Our Perspective

      • 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

      • Road to Rio: Women 'out of sight, out of mind’| Helen Clark

        11 Apr 2012

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        Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia and former UNDP staff, is the first elected female head of state in Africa as well as Nobel Peace Prize winner. Photo: UNDP

        Today, there are only eight women heads of state – representing slightly more than five per cent of the total.  This seems extraordinary in the second decade of the 21st century.  The global average of women holding parliamentary seats remains under twenty per cent, which is well below the thirty per cent target set in the Millennium Development Goals.  At the current rate of progress, that target will not be reached globally before 2025, and long beyond that in many countries.  That is too long for women and the world to wait. The proportions of women in national legislatures in the world’s regions range from roughly 22 per cent in the Americas and Europe (with the 42 per cent in Nordic countries pushing the average figures up) to 20.2 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, 17.9 per cent in Asia, 14.9 per cent in the Pacific, and 10.7 per cent in the Arab States.  Five countries – all in the Gulf and the Pacific – have no women parliamentarians at all. Only sixteen per cent of ministers are women, and most often they are allocated portfolios like those for social welfare, women, and children.   When women are “out of sight, out of  Read More

      • Rural women key in fighting hunger | Helen Clark

        05 Mar 2012

        A few weeks ago I spoke with women farmers in Niger who are growing vegetables in some of the harshest climatic conditions on earth.  With severe drought a recurring problem in their country and across the Sahel, access to water for irrigation and to appropriate seeds, fertilisers, advisory services, and credit are all important for overcoming food shortages and malnutrition.  Rural women account for nearly half the agricultural labor force and are custodians of traditional knowledge about the land and their local environment.  Backed by small development investments, rural women can lead the way in building food and nutrition security for their families and communities, and thus in building resilience to future extreme weather events. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that if women farmers have equal access to fertilizers, seeds, and tools, the number of hungry people in our world could reduce by as many as 150 million, and the total agricultural output in developing countries could rise by up to four percent. In general, rural women in developing countries have the primary responsibility for cultivating crops, raising livestock, collecting water and firewood, and caring for families. Their family and domestic responsibilities are often heavy, leaving them with little  Read More

      • Rwanda: Gains made against poverty, a lesson for others | Auke Lootsma

        27 Feb 2012

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        Building Capacity in Rwanda. Photo: UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi

        Rwanda’s latest data release this month shows enormous improvement in the living standards of citizens over the past five years, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight internationally-agreed goals aimed at reducing poverty and improving education, health, gender equality and environmental sustainability by 2015. Over the past half a decade, Rwanda has posted an average annual growth of real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 8.4 percent, driven mainly by higher productivity in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Critically, the poor have benefited from this growth spurt.  Rwandans have developed their own homegrown initiatives in order to tackle poverty at the most local level. The “one-cow-per-family” programme, just to name one, provides families with milk for consumption and what is left over is sold for profit, improving nutrition and income at the household level.     Through government-led efforts the poverty rate fell from 56.7 percent in 2006 to 44.9 percent in 2011. If maintained over the longer term, this annual poverty reduction rate of 2.4 percent could put Rwanda in the company of Asian Tiger economies such as China, Vietnam and Thailand that have been able over many years to lift millions out of poverty while sustaining growth. There has  Read More

      • It is time to break the cycle of food insecurity in the Sahel

        14 Feb 2012

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        Photo: WFP/Phil Behan

        A food crisis is looming in the West of the Sahel, a semi-arid belt stretching from Africa’s Atlantic coast to the Red Sea. In the lean season, which starts in April, millions of people from Mauritania to Chad will likely require food and nutritional support. For instance, it is estimated that more than a million children will need life-saving treatment for severe and acute malnutrition in 2012. Across the Sahel, extreme weather events, leading to failed harvests and food price increases, have created pockets of acute food insecurity. In addition, the crisis in Libya and the current fighting in Mali have aggravated the security and humanitarian situation in the region. But the key issue is chronic poverty. In the Sahel, the most vulnerable people struggle to feed themselves even in good years, because they lack the livelihoods to buy or produce sufficient quantities of nutritious food. Lack of investment in rural infrastructure; limited access to credit, markets and insurance schemes; and poor social protection coverage, including health services, cause many households to break down when times get even tougher. Later this week, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, and the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos,  Read More