ecosystem has seen many business development service providers emerge over the past several years, presenting an opportunity to make these services … Read more

Turning the Paris Agreement into action requires ‘boots on the ground’

Years of changing seasons can wipe out food and water supplies for decades. Photo: UNDP

Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are on the frontlines of climate change. With populations often heavily reliant on climate-vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and forestry to drive their economies, the impacts of climate change are amplified. One erratic storm or years of changing growing seasons can wipe out food and water supplies for years or decades.  This has immense social and economic impacts that reduce opportunities, reinforce inequalities and potentially reverse progress toward reducing poverty. Charting a development path that integrates climate change action is therefore essential for true sustainable development and that requires direct capacity-building. UNDP’s ‘Boots on the Ground’ programme, established in 2010, does just that. Through technical and policy advice and guidance to 26 countries in Africa, Arab States, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, ‘Boots’ aims to strengthen national capacities to plan for and respond to the impacts of climate change. The successes of this on-the-ground support is already visible.  In Mali, ‘Boots’ officers have helped the Government prepare the National Climate Change Policy; in Kenya, we’ve worked with national partners to develop the National Climate Change Action Plan. In Nepal we’ve helped climate proof the national agriculture plan and develop a joint Gender and Climate Change strategy.  In … Read more

Sport for SDGs: a journey from Sudan to Rio de Janeiro

Sudanese athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo: UNDP Sudan

Sport is not usually the first thought that comes to mind when talking about achieving sustainable development. Nonetheless, it has been an instrumental tool in the promotion of peace and development for many years and I was able to witness it for myself at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since the inception of the Millennium Development Goals, sport has been essential in implementing development targets as recognized by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which emphasizes “the growing contribution of sport […] in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities…" For this reason, many organizations have been promoting peace through sport. The International Olympic Committee, is an organization encouraging collaboration between all parties of the Olympic family to promote Olympic values such as excellence, friendship and respect. The Committee established a strategic roadmap for the future, highlighting the potential of sport to help achieve at least four of the Sustainable Development Goals: good health and well-being (SDG 3), gender equality (SDG 5), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11) and peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16). In Sudan, the power of … Read more

Sauver la planète commence par notre assiette

Jeunes ou moins jeunes, nous sommes nombreux à nous demander si – à notre échelle – nous pouvons participer à la lutte contre le changement climatique. Éteindre la lumière en sortant d'une pièce, recycler nos déchets, supprimer l’usage des sacs plastiques, privilégier les douches aux bains … nous sommes déjà nombreux à avoir intégré ces petits gestes dans notre quotidien. Mais qu’en est-il de nos habitudes alimentaires ? Dans ce domaine également, nos choix ont un impact sur l’environnement.… Read more

Agenda 2030: un reto para los Estados y un reconocimiento para los pueblos indígenas

A delegate speaks at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. To achieve the 2030 Agenda, indigenous peoples must have a seat at the table. UN Photo

Los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible no se pueden alcanzar sin reconocer que somos sociedades multiculturales. Dentro de este enfoque, el cumplimiento de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas es necesario e imperativo. Cumplir con los pueblos indígenas entraña enormes posibilidades para el avance de los ODS. Sus capacidades de seguir desarrollando sus propios sistemas de educación, salud, administración de justicia y alimentarios ancestrales permitirán potenciar los esfuerzos e inversiones que se hagan en cada país. Son más de 300 millones de personas que mantienen sus planteamientos como pueblos indígenas y hablan más de cinco mil idiomas. Esta es la auténtica riqueza de la humanidad.… Read more

Indigenous knowledge - ancient solutions to today’s challenges

Indigenous knowledge, such as the use of ancient grains and traditional agricultural methods, can help to ensure food security while protecting the environment. Photo: UNDP Peru

Revitalizing and supporting indigenous knowledge is essential to address many of today’s challenges, including the effects of climate change.  Indigenous knowledge is a key resource that needs to be promoted to support livelihoods and food security, often under threat due to climatic changes.  Here are some examples of how indigenous peoples and local communities around the world are reviving traditional practices and knowledge.  In Hawaii, where youth migration is a common phenomenon, Donna Kameha‘iku Camvel from the University of Hawaii works on reviving customary practices and culture to address outward migration. She seeks to bring youth back to the land by planting and harvesting the indigenous crop taro. Ensuring food security is critical to the survival of indigenous peoples and local communities, particularly those that are migrating due to climate change.  The island Kuna communities of Panama are looking to ancient grains to help reverse the modern trend toward migration to the mainland. As noted by Kuna leader Onel Masardule, “to increase food production, communities need to recover traditional seeds so as to not depend on external donors to provide seeds.”  Equator Prize winners, the Abrha Weatsbha in Ethiopia have applied local knowledge to address extreme land degradation that had pushed … Read more

Lessons learned fighting tuberculosis in Syria

Tuberculosis patients displaced by conflict may lose access to health services, causing an interruption in treatment that increases their risk of developing multi-drug resistant strains of TB. Photo: UNDP Syria

Tuberculosis thrives on war and suffering. In theory, Syria offers the perfect breeding grounds for the disease. A lack of access to adequate medical services and poor and crowded housing conditions have created conditions ripe for the spread of tuberculosis.  Yet, TB has been largely kept in check. Some 3,479 people were placed on treatment in 2015, a 150 percent increase compared with 2013. The TB treatment success rate has also been maintained at 80 percent during the conflict.  UNDP has been supporting Syria to tackle TB since 2007, in partnership with the Global Fund. The onset of war in 2011 made this highly complex and has required a range of innovative approaches.  The experience highlights four vital lessons, which could work in other crisis countries: The courage and innovative thinking of front line health workers is critical.  Syrian health workers and volunteers are striving to keep services going, despite a crumbling health system and exceptional security threats. Theirs is a story of heroism in a country that has lost 750 health workers since the start of the crisis. They work bravely and ingeniously so services reach all areas, even those controlled by ISIS. Using mobile applications like WhatsApp, they reach … Read more

Development in 2 minutes: It’s about expanding choices

  Every week, at least one person asks me, “So what does the United Nations Development Programme do?” They want to know what the "development" is that we are trying to achieve, and what our "programme" is for achieving it. The simple answer is that “development” is about helping people have more choices. It's about removing the obstacles that prevent them from realizing their potential – overcoming the barriers that stand between them and their dreams. These obstacles come in many different forms. For 36 percent of Afghans, poverty is one barrier to self-fulfilment. For around 50 percent, it's being a woman in the face of widespread discrimination and routine harassment. For all Afghans at one time or another, it's being from the wrong ethnic group, which can make you a stranger in your own land.  For others, it's security. It's limited access to government services and protection under the rule of law. It's the fact that the nearest clinic is miles away, that the local school has no teacher and that there are no jobs to pay for education or healthcare even when they are available. It's the threat of flooded harvests, houses crushed by landslides and the increasing number … Read more

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