Our Perspective

Nothing threatens the future as much as the debt of the past | Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

15 Jul 2013

image The Police Training and Development Unit of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) conducting a two-week training programme in criminal investigation at General Kaahiye Police Academy. (Credit: Tobin Jones/UN Photo)

The "complementarity" principle embedded in the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court gives national criminal justice systems primacy in prosecuting serious international crimes. Whenever possible, international crimes should be tried by domestic courts, since this strengthens national ownership, legitimacy and confidence in the justice system. Transitional  justice is not a special kind of justice, but an approach to achieving justice in times of transition from conflict and/or state repression. I spoke recently at UNDP’s Annual Meeting on Strengthening the Rule of Law in Crisis-Affected and Fragile Situations about complementarity and the challenge for development actors (PDF) to effectively embed these efforts within transitional justice processes, rule of law assistance and the broader development framework. Holding perpetrators to account for serious violations is a complex and sensitive issue, which must be driven by the national society to be successful. Working with partners such as Denmark, South Africa and the International Centre for Transitional Justice, we can build and capitalize on the solid policy and knowledge base already developed. For example, UNDP and other UN agencies supported regional consultations in 2011 and 2012 in the Arab States, bringing together Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen to help national actors  Read More

Afghanistan's future security lies in securing development | Ajay Chhibber

11 Jul 2013

image Constructed with the support of UNDP Afghanistan, 1,400 kilometres of road connect 4,600 villages to help 4 million people access markets. (Photo: UNDP Afghanistan)

Recently announced negotiations with the Taliban and President Karzai’s reaction have put Afghanistan in the spotlight. There is intense interest in security. Equally important are issues of livelihoods and providing basic services such as water, roads, electricity, justice and the rule of law. These issues will determine how Afghan people react to the changing political and security landscape. Despite the gloomy news from Afghanistan, there are many positives. Over 2 million children, including girls, regularly attend school. Connectivity has improved with more than 14 million cell phone users. Budgetary systems are improving at national and municipal levels, to ensure better accountability and delivery of public services. Yet challenges remain. The likelihood of a sharp drop in aid post 2014 occupies attention. A pact made in Tokyo pledged around $4 billion per year in assistance to Afghanistan, but less than 50 percent has been delivered.   Part of the problem is lack of expertise at the local level to efficiently use this assistance, which will require a buildup of local government. Also, refugees returning from abroad and migrants from the countryside make Kabul the world’s fastest growing city. But this vulnerable population also creates insecurity. Without jobs no security is possible. There  Read More

Using laws to help tackle HIV/AIDS resonates widely | Helen Clark

09 Jul 2013

image In 2005, a new national AIDS law developed with UNDP's support was approved by the Government in Kyrgyzstan. (Photo: UNDP Kyrgyzstan)

Laws which safeguard dignity, health and justice are essential to effective HIV responses. This was one of the main messages of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, an independent panel of eminent legal, political and public health experts convened by UNDP on behalf of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS. The Commission’s landmark report, HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health, which provides a compelling evidence base and recommendations on how the law can be used to protect people living with and most vulnerable to HIV, was launched at the United Nations on 9 July 2012. One year later, the understanding that laws, based on evidence and grounded in human rights principles, are a relatively low-cost way of controlling HIV and reducing stigma, is taking root. Today, UNDP is working in partnership with governments,the United Nations and civil society partners in 82 countries to take forward the Commission’s findings and recommendations. National dialogues on issues of HIV, human rights and law in 20 countries have brought people living with and affected by HIV together with those who shape, interpret and enforce laws. Judicial sensitization, parliamentary development and strengthening national human rights institutions are also important elements of taking forward  Read More

South Sudan is running a marathon, not a sprint | Toby Lanzer

09 Jul 2013

image As part of the formation of a new nation, women police train in Western Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan. (Photo: UNDP South Sudan)

