Our Perspective

Indigenous peoples’ political inclusion enriches democracy in Latin America | Heraldo Muñoz

23 May 2013

image "Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions." - Article 5 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (UN Photo)

One of the most significant roles of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is to help boost indigenous peoples’ political participation. It is crucial to ensure that all people participate in political life and are active decision-makers—especially indigenous peoples. This is essential to overcome historical inequalities and discrimination. In Latin America and the Caribbean there are approximately 50 million indigenous peoples, about 10 percent of the total population. In Peru and Guatemala indigenous peoples account for almost half of the population, while in Bolivia they are more than 60 percent. Even though in Mexico indigenous peoples cover only 10 percent of the total population, Mexico and Peru contain the region’s largest indigenous population: about 11 million people. Mexico, for example, is advancing the ‘coexistence’ of indigenous peoples’ legal systems with the national legal system. It is not an easy process. The indigenous peoples’ representation at local and national levels, including dispute resolution methods, can differ widely and also spark tensions. However, indigenous peoples have shown that they are aware of how modern democracies work, as well as the limitations imposed to their political participation. For this reason, indigenous peoples have been adapting their traditional knowledge systems and their institutions  Read More

Post-2015: Participatory, responsive institutions must top the agenda | Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

06 May 2013

image A participant casts her ballot at a mock elections training in Kenya. (Photo: Ricardo Gangale/UNDP Kenya)

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been instrumental in affecting development progress over the past decade, characterized in the latest Human Development Report with “the rise of the South”. However, a lot still remains to be done as the gap between the richest and the poorest, within countries and across countries, has kept growing. As we just passed the 1000-day mark before the deadline for achieving the MDGs, much remains to be done. The United Nations is pulling out all the stops to accelerate progress towards the MDGs by the deadline of 2015. Delivering on the MDGs’ promise has been met with numerous challenges, including governance failures and accountability gaps, a reality that has been acknowledged by a range of development players.   There is a growing acknowledgement of governance failures and accountability gaps as bottlenecks in the context of the MDGs. The Global Thematic Consultation on Governance, part of a global conversation through which people can help shape the next global development agenda, considered the following key issues: -  who should be  responsible for ensuring the achievement of Post-2015 goals -  how to align global governance goals and targets with international commitments -  how to tailor them as needed at  Read More

Green energy saves more than environment | Helen Clark

03 May 2013

image Ethiopia has set out to invest US $150 billion over the next two decades to become a carbon neutral country by 2025. Photo: UNDP in Ethiopia

The United Nations Rio+20 Conference called last year for urgent action to put the world on a more equitable and sustainable development path. Countries agreed that systems and behaviors that worsen poverty and inequalities, exclude women and marginalize others, are pushing our planet to its limits and must change. Achieving sustainable energy yields benefits beyond the environment. It enables children to study at night, allows health clinics to store needed vaccines, and frees women from backbreaking chore and life-threatening smoke from wood-burning stoves. It creates a platform for better and more productive lives. Germany, for example, developed with a heavy carbon footprint but now leads the way in making the transition to sustainability. The renewable share of Germany’s energy mix doubled from 2006-2012. This suggests to me that with bold leadership and farsighted policies, countries can make the transitions to become more sustainable. Indeed, we have no choice if we are to avoid an irreversible rise in global temperature and its dire projected consequences. These would see citizens in developed countries funding ever more elaborate flood defense systems, compensating farmers for lost crops, and adjusting thermostats to cope with heat waves. But shifting weather patterns and more extreme climate events in  Read More

High-level panel takes a strong stand for health of women, girls | Mandeep Dhaliwal

02 May 2013

image 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 Cerna/UNDP Photo Contest)

New recommendations by a high-level panel on population and development mark a major step forward in advancing the health of women and girls, who are widely acknowledged as the crux of global development but still suffer needlessly from violence, discrimination, unwanted pregnancies and high rates of maternal mortality. On 25 April, the new, independent High-Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) launched its Policy Recommendations for the ICPD Beyond 2014: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for All. The task force, created in 2012, is charged with reviewing and advancing the work of the 1994 ICPD in Cairo. That meeting resulted in a groundbreaking programme adopted by 179 governments, placing the human rights of women, including their health and reproductive rights, at the centre of the sustainable development agenda. The panel aims to galvanize political will to  advance an agenda that ensures the rights of all—putting sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality, and empowerment of women and young people front and centre in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The Task Force notes that 800 women die every day as a result of avoidable pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications, while 222 million women who would like to  Read More

Stopping violence against women | Marta Vieira da Silva

29 Apr 2013

Life isn’t easy for women – anywhere in the world.   I grew up in Dois Riachos – a poor, remote town in the north-east of Brazil. Our family didn’t have much money; my mother worked hard to raise me and my two brothers and sister by herself. We couldn’t even afford a football – if we had bought one, we would have gone without food.   At the age of 7, I knew I wanted to play football for the rest of my life. But being a girl, the path wasn’t straightforward. Everyone from my brothers to the other boys on the field tried to stop me from playing. I was lucky enough to have the support of visionary people who helped me fulfill my dream of being a professional footballer.   So many women don’t have the opportunities I did.   Every year, 2 million women and girls are trafficked into prostitution, forced slavery and servitude.   Up to 60 percent of women experience some form of physical or sexual abuse during their life – and as many as half of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 18.   This kind of violence is happening on all corners  Read More

