Our Perspectives

How a2i is using empathy to foster innovation in Bangladesh

21 Feb 2017 by Anir Chowdhury Policy Adviser, Prime Minister’s Office in Bangladesh and Nick Beresford Country Director for UNDP Cambodia

a2i (short for access to information) helps government officials analyse and redesign workflows within and between ministries. It has established over 5,000 Digital Centres providing internet access throughout the country.
In the last eight years, Bangladesh has established a new development paradigm through its approach to socio-economic development which is high growth yet inclusive, self-reliant yet collaborative, and respectful of heritage yet ambitious in its use of new technologies. The country has moved up to low middle income status but, more importantly by human development indicators it has achieved a level of development commonly predicted for twice its per capita income. The Digital Bangladesh Vision 2021 agenda – the country’s launch pad for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – is a long-term vision of poverty reduction and human development anchored in govpreneurship (entrepreneurship by the government) and hopes to empower Bangladeshis to co-create solutions to development challenges. Within this, a2i Public Service Innovation Lab+ was established by the Prime Minister’s Office with support from UNDP in 2007 to ensure easy, affordable and reliable access to quality public services which harnesses (but is not limited to) the power of digital. … Read more

Rural communities: A hotspot for sustainable development

15 Feb 2017 by Jamison Ervin, Manager of the Global Programme on Nature for Development, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

Fatima Ahmed (centre), President of Zenab for Women in Development, with community members. Photo: Equator Initiative
The Equator Initiative has launched a call for nominations for the 9th Equator Prize, a prize recognizing excellence in communities taking nature-based actions for local development . It is for people like Fatima Ahmed, and the community initiative that she founded, that this prize was established. Fatima is President of Zenab for Women in Development in Sudan, a women’s agricultural cooperative that empowers girls and women, promotes sustainable agriculture and helps reduce deforestation. The Zenab Initiative embodies the three basic principles of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: indivisibility – we cannot achieve one goal at the expense of any others; inclusion – we can leave no one behind in our race toward economic prosperity; and acceleration – we must focus on actions that have multiple development dividends. If we are to implement the SDGs, however, we need more than guiding principles. We also need to understand how key global trends affect development. The late Hans Rosling, a renowned statistician who was often called "The Jedi Master of Data Visualization” and the “Global Data Rock Star,” did just that. Whether the topic was the role of washing machines and poverty, or the role of religion and population growth, Rosling made analytics cool, and he left a legacy of helping us look past data points, trends, and correlations, and to step back and see a larger story. … Read more

Drones join the fight against climate change risks in the Maldives

10 Feb 2017 by Sanny Jegillos, Senior Advisor, Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

I love drones. I have one that I fly when I want to de-stress. Little did I know when I bought it that I could actually play with it at work! It all started about a year ago. As senior advisor on disaster risk management at UNDP, I was intrigued to explore how new technology and innovation could support my work. My agency’s strong focus on innovation in the Asia-Pacific region, has resulted in some really interesting and outside-the-box initiatives. Some of them include, mobile apps on anti-corruption in Papua New Guinea, recovery and rebuilding in earthquake-affected Nepal and electronic waste recycling in China. … Read more

Bringing youth together to innovate is key to development in Africa

30 Jan 2017 by Marc Lepage, UNDP Africa regional innovation expert

Central to the 28th African Union Summit that takes place in Ethiopia this week and to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum, to be held on 30-31 January 2017, is this question: How do we harness the dividend from the continent’s current youthful population? In 2015, there were 226 million youth aged between 15-24 years in Africa (19% of the global youth population). By 2030, that number will increase by 42% and is expected to double by 2055. So, investing in youth today is key to Africa’s development tomorrow. But, to invest in youth, you first have to connect with them and allow them to connect to each other. This is precisely what YouthConnekt does. An innovative platform first launched in Rwanda in 2013, it brings together young people looking for employment, skills or resources to launch their own business with various partners including UNDP, private sector and government. … Read more

Like clockwork: Creating transformational action for the climate

25 Jan 2017 by Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Head of Climate Change Adaptation, Global Environmental Finance Unit, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

Without the right parts and right people, things don’t work as they should. This is as true for climate adaptation plans as it is for watches. UNDP photo
Have you ever seen the inner workings of a mechanical watch? It’s really quite remarkable – a masterpiece of an inter-locking mainspring, gear train, balance wheel, escapement mechanism and indicator dial come together to measure each second with the utmost precision. When one piece fails, the whole watch stops working. When it comes to climate change adaptation, the process of supporting real transformational change is just as intricate as maintaining your grandfather’s Casio and even more so when it comes to finding the right parts and the right ‘mechanic’. Without the right parts and right people things just don’t work as they should; this is as true for watches as it is for National Adaptation Plans and the goals set out by the Paris climate agreements. … Read more

The 2030 Agenda: Leave no person with disabilities behind

19 Jan 2017 by Lucy Richardson, Policy Analyst, 2030 Agenda Team, UNDP

Up to 150 million children around the world are estimated to be living with a disability. Many are excluded from education and other opportunities. Photo:Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH
In February 2016, I was proud to stand up and present to the plenary session of a youth-issues forum. Just over 24 hours later, I could barely stand at all, due to a sudden and mysterious pain and weakness in my right leg. As it progressively worsened over the following weeks, then months, I needed crutches or a cane to get around. The city I had once effortlessly navigated my way around abruptly became intimidating and hard to manage. People began to stare at me as I struggled to coordinate walking, and any place that involved stairs or a long walk was off-limits. Without warning, I had been thrust into the world of disability. I’m not alone in my experiences. It is estimated that 15 percent of the world’s population – around one billion people – live with a disability, so even if you do not have a disability yourself, you are likely to have a friend, family member or co-worker who does. There is huge diversity amongst people with disabilities (PwD), they can be of any age, gender, race, class, or ethno-cultural background. There are, however, certain people who are more likely to be affected by disability. … Read more

