To promote women’s leadership in the public sector, we need better data

28 Aug 2015 by By Ciara Lee, Consultant, Gender Equality in Public Administration, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

Civil service support officers provide on-the-job training to their South Sudanese counterparts as part of a UNDP governance project. Photo: Brian Sokol/UNDP South Sudan
Public administration is the foundation of government and a major employer in most countries. As such, women’s participation in the civil service is vital for their economic empowerment as well as for mirroring the fabric of society in a country’s public institutions. Access to open data showing whether women are in fact equally represented in government is of paramount importance. It is the evidence that can tell us where improvements are necessary. While some progress has been achieved in terms of opening up data on women’s representation in other areas of public life, such as the political sphere, UNDP’s Gender Equality in Public Administration (GEPA) initiative has documented that data on women’s role in the civil service remains largely absent. This data gap is particularly dire when it comes to women’s access to decision-making positions. The first phase of GEPA culminated in a Global Report (2014), which synthesized the findings of 13 in-depth country case studies. The numbers show that globally, women continue to be underrepresented in the executive branch of government, particularly at decision-making levels: In 11 of the 13 case study countries, women hold less than 30% of decision-making positions in public administration. Women occupy 15% or less of … Read more

Youth: not simply human beings, but human becomings

26 Aug 2015 by Jon Hall, Policy specialist, Human Development Report Office

youth in ZambiaZambian youth at a UNDP consultation. Investment in youth and their input is crucial to long-term and sustainable development. Photo: UNDP Zambia
In recent years, perhaps no demographic of society has been better reported on than young people. Why has there been so much human development interest? There are, I believe, at least 3 reasons: Human development is, by definition, forward looking. I remember a professor remarking that she preferred to think of the young not simply as human beings, but as human becomings. Last year’s Human Development Report (HDR) considered how people’s vulnerabilities change over their lives and showed how disadvantage early in life creates gaps that worsen over a lifetime. Disadvantaged children are on track to become the youths who do poorly in school or drop out. In the workplace, they perform the most menial work and earn the lowest wages. And when these young people have children, a cycle of inherited poverty begins and is repeated across generations. Moreover, youth is a time for transition: from childhood to adulthood, from school to work. But transition points are, as the 2014 HDR argued, particularly vulnerable moments: setbacks here can be especially difficult to overcome and can scar a young person’s chances for a better life.  “Multiple vulnerabilities, stemming from poverty, inequality, social exclusion and hazardous environments, reinforce and overlap with one … Read more

We need to get better at killing our darlings

25 Aug 2015 by Benjamin Kumpf, Policy Specialist, Innovation at UNDP

"The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up", painting by J. M. W. Turner, 1838.
In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on innovation in development practice. Reading James Whitehead’s post on the best ways to be innovative, I found myself nodding to most of his reflections. Particularly: ”I want to be working with people who are passionate about solving problems at scale rather than magpies obsessed with finding shiny new innovative solutions.” Yet, I felt something more needed to be said. The well-known side of innovation is the creative one. We identify novel ways of doing business, co-create new ideas with the end-users, and test them. The flip side of innovation is to discontinue practices for which we do not have sufficient evidence of impact or that are no longer relevant. It is not about technological progress per se but the readiness and ability to identify what works, what doesn’t, and to stop doing what should not be done. A colleague from our team likes to emphasize that “innovation is also about constantly killing your darlings.” Geoff Mulgan illustrated this point in a presentation a few years ago with the 1838 Turner painting of ‘The Fighting Temeraire.’ It depicts a battleship towed into harbor by a new steam-powered tug, … Read more

The 100 Day Dash for Climate Action

22 Aug 2015 by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, New York

man in Guatemalan national parkA man looks out over the mountains in Parque Regional Todos Santos Cuchumatán, La Torre, Guatemala. The Environment and Poverty initiative in Guatemala is promoting the relationship between natural resource management and poverty reduction. Photo: Giovanni Diffidenti/UNDP Guatemala
Aug. 22 marks 100 days until the U.N. climate conference in Paris, France. Countries have made commitments, which give hope that an ambitious agreement may be possible. What makes an agreement ambitious? Above all, a push on all sectors and stakeholders so that development is climate-conscious and risk-informed. Development practitioners and climate experts need to work together. During the next 100 days, UNDP will do its part: Drawing on our climate change portfolio, which supports 140 countries, we will strive to share the lessons we have learned. From our collaboration in Latin America to expand wind energy, to our work on small-scale agricultural adaptation in Africa and Asia, we have gleaned best practices that showcase the tools and resources available to tackle climate change and sustain development. The ingredients are all there, the challenge now is to use Paris as a springboard to scale up those best practices and to seize the post-2015 opportunity. Read the entire post on Devex.   … Read more

Too much, too little, never enough

21 Aug 2015 by Dylan Lowthian, Communications Analyst, UNDP Media and Advocacy team

Benito VelasquezBenito Velasquez, a farmer from Torota, Bolivia, says erratic weather is affecting his crops. Photo: Dylan Lowthian/UNDP
“I beg everyone to think. It’s not just one country – we have to think about the whole world. We have to say this to our leaders.” Benito Velasquez has farmed a modest patch of land in central Bolivia all his life. “Climate change is taking place”, he says. “We have lots of work to do. Maybe in 50 years we can repair what we have destroyed. We have to repair it.” I have come to meet Benito to see firsthand how changing weather patterns are affecting Bolivian farmers. The interview is part of a visit to four countries on three continents, to document the effect climate change is having on agricultural communities. “The seeds we sow no longer flourish at the proper time”, says Benito. “You can see there are lakes and basins without water. ­ Benito plans for the dry and wet seasons, and plants crops according to knowledge that goes back generations. This expertise, based on the predictability of the weather, is designed to maximize the harvest. Lately, such systems are not working. The weather has become erratic, unpredictable, and extreme. At the time, we were unaware that Benito’s story will be repeated. In each place we visit, … Read more