Two years ago today, South Sudanese around the world celebrated their country’s independence after decades of war and struggle. Today, the hope remains but reality has set in. It is going to take a long time for South Sudan to achieve its goals. Like a marathon runner, South Sudan and its international partners need to commit for the long haul. Building health services, a professional police service, and a judicial system, along with all the other institutions needed in a modern state, can seem daunting in the best of circumstances. Only one in seven children complete primary school and only 27 percent of people over 15 know how to read and write. Fifty percent of South Sudan’s civil servants lack the appropriate qualifications for their jobs. To meet the gaps in the short term, the U.N. is helping to deploy civil servants from neighboring countries across South Sudan’s ten states, transferring knowledge and skills in 19 institutions. In the long term, overcoming the capacity gap requires huge investments in education. Encouragingly, this is on the government’s agenda: the budget presented to parliament for the 2013/14 fiscal year makes it a priority. In 2013, aid agencies are planning to reach nearly 200,000  Read More

Let’s follow Aqaba’s lead on urbanization and disaster risk reduction | Jo Scheuer

03 Jul 2013

For the first time in history, a majority of the global population is urban, and this number is expected to rise. This isn’t necessarily bad — great cities can offer many benefits, especially when urban planning is prioritized. But cities present challenges when urban growth is fast, unplanned and unmanaged. These challenges include high population density, unregulated and unsafe construction methods, environmental degradation, and inadequate water and drainage systems. Lack of planning can create weaknesses, exposing dense populations to worse impacts from disasters associated to natural events. When a city doesn’t enforce building codes, for example, it runs the risk of high losses from earthquakes; poor and inadequate drainage systems can cause flooding and disease; disregarding shorelines and ignoring climate change can expose the populace to severe weather events. Only a few months ago in Bangladesh, more than 1,000 people were killed during the collapse of a single, improperly constructed building. What will happen then when there are hundreds of poorly constructed buildings and an earthquake occurs? The Aqaba Declaration notes that more than 56 percent of the Arab population lives in urban areas. In an urbanizing region, ensuring that cities are more resilient to natural hazards must be a priority.  Read More

Focusing on prices of HIV medicines in middle-income countries | Tenu Avafia & Katie Kirk

27 Jun 2013

image Low-income countries are often offered special arrangements by pharmaceutical companies on medicine to treat HIV. Middle-income countries are left out of these arrangements and must address the challenge of helping their citizens access the drugs. (Photo: UNDP)

A key determinant of middle-income countries meeting their health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be their ability to sustain and expand access to treatment for HIV and its co-infections, like TB and Hepatitis C. By 2020, the majority of people living with HIV will be living in middle-income countries, such as South Africa, Brazil, Russia, Ecuador and Thailand. Yet at the same time as new, more effective medicines to treat HIV emerge, many of these countries, based on their average income levels, are increasingly being left out of special arrangements offered by pharmaceutical companies to low-income countries, such as price discounts or voluntary licenses to use their patents. For instance, in 2011, using Global Fund grants, HIV medicine Darunavir was offered to Sub-Saharan African countries at US $1,095 per patient per year. Meanwhile, Nicaragua and Moldova (middle-income countries) had to buy that same medicine at $7,424 and $9,188 respectively. This pricing challenge will test the 2011 commitment made by UN Member States, at a UN High-level Meeting on AIDS , to place 15 million people in need on antiretroviral treatment by 2015. Eighteen middle-income countries and stakeholders met in Brasilia in June to confront these challenges. Whether discussing intellectual property, drug  Read More

Local governance is the cornerstone of an effective post-2015 framework | Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

24 Jun 2013

image A district police chief meets with local village heads and religious leaders in Farza, Kabul Province, Afghanistan. Through a UNDP-supported programme, citizens in Afghanistan are cooperating with police officers in community-policing initiatives. (Photo: Sayeed Farhad Zalmai/UNDP Afghanistan)

Critical objectives of the post-2015 development agenda such as eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities and exclusion, and achieving environmental sustainability, depend on local action and leadership coordinated with all levels of governance. There is no doubt that effective development and service delivery require viable multi-level governance. At a recent meeting on Decentralization and Local Governance (DeLoG), I challenged development partners to go beyond advocating for local governments and to take more concrete actions to integrate them into decision-making processes. I encouraged them to improve their methodologies for facilitating governance at the local level, particularly in post-conflict and fragile situations. Beyond service delivery, local governments are critical agents for reconciliation and the re-establishment of the social contract between the state and the people. Decentralization and local governance partners agree that effective local development requires not only a multi-level process but also a multi-sectorial and multi-stakeholder approach. At UNDP, we recognize from knowledge and experience that effective development requires multi-level governance which will close the policy gaps, deal with capacity deficiencies, and look at resource inadequacies. The three-day event – where the United Nations (UNDP, UNCDF, and UN-Habitat) hosted representatives of 27 multilateral and bilateral organizations on effective multi-level governance – was also an  Read More

