Our Perspective

      • Inclusion: the way forward for democracy in Africa | Siphosami Malunga

        17 Oct 2012

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        Two years ago, following a hotly contested presidential election, the world watched the Ivory Coast plunge into chaos as political parties and militia groups took to the streets.

        Two years ago, following a hotly contested presidential election, the world watched the Ivory Coast plunge into chaos as political parties and militia groups took to the streets. It seemed a throwback to the 1980s, when Sub-Saharan Africa was known for its violent coups, bloody civil wars and autocrats. Similar situations have been witnessed in countries like Kenya and Zimbabwe, but they are now the exception rather than the rule. Over the past twenty years, the continent has been home to a virtual democratic renaissance, evidenced by the organisation of more than 200 democratic elections and remarkable improvements in governance. To that end, regional institutions, like ECOWAS, SADC and the East African Community, now keep a close watch on national politics, going as far as suspending countries which experience unconstitutional changes of government. Elections are an essential component of democratisation in Africa. They enable people to choose among a host of competent parties and leaders, facilitate peaceful change, foster more open societies and in most cases lead to increased economic growth and long-term development. Success stories abound. In 2010, against all odds, Guinea held its first ever democratic election. The following year, Niger transitioned to civilian rule in a ballot widely  Read More

      • Time to integrate traditional and formal justice | Olav Kjørven

        26 Sep 2012

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        Women take an active part at a village meeting in India.Photo: Sephi Bergerson/ UNDP India

        In some developing countries, informal or traditional justice systems resolve up to 80 percent of disputes, over everything from cattle to contracts, dowries to divorce. Disproportionately, these mechanisms affect women and children. A new report, commissioned by UNDP, UNICEF, and UN Women and produced by the Danish Institute for Human Rights, provides the most comprehensive UN study on this complex area of justice to date. It draws conclusions based on research in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Malawi, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, and 12 other developing countries. These systems, it concludes, are a reality of justice in most of the countries where UNDP works to improve lives and livelihoods and government capacities to serve. The evidence illustrates the direct bearing such systems can have on women and children’s legal empowerment, covering issues from customary marriage and divorce to custody, inheritance, and property rights. It’s time to engage squarely with customary justice systems and integrate them into broader development initiatives aimed at guaranteeing human rights and access to justice for all. These systems are often far more accessible than formal mechanisms and may have the potential to provide quick, inexpensive, and culturally relevant remedies. But traditional development models have for years paid them little  Read More

      • Every day in every country – should be and can be a day without violence | Helen Clark

        21 Sep 2012

        More than half a million people die violently every year - in armed conflicts; from criminal activity; and from violent attacks in their own homes. An estimated 1.5 billion plus people live in countries affected by war, violence, and/or high levels of crime. The absence of peace exacts a terrible toll. Armed conflict terrifies communities and makes development progress very difficult. Deep inequalities may be reflected in levels of violence – and will be exacerbated by it. For example, women and girls, who suffer discrimination in many places, are disproportionately affected by armed conflict. War increases their economic and social vulnerability. Yet it is possible to tackle these challenges decisively, and UNDP sees progress being made in a number of countries in which we work. For example: ·    This year El Salvador recorded its first murder-free day in over three years. Murders there have fallen by an average of 12 per cent since the introduction of gun-free zones; ·   Liberia is on the road to recovery from  many years of civil war, 2013 will mark a decade of peace there; and ·   In Angola, an arms amnesty led to the surrender of more than 76,000 illegal weapons. These examples all show that  Read More

      • Rwanda: preparing for disaster is key to development | Auke Lootsma

        28 Aug 2012

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        Achieving sustainable risk reduction means taking into account a wide range of opportunities, such as boosting local participation, building people’s capacities and making women’s voice count.

        Across the world, both the number of disasters and their human and economic impact have been on the rise. In 2011, natural disasters killed more than 30,000 people and affected 244 million. That same year, resulting economic losses totaled USD 366 billion, the highest ever recorded. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of those affected live in developing countries, where the poor are exposed to much greater risk from natural hazards. This is especially true of the most marginalized, including women and girls. Rwanda is no exception to that rule. This year’s torrential rains have resulted in unprecedented floods and landslides, killing 32 people and destroying more than 1,400 houses and 2,222 hectares of land.  The extent of the damage has drawn attention to the interplay between climate change, land use, and overpopulation which are all serious development challenges Rwanda is facing. UNDP will continue to support Rwanda, as the post-2015 agenda for disaster risk reduction takes shape. Firstly, UNDP has been working with Rwanda to build disaster risk reduction into its development planning, from the local to the national level. Where disasters strike, we also strive to help the country build back better, creating opportunities for more resilient development. Secondly, laws,  Read More

      • Access to technology can help prevent violent conflicts | Ozonnia Ojielo

        07 Aug 2012

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        Mobile phones and other technology provide individuals with an opportunity to gain access to information and participation. Photo: UNESCO/Ian Redmond

        The last decade has seen advances in technology that help us to understand other people’s realities and better listen to each other. Over five billion people—around 77 percent of the global population—own or have access to mobile phones worldwide and the top ten social networking sites in the world have more than 4.6 billion combined users.     As the technology to take advantage of these advances decreases in price, more people in developing countries who had no access to so much as a phone ten years ago are now able to benefit from these new tools to improve their lives; manage commerce; seek emergency assistance; advocate for their own interests; and now also take part in the prevention of violent conflicts. Peacebuilders are now taking advantage of the new possibilities to reduce conflict on a local and global scale. For example, during the 2010 constitutional referendum in Kenya UNDP-supported peace monitors were trained to collect local information and rapidly respond to messages received via text messages, enabling local peace committees to intervene and mitigate emerging conflicts. More than 16,000 text messages were sent by concerned citizens, and an estimated 200 potential incidents of violence were prevented in the Rift Valley region  Read More

