Our Perspective

      • No democracy without diversity | Heba El-Kholy

        19 Sep 2013

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        Libyan women proudly show their inked fingers after voting in the general national congress elections on 7 July 2012. Photo @ Samia Mahgoub / UNDP

        Some say history repeats itself. In 2004, UNDP issued what I believe is one of the best of its global Human Development Reports, Managing Cultural Diversity. The report argued that managing cultural diversity is one of the central challenges of our time and that policy choices about recognizing diverse ethnicities, religions, languages and values “are an inescapable feature of the landscape of politics in the 21st century.” But we still need to debunk powerful myths, including the one that some cultures have inherent democratic values and are more likely to make progress than others. In 2004, as now, the UNDP HDR report showed there was no evidence to support the trade-off between accommodating certain cultures and promoting democracy. Yet sadly, many people still believe this, arguing that the “Arab Spring” is freezing into an “Islamic winter.” Over the years, I have seen that democracy cannot exist without diversity. My work with civil society and with the UN has convinced me that addressing diversity in its broadest sense remains one of the core challenges of the democracy and development agenda. This is one lesson from the wave of revolutions in the Arab region that took the world by surprise, toppling authoritarian regimes  Read More

      • UNDP brings the Social Good Summit to Rwanda | Auke Lootsma

        19 Sep 2013

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        Rwanda's blooming youth population will be part of discussions on how technological innovations, social media and entrepreneurship can support Rwanda’s development. (Photo: UNDP Rwanda)

        The Social Good Summit is a three-day conference where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions. Last year, people gathered in nearly 300 cities and 150 countries to discuss how to make progress on local and global challenges. We at UNDP in Rwanda will be part of the bigger conversation about the challenges of the next generation, and how we can address them now. In Kigali on 23 September, we will investigate how key individuals in our country are already pioneering technological innovations to engineer social change that will leave lasting impacts. Young Rwandan entrepreneurs from different walks of life who are an inspiration to the nation will talk about their achievements and how organizations big and small can work together with individuals and national and world leaders to maximize their footprint. As in many African countries, Rwanda's youth population has boomed (65 percent of Rwandans are below 35 years of age). The Kigali Social Good Summit offers a unique opportunity to discuss how technological innovations, social media and entrepreneurship can inspire this youth population to support Rwanda’s development. UNDP Rwanda invited four reputable universities in Rwanda to a live-streamed meet up to connect with the panel and each  Read More

      • Sustaining democracy gains in Rwanda | Auke Lootsma

        16 Sep 2013

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        Close to 75,000 volunteers man the polling stations during the parliamentary elections in Rwanda. (Photo: Guillaume de Brier/UNAIDS)

        Rwanda is widely known for its beautiful landscape, and often remembered for its tragic genocide. But in recent years, I have seen the country make a name for itself as a fast-growing developing country with low corruption, clean and safe streets, and a parliament with the highest proportion of women representatives in the world (52 percent). The upcoming parliamentary elections, from 16 to 18 September, will be held against a backdrop of impressive improvement in the areas of democratic governance and political space. The Government recently passed a series of bills related to media, civil society and political parties to allow these stakeholders to play a stronger role in the democratic process. Candidates on party lists, women’s lists, youth and disabled lists will be vying for the 80 seats in parliament. Almost 6 million registered voters are expected to cast their ballots, an increase of 1.3 million voters compared to the parliamentary elections in 2008.   To boost its capacity and save costs, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) will use close to 75,000 volunteers to man the polling stations and ensure the voting and counting is conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner. This has allowed the NEC to bring  Read More

      • Human faces of Myanmar transformation | Toily Kurbanov

        12 Sep 2013

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        Women in Myanmar's Chin State are empowered through UNDP skills training and workshops in finance. (Photo: UNDP Myanmar)

