Our Perspective Articles

      • Against all odds: Egypt's fight against Climate Change

        26 Nov 2014

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        Residents of Alexandria enjoy the seaside in Egypt. Photo credit: Dylan Lowthian/UNDP

        It’s less than a week to COP20, the UN climate change summit where nearly 200 governments will meet in Lima, Peru. This is an important opportunity for the global community to make progress on a universal and meaningful global climate change agreement, to be agreed in Paris in 2015. Reaching an agreement is often a hard process, but if everyone is committed to it we can break through. Egypt is one example. The Nile delta is the richest farmland in Egypt. It is fascinating that, while it covers only 5% of the total area of the country, it is home to 95% of its population. But this beautiful area dotted with tourist sights and industries faces a harsh reality: Coastal erosion caused by sea-level rise threatens low lying lands and has a direct and critical impact on the country’s entire economy. In 2010, we started working on coastal protection, with a grant from the Special Climate Change Fund.  Our project promotes the idea that we should work with the sea rather than trying to fight nature. “Living with the Sea” became our strategy, as we aimed to strike a balance between protective, hard, infrastructure such as seawalls, and reinforcing the protection  Read More

      • A rural community calls for an end to FGM

        23 Nov 2014

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        Girls from Beir Anbar (Qena) where the whole community has joined forces to end FGM. Photo: Jose Sanchez/UNDP

        I recently visited the village of Beir Anbar in the district of Koft, Qena governorate, and listened to the powerful statement this community is conveying to the rest of the country to put an end to the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).   The whole village, from young schoolchildren to village elders came together to denounce FGM as "violent", "wrong" and "harmful". Even today, many girls and young women are subjected to genital mutilation in the name of ‘tradition’.   According to the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, at least 91 percent of Egyptian women between the ages of 15-49 have undergone genital mutilation.  The people of Beir Anbar made it clear that Egyptian girls and women deserve a new tradition – a tradition of protecting and safeguarding their rights. But the joint efforts of families, community activists, authorities, development agencies and media are gradually making a difference to phase out this traditional harmful practice.   Let us be clear:  there is no justification – moral, religious, cultural, medical or otherwise for this practice.  ‘Cutting’ demeans, dehumanizes and injures.  It is a human rights violation that must be actively opposed until it is ended. As we gathered inside the community centre, a group  Read More

      • Innovation is Imperative to Address the Syria Crisis | Gustavo Gonzalez

        23 Nov 2014

        As the Syria Crisis is well into its fourth year and affecting a sub-region, which has a middle-income context and has made strides in development with significant investments in home-grown human capital and technical and technological infrastructures, I believe that seeking innovative solutions in our resilience-based response is not more an option, but an imperative. We, at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), should be taking the lead in this and tap into this wealth of existing resources and harness their powers for more effective and sustainable responses to the crisis. We must be able to do things differently; as such, an unprecedented crisis requires unprecedented responses. Saying this, we observe that the Syrian Crisis has already triggered innovative solutions from key humanitarian and development actors as few other crises before, such as the use of e-vouchers for food items, iris-scanning for refugee registration, digital mapping, and 3-D printing for the provision of prosthetics. And there are many more examples! In all of these cases, innovation clearly comprised much more than technological injection, but was rather employed as a dynamic process of readapting and optimizing already existing capacities, resources and knowledge, which then resulted in greater efficiency, effectiveness, quality and impact  Read More

      • Bridging the language gap: A new lexicon for electoral terminology

        19 Nov 2014

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        Radhya Bourawi is elated to have voted after a three-hour wait in the Libyan elections. Photo credit: Samia Mahgoub/UNDP Libya

        What happens when there are no words in a language to refer to a new situation or process? People naturally make up new ones, either using their own language, borrowing from others, or a combination of both. This is what makes language so fascinating because it is alive and constantly changing. But talking about things that are both very technical and politically sensitive is a challenge. This is what happened in the Arabic speaking world when winds of democracy started to blow across the region, regimes fell and people aspired to hold real elections as the key to a new future.   When people in the countries of the Arab Spring - Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – began work on organizing their first democratic elections, they used their own local understanding and expressions to refer to what are often complex processes and concepts. Just like others in the region who had had earlier electoral experiences, for example in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, people delved into the rich vocabulary of the Arabic language. As an Arabic speaking international electoral assistance consultant for UNDP, I worked in a number of Middle Eastern countries. In Tunisia in 2011, I saw the potential for misunderstanding  Read More

      • Volunteering the future: A call to arms

        16 Oct 2014

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        (Photo: Zaven Khachikyan/UNDP in Armenia)

        How does volunteering make a difference? These days, we are trying to do development differently: to partner with less usual suspects for outside insights, and tap into local energy and initiatives. The ethos of volunteerism is exactly the same – it is not a supplement to the work we do; it is a natural component within it. And with whom do we partner up to do this? The answer, of course, is young people. They are the natural choice. Every year, over 6,300 UN Volunteers are mobilized to help build peace and bolster sustainable development in 130 countries worldwide. It’s a challenging task but one to which the UN Volunteers are wholly committed. During a recent visit to the UNDP Regional Centre in Istanbul, we discussed at length the many natural synergies between the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and our development work in Europe and Central Asia. We agreed that for UNV and for UNDP, the critical element is inclusion. To be truly inclusive, we will have to work harder to reach women, minorities, and other vulnerable groups. Volunteerism can be an essential part of that reach. Today, we have the largest cohort of youth in human history. Fifty percent  Read More

      • Questioning the ‘feminisation of development’ and the business logic

        18 Aug 2014

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        A PARTICIPANT in A WOMEN ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT PROGRAMME IN UPPER EGYPT. Photo: HEEWOONG KIM/undp.