Scaling up local development innovations to reduce poverty and inequality | Selim Jahan

18 Jun 2013

A video on UNDP's work, presented to the Executive Board. (UNDP)

'Think global, act local’ is a motto critical for development. And this, I believe, is at the heart of scaling up. By expanding small, successful projects to the national level, informing policies and strengthening institutions, scaling up can ensure coverage, impact, and sustainability for programmes aimed at supporting some of the world’s poorest people. UNDP and its partners around the world are working with governments to sustain and scale up successful innovations that provide opportunities to as many vulnerable and marginalized groups as possible. The need remains urgent. While we have achieved great progress toward some of the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals, current projections indicate that in 2015 almost 1 billion people will be living on less than US $1.25 per day. Through the Republic of Korea-UNDP MDG Trust Fund, we are supporting nine countries to scale up proven development solutions. To date, these projects have helped to improve the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of people. These include: • In Colombia, job centres that offer business counseling, entrepreneurship training, and career opportunities opened up across the country, focusing particularly on vulnerable communities. More than 21,000 people, 59 percent women, have already been trained and 7,000 businesses developed, generating nearly  Read More

Will the Post-2015 report make a difference? Depends what happens next | Duncan Green

14 Jun 2013

image Climate change is causing unique challenges for countries such as Bangladesh, pictured above. The environment must be considered "if we are to sustain progress in tackling poverty," Green writes. (Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/FAO)

Reading the report of the High Level Panel induces a sense of giddy optimism. It is a manifesto for a (much) better world, taking the best of the Millennium Development Goals, and adding what we have learned in the intervening years – the importance of social protection, sustainability, ending conflict, tackling the deepest pockets of poverty, even obesity (rapidly rising in many poor countries). The ambition and optimism is all the more welcome for its contrast with the daily grind of austerity, recession and international paralysis (Syria, climate change, the torments of the European Union). But then the doubts start to creep in. What’s missing is always harder to spot than what is in the text, but three gaps are already clear: The emerging global concern over inequality is relegated to national politics. The concept of poverty is pretty old school – income, health, education, and fails to recognize the considerable progress made in measuring "well-being" – the level of life satisfaction people feel. Finally there is too little recognition that the earth is a finite ecosystem, and that we need to make a reality of the concept of planetary boundaries if we are to sustain progress in tackling poverty. But  Read More

Philanthropic organizations stepping up role in ending poverty | Sigrid Kaag

14 Jun 2013

image Pushpa Maurya, 35, the manager of a milk-chilling centre, and women suppliers from neighbouring villages. UNDP and the IKEA Foundation are collaborating on long-term projects in India to promote women's empowerment. (Photo: Graham Crouch/UNDP)

Philanthropy has been evolving into a major building block in development assistance, not only by providing catalytic funding for initiatives, but for its ability to advocate, strengthen civil society and innovate. And as citizens around the world engage in the global conversation about the future they want, philanthropic organizations have been making their voices heard too. Along with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, OECD netFWD, Worlwide Initiatives for Grantmakers Support [WINGS] and Rockefeller Foundation, we recently co-hosted a dialogue with foundations to explore their views on the post-2015 agenda, and what they envision their role to be in effecting development change. Many of the organizations expressed their interest in advancing innovative solutions for health and education. They emphasized the importance of job creation and addressing inequalities as pre-requisites for eradicating poverty. In addition, climate change, food security and accountable public institutions are also common concerns to philanthropy and the UN. As one of many actors in the development sphere, the UN could do well to further deepen the dialogue and collaboration with philanthropic organisations as a means to broaden development impact. Some examples of venture philanthropy – where philanthropists invest for either a financial or social return –  Read More

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