Our Perspective

      • Linking HIV and women's human rights | Petra Lanz & Susana Fried

        22 Aug 2013

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        Gender inequality exacerbates HIV risk, and new goals for development should work to protect women from violence while enabling them to access treatment. (Photo: Marguerite Nowak/UNDP Iran)

        Women living with and affected by HIV often suffer stigma and discrimination, along with egregious violations such as coercive sterilization. Gender-based violence (GBV), meanwhile, puts women at increased risk of contracting HIV: One South African study found that one in every eight new infections in young women is the result of GBV. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is unequivocal on women’s rights to equality and health. It sets out specific measures States should adopt to advance gender equality in all areas, including the elimination of sex- and gender-based discrimination in the context of HIV. Examples of how gender inequality exacerbates HIV risk vary widely and span the globe. They include inadequate or non-existent legal and property rights; child marriages; higher dropout rates; denial of life-saving health care; and intimate partner violence. Globally, HIV is still the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age  and contributes to at least 20 percent of maternal deaths. Every minute, another young woman is infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS (PDF). We have CEDAW, with its accountability mechanism, and abundant data and research on our side. How then,  Read More

      • Let us keep our eyes on Mali | Jean Luc Stalon

        19 Aug 2013

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        A Malian man votes in a polling station during the presidential election. (Photo: Ezequiel Scagnetti/EU EOM Mali)

        Last Sunday, massive numbers of Malians turned out to vote peacefully in the second round of the country’s presidential election. The ballot, declared by observers as credible and transparent, was nothing short of historic. It marked the end of 18 months of conflict, including a coup and takeover of the North by Tuareg and Islamist insurgents, followed by a French military intervention. Mali and its people have suffered hugely from this period of violence and uncertainty. More than 470,000 have been displaced, while 1.4 million Malians are in need of immediate food assistance. In much of the North, the government’s presence remains precarious. With the suspension of the country’s external aid, which accounts for a third of the national budget, and the withdrawal of foreign investors, Mali’s economy fell from an expected 5.6 percent into negative growth last year, with catastrophic consequences for livelihoods and basic social services. The elections are an expression of the Malian people’s deep resolve to bring the country back to peace, stability, unity and development. Mali’s political stabilization roadmap embodies these aspirations. Through the roadmap, the country committed to free elections and sweeping democratic and social reforms in exchange for unlocking new flows of foreign aid.  Read More

      • A brutal murder recalls the need for laws that protect LGBTI people | Mandeep Dhaliwal

        15 Aug 2013

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        Campaign encourages voluntary HIV testing in Cameroon. Photo: UNDP in Cameroon

        Despite the strides in HIV prevention and treatment responses, the brutal murder of a prominent AIDS activist in Cameroon serves as stark reminder of the work that still lies ahead. Eric Ohena Lembembe, Executive Director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS, was found dead at his home on 15 July 2013, his body showing signs of torture. His was a powerful voice for those at the margins in Cameroon, notably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people—but his violent death was hardly unique. LGBTI people around the world commonly face violence, the threat of violence, discrimination, exclusion, and harassment, often with tacit or explicit support from authorities and with grave consequences for public health. A new law in Russia, for example, imposes fines and up to 15 days in prison for people accused of spreading “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors. This law will certainly fuel homophobia and could have the unintended consequence of criminalising sexual health education for young people in Russia, where rates of HIV infection have been rising dramatically. Marginalised citizens are far less likely to seek HIV counseling, testing and treatment. Most recently, data from the Global Men’s Health and Rights Survey show that experiences  Read More

