Nepal: A lesson in the risks climate change poses to disaster-prone countries

30 Apr 2015 by Daniel Buckley, Climate Change Policy and Finance Analyst, UNDP Sustainable Development Group

Internally displaced persons in Sankhu, northwestern NepalTens of thousands of people have been displaced by the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April. Photo: Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi / UNDP Nepal.
As relief assistance rushes to Nepal after the earthquake, those efforts are being hampered by a number of factors. Weak existing infrastructure means many critical roads have been damaged. Remote mountain villages perched on hillsides require helicopters to distribute aid. Inadequate communications networks complicate the ability to understand and prioritise where relief is most needed. These are manmade factors. However, there are also climate-related factors that complicate search and rescue operations, impede convoys loaded with food, water and medical supplies, and exacerbate already difficult conditions for the displaced population. As a Least Developed Country, Nepal suffers through the worst impacts of climate change – droughts, floods, and food insecurity – despite bearing little responsibility for the carbon emissions now affecting our climate. As a UNDP climate change policy specialist based in New York, I was on mission to Kathmandu when the earthquake struck. My mission was to design a project to enable Nepal to access increased climate finance. With such funding, Nepal could better adapt to climate impacts in vulnerable sectors of the economy while putting the country on a low-carbon development path that encourages sustainable livelihoods. I came to design a climate change project; now I am getting an education … Read more

We must work with Nepal and other vulnerable countries towardsa more resilient future

29 Apr 2015 by Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP

A 7.9 magnitude earthquake has caused widespread destruction in NepalIn 2011, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark visited downtown Kathmandu for an 'eathquake walk' - a tour on disaster preparedness. Photo: Bikash Rauniyar/UNDP Nepal
Nepal’s Kathmandu valley has all of the factors that keep development experts up at night: a dense population, weak infrastructure, seismic activity, and hard to reach populations.   In 2011, I went on an official tour of downtown Kathmandu called the “Earthquake Walk.”  This tour, led by the government and other partners on disaster preparedness, was intended to demonstrate the vulnerabilities of residential and other buildings, including those of heritage and religious significance, to the next large earthquake that would strike the region one day. What I learned on the tour was alarming: so many buildings would be unable to withstand an earthquake of any magnitude, let alone the massive one which struck on Saturday.   It has long been known that a major earthquake could happen at any time in this vulnerable region. That is why UNDP and other development partners have engaged with Nepal for many years on disaster risk reduction and response initiatives.   The Government of Nepal has been spearheading efforts to tighten legislation around new developments and retrofit buildings. The costs of strengthening existing infrastructure, however, are very high, and are often beyond the means of least developed countries like Nepal. Continued assistance from development partners … Read more

Indigenous youth and the post-2015 Development Agenda

28 Apr 2015 by Laurence Klein, Programme Specialist for Indigenous Participation, UNDP Latin America and the Caribbean

Indigenous women in ColombiaAccording to figures from ECLAC, there are more than 800 indigenous peoples in Latin America, with a total population of about 45 million. Photo: UNDP Colombia
“Children and youth are the future of humanity” (Álvaro Pop, Member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Youth Focal Point) Imagine that instead of excluding marginalized groups, we include them in the new international post-2015 development agenda. Now, imagine the future development agenda built on the enormous potential of indigenous peoples with their ancestral knowledge. Now combine this knowledge with the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit and the mobilizing and transforming capacity of indigenous youth. Wouldn’t you listen to these voices? We have decided that, yes indeed, we would listen to them and have provided them with the platform Juventud Con Voz (Voice of the Youth). It will serve as a forum for participatory dialogue in which the proposals and ideas of indigenous youth can be heard in order to have an impact, individually or collectively, on the post-2015 development agenda and to contribute effectively towards strengthening their organizations. Fifteen years ago, 189 heads of state committed to eradicate extreme poverty and multiple deprivations that threaten the well-being of individuals, with the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Despite the enormous progress towards achieving this ambitious project, the indignity of poverty is still violating the human rights … Read more

Breaking new ground: UNDP’s electoral lexicon

27 Apr 2015

1.3 million women voted in the 2012 Libyan elections after a large public-awareness campaign encouraged them to participate. Photo credit: Samia Mahgoub/UNDP Libya
When the invitation came to present our Arabic Lexicon of Electoral Terminology to the Joint Inter-Agency Meeting on Computer-Assisted Translation and Terminology (JIAMCATT) conference held in New York from 8 to 10 April 2015, it seemed like perfect timing. Carlos Valenzuela, a leading senior international electoral expert and I worked on the lexicon for close to three years and felt proud to be able to present it to one the world’s main venues for computer-assisted terminology and translation. With its 481 terms, the lexicon has some intriguing features, even for seasoned terminology professionals.  The challenge facing the lexicon team was that there was little or no significant literature on electoral management in the Arabic language. So everything had to be sourced from the ground up. Apart from being the first attempt to provide the terms and definitions of the most important concepts and components of an election process, the lexicon also provides the Arabic language variations in use in eight Arab countries.  This was done by using a custom-made online collaborative writing tool with eight reviewers in each of the countries. Participants in the various JIAMCATT sessions were interested in the unusual mechanics of this groundbreaking work.  The particular strength of … Read more

It is time to focus on the real drivers of malaria

24 Apr 2015 by Dudley Tarlton, Programme Specialist, Health and Development

A mother and child recover from malaria in a hospital in Burundi. A mother and child recover from malaria in a hospital in Burundi. The Government provides free health care for pregnant women and children under five. Photo: Maria Cierna/UNDP
Eliminating malaria seems like a straightforward issue. The parasitic infection is transmitted to people through bites from infected mosquitoes. So if we prevent the mosquito bites, we avoid the infection. But decades of malaria control efforts show there is more to the story. Much of our vulnerability to malaria, it turns out, is determined by human actions. The conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age define to a great extent who is vulnerable to malaria and who is not. Malaria is both a result and a cause of a lack of development. We know that it is those countries with the lowest levels of human development that are most affected by malaria. And within populations, those living in the poorest circumstances also suffer disproportionately. We have long understood the impact malaria has on development. We are now better understanding the impact development has on malaria. The factors that determine malaria risk are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources. The key interventions to prevent malaria (bed nets, insecticide spraying, and access to treatments) are well known, but eliminating the disease will require a broader range of actions. Efforts to improve housing and infrastructure development, sanitation, agricultural … Read more

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