Our Perspective

      • 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

      • Sustaining democracy gains in Rwanda | Auke Lootsma

        16 Sep 2013

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        Rwanda is widely known for its beautiful landscape, and often remembered for its tragic genocide. But in recent years, I have seen the country make a name for itself as a fast-growing developing country with low corruption, clean and safe streets, and a parliament with the highest proportion of women representatives in the world (52 percent). The upcoming parliamentary elections, from 16 to 18 September, will be held against a backdrop of impressive improvement in the areas of democratic governance and political space. The Government recently passed a series of bills related to media, civil society and political parties to allow these stakeholders to play a stronger role in the democratic process. Candidates on party lists, women’s lists, youth and disabled lists will be vying for the 80 seats in parliament. Almost 6 million registered voters are expected to cast their ballots, an increase of 1.3 million voters compared to the parliamentary elections in 2008.   To boost its capacity and save costs, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) will use close to 75,000 volunteers to man the polling stations and ensure the voting and counting is conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner. This has allowed the NEC to bring  Read More

      • Let us keep our eyes on Mali | Jean Luc Stalon

        19 Aug 2013

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        A Malian man votes in a polling station during the presidential election. (Photo: Ezequiel Scagnetti/EU EOM Mali)

        Last Sunday, massive numbers of Malians turned out to vote peacefully in the second round of the country’s presidential election. The ballot, declared by observers as credible and transparent, was nothing short of historic. It marked the end of 18 months of conflict, including a coup and takeover of the North by Tuareg and Islamist insurgents, followed by a French military intervention. Mali and its people have suffered hugely from this period of violence and uncertainty. More than 470,000 have been displaced, while 1.4 million Malians are in need of immediate food assistance. In much of the North, the government’s presence remains precarious. With the suspension of the country’s external aid, which accounts for a third of the national budget, and the withdrawal of foreign investors, Mali’s economy fell from an expected 5.6 percent into negative growth last year, with catastrophic consequences for livelihoods and basic social services. The elections are an expression of the Malian people’s deep resolve to bring the country back to peace, stability, unity and development. Mali’s political stabilization roadmap embodies these aspirations. Through the roadmap, the country committed to free elections and sweeping democratic and social reforms in exchange for unlocking new flows of foreign aid.  Read More

      • I dare you to finish this paragraph about peace | Ozonnia Ojielo

        29 Jul 2013

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        In Kenya, UNDP pioneered crowdsourcing for conflict prevention during the country’s constitutional referendum which passed peacefully in 2010. A toll-free SMS service allowed people to report threats, which civil society groups and police responded to. (Photo: UNDP Kenya)

        “The core mandate of UNDP is to strengthen national capacities for development. From this basis, the concept of ‘infrastructures for peace’ has served to guide UNDP’s support to assessing and addressing country structural vulnerability. ‘Infrastructures for peace’ can be defined as ‘the network of interdependent structures, mechanisms, resources, values, and skills which, through dialogue and consultation, contribute to conflict prevention and peacebuilding in a society.’” Still here? Congratulations. You are probably in the minority.   My point in presenting this eye-watering statement unedited is perhaps facetious, but important: All too often in development, jargon is used to obscure activities that are not only vitally important – but actually quite simple as well. The “infrastructures for peace” concept is a case in point. What could be more important in a conflict-ridden country than giving governments, police, quarrelling groups and factions the skills they need to engage peacefully? This means giving communities the resources and support they need to mediate and resolve conflicts, analyze where conflict may re-ignite, and to be warned in time so that rapid response is possible. For example: •  In Lesotho in 2012, the political environment was becoming heated and violence was a possibility. UNDP gave mediator training to  Read More

      • South Sudan is running a marathon, not a sprint | Toby Lanzer

        09 Jul 2013

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        As part of the formation of a new nation, women police train in Western Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan. (Photo: UNDP South Sudan)

        Two years ago today, South Sudanese around the world celebrated their country’s independence after decades of war and struggle. Today, the hope remains but reality has set in. It is going to take a long time for South Sudan to achieve its goals. Like a marathon runner, South Sudan and its international partners need to commit for the long haul. Building health services, a professional police service, and a judicial system, along with all the other institutions needed in a modern state, can seem daunting in the best of circumstances. Only one in seven children complete primary school and only 27 percent of people over 15 know how to read and write. Fifty percent of South Sudan’s civil servants lack the appropriate qualifications for their jobs. To meet the gaps in the short term, the U.N. is helping to deploy civil servants from neighboring countries across South Sudan’s ten states, transferring knowledge and skills in 19 institutions. In the long term, overcoming the capacity gap requires huge investments in education. Encouragingly, this is on the government’s agenda: the budget presented to parliament for the 2013/14 fiscal year makes it a priority. In 2013, aid agencies are planning to reach nearly 200,000  Read More

      • Focusing on prices of HIV medicines in middle-income countries | Tenu Avafia & Katie Kirk

        27 Jun 2013

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        Low-income countries are often offered special arrangements by pharmaceutical companies on medicine to treat HIV. Middle-income countries are left out of these arrangements and must address the challenge of helping their citizens access the drugs. (Photo: UNDP)