        If you’ve been following developments in Myanmar, you will surely know that the country is undergoing at least three simultaneous transformations:  •  Nation-building: shifting from a country at war with itself to a strong, harmonious Union  •  Political transformation: moving from decades of repressive military rule to participatory democracy  •  Economic transformation: emerging from an autarchic, command-based system to a market economy Hundreds of pages and thousands of cables have been written in the last year and a half—and studied scrupulously from Beijing to Brussels to Boston—about this transformation. Few reports seem to have left room for understatement, and rightly so, because the reforms we are witnessing here indeed merit adjectives such as “historic,” “dramatic” and “breathtaking.” But words alone fall short in capturing what we see inside the country:  more than 60 million human stories taking new turns here and now. For example:  •  A father in the former capital, Yangon, a former day labourer turned proud entrepreneur thanks to new openings in the economy;  •  A wife in the commercial capital, Mandalay, once a victim of domestic  violence and now an NGO activist advocating women’s empowerment;  •  A teenage boy in southern Mon State, once an escaped child soldier  Read More

      • Chile's 9/11 shows political freedom is crucial for development | Heraldo Muñoz

        11 Sep 2013

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        Portrait of a child taken in the Juan Pablo II camp in Santiago, Chile. Photo: Nicolas Pinto Tironi / UNDP

        Forty years after Chile’s 9/11, when General Augusto Pinochet overthrew democratically elected President Salvador Allende, many people still ask me: Wasn’t he responsible for the economic miracle that made Chile a success story? After the coup in Egypt in July, a Wall Street Journal editorial argued that "Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile's Augusto Pinochet," who, it said, "took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy." Indeed, Pinochet personified a disturbing contradiction. He won praise for transforming the economy into one of the most prosperous in Latin America. The main problem for Pinochet's apologists was his brutality and corruption. If only he had modernized Chile's economy without assassinating, torturing and exiling tens of thousands of dissidents and getting caught hiding offshore bank accounts. But the groundwork for Pinochet's economic modernization was laid by his predecessors—under democratic rule. Land reform in the 1960s and early '70s allowed the military regime to boost agroindustry and an export-oriented economy. By 1970 the illiteracy rate was below 10 percent, malnutrition and infant mortality had been declining for decades and Chile had several solid state institutions. The return  Read More

      • Adapting to climate change in Tuvalu | Yusuke Taishi

        11 Sep 2013

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        A project to fight climate change in Tuvalu is helping islanders plant drought-tolerant crops and cultivate home gardens. (Photo: UNDP Fiji Multi-Country Office)

        Every time my Air Pacific flight approaches Tuvalu – an atoll nation consisting of nine inhabited islands – and I look through the window down at the narrow strips of land, my mind wanders back in time to the first Polynesian people who embarked on a long voyage more than 2,000 years ago. I don’t know what drove them to endure the hardship of traveling across the vast ocean, but I do know what stopped them once they reached the land that is now known as Tuvalu: fresh water. But, as climate change impacts rainfall patterns and rising sea levels increase the salinity of groundwater, the water that lured Polynesians to Tuvalu can now be a reason that drives their descendants away from their ancestral lands.    Tuvaluans can no longer rely on drinking groundwater and depend almost entirely on rainwater collected and stored in tanks. In 2011 Tuvalu went through one of its driest spells ever, with very little rainfall over a 6-month period, bringing the country into a national state of emergency. While the average person is estimated to consume 100 litres of water per day, the water ration was reduced to two buckets per day per household at  Read More

      • 'Neither a producer nor user be': Zambia and cluster munitions | Kanni Wignaraja

        09 Sep 2013

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        A survivor of two cluster bomb accidents in Iraq. Many communities around the world have suffered from the devastation caused by cluster munitions, the use of which Zambia is working to end. (Photo: Giovanni Diffidenti)

        Zambia is familiar with the issue of cluster munitions, a form of explosive weapon that can be air-dropped or ground-launched and releases smaller sub-munitions. Commonly known as cluster bombs, they are designed to kill people, destroy vehicles or buildings and disperse over wide swaths of land. The bombs that remain as unexploded ordnance stay dormant for years, and kill and maim children or farmers clearing forests and fields long after a conflict has ended. A national survey conducted in Zambia between 2006 and 2009 revealed that landmines, which pose similar threats, still existed in six border provinces, and remnants of cluster munitions were found in the western and northwestern regions of the country, a cruel legacy of neighboring conflicts. Cluster bombs are an impediment to development, and costly to locate and remove, a price borne by a country that was never a producer or a user of cluster munitions. This is not a new story, nor is it a Zambia story alone, as many communities around the world have suffered from the devastation caused by cluster munitions, across generations. But the motto “neither a user nor a producer be” accurately defines Zambia’s role as a standard-bearer on the issue, and should  Read More

