What has salt got to do with development?

23 Nov 2015 by Daniel Franks, Chief Technical Advisor and Programme Manager, ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme, UNDP

Salt mine in DRHaitian workers transport salt at the Las Salinas mine, Dominican Republic. Photo: Reuters/Ricardo Rojas
Do you know where the salt that flavours your food comes from? What about the lime to set our concrete walls, the aggregate and the sand that pave our roads, the pigments that colour our paints, or the bricks that hold up our ceilings? Construction materials, dimension stones, industrial minerals and semi-precious stones are the hidden bedrock of our society, and the people that mine them in many parts of the world are often humble small-scale miners. These so-called “low value minerals” may not generate the same attention as diamonds, copper or gold, but their value lies in their potential to be minerals of development, boosting the livelihoods of millions of people. We hear a lot about their high-value cousins. We read news reports about the blood diamonds of West Africa, the conflict minerals of the Congo and thousands of miners panning for gold in the Amazon. The stories that we tell about rocks are about the fouling of rivers, the clearing of forest and the fuelling of war. Not all commodities, however, have such potential for misery. The humbleness of the low value minerals and materials sector sometimes, though not always, extends to the sector’s environmental footprint. Many of the … Read more

World Toilet Day is no laughing matter

19 Nov 2015 by John Aravosis, Manager, Online and Digital Team, UNDP

World Toilet DayTo raise awareness around World Toilet Day 2015, UN Water placed a giant inflatable toilet in front of the UN Secretariat in New York. Photo: John Aravosis
World Toilet Day is on 19 November. And while the topic might at first sound funny, its implications are deadly serious for billions of people around the world. Today, 2.5 billion people don’t have access to adequate sanitation; and 1 billion still defecate in the open, a practice that has led to a significant number of diarrheal deaths among children under-five, among other health implications. As UNDP Administrator Helen Clark recently pointed out, sanitation matters, especially for women and girls: Women and girls who lack access to adequate sanitation experience higher rates of illness (Millennium Development Goals 4, 5, and 6), such as urinary tract infections. The lack of safe, private toilets at schools is one of the main reasons why girls miss school days or drop out of school altogether. As the UN Secretary-General noted in his message for World Toilet Day 2013: when schools offer decent toilets, eleven percent more girls attend.    When women have to travel from their homes or workplaces to use a public toilet, they are vulnerable to violence. When they have to relieve themselves in the open, they often wait to do this until after dark, which puts them at greater risk of harassment … Read more

Climate change is not gender-neutral

17 Nov 2015 by Ana Maria Currea, Communications and Knowledge Management Specialist, GEF Small Grants Programme, UNDP

woman prepares a mealA woman prepares a meal using an efficient cook stove in Cameroon. Photo: Small Grants Programme/UNDP Cameroon
It is well established that the poor are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and that women—who account for the majority of the world’s poor—are disproportionately impacted. Why is this fact so important? And what are we doing to address it? Women farmers account for 45 to 80 percent of all food production in developing countries. This means that any changes in climate—such as droughts and floods—affect their livelihoods, incomes and food security more than they do men. Women also suffer from discrimination, limiting their rights, their access to land and their access to services. Such discrimination has important implications during the aftermath of weather-related emergencies, as women are usually the last to receive services like credit and technical support. As the gender focal point in the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) implemented by UNDP, I have been in charge of mainstreaming gender across our programmes. This is quite a task, given that we operate in over 125 countries, each with a different landscape and climate vulnerabilities, as well as different laws for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Women have different roles and face different challenges in each of our areas of work (biodiversity, climate change and land degradation, … Read more

With improvements, biomass can contribute further to combatting climate change

13 Nov 2015 by By Butchaiah Gadde, Regional Technical Specialist for Global Environmental Finance and Srinivas Shroff Nagesha Rao, Programme Analyst, UNDP India

As demand for biomass energy continues to increase, the challenge is to help these plants supply and use the biomass in a sustainable fashion. Our work at UNDP focuses on doing exactly that. “Biomass” is any organic material that is derived from plants, animals or agricultural waste. Across the world, biomass play a key role in meeting daily energy demands. In fact, 80 percent of all heating is powered by biomass. Here in India, 66 percent of the population, some 815 million people, rely on traditional biomass for cooking. Since 2000, the number of biomass-fuelled power plants has mushroomed throughout Indian states. Although practices vary from one country to another, the open burning of crop residues is common among farmers in many Asian countries. This practice is used to prepare the field for the next crop, remove residues, control weeds and release nutrients for the next crop cycle. But when biomass residue is burned, it can release harmful gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen, methane (CH4), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), and carbon monoxide, among others. What many people don’t know is that biomass residues can also be used to generate electricity and heating, with farmers earning … Read more

Access to the skills training is the pathways to achieve economic growth for all

11 Nov 2015 by By Gokhan Dikmener, Technical Specialist, Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development, UNDP

Fatos Hasolli can’t find a job, despite having a university degree in engineering. The Kosovan young man, in his mid-20s, decided his best option is to leave Kosovo* and find a job elsewhere. His story is shared by thousands of Kosovan youth who, according to the World Bank, face a 60% unemployment rate. But Hasolli’s story is not only found in Kosovo: it has become a global trend for both developed and developing countries. Today, over thirteen percent of young people can’t find a job in North America. In the Middle East that number increases to one in four youth, and in Spain one in two. Meanwhile, the global unemployment rate for all ages is below 5 percent. Reports suggest 600 million new jobs are needed in the next 15 years to be able to integrate youth into the workforce. At the same time, businesses report that they do not have adequate access to skilled human resources, especially for technical and vocational jobs. Forty percent of employers can't fill entry-level jobs, while 45 percent of youth are in jobs that don't use their skills. The recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes the right to education and training and the … Read more