        A key determinant of middle-income countries meeting their health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be their ability to sustain and expand access to treatment for HIV and its co-infections, like TB and Hepatitis C. By 2020, the majority of people living with HIV will be living in middle-income countries, such as South Africa, Brazil, Russia, Ecuador and Thailand. Yet at the same time as new, more effective medicines to treat HIV emerge, many of these countries, based on their average income levels, are increasingly being left out of special arrangements offered by pharmaceutical companies to low-income countries, such as price discounts or voluntary licenses to use their patents. For instance, in 2011, using Global Fund grants, HIV medicine Darunavir was offered to Sub-Saharan African countries at US $1,095 per patient per year. Meanwhile, Nicaragua and Moldova (middle-income countries) had to buy that same medicine at $7,424 and $9,188 respectively. This pricing challenge will test the 2011 commitment made by UN Member States, at a UN High-level Meeting on AIDS , to place 15 million people in need on antiretroviral treatment by 2015. Eighteen middle-income countries and stakeholders met in Brasilia in June to confront these challenges. Whether discussing intellectual property, drug  Read More

      • Sustainability must combine environmental concerns with poverty reduction | George Bouma

        12 Jun 2013

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        Addressing poverty-environment issues is essential for achieving sustainable development. Above, children in Rwanda. (Photo: PEI)

        With 2015 around the corner, one question dominates the global development agenda: what will replace the Millennium Development Goals? Twelve years on from the historic Millennium Declaration, indicators show that our failure to protect our environmental systems is undermining much of the progress that has been made in helping the world’s poorest communities. The stories from around the globe are all too familiar. Small-holder farmers in Tanzania have been suffering smaller yields as a result of soil degradation; communities in Bangladesh are struggling to cope with increasingly erratic weather conditions as a result of climate change; indigenous peoples in Latin America and South-East Asia are searching for alternative livelihoods where high levels of deforestation have robbed them of their principal economic assets. It is now clear that the post-2015 agenda must tackle the relationship between poverty and sustainability if it is to bring about long-lasting change. Efforts to bring the three strands of sustainable development (social, environmental and economic) into a single policy lens have a long history, dating back to the 1980s and ranging up to more recent Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. Despite progress in many areas, such plans have struggled to bring about enduring and institutional change. Often, international  Read More

      • A huge milestone in Zimbabwe’s recovery process

        03 Jun 2013

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        Consultation meeting on Zimbabwe’s constitution making, organized by the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) in January 2011. The COPAC process culminated in the production of a draft constitution which was passed in the March referendum. Photo: UNDP Zimbabwe

        Over the past couple of years, there has been a lot of progress in Zimbabwe in terms of economic recovery, taming inflation and progress in the social sectors – with improvements in education and health. Accepted by a huge majority of the 3 million people who voted in the March referendum, Zimbabwe's new constitution is a huge milestone in this overall recovery process. The constitution is expected to provide the basis for the upcoming electoral process, which we hope will lead to the creation of a new government and usher Zimbabwe towards full recovery and development. The document is now slated to go to parliament where it will require two thirds of the vote to pass. The constitution-making process in Zimbabwe is one the major undertakings of the government formed in the wake of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), signed by the different political parties after the disputed elections of 2008.  The process of drafting the constitution was innovative in itself because it was people-driven. In the process of preparing the document, more than 5,000 meetings were held and close to one million people consulted, incorporating a wide spectrum of views into the text. Along the way, excellent opportunities were created  Read More

      • Africa's renaissance deserves continued support | Helen Clark

        24 May 2013

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        Women in Burundi recycle waste as part of a programme to reintegrate returnees and ex-combatants into society. (Photo: UNDP Burundi)

        Meanwhile, there has been a rise in trade, investment and development cooperation with emerging economies, which have been successful in the fight against poverty. Over the past decade, nearly half the financing of infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa was provided by governments and regional funds from elsewhere in the South. The rise of Africa is thus associated with a rising South overall. A significant number of developing countries have transformed themselves into dynamic emerging economies with growing influence, and the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has fallen from 43 percent to 22 percent.   This good news has been the result of pragmatic economic strategies, innovative social policies, and the willingness of proactive developing states to invest in physical infrastructure and human development. Africa’s battle against poverty and hunger is not yet over, but at UNDP we are confident  it can and will be won. The challenge now is for Africa to get more poverty reduction from its growth. Investing in its youthful population and tackling inequalities will contribute to this. Women, youth, people living with disabilities, minorities and all those who are currently marginalized yearn for the opportunity to get ahead. Fast and inclusive growth also needs  Read More

      • Toward peace, unity and growth in Kenya | Modibo Touré

        28 Feb 2013

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        Mr. David Ngige, the project coordinator of Nyeri Social Forum, carries out mock elections training at Gatitu Nursery school, a set polling station in Nyeri. (Photo: Ricardo Gangale/UNDP Kenya)

        Next Monday, in a crucial test of Kenya’s new political system, millions of voters will head to the polls to elect a new president and a host of parliamentary and local representatives. With the 2007/2008 post-electoral violence on everyone’s mind, it would be easy to forget how much progress the country has made over the past five years. 2008 ushered in a new government coalition and a peace deal, paving the way for the adoption in 2010 of a constitution that would transform the country’s political landscape. Opportunities under the new constitution offered a wide-ranging set of reforms designed to break the cycle of corruption and tribal violence, including a decentralized system of government, independent courts, a new citizens’ Bill of Rights and increased numbers of women in public office. UNDP accompanied the reform process from the beginning, supported the organization of a peaceful constitutional referendum and assisted the government in the creation of a country-wide platform that has helped communities to report and respond to violence. Kenyans are justified in the very high degree of confidence which they have in the neutrality and capability of the bodies which will oversee the forthcoming elections – in particular the Independent Electoral and  Read More