      • Does being ethical pay? | Peter Liria

        06 Aug 2013

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        I recently read an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Does Being Ethical Pay?”, which raised the following  question: "Do consumers reward socially responsible companies?" And while UNDP is a non–profit organization, the question is very pertinent to us as well. Yes. Unequivocally. Being ethical pays. By operating at a high moral and ethical level, we engender trust which helps grow confidence in our ability to deliver results. With trust, donors are more willing to commit and local governments more willing to engage with us. It is critical that we reinforce this message at every turn. Fostering an ethical culture throughout the organization instills in every staff member an obligation to do what's right. Embedded in our organizational fabric, it will guide staff’s behavior and decision-making. And does being unethical cost? Absolutely. In the private sector, daily headlines report on many companies facing untold fines and lost business. But we in the UN can also be damaged. Donor countries are already scaling back contributions. If scandal were to hit, donations might dry up, projects cease and jobs be lost. Most importantly, our mandate would go unfulfilled, and the population we serve would suffer. Our reputation is our most important asset.  Read More

      • Conflict has changed, and this needs to be reflected in the future development agenda | Jordan Ryan

        02 Aug 2013

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        Camp residents in Somaliland displaced due to drought or conflict. (Photo: Stuart Price/UN Photo)

        Ever since the creation of the United Nations in 1945, the global community has focused on addressing the challenges of inter-state conflicts. But in 2013, the face of conflict is changing. Today armed conflicts that cause 1,000 or more deaths per year have declined dramatically. More than 526,000 people still die violently every year, but the majority of conflict deaths occur during internal clashes, as opposed to during wars between states. New forms of violent conflict have emerged to take the place of traditional wars. These include inter-community violence, as in the DRC, Somalia and Syria, and violence linked to crime, as in many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. Today, for every death from a recognized war, there are nine casualties from gang violence and crime. This violence stunts efforts to lift people out of poverty, scars communities and makes women and girls more vulnerable to abuse. As world leaders prepare to discuss the new global agenda that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals from 2015 onward, recognizing the changing nature of conflict and addressing armed violence as a barrier to development have become top priorities. This will demand the building of institutions able to respond effectively to the  Read More

      • I dare you to finish this paragraph about peace | Ozonnia Ojielo

        29 Jul 2013

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        In Kenya, UNDP pioneered crowdsourcing for conflict prevention during the country’s constitutional referendum in 2010. A toll-free SMS service allowed people to report threats, which civil society groups and police responded to. The referendum passed without violence. (Photo: UNDP Kenya)

        “The core mandate of UNDP is to strengthen national capacities for development. From this basis, the concept of ‘infrastructures for peace’ has served to guide UNDP’s support to assessing and addressing country structural vulnerability. ‘Infrastructures for peace’ can be defined as ‘the network of interdependent structures, mechanisms, resources, values, and skills which, through dialogue and consultation, contribute to conflict prevention and peacebuilding in a society.’” Still here? Congratulations. You are probably in the minority.   My point in presenting this eye-watering statement unedited is perhaps facetious, but important: All too often in development, jargon is used to obscure activities that are not only vitally important – but actually quite simple as well. The “infrastructures for peace” concept is a case in point. What could be more important in a conflict-ridden country than giving governments, police, quarrelling groups and factions the skills they need to engage peacefully? This means giving communities the resources and support they need to mediate and resolve conflicts, analyze where conflict may re-ignite, and to be warned in time so that rapid response is possible. For example: •  In Lesotho in 2012, the political environment was becoming heated and violence was a possibility. UNDP gave mediator training to  Read More

      • 10 Killer Facts on Democracy and Elections | Duncan Green

        26 Jul 2013

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        Peace-keeping authorities monitor the 2010 referendum in Nairobi, Kenya. (Photo: UNDP Kenya)

