Our Perspectives

The right to food is about much more than boosting supply

25 Oct 2016 by Olivier De Schutter, Co-chair, International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food)

Improving small-scale farmers’ access to markets is vital for achieving food security and improved nutrition, but we must also improve farmers’ bargaining position in food chains. Photo: UNDP Georgia
It is increasingly common for big agribusiness firms to contract out the production of raw commodities to hundreds and thousands of smallholders, sometimes known as “outgrowers”. Through the contracts they negotiate with small-scale farmers, private investors are shaping agriculture in the developing world. For example, the investment pledges gathered in the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition are primarily made up of plans by multinational and domestic agribusiness firms to source more widely from smallholders in a range of African countries. Yet what matters is precisely what is agreed between investors and small-scale farmers, and small-scale food producers have been largely neglected by agricultural policies to date. Understanding this situation is crucial to assessing the role of private investment in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In contract farming, farmers commit their output to processing or marketing firms at (generally) predetermined prices. Doing so can give them improved access to inputs and credit at one end, and easier access to markets at the other. Plugging small-scale farmers into new and lucrative market openings can help them to share the gains of globalisation. Under certain conditions, contract farming can also help in the development of localized food chains, for instance by linking farmers’ co-operatives to the local food-processing industry or to fresh produce retailers serving urban consumers. … Read more

New UNDP-World Bank partnership makes a difference in war-torn Yemen

24 Oct 2016 by Auke Lootsma, Country Director, UNDP Yemen

Through a partnership with the World Bank, UNDP is implementing a $110 million cash-for-work project to improve public service delivery and repair critical infrastructure. Photo: UNDP Yemen
Yemen is facing an unprecedented political, humanitarian and development crisis. The country’s post-Arab Spring transition unravelled and spiralled into a full-blown war in March 2015. Yemen has long been a Least Developed Country and the poorest in the Arab region. Before the conflict, more than half of the 28 million Yemenis were already living below the poverty line. Inevitably, the conflict has had a catastrophic impact on the country and its population. The UN estimates that the current conflict already has resulted in over 10,000 civilian deaths and injuries. Over 3 million people are displaced, and the conflict has so far caused US$19 billion in damage to infrastructure and economic losses. The conflict has further impoverished the Yemeni population and increased their vulnerability. At least 8 million people are severely food insecure, with over 370,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition. The remarkable resilience of the Yemeni population is being tested to its limits. … Read more

Cooking up positive change

21 Oct 2016 by Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca, UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors

Josep Roca meets participants in the Roca brothers’ Food Africa project.
What we eat has a direct impact not only on our health, but also on the wellbeing and prosperity of our communities, and the health of our planet. This is a lesson we learnt at a young age at our parents’ family restaurant, and one that we now try to spread from the kitchen at El Celler de Can Roca and in our new role as Goodwill Ambassadors for the Sustainable Development Goals. One of these goals is fighting hunger and malnutrition, as well as improving the access of all people to a healthy diet. This is a significant challenge, considering, on the one hand, the terrible reality that nearly 800 million people are suffering from chronic malnutrition, and that there are nearly 100 million underweight children under 5 years of age in developing countries. On the other hand, we find a global food system that is unsustainable, that consumes too much land, too much water, generates too many greenhouse gases and overexploits marine resources. As the final element of this equation, we cannot forget that the global population is growing- it is estimated that by 2050 the global population will reach nearly 10 billion- increasing the strain on our planet and its limited resources. … Read more

Now is the time to climate proof Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19 Oct 2016 by Armen Grigoryan, Team Leader, Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP Europe and Central Asia