      • A step forward against HIV abuses | Jeffrey O’Malley

        02 Aug 2012

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        A woman and her child at Epembe in Kaokoland, Namibia. UN Photo/Alon Reininger

        In a landmark but little noticed decision, a Namibian court ruled this week that state hospitals illegally sterilized three HIV-positive women. While the judge found no link to their HIV-positive status, his decision paves the way for legal action by other women who claim they were coerced into sterilization because they are infected with the virus that causes AIDS, as part of an effort to slow its spread in the southern African country. The women said they were given forms authorizing the procedure just before and after delivering babies by caesarean sections without being told what they were signing—while they were either in acute pain or in labor. This important decision affirms the rights of all women to the important standard of informed consent and points to the specific vulnerability of women and girls living with HIV with regard to their reproductive rights. A just-released report by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, an independent Commission convened by UNDP on behalf of the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), highlights the issues of coerced sterilization and forced abortion among HIV-positive women. The report, HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights, and Health, found that “coercive and discriminatory practices in  Read More

      • A Visionary for a Better Tomorrow - Celebrating Nelson Mandela | Helen Clark

        18 Jul 2012

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        Nelson Mandela addresses the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall. UN Photo/P. Sudhakaran

        Nelson Mandela International Day is an occasion for us all to celebrate the vision of this extraordinary man for freedom, peace and justice; his service to humanity; and the hope for a better tomorrow which he represents to this day. Many in my generation in my country were inspired by Nelson Mandela’s vision, and were appalled and disgusted by the apartheid system in South Africa which grossly discriminated against people on the grounds of race. Dismantling that system and building a new free and democratic South Africa is the cause to which Mr. Mandela has devoted his life. In faraway New Zealand, the struggle for freedom in South Africa divided our small nation for many years. The major link between the two countries was rugby football, with the two national teams usually considered the best in the world. But South Africa’s team had a fundamental flaw – it was racially selected. In New Zealand, Maori players had long been prominent at all levels of the game. Yet up to and including the All Black tour of South Africa in 1960, Maori players were left at home when the All Blacks played there. A citizens’ movement to oppose that injustice and eventually  Read More

      • South Sudan: Reflections on one year after independence | Lise Grande

        11 Jul 2012

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        Computer training programme for women in South Sudan. Photo: UNDP South Sudan.

        This has been an impressive year, but a difficult one. Let’s first recognize South Sudan’s achievements. South Sudanese are building their country from scratch. During the six-year Comprehensive Peace Agreement period, South Sudanese made huge progress. Nowhere else have so few people working from such a low base done so much. 29 ministries, 21 commissions, ten state governments, a national parliament and ten state legislatures were established. More than two million people returned to South Sudan, the number of children attending primary school tripled, measles was reduced from epidemic levels and 6,000 kilometers of roads were opened, connecting major cities and towns. Despite this progress, the state building exercise facing South Sudan is the largest of this generation. The human development indicators are amongst the worst in the world, with 80 percent of the population living on the equivalent of less than 1 USD a day. 4.7 million people are estimated to be food insecure this year. Less than half of the civil servants have the qualifications needed for their post. Much more needs to be done to ensure that proposed measures of accountability and transparency deter any mismanagement of public resources. During this first year of statehood, the UN agencies  Read More

      • Sharing development experience between Latin America and Africa | Helen Clark

        29 May 2012

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        Cash transfer programmes – such as Brazil’s Bolsa Familia – target low-income households, help reduce poverty levels, and increase access to education and health services.

        More than 40 social development ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa are gathering this week in Brasilia to discuss how both regions can exchange experiences and increase co-operation to end poverty. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is proud to be the facilitator of this historic gathering. It takes place less than a month before the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.  There, world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, and civil society organisations will gather to discuss how to build a more sustainable future—a crucial challenge for developing and developed countries alike.   It is clear that countries can no longer afford to grow first and try to clean up later. Or grow first and try to become more equitable later.  Growth divorced from advances in human development and without regard for the environment will not sustain advances in human development, and will damage the ecosystems on which life on our planet depends.   Two weeks ago, UNDP’s Africa Human Development Report on food security was launched in Nairobi with the President of Kenya.  Despite sub-Saharan Africa’s significant rates of economic growth, hunger continues to affect nearly a quarter of its population  Read More

      • How can Africa achieve food security? | Tegegnework Gettu

        22 May 2012

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        It is a harsh paradox that sub-Saharan Africa, a continent blessed with ample agricultural endowments, still faces hunger and malnutrition. Photo: UNDP

        It is a harsh paradox that sub-Saharan Africa, a continent blessed with ample agricultural endowments, still faces hunger and malnutrition. Adding to that paradox is the fact that the region’s high rates of economic growth in recent years – some of the fastest in the world – and improvements in life expectancy and schooling have not led to commensurate improvements in food security. More than one in four Africans – nearly 218 million – remain undernourished and more than 40% of children under five – almost 55 million in total -- are malnourished. The spectre of famine, all but gone elsewhere, continues to haunt millions in the region. Yet another famine occurred in Somalia in 2011, and the Sahel is again at risk in 2012. Chronic food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa stems from decades of underinvestment in the countryside, where infrastructure has deteriorated, farming has languished, gender and other inequalities have deepened and food systems have stagnated. Smallholder farmers, on whose shoulders the recovery of its agriculture rests, have long been pinned between a rock and hard place. Erratic weather patterns and seasonal food price variations, coupled with new threats from population growth, environmental pressures and climate change, have only made  Read More