      • Why should companies care about human rights? | Heraldo Muñoz

        06 Sep 2013

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        Businesses must work together with governments and civil society to take protect human rights as they promote economic growth. Above, miners in Brazil. (Photo: Sebastiao Barbosa/UN Photo)

        What led more than 400 representatives of national and multinational companies, governments, trade unions, civil society and indigenous peoples’ organizations to gather to discuss the impact of business on human rights? I asked myself this question as I opened the first Regional Forum for Latin America and the Caribbean on the Business Impact of Human Rights in Medellin, Colombia this August. Hundreds of top executives from the mining, energy, oil, food, beverage, banking/finance and agriculture sectors held an open dialogue with local communities, including campesinos and indigenous peoples, NGOs and public sector officials. Certainly the region has grown in recent years, but investments, especially related to extractive industries and land tenure, tend to spark social conflicts. And that's a challenge we all have to tackle together for truly sustainable development in the economic, social and environmental spheres. The United Nations Program for Development (UNDP) recognizes human rights as a central component of human development. And of course, human development is linked to the universal rights to equality, non-discrimination, participation and accountability. So we convened this forum in partnership with the Government of Colombia and the UN High Commission for Human Rights to provide a regional platform to promote and help implement  Read More

      • Employment and social protection for inclusive growth | Selim Jahan

        29 Aug 2013

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        A farmer and his family in India, beneficiaries of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme, which has served as an effective social protection programme. (Photo: Samrat Mandal/UNDP India)

        We live in times that seem to be defined by shocks and crises, and these have the potential to slow down, or even reverse, impressive achievements in human development over the years. There is, in fact, evidence that certain human development indicators have suffered setbacks in the context of a crisis. For example, as a result of the Asian crisis of 1997, the poverty rate in the Republic of Korea went from 2.6 percent in 1997 to 7.3 per cent in 1998. Similarly, the poverty rate in Indonesia almost doubled in the same period.   Social protection can be an effective tool for helping people, households and economies to cope with vulnerabilities arising from economic shocks. Countries that had social protection programmes in place were better able to weather the recent economic downturn, and some economies were even able to recover faster. Brazil, for example, was one of the last economies to be hit by the recent crisis and one of the first to begin recovering from it. An important reason was an increase in cash transfers to families, which helped offset the negative effects of the crisis.   But social protection can only go so far unless it is linked  Read More

      • Arendalsuka: Changing the conversation on environment | Olav Kjørven

        23 Aug 2013

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        National consultations on the Post-2015 Agenda with Guarani indigenous peoples in Panambizinho, Mato Grosso do Sul state of Brazil. (Photo: Julia Wenceslau/UNDP Brazil)

        Arendalsuka. Does it ring a bell? Probably not, unless you are Norwegian.  Arendalsuka is an interesting Norwegian creation: an annual open forum in the city of Arendal where stakeholders in politics and industry meet with citizens to debate public policies and policy development. I had the pleasure of attending and introducing our perspective on integrating environmental sustainability into the next global agenda that will follow the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As we approach the MDGs' target date of 2015, the United Nations is leading an unprecedented public outreach effort that has so far given voice to almost 1.3 million people in 194 countries on their expectations for the next development goals. This new approach is re-shaping multilateral decision-making by empowering citizens to come together, discuss and take concrete action on pathways to a more sustainable future. Their voices are being heard by Member States and feeding into the process to deliver the next set of development goals. This “global conversation” has revealed that people believe overwhelmingly that sustainable development needs to be approached in an integrated way – addressing the economic, social and environmental aspects simultaneously. It also indicated that the link between environmental sustainability, income poverty and inequalities has been  Read More