Only 40 cents in every US$100 spent on aid goes to disaster risk reduction, yet disasters have cost developing countries a total of US$1 trillion over the last 20 years. UNDP Photo
In this blog series, UNDP experts share their perspectives in the lead-up to the next climate summit, COP22, taking place in November in Marrakech, Morocco. Two years ago I remember watching catastrophic rains swallow entire swathes of land in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia. Most of northern Bosnia was flooded. Thousands of people lost their homes. And in Serbia, the damage was estimated at 1.5 billion euros. The following year, it was Albania’s turn, then Tajikistan followed suit with the worst mud flows the country has ever seen. Finally, this summer, a thunderstorm dropped 93 litres of rain for every square metre of the capital, Skopje, within the space of a single night. homes. And in Serbia, the damage was estimated at 1.5 billion euros. The following year, it was Albania’s turn, then Tajikistan followed suit with the worst mud flows the country has ever seen. Finally, this summer, a thunderstorm dropped 93 litres of rain for every square metre of the capital, Skopje, within the space of a single night. Whether we are talking about drought, failing crops, rising temperatures or the resurgence or appearance of new diseases, the list of possible climate catastrophes is long. … Read more

Unlocking climate action: Why cities are at the forefront

18 Oct 2016 by Bahareh Seyedi, Policy Specialist, Climate Change, Energy and Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP

By 2060, more than a billion people will be living in cities in low-lying coastal zones, the vast majority in developing countries. Photo: Igor Rugwiza/MINUSTAH
Tehran, Managua, Vancouver, Manila, Montreal, Ouagadougou, New York: seven cities I love and have had the pleasure of living in! Each is rich in beauty, history, and culture, and has its own unique urban characteristics. But there is a shared threat faced by these cities that if left unaddressed has the ability to jeopardize their entire existence. The threat of climate change. From droughts, storms, and heat waves, to floods and hurricanes, these cities are all exposed to risks from climate hazards and natural disasters in one way or another. My hometown, Tehran, is at serious risk of water scarcity, with its major reservoirs reaching critically low levels in the past couple of years due to reduced rainfall and increase in temperature. … Read more

Sustainable cities – if not now, when?

12 Oct 2016 by Jessica Faieta, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean

 During the Habitat III conference, UN Member States will adopt a New Urban Agenda (NUA) that will guide the sustainable development efforts of cities and territories for the next 20 years.
For the first time in history, over half of the world’s population is living in urban areas. Latin America and the Caribbean, where 80 percent of people live in cities, is often cited as the world’s most urbanized region. This urbanization is both a great opportunity and a great challenge for sustainable human development. These opportunities and challenges will be discussed during the Habitat III World Conference in Quito, Ecuador. Habitat III comes one year after adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which, for the first time, includes a pledge dedicated to cities: Sustainable Development Goal 11 aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Cities have a crucial role to play in the achievement of the new 2030 Agenda. For example, without leadership by cities and territories it is impossible to decrease poverty, reduce inequality or achieve effective, accountable and inclusive institutions. Simply put, if we don’t take into account the local dimension, it will be more difficult to the dichotomy of the city – formal and informal, safe and unsafe, accessible for some and inaccessible for others. … Read more

Climate risk management in Latin America and the Caribbean

12 Oct 2016 by Matilde Mordt, Team Leader, Sustainable Development and Resilience, UNDP Regional Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean

Hurricane MatthewHurricane Matthew is only the latest reminder of the relentless force of nature. In 25 years, disasters have claimed more than 240,000 lives and caused losses of more than US$39 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean. Photo: Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH
In Mayan mythology, the god Huracán originated from the heart of heaven to rule the thunder, lightning, winds and storms. For the Caribbean Tainos, Juracán represented an evil god. In 1494 Christopher Columbus mentioned in his logbook a possible tropical cyclone that surprised his fleet while sailing in the waters near Cuba. It is from this time that this phenomenon, elsewhere in the world called cyclone or typhoon, acquires the name hurricane in the Western Hemisphere. The recent passage of Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean, which has affected millions of people in the Bahamas, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and the United States, reminds us once again of the relentless forces of nature. In Haiti, in addition to the death toll that is rising, there are 750,000 people in need of assistance. In the most affected areas, villages have been shattered and agriculture devastated. Given the precarious sanitary conditions in the country, cholera threatens to resurge. The forces of heaven would perhaps have surprised pre-Columbian populations. These days, however, we can monitor and predict the course and strength of tropical storms and hurricanes, allowing us to take precautions and prepare for their arrival. Scientists tell us that the speed of the winds in hurricanes will increase with climate change. This stresses the fact that the necessary preparations should be long term and an integral element as we erect human settlements. In other words, we need to build more resilient societies. … Read more

Drivers of public services and policies of tomorrow – the role of government innovation labs

12 Oct 2016 by Benjamin Kumpf, Policy Specialist, Innovation at UNDP and Laura Schnurr, Social Enterprise and Social Finance, Canadian Government and Innovation Facility, UNDP.

