Our Perspective

      • The Ebola crisis: reversing development gains in Liberia | Antonio Vigilante

        13 Sep 2014

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        As the Ebola crisis continues to take a toll on people’s lives and livelihoods in West Africa, the focus is increasingly not just on the health aspects of the crisis, but also on its social and economic consequences. Sure, the human and medical aspects of the crisis are still on the front burner, as they should be. The public health care system has all but collapsed, while the number of Ebola cases is increasing exponentially. Before the current crisis, Liberia’s economy experienced impressive growth rates of up to 8.7 per cent (2013). Future growth figures will now have to be revised, as economic activities have slowed down dramatically in most sectors. But the impressive recent growth in Liberia has not been equitable or inclusive. About 57 per cent of the country’s approximately 4 million inhabitants live below the poverty line and 48 per cent live in conditions of extreme poverty. The lack of equitable, inclusive development means that more than half of the country’s population—especially women and children--is particularly vulnerable to shocks and crises, ultimately making the whole country less robust, less stable, and less able to handle a crisis of any magnitude. Reduced tax revenues as a result of reduced  Read More

      • Africa is transforming itself: How do we turn intentions into reality?

        15 Aug 2014

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        Better investment in infrastructure could help Africa's transformation. Photo: Benoit Almeras Martino/UNDP DRC

        Recently I attended an event from the Global Compact, a UN initiative to encourage businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies. Entitled "Advancing Partnerships and Responsible Business Leadership", it was held for the first time in Africa, bringing over 300 participants together from businesses, Global Compact networks, UN agencies and governments. Africa's economic transformation with various partners from China, Europe and the US was among the key topics discussed. But, while multinational companies do play a role, it is increasingly clear that African policy makers and business people are setting the continent’s agenda. Participants largely agreed that Africa’s transformation requires investment in better infrastructure, education, skills, jobs, policies and more. The WHAT was better articulated than the HOW. Africa is expected to be one of the world's fastest growing regions, with 4.8 percent growth in 2014 and over 5 percent in 2015, according to the recent African Economic Outlook 2014. However, this transformation goes well beyond economic growth. Development practitioners talk more and more about ‘inclusive growth’, agreeing that businesses should go beyond philanthropy and corporate social responsibility towards making their core activities better suited for societies and the environment.  As UNDP's Resident Coordinator in Ethiopia, Eugene Owusu stated: "Inclusive  Read More

      • Sao Tome: A tiny nation mobilizes for change

        08 Aug 2014

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        Photo: WFP Sao Tome

        In September, people in Sao Tome e Principe, a tiny Central African nation situated in the Gulf of Guinea, will go to the polls to elect a new parliament and local governments. Intense efforts are underway to organize the vote. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been supporting the National Electoral Commission to enroll new voters amongst the country --, many of them youth and women,  -- using biometric technology. Beyond the technical aspects of the ballot itself, my top priority as the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations is to encourage the country to come together and see these elections as a huge opportunity. It is an opportunity to represent the aspirations of the people, to involve women and men in decision-making and to boost the development process, through cohesion, determination and openness.  The country’s  national dialogue, initiated by the President at the end of last year, has been aiming to advance that agenda. The dialogue built on a series of nationwide, UNDP-sponsored consultations on the post-2015 development agenda and has tabled a number of key concerns and aspirations. Sao Tome, where 60 percent of the population is living in poverty, is pinning its hopes on oil exploration to  Read More

      • Turning subsistence farmers into market suppliers in Africa

        31 Jul 2014

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        Although agriculture is a major source of income in Africa, smallholder farmers face many challenges. Photo: Benoit Almeras-Martino/UNDP DRC

        As I sat down for my first dinner in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after a bit more than one year since my last visit, I suddenly remembered that something is very wrong with food prices here. How can a simple margarita pizza with only cheese, tomato, oil and flour, be USD 20? How can local fish be USD 30? Admittedly I did not eat in the cheapest local restaurant, yet the prices are 4 to 5 times more expensive in comparison to similar dishes in Addis Ababa, where I live. Indeed, food in the DRC is at least twice as expensive as the average world food price for basic commodities. Why is that? A combination of poor farmer productivity, lack of infrastructure and a difficult business environment, mean that the cost of producing goods and taking them to markets is high, and imports are often more readily available or cheaper than local products. In 2008, Bralima, one of DRC’s leading brewers, sourced 16% of its rice from outside the country, due to its inability to source it from the local market. With 80 million ha of arable land and 90 percent of it not cultivated, DRC offers huge untapped  Read More

      • In Africa, grassroots women tackle climate change

        12 May 2014

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        Small, portable stoves that require only one piece of wood to prepare a meal, bio-gas digesters that turn cow dung into gas for cooking, and drip irrigation techniques to save water were among innovations shared by grassroots women leaders from Africa during a recent policy dialogue and learning exchange in Nairobi on building resilience to combat climate change and disaster.   Organized by UNDP, Huairou Commission and GROOTS Kenya, the event brought together grassroots women leaders from 11 countries with policy makers from throughout Africa and representatives from the international community. Throughout the three-day workshop, it became evident that grassroots women in communities in Africa are not waiting to be told how to cope with climate challenges, but are initiating, adapting and sharing innovations themselves. “We have seen women mobilizing themselves before being mobilized,” said Isaac Kabongo, executive director of the Ecological Christian Organization in Uganda.  “Women are becoming the drivers of change in the communities in which they live, and are showing that they are very much willing to work together with all partners and institutions to move forward on the journey to resilience.” The need for reliable, sustainable energy was a cross-cutting, common need, and was voiced by women  Read More

