Our Perspective

FGM ban begins a pivotal era for women and girls in The Gambia

18 Feb 2016

image Commemorations for the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting are especially significant for The Gambia this year, following the banning and criminalization of FGM/C. UNICEF photo

by Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in The Gambia In November 2015, the practice of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) was banned and subsequently criminalized in The Gambia. This marks an important milestone in the country’s journey to end FGM/C and ensure that the fundamental human rights of girls and women are protected and fulfilled. The achievement places The Gambia proudly among 26 other African countries that have banned FGM/C through legislation. And it comes after years of work to raise awareness among individuals and communities, reinforced by intense advocacy with decision and policy makers. As a result, where FGM/C used to be a taboo, the subject is now openly discussed in Gambian homes and communities. The Joint UNFPA/UNICEF programme for the abandonment of FGM/C played a pivotal role in this critical transition for the women and girls of The Gambia. Support from the joint programme allowed for the sensitization and training of traditional and religious leaders, men, women, children, policy makers, law enforcement agents and circumcisers on the health and human rights effects of FGM/C. Once convinced, Islamic religious leaders and scholars became powerful advocates against FGM/C with influence at both the policy and community  Read More

With metal prices down, which minerals will pave Africa’s development?

08 Feb 2016

Plunging metal prices have put a group of lesser known ‘Neglected Development Minerals’ into the spotlight. This week thousands of executives, financiers, prospectors, investors and government officials will descend on Cape Town, South Africa for the 'Investing in African Mining Indaba.' Cape Town is not the centre of African mining, but for a week each year in February, it temporarily becomes the mining capital of the world. Companies pitch their projects, governments pitch the attractiveness of their geological (and regulatory) terrain and civil society organisations make their own pitch, that of caution, at their Alternative Mining Indaba. Over recent years the atmosphere at Indaba has been buoyant. Metal prices began a steady ascent around 2003 and save for a steep, yet brief, dip following the GFC, prices stayed high for more than a decade. The cyclicity of global commodity prices is a widely appreciated phenomena, but the apparent long-term demand for metals by China, and to a lesser extent, India, as part of an ‘Asian Century,’ led many to believe that a ‘super-cycle’ of high prices would last for many years. At his keynote address at Indaba in 2014, development economist, Sir Paul Collier, observed that high metal prices had created  Read More

What does the COP21 Paris Agreement mean for Africa?

17 Dec 2015

image Two members of a local association of volunteers plant a young tree in a school yard in the town of Goma, North Kivu province. 30 November 2013. Photo: MONUSCO/ Sylvain Liechti

On 12 December 2015, delegates from more than 190 nations at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21), agreed to the Paris Agreement, an ambitious global plan to tackle climate change. As a next step in implementation, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will convene a high level signing ceremony on 22 April 2016 in New York, USA, and the agreement can only enter into force once it has been ratified by 55 countries, representing at least 55 percent of emissions.  But what does this deal mean for Africa?  The top three wins for Africa in the Paris Agreement could be summarized as follows:  A balanced and ambitious agreement on adaptation and mitigation   Under the leadership of the African Group of Negotiators, African countries successfully advocated for a balanced agreement that addresses both mitigation and adaptation in equal measure, in a departure from the Kyoto Protocol which focused significantly on mitigation. Adaptation is critical for African countries that are highly vulnerable to climate change due to heavy reliance on the agricultural sector, and being the least contributor of global CO2 emissions.  The Agreement also urges all countries to submit adaptation needs, priorities and plans, which developed countries will support. While the Agreement  Read More

What’s at stake for Africa at COP21

07 Dec 2015

image UNDP is helping Rwanda boost resilience to disasters and the effects of climate change. Photo: UNDP Rwanda.

The international community is currently mobilized around the ongoing 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) taking place from 30 November to 11 December in Paris, France, and where delegates from around the world are expected to agree on a global plan to tackle climate change. This is a critical moment for the world in general, and Africa in particular. Africa is especially vulnerable to the effects of anthropogenic climate change even though its contribution to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is negligible when compared to that of industrialized regions. With two-thirds of working Africans making a living off the land, erratic and extreme weather patterns resulting in floods and drought affect food security as well as economic activity. Models indicate climate change could cause annual losses that amount to 1.5-3 percent of GDP by 2030. The recently-released 2015 Africa Adaptation Gap Report estimates that Africa’s costs for adapting to climate change will run to USD $7-15 billion per year by 2020. In the scenario that the global temperature rise is kept below 2°C, this figure could rise to $50 billion per year by 2050. Beyond 2°C, the cost of adaptation could reach a staggering $100 billion per year. As such, the  Read More

Bashi's journey may signal a bigger refugee crisis to come | Mohamed Yahya

29 Oct 2015

image Young Somali men participate in a vocational training and education program in Burao, Somaliland. But as Africa’s population grows, the number of people escaping conflict in countries like Somalia will continue to rise. Photo: UNDP Somalia

When you read news from Sicily and Calais and Greece, I hope you will remember Bashi*, a young African man among many currently in a migrants’ camp in Europe. I first met Bashi in 2011 in Kenya. He was self-assured and articulate. As I got to know him, I never thought that he would join the young Africans undertaking perilous journeys to seek new starts. Bashi’s story begins in Somalia. At age 14, he crossed the border into northern Kenya to get away from an intensifying conflict. He ended up in Dadaab, one of the largest refugee camps in Africa with more than 350,000 people. After a few years, Bashi made another audacious journey to Nairobi to seek work and education. It is illegal under Kenyan law for refugees to leave the camp, but Bashi “camouflaged” himself in the predominantly Somali neighbourhood Eastleigh. He became a waiter by day, and a student by night, keen to ensure that the circumstances of his birth did not imprison his future. 2014 was a good year for Bashi. He opened his own small shop, selling clothes and “advancing fashion in Nairobi.” Bashi was christened the hipster of Eastleigh with his fondness for tight jeans  Read More

The Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s Agenda 2063: A comparative analysis | Alessandra Casazza

23 Oct 2015

image Photo: UNDP

Two years ago, while Member States in the Open Working Group began to define the recently adopted universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Africa had already set its priorities for the next half a century. At the African Union (AU) Summit in May 2013, Heads of State and Government in their 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration, laid down a vision for the Africa they want to see in the next half a century. The vision later became Agenda 2063, which aims for a peaceful, integrated and prosperous continent by 2063 and is “an endogenous plan for transformation.” Another decision of the AU Summit was to set up a High-Level Committee, tasked with developing a Common African Position to inform African Member States in the Open Working Group and negotiations on the upcoming post-2015 development agenda.  This past September, world leaders signed up to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, of which the 17 SDGs are central, and which aims to address the three interconnected elements of sustainable development: economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability.  In paragraph 42, UN Member States specified that they ‘[…] reaffirm the importance of supporting the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the programme of the New Partnership for  Read More

How are all countries rich and poor to define poverty? | Alessandra Casazza

18 Oct 2015

image In Rwanda, a woman works in her tailoring shop. The World Bank recently updated the absolute poverty line to US$1.90 a day, reflecting changes in the average price of the goods and services people require in 15 developing countries, including Rwanda. Photo: Alice Kayibanda/UNDP Rwanda

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our new development compass. Its 17 goals and 169 targets provide countries – rich and poor – with the coordinates of the new ‘development north’, which more than 190 countries have committed to reach in the next 15 years. As of 1 January 2016, countries, like big vessels, will begin sailing towards this new development north from different harbors. But how will they calibrate their ‘navigation instruments’ to set their course? The 2030 Agenda is very clear in this respect. Paragraph 55 reads: ‘[…] Targets are defined as aspirational and global, with each Government setting its own national targets guided by the global level of ambition but taking into account national circumstances.’ As an example, let us consider Sustainable Development Goal 1: ‘End poverty in all its forms everywhere’. First and foremost, countries, both rich and poor, will need poverty lines (not all countries have one) to set targets and measure progress towards this goal. Countries have different options and these largely depend on their respective level of development: Absolute poverty lines (option 1), including the recently updated World Bank global poverty line of US$1.90/day,  are widely used by developing countries, since large portions  Read More

The best way to rebrand Africa? Invest in entrepreneurship | Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

17 Oct 2015


Because of its long-standing negative image, Africa has been unable to benefit fully from increasing global investments and the advantages that globalization may have to offer. That image will be the subject of extensive discussions during the Rebranding Africa forum, an event organized in Brussels by Notre Afrik magazine on the theme: “Investing in Africa, undertaking for Africa”. Nowadays, African and international media, following in the footsteps of The Economist, are inclined to more accurately portray the continent’s remarkable economic achievements. But Africa still has very little control over its own story. For instance, the continent accounts for less than 3 percent of all Google searches. Further, the narrative on Africa’s emergence focuses narrowly on its impressive and continuous economic growth, to the tune of 5 percent per year on average, over the past 15 years. Changing Africa’s image requires us to go beyond the economic dimension so that at least two additional and fundamental aspects are taken into account: on the one hand, the rising demand from its booming urban middle class, and on the other the continued increase in Africa’s Foreign Direct Investment. These facts should serve to bolster Africa’s reputation as a prime destination for international investors and  Read More

Why we need to save Africa’s historical climate data | Excellent Hachileka

14 Oct 2015

image Climate archives in Gambia. Photo: UNDP

Climate data is the lifeblood of any early warning system and the cornerstone for any resilience building effort. It not only allows us to monitor adverse impacts across development sectors, populations and ecosystems, but also helps countries prepare for and adapt to the realities of climate change and protect national development gains and goals. Climate data generally falls into two categories: historical data and data from recent and current observations. While most people understand the importance of current and recent climate data, fewer appreciate the equal importance of historical climate data. Historical data allows us to establish long-term trends, which in turn help us understand and better plan for future changes in climate. Historical climate data records help us develop climate models, satellite-based instruments and seasonal forecasts, as well as provide foundational data for adaptation studies at local, national and regional scales. For example: Climate models are mathematical representations of the interactions between the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, ice and the sun. Once a climate model is developed, it has to be tested to find out if it works. And since we can’t wait for 30 years to see if a model is any good or not, the models have to  Read More

A lifetime opportunity to bid fairwell to poverty | Bishow Parajuli

29 Sep 2015


Today marks a historic moment as world leaders adopted the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 SDGs constitute a vision to put people and our planet on a sustainable path by 2030. These goals will form the bedrock of a new development agenda designed to set the world on a course of action to end poverty, transform lives and protect the planet. In general, enormous progress has been made under the MDGs, showing the value of a unifying agenda underpinned by goals and targets. Yet despite the progress, the indignity of hunger and poverty remains as reality for over 800 million people. I have learned, from over 30 years of work in humanitarian and development spheres as well as with the United Nations, that setting goals and targets works. Here in Zimbabwe, the MDGs were implemented during a difficult economic period. Zimbabwe has recorded progress in halting and reducing HIV prevalence, which fell from 29.6 percent in 1998 to 14 percent in 2014; increase in anti-retroviral therapy coverage for adults as well as increased coverage of prevention of mother-to-child transmission. With Government engagement and support from our specialised agencies such as WHO, UNFPA and UNICEF as well as with generous  Read More

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