Kolba Lab, run by UNDP and the government of Armenia, held a mapathon of accessible places in Yerevan. Photo: @gorkroyan
What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘innovation’? The public sector? – Thought not. But we are working on changing this. Over the last three years, UNDP has set up innovation labs in five countries to support governments in designing the next generation of public services and to embark on experimental policy-design and another one is being set up right now. From Brazil, Colombia and Canada to South Africa, Israel, Malaysia and Singapore – the world map of labs is constantly growing. Government innovation labs, sometimes referred to as change labs, social labs or design labs, have been opening up in more and more places since the early 2000s. What are Public Sector innovation labs and how do they work? Government or public sector innovation labs are teams that combine expertise in innovation methods and public sector reform to improve policy design and the way governments deliver services to the public. Another important role of the labs is to help governments reframe challenges and to broaden the perspective of policy makers by bringing in the perspective of users. Labs help governments in creating better solutions based on citizen feedback and inputs. But ideally they are more than quick-solution delivery machines. … Read more

The nexus of climate change and conflict in the Arab region

12 Oct 2016 by Kishan Khoday, Regional Team Leader, Climate Change, DRR and Resilience, UNDP Regional Hub for Arab States

Conflict and climate change are major drivers of displacement in Syria and elsewhere in the Arab region. UNHCR photo
Alongside the daily barrage of rockets and gunfire facing the Arab region is a more insidious but perhaps no less important foe – climate change. Climate change and conflict both have serious consequences and their convergence, particularly in fragile states, that has now arisen as a major concern. Leading UNDP’s climate change action in the Arab region, I see first-hand how this convergence is creating new forms of social vulnerability and reshaping the prospects for peace. The Arab region was the birthplace of agricultural civilization and for thousands of years has been able to cope with risks from climatic hazards. But climate change is now happening at a pace unlike anything before, stretching the ability of societies and governments to cope. The evidence shows that the region may well be in the midst of a 25-year climate change-induced mega drought, equal in strength only to historic droughts one thousand years ago that led to major civilizational shifts. Already the world’s most water insecure region, climate change is expected to see temperatures rise faster here than the global average, making parts of the region uninhabitable by mid-century. Unless actions are taken, impacts will be felt in loss of agricultural livelihoods, high unemployment, mass displacement, and resource conflicts. … Read more

“Are you okay? What are you doing for Haiti?”

10 Oct 2016 by Rita Sciarra, Head of Poverty Reduction Unit, UNDP Haiti

 UNDP projects in the South region helped local authorities to decide where to relocate evacuees before the hurricane. Photo: UNDP Haiti
The sun is shining today in Port-au-Prince and throughout Haiti. Looking at such a blue sky, I wonder at the force of nature that, in less than 36 hours, it can come and destroy everything. It was impossible to imagine in the quiet of the night before Matthew’s arrival or in the colour of the sky today that it could have had such devastating consequences. My thoughts are racing between the latest data from my colleagues in the Emergency Civil Protection Centre and the need to urgently intervene and help the people of the Nippes, South and Grande Anse regions. I am thinking about my recent training on emergency situations, my past experiences, in theory and practice. Together with the directors of the office and other colleagues, we try to come up with, in a few words, our strategy for working on Haiti’s recovery in order build a bridge to development right from the first emergency interventions. In Jeremie, 90 percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed. The roofs have blown away together with most of the trees, and now everything is scattered on the ground throughout the streets of the city. We see bodies of dead animals, remains of latrines and graveyards that have been destroyed. … Read more