Our Perspective

      • 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

      • Sustainable energy access critical for development in Africa | Helen Clark

        29 Dec 2011

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        Access to modern affordable energy services in developing countries is essential for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals. Photo: UN Foundation

        Almost 45 per cent of those who lack access to energy live in Sub-Saharan Africa, making up 69 per cent of the region’s population. They number 585 million people. Seventy eight per cent of those living in Sub-Saharan Africa use traditional biomass for cooking and heating (650 million). Energy needs extend well beyond having electricity available in homes. In Africa, where so many depend on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood, expanding access to energy for irrigation, food production, and processing is vital. It can boost agricultural productivity and rural incomes, and empower women who make up a significant proportion of the continent’s farmers. For UNDP, access to sustainable energy is critical for making societies more equitable and inclusive, and for encouraging green growth and sustainable development overall. We advocate for equity, inclusiveness, resilience, and sustainability to be the guiding principles for efforts to achieve universal energy access.  We recognize that different groups have different energy needs. Therefore, governments need to balance the financing of large-scale energy projects with support for the off-grid, decentralized energy solutions which will help meet the needs of the poorest and most marginalised people. Cleaner cooking and heating fuels and motor power for productive activities are also  Read More

      • Turning the challenges of sustainable development into opportunity | Tegegnework Gettu

        01 Dec 2011

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        Building green economies in Africa must be reconciled with reducing poverty, creating employment and boosting human development (Photo: UNDP Eritrea)

        The Rio declaration stated that: “Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development.” And that: “The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.” This message from Rio – that people are at the center of sustainable development – echoes UNDP’s focus on advancing human development. Making human development sustainable is critical for people everywhere. But, as the documents prepared for this preparatory conference show, there are compelling reasons for why this agenda is particularly important for Africa. Despite the marked improvements in economic growth rates over the last decade, our continent still has the highest proportion of people living in poverty and hunger. The overall conclusion from the 2011 regional MDG report prepared jointly by the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank, the Economic Commission for Africa and UNDP, was that the overall pace of progress towards the MDGs, while picking up steam in the last decade, has not been strong enough to meet the all the targets everywhere by 2015. But the report also shows that real progress has taken place and that many countries are making strides in advancing human development. This  Read More

      • Cote d’Ivoire: Working towards recovery

        28 Sep 2011

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        Internally Displaced Persons in Côte d'Ivoire. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

        Since re-opening the UNDP office in Côte d’Ivoire some four months ago, we have been working together with NGOs along the western border with Liberia, assisting recently-returned internally displaced people who had moved following a political crisis triggered by the disputed December 2010 election. More than 20,000 people now have better access to water through rehabilitated water pumps and water treatment of 100 wells. Almost 5,000 youth are engaged in some UNDP-supported income-generating activity related to agricultural processing, small trading initiatives, among others. In addition to reintegrating hundreds of thousands of displaced people, Ivoirians face other urgent challenges, including rebuilding trust among the population, and restoring security and rule of law. The economy, historically one of West Africa’s strongest, was also disrupted. The government, the UN and other local partners cannot do it alone, and the gaps are huge. As of 22 September, the Emergency Humanitarian Action Plan for Côte d’Ivoire and neighbouring countries affected by the crisis is funded at 28 per cent with some US$81 million contributed against a total requirement of US$ 291 million. Going forward UNDP’s main focus will be to support the government to restore security and institutions of governance, and find ways to generate jobs  Read More

      • Drought in Kenya: Current Crisis Calls for Long-term Solutions

        25 Aug 2011

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        A Somali woman holds a malnourished child, waiting for medical assistance. Somalia and Kenya are two of the most affected countries by the drought in the Horn of Africa. UN Photo/Stuart Price

        Only minutes after our take-off from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, the landscape below us starts changing from lush green to arid brown and yellow, seemingly devoid of life. We are heading to the dry rural regions of Wajir and Turkana in northern Kenya. With me on board are the World Food Programme Executive Director Josette Sheeran and the Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques Diouf. We set out to hear directly from those most affected by the unfortunate drought and famine unfolding in the region. Kenya has been hit especially hard by the crisis, with a food-insecure population of more than 3.5 million due to the drought. One farmer reports that in his village, close to the three-way border shared with Ethiopia and Somalia, it has not rained for almost two years and that there have been no harvests at all since 2009. Most families and communities in Wajir rely on goats and cattle for their survival, but with the severity and duration of the crisis, their livelihoods are now threatened. The people we meet during our tour are tough, and so is their livestock. But we can tell they have reached the limit of what they can take. Sadly, this crisis  Read More

      • The Epicentre of a Crisis

        09 Aug 2011

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        Humanitarian aid workers are working hard to assist the IDPs through the distribution of corn-soya blend to assist the malnourished children as well as the elderly. (Photo: OCHA/Abdi Noor Yussuf)

        Almost two million Somalis have left their homes in search of food and tens of thousands have died from hunger.  And the numbers continue to rise. I went to Dollow on the Somali side of the Ethiopian border to see for myself what was happening. What I saw and heard was alarming. About 150 families a day were arriving and all of them told the same story. They were running out of resources and knew they could not survive much longer. They had walked for three to four weeks, often leaving relatives too weak to follow by the roadside. After my trip we began to collate the information and the latest round of surveys was horrifying. In some areas over 50% of children were classified as being acutely malnourished— these are globally unprecedented figures. The mortality figures were just as grim with four to five children under five years-old per 10,000 dying each day. The declaration of famine was not a decision taken lightly and demonstrates the severity and urgency of the crisis. The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was asked to validate the findings.   In the next few weeks other areas of southern Somalia will slide into  Read More

      • Drought is Life or Death Issue in Horn Of Africa

        13 Jul 2011

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        An estimated 3,000 people a day are arriving in Kenya and Ethiopia from Somalia seeking help. Photo: UN Photo

        According to the latest reports by the World Food Programme, some 10 million people are affected by the Horn of Africa's worst drought in 60 years.  An estimated 3,000 people a day are arriving in Kenya and Ethiopia from Somalia seeking help.  People are arriving in a very weak condition and it is very distressing to hear of the fatalities this severe hardship is causing.   Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, has just been to Mogadishu and also to the refugee camp at Dollo in Ethiopia – both places where drought victims are heading.  UNHCR chief, Antonio Guterres, has also been to the Somali refugee camps and called for urgent help for the drought victims. My overwhelming concern right now is that people are dying because of the drought, particularly those who must leave their land and their homes to walk long distances, in a weakened condition, to try to find food and water.  Many Somalis are crossing borders to do that.  Sheer survival is a battle for many families right now. Looking ahead, more support is needed to develop drought-resistant agriculture and small holder farming in the areas affected.  As there has been insufficient support for this  Read More