        ‘Feminisation of development’ is a fancy phrase referring to the recent trend of seeing women as both beneficiaries and agents of change in development. This has become a popular approach and many of our programmes such as micro-loans, or skills trainings for women fit into this category. This new role is bolstered by a so-called ‘smart business’ logic. Based on this view, women’s empowerment is not only a rights or equity issue, but is also a good investment. UNDP and other UN agencies have, to a degree, subscribed to this logic saying that empowering women leads to better health, education and development overall; and many  of our programmes proved to be quite effective in producing results. For instance, the Conditional Cash Transfers programme provided to mothers in Latin America reduced inequality by 21 percent in Brazil/Mexico and 15 percent in Chile. An initiative targeting ultra-poor female-headed households in Bangladesh raised income by 36 percent and food security by 42 percent. But despite such success, there is mounting opposition against this trend, surprisingly, from the feminist schools. Sylvia Chant, a prominent gender and development scholar, strongly argues against this approach stating: “Women are enlisted as foot soldiers to serve in battles whose aims  Read More

      • Making sense of the world we live in: The development contribution

        08 Aug 2014

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        South Sudanese refugees in a Refugee Settlement in Northern Uganda. Photo: F. NOY/ UNHCR

        It’s hard to remember a time when more crises were jostling for space in the headline news, or when the world’s leading diplomats, like Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN Secretary General, were engaged in shuttle diplomacy on so many issues simultaneously. Top of mind by late last month were the conflicts in Gaza and eastern Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Mali, Nigeria. Meeting the costs of humanitarian relief is proving overwhelming. By the end of June this year, UN coordinated appeals for humanitarian crises had already reached $16.4 billion. This was before the latest conflict in Gaza began, and before a lot of the fighting in eastern Ukraine.  Could more be done to anticipate, prevent, or mitigate these traumatic events? The short answer is – yes and there is a compelling need to try to get ahead of the curve of future crises and disasters, to avert huge and costly development setbacks and lives lost.   Rough estimates suggest that for every dollar spent in disaster preparedness and mitigation, seven dollars will be saved when disaster strikes. It is also true that spending in fragile states which have been or still are immersed in conflict does  Read More

      • Development of, by, and for the people

        01 Aug 2014

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        The UN joint programme on Youth Empowerment in Montenegro is trying to apply user-led design so that young people come up with solutions to problems they are facing. Photo: Christian Schwier/UN in Montenegro

        Recently, I got a pretty awesome offer: Visit our country offices in Montenegro and Kosovo and see how they’d been doing development differently. Four weeks later I was in Pristina, then in Podgorica, and here is what I took away from my colleagues: 1. Keep momentum even in the face of disappointments and failures. New ideas require adjustments and refining. You probably heard how failure is just another stepping stone to success and how Walt Disney, Sidney Poitier, Albert Einstein all failed miserably at the start of their careers. Yet at the first sign of failure, most of us run and erase all tracks. Never be afraid to fail. 2. Don’t innovate for the sake of innovation. We have an edge over private sector companies that need to invest large sums in innovation: We have access. Access to a pool of technical expertise, good relationships with the governments hosting us, and the ability to convene people from all over the world, by virtue of our neutrality and impartiality. Innovation should only serve to complement this edge. 3. Dare to push the limits and do things differently: Innovation is not just about creating a Facebook page for our projects. In a recent campaign for social inclusion in Montenegro, the  Read More

      • Crisis in Syria: Civil war, global threat

        26 Jun 2014

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        Tents at Atme camp for internally displaced Syrians just over the border with Turkey. PHOTO BY JODI HILTON

        The horrific war in Syria continues to worsen and bleed beyond its borders. A cold calculation seems to be taking hold: that little can be done except to arm the parties and watch the conflict rage. The international community must not abandon the people of Syria and the region to never-ending waves of cruelty and crisis. The death toll may now be well over 150,000. Prisons and makeshift detention facilities are swelling with men, women and even children. Deaths by summary executions and unspeakable torture are widespread. People are also dying from hunger and once-rare infectious diseases. Whole urban centres and some of humankind’s great architectural and cultural heritage lie in ruins. Syria today is increasingly a failed state. The United Nations has tried hard to address the conflict’s deep roots and devastating impact. Our humanitarian and other efforts are saving lives and reducing suffering. But our fundamental objective -- an end to the conflict – remains unmet. The bleak prospects for peace have darkened further with the flare-up of violence and sectarian tensions in Iraq. The cohesion and integrity of two major countries, not just one, is in question. The following six points can chart a principled and integrated way  Read More

      • Victims of female genital mutilation make harmful traditional practice a crime

        18 Jun 2014

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        ANTI-FGM MOBILE CARAVANS TO RAISE AWARENESS IN RURAL VILLAGES, EGYPT. PHOTO: UNDP EGYPT

        June 14th is the National Anti-FGM Day in honor of 12-year-old Bodour Shaker, from Minya, who died on the same date in 2007 as a victim of this inhumane practice. In June 2013, 13-year-old Soheir El Batea from Daqahalia suffered the same fate. As heartbreaking as these two tragedies are, their untimely deaths were not in vain: as a result of public mobilization, the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) was criminalized by law in 2008 and the first criminal case is currently under prosecution, respectively. FGM is a grave violation of human rights and one of the worst forms of discrimination against girls and women. FGM has been a taboo for many years in Egypt. Its practice has been widely accepted due to conservative mindsets, particularly in rural areas, and poor socio-economic and public service conditions. While prevalence rates remain high namely among older women, response of younger girls and mothers of new generations to FGM Abandonment Campaigns is much higher.  Data from the Demographic and Health Survey suggest that some improvements occurred over the last two decades; in 2008 among women aged 15-17, the FGM/C prevalence rate was 74% compared to a prevalence of 95% among women aged 30-34.  Read More