Trading health for wealth? Obesity in the South Pacific | Douglas Webb

19 Apr 2013

image Reduced physical activity and a shift from labour-intensive traditional production systems to the market and services economy have contributed to an obesity epidemic in the Pacific Islands. (Photo: Ferdinand Strobel/UNDP)

The islands of the South Pacific have some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the world, with obesity rates as high as 75 percent and diabetes rates as high as 47 percent. The islanders are raising the most obese generation of humans in history. A deeper look at the international trade regimes of these countries indicates that many of them have, in effect, traded health for wealth. The epidemic levels of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers in the Pacific region are closely linked to the progressive substitution of traditional foods with cheap, energy-dense and nutrient-poor imported foods — i.e., processed “junk.” These countries are being compelled by various trade agreements to further reduce import barriers, making over-processed foods like tinned meats even cheaper and more accessible — and limiting the policy space to respond to the problem on public health grounds. The correlation between imported food and unhealthy diets is exemplified by Kiribati, which is estimated to import a whopping 72 percent of its food and has the highest rates of unhealthy food consumption. Sugar alone accounts for more than 30 percent of the total daily caloric intake and 65 percent of the total  Read More

Post-2015 agenda: Reinventing global decision-making | Olav Kjørven

17 Apr 2013

For the first time in history, the United Nations (UN) are engaging people all around the world in shaping a global agenda: the next development goals. We are breaking new ground using digital media, mobile phone technology and door-to-door interviewers to include as many individuals as possible in the debate on the future anti-poverty targets that will build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). To date, close to half a million people have taken part in the ongoing “Global Conversation.” The discussion takes place on several platforms: close to 100 UN Member States are organizing local workshops with the participation of young people, vulnerable women, people with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups;  eleven global thematic consultations are taking place online through the World We Want 2015 website, where people can contribute their ideas on issues such as inequalities, food security, and access to water; and the MY World survey, available in 10 languages, invites people to vote for six out of 16 priorities for the future development agenda. I presented the voices from the conversation to the High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and to the representatives of Member States who will ultimately negotiate the next set of goals. One  Read More

Is it possible to provide health care without causing harm to the environment? | Suely Carvalho

07 Apr 2013

Is it possible to provide health care without causing harm to the environment? World Health Day 2013 reminds us that 12 percent of all deaths globally are due to high blood pressure. For centuries, doctors did not have a good way to monitor blood pressure until the introduction of mercury blood pressure meters in the early 1900s.  This advance in health care, however, has had a negative side. Every year, tonnes of toxic mercury from broken blood pressure meters are released from hospitals into the environment, causing serious harm to human health. A similar dilemma arises with infectious waste, a necessary byproduct of medical care. Single-use plastic syringes and disposable products prevent the transfer of infections among patients but increase the quantity of waste produced. Dumping untreated waste contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, while burning the waste in incinerators emits hazardous pollutants including highly toxic and persistent dioxins. Is it possible to provide health care without causing harm? The experience of King George’s Medical University (KGMU), a hospital for the poor in India, shows that it is. In 2009, the hospital generated 2.5 tonnes of infectious waste per day. Waste was dumped on the floor, collected by sweepers,  Read More

MDGs 2015: Latin America needs equality and environmental sustainability | Heraldo Muñoz

05 Apr 2013

image Children in Uruguay, where a maternal and infant health programme has drastically improved health markers for children by providing the poorest populations with healthcare, nutritional training and food. (Photo: UNDP Uruguay)

One thousand days from the 2015 target date, Latin America and the Caribbean is well on the way to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Poverty has been reduced to the lowest levels in three decades. Child mortality has dropped and we are fighting diseases, with some countries spearheading innovation in universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care. The commitments made 13 years ago led the region to fine-tune some groundbreaking social policies which, along with rapid economic growth and job creation, helped lift millions from poverty while reducing inequalities. But Latin America and the Caribbean remains the most unequal region in the world—and the most violent. Moreover, too many women still die in childbirth and countries need to boost gender parity in employment and parliaments as well as access to education and reproductive health services. Sanitation must also be improved and more needs to be done to reverse forest loss. In addition, average MDG achievement for countries with historical inequalities is insufficient. In the Brazilian states of São Paulo and Piauí, or in the Mexican states of Nuevo León and Chiapas, MDG achievement rates are considerably different. To tackle such disparities, UNDP and other UN agencies have been partnering  Read More

Violence against women also hurts business and development | Suki Beavers & Benjamin Kumpf

29 Mar 2013

image A sexual violence survivor in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After receiving psycho-social support and vocational training at a multifunctional community centre, she is working as a local merchant and can guarantee a livelihood for her family. (Photo: Yves Sambu/UNDP DRC)

Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation – and this should be enough to trigger dedicated action. But this widespread violence also causes economic and development problems that remain invisible in most debates. Globally, seven in 10 women experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives, and three out of 10 at the hands of an intimate partner.   This results in huge direct and indirect costs, not only to victims and their families but also to businesses and countries. In addition to the impact on women’s health, education and participation in public life, the economic costs include health care and legal services; lost productivity and potential salaries; and the costs of prosecuting perpetrators. In Chile, a study found that women’s loss of salary as a result of domestic violence cost US $1.56 billion or more than 2 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. This is not a problem confined to developing countries: In the United States, the cost of violence against women by an intimate partner exceeds $5.8 billion per year. In Canada, annual costs have been estimated at 684 million Canadian dollars for the criminal justice system, 187 million for police and  Read More

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