A global partnership builds resilience and renews hope of Yemenis

18 Jan 2017 by Auke Lootsma, Country Director, UNDP Yemen

In partnership with the World Bank, UNDP is implementing a US$300 million emergency project supporting 2 million Yemenis through cash-for-work, improvements to public service delivery and repairing critical infrastructure. Photo: UNDP Yemen
Yemen is facing an unprecedented political, humanitarian, and development crisis. Long the poorest country in the Arab region, over half its population was living below the poverty line before the current conflict worsened. That number has risen steeply, with over 21.5 million people needing humanitarian assistance now—close to 80 percent of the country’s 28 million people. Yemen’s political transition unravelled into full-blown war in March 2015. It has had a catastrophic impact: We in the United Nations estimate it’s already resulted in over 10,000 civilian injuries and deaths. Over 3 million people are displaced. About US$19 billion in damage to infrastructure and in other economic losses have been caused so far. The conflict has further impoverished the Yemeni population and increased their vulnerability. At least 8 million people are severely food insecure, with over 460,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition. The remarkable resilience of the Yemeni population is being tested to its limits. The war has pushed vulnerable members of the Yemeni population to the brink of famine. … Read more

Why we can hope for better crisis response in 2017

17 Jan 2017 by Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP Assistant Administrator, Crisis Response Unit Leader

The U.N. and its NGO partners have begun hammering out the details of how to “bridge the divide” between humanitarian, development and peace-building actors. Photo: UNDP
Despite the horror of 2016, in Syria, Yemen, Lake Chad Basin and many other areas, I remain hopeful that the international community will deliver on its big promises to change the way it works. Stubbornly clinging to hope is essential after this year. But I also have seen the clear foundations for change being laid. In 2016, I was involved in several historic summits held in response to the unprecedented humanitarian crises we are facing. I led the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) preparations for the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul in May. I’m now working with the World Bank, governments and other partners to implement some of the commitments from those meetings, including rolling out a new way of working in crises that will not only meet humanitarian needs, but also reduce them over time. This means setting shared goals, developing multi-year plans and taking other steps to bridge the divide between development, humanitarian and peace-building actors. I also attended the U.N. Summit for Refugees and Migrants and, with U.N.colleagues, I’m now helping to implement parts of the agreement reached at the summit, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which includes a commitment to better coordinate efforts to address the root causes of refugee flight. … Read more

Haiti: 3 months after Hurricane Matthew, 7 years after the earthquake

11 Jan 2017 by Yvonne Helle, Country Director, UNDP Haiti

The road to recovery is a long one. UNDP provides conditions for long-term recovery, resilience and sustainable development. Photo: UNDP Haiti
Hurricane Matthew was the first Category 4 storm to landfall in Haiti in 52 years, creating the worst humanitarian crisis in the country since the 2010 earthquake. At least 546 people died and the lives of 2.2 million people were affected. Of course, key infrastructure was damaged: in some areas, 90 per cent of homes were destroyed. Farming, fishing and small scale commercial activities were severely hit, depriving people of livelihoods and income. For instance, the Grand’Anse and Sud departments have seen 70 and 100 per cent of crops being destroyed. Three months after the disaster, people in the most affected areas still need immediate help to meet their basic needs, and, not less urgently, access to new opportunities to make a sustainable living. While the humanitarian response is still gathering pace, rehabilitation and recovery must also start immediately to reduce dependence on relief. Drawing on the lessons of the 2010 earthquake, our post-Matthew response was designed and is being implemented in close partnership with national and local authorities. Here is a snapshot of what UNDP has done since October … Read more

Africa’s unique vulnerability to violent extremism

11 Jan 2017 by Mohamed Yahya, Regional Programme Coordinator, UNDP Africa

Africa bears the brunt of lives lost, economies ruined, and relationships fractured by terrorism. Stir in a large and growing cohort of unemployed and digitally connected youth, and the continent offers ideal conditions for mayhem. Photo: UNDP
Africa bears the brunt of lives lost, economies ruined, and relationships fractured by terrorism. It is the continent where al-Qaeda launched its war against the United States in 1998, by bombing the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; where Boko Haram kidnapped 276 Nigerian schoolgirls in 2014; and where 147 students were killed in their sleep at Kenya’s Garissa University in 2015. While these attacks did garner the world’s attention, most people do not realize that, in the past five years alone, 33,000 people have died in terrorism-related violence in Africa. Violent extremism and groups espousing it are threatening to reverse Africa’s development gains not only in the near term, but also for decades to come. African countries are particularly vulnerable to violent ideologues, owing to the prevalence of weak institutions and ungoverned territory where extremist groups can germinate. Add to this the mismanagement of ethnic and religious diversity, stir in a large and growing cohort of unemployed and digitally connected youth, and the continent offers ideal conditions for mayhem. Emulating countries elsewhere, African governments have responded to violent extremism primarily by putting “hard” security first. But this strategy has not reduced extremist groups’ potency or limited their reach. In fact, there is evidence that an exclusively military response can be a waste of resources, or even do more harm than good. What is missing is a deeper examination of root causes, particularly underlying development challenges. … Read more