      • Dignity and human rights lie at the heart of our work

        07 Apr 2014

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        Today, the world is joining Rwanda, now a thriving country, to mark the twentieth commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi. Sadly, the United Nations system and the world couldn’t stop the events unfolding on the ground. Worse, the United Nations could not even save many of its national staff. The consequences of failing to heed the warning signs of the genocide are forever engraved in our minds.  The United Nations and the international system are better prepared to anticipate, prevent, respond to crises and protect their staff. In addition, the world now has important mechanisms to end impunity, including the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, large scale human tragedies are still happening. As we speak, millions are being affected in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, for instance. This is one the reason why UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon launched the “Rights up Front” Action Plan.  In essence, the Rights up Front Action Plan seeks to strengthen the United Nations’ ability to prevent large-scale violations of human rights, particularly in conflict situations. The plan is framed by several guiding concepts: First, the United Nations must respond to the early warning signs of mass  Read More

      • Stories from Laos: 'I'm the first female bomb disposal expert'

        04 Apr 2014

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        Chantavone Inthavongsy at work. (Photo: UXO Lao PDR)

        During the second Indochina War between 1964 and 1974, more than 2 million tons of bombs, including cluster bombs, along with other ordnance were dropped on my country, leaving a quarter of all villages contaminated with unexploded devices. As a child, I heard many stories of people who had been injured – losing limbs and sometimes their lives. I wanted to do something to help. When I was just 20 years old I trained with UXO Lao, the national clearance operator. They taught me to be part of a team that detects, removes and safely disposes of these dangerous explosive devices. I felt nervous about the job, but I was assured that, as long as we followed instructions, it would be safe. I was the only woman to pass the test and become a team leader straight away! I became responsible for a team of 10 people. We were detecting and destroying unexploded ordnance five days a week in the fields and mountainsides across the province. It provided me with valuable experience and I was very proud of my job. After six years, I was promoted to Senior Explosive Ordnance Deminer and was, until last year, the only fully qualified woman  Read More

      • Inequality at the crossroads | George Gray Molina

        04 Apr 2014

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        Sustainable agriculture in Apúrimac, Peru. (Photo: UNDP in Peru)

        After a decade that recorded a drop in income inequality in Latin America, new data shows the trend has stagnated across the region – and in some cases, there has even been an increase in the concentration of income. This analysis is based on the latest revision of household data coming from the  Socioeconomic Database for Latin America and the Caribbean (SEDLAC) and published by the World Bank. The regional Gini coefficient (the index most frequently used to measure income inequality) decreased by an average of 0.94 percent per annum, whereas in 2011 it fell by just 0.33 percent, and by a meager 0.02 percent in 2012. Based on these figures, our UNDP estimates indicate that in six of the 16 countries under review, inequality levels have stagnated between 2010 and 2012. How to account for such stagnation? With no appreciable fluctuations in social transfers or in pensions for this period, the culprit appears to be the labor market, namely the segment of low-skilled workers in the service sectors – sectors that provided most of the new jobs during the economic boom. As growth in earned income is both a benefit to society (leading to poverty reduction) and a cost for  Read More

      • The human face of regional integration in Africa | Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

        30 Oct 2013

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        Photo: Neil Palmer CIAT

        Regional integration is crucial for Africa’s development. There is no shortage of models and projections to support this assertion. For instance, an investment of US $32 billion in Africa’s road network could increase intra-African trade by $250 billion over a period of 15 years.   Yet the question remains: What can integration do for people? That theme is crucial as African countries figure out how to transition from economic growth to genuine poverty reduction and human development. First, regional economic integration would contribute to the creation of quality jobs, particularly for young women and men. African countries need to work together to achieve that goal, devising public policies that can create skills, facilitate labor mobility and access to finance. Second, basic social services and social protection: Countries can use integration as an opportunity to strengthen health, nutrition, education and vocational training, all of which contribute to making the workforce more productive. Third, integration can actually empower people, through the opportunity to migrate and take up jobs across borders. As countries vie to attract and retain new labor force, they have an interest in promoting stability and preventing conflict, protecting people’s rights, health and physical safety and involving them in decision-making. Fourth,  Read More

      • Africa's mineral wealth can be a springboard for development | A. Mar Dieye

        04 Oct 2013

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          Africa is on the verge of a development breakthrough. Extreme poverty has come down, child and maternal mortality have been sharply reduced, and most countries have made progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight internationally-agreed targets to reduce poverty, hunger, and disease by 2015. But it will take a different kind of growth - faster and more inclusive - to improve the lives of people in Africa on a much broader scale. There is today a unique combination of high commodity prices and very large discoveries of oil, gas, minerals that has the potential to both accelerate growth and improve standards of living in Africa in the years to come - provided that African countries can do three things. First, capture effectively and transparently the proceeds from extracting resources. Much of the income generated from mining, oil, and gas industries usually goes to the foreign companies providing the technology, skills, and finance. Whether Africans benefit depends largely on how effective governments are in raising revenues from taxes and royalties. Second, managing revenues from oil, gas and mining also implies making decisions on how much to invest now, versus how much to save for later, given that these  Read More