        OK, this is a bit weird, but I want to turn an infographic into a blogpost. The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) has just put out a 10 killer facts on elections and democracy infographic (PDF) by Alina Rocha Menocal, and it’s great. Here’s a summary: 1. Most countries today are formal democracies. By the end of 2011, the only countries considered autocracies were: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Laos, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Uzbekistan. 2. More than one in three live in authoritarian systems (but over half of them are in China). 3. Elections have become almost universal: elections have been held in all but five countries with populations >500k from 2000-2012: China, Eritrea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates. 4. Most leaders in Africa are replaced by ballots, not bullets: While in the 1960s and 1970s approximately 75 percent of African leaders were ousted through violent means (coup d’etats, rebellion), in the period of 2000-2005 this number had dropped to 19 percent. 5. But elections are not always peaceful: between 1990 and 2007 one in five elections in Sub-Saharan Africa suffered significant violence. 6. The quality  Read More

      • Measuring the high expectations of Latin America’s youth | Heraldo Muñoz

        22 Jul 2013

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        Two thirds of young people in Latin America are more optimistic about the future than the present. Photo: Wim Bouden/PNUD Perú

        Recent demonstrations sparked by young Latin Americans urge us to understand the demands of young people, and to address lingering structural problems in our societies, especially inequality. These protests are also an opportunity to rethink democratic governance in the 21st century, in the digital age of flourishing social media activism. The increasing frequency of such mobilizations tells us that young people want to actively participate in their society’s development. The first Ibero-American Youth Survey—which we launched with the Ibero-American Youth Organization and other partners on 22 July in Madrid— shows that young people in Latin America, Portugal and Spain expect their participation to increase over the next five years. Institutions should provide formal spaces for this, or protests will become the most effective way for young people to make their voices heard. And the region will waste an opportunity to enhance the quality of its democratic governance. We introduced in this survey the first Youth Expectation Index, based on our decades-long experience in the production of Human Development Indices. This new Index—which reflects young people’s perceptions and subjective values of social, economic and political rights—  revealed the same messages that young people in the region are conveying in the streets: they  Read More

      • Rule of law key to maintaining development gains | Magdy Martinez Soliman

        19 Jul 2013

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        12,000 police officers have received basic police training in Somalia. Photo: UNDP in Somalia

        For the first time in history, the possibility of eradicating poverty is a reality. The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen across every developing region over the last 12 years. Yet, we face considerable challenges to human development largely shaped by growing inequalities within countries. Bad governance, poor health, low quality education, the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation continue to be the drivers of universal poverty. The rule of law is essential to address the current threats to progress on human development. No country affected by widespread conflict or fragility has achieved a Millennium Development Goal target. Effective security and justice systems are necessary to facilitate transitions out of fragility and conflict and to prevent violent crime. Moreover, the rule of law as the principle of governance that no one is above the law reinforces accountability to the law and establishes checks on power that reduce abuse of authority and corruption. Of course, the relationships between the rule of law and human development are complex and multi-faceted. The challenge will be to develop measurable targets and indicators for the Post-2015 framework that resonate within diverse country contexts and enable the political and social action at the  Read More

      • Can states empower poor people? Your thoughts please | Duncan Green

        17 Jul 2013

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        Mobile money services have reached 450,000 people in five Pacific countries, a shift from an insecure, costly cash system. Inexpensive payment and savings services increase financial access for the poor.

        I’m currently writing a paper on how governments can promote the empowerment of poor people. Nice and specific then. It’s ambitious/brave/bonkers depending on your point of view, and I would love some help from readers. First things first. This is about governments and state action. So not aid agencies, multilaterals or (blessed relief) NGOs, except as bit players. And not state-as-problem: here I’m looking at where state action has achieved positive impacts. The idea is to collect examples of success and failure in state action, as well as build some kind of overall narrative about what works, when and why. Here’s where I’m currently at: Empowerment happens when individuals and organised groups are able to imagine their world differently and to realise that vision by changing the relations of power that have been keeping them in poverty. The current literature suggests a neat fit with a ‘three powers’ model first proposed by our own Jo Rowlands (I think). According to this reading, power for excluded groups and individuals can be disaggregated into three basic forms: - power within (a sense of rights, dignity and voice, along with basic capabilities). This individual level of empowerment is an essential precondition for collective action.  Read More