UNDP Around the world

Our Perspectives

Asia & the Pacific

Shattering glass ceilings – and walls

11 Apr 2017 by Shoko Noda, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in the Maldives

Shoko Noda grade school class picture"I think that, among other things, I had upset the teacher by climbing trees with the boys during physical education class," writes Shoko Noda (front row, third from left).
Halfway through fourth grade, I opened my report card and saw that my teacher had given me a C for ‘behaviour’. Understandably, it shocked my parents. I had always gotten top grades in class. I was taken aback too. It was when I got the same grade the following semester, and read my teachers remarks, that the truth dawned on me. My teacher had written: Shoko is finally improving her selection of words, and has started to behave more like a gentle girl. I think that, among other things, I had upset the teacher by climbing trees with the boys during physical education class.  I was also quite independent-minded and expressed my views in maybe not-so-polite terms. My parents were quite happy when, with a new teacher for the next two years, I went back to getting A grades for good behaviour.  … Read more

How a2i is using empathy to foster innovation in Bangladesh

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

a2i (short for access to information) helps government officials analyze 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. Bangladesh has significant advantages when it comes to harnessing new technologies, particularly as around 50 percent of the population is under the age of 24. Many of these youths have or will have jobs in industries that didn’t exist 20 years ago. They might be app developers, cloud computing experts, block chain specialists or big data analysts. … 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

To leave no one behind, Least Developed Countries need new financing tools

14 Dec 2016 by Pedro Conceição, Director of Strategic Policy, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support and Philippe Orliange, Director of Strategy, Partnerships and Communication, AFD

To leave no one behind, the least developed countries need new financing toolsLike other Least Developed Countries, Zambia has pursued major structural reforms to attract the investment needed to finance sustainable development. UNDP photo
At the UN General Assembly last September, 193 countries adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an ambitious new agenda for sustainable development to be achieved over the next fifteen years. The central aim of the so-called “2030 Agenda” is to “leave no one behind”. And while it will be a challenge for all countries to meet the targets of the 2030 Agenda, it is clear that it will be especially difficult for the 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) most of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa. These are countries where levels of deprivation are acute, infrastructure is inadequate, economies are vulnerable and capital is in short supply. To enable the transformation of these countries to middle-income status, considerable investments will be required within a short time-frame. Many LDCs have made considerable social and economic progress over recent years: poverty has declined, more children are now in school, health indicators have improved and many have enjoyed sustained periods of unprecedented economic growth. At the same time, considerable challenges remain. For example, LDCs remain very vulnerable to shocks and stresses, such as extreme weather events, fluctuations in commodity prices, and disease outbreaks – as the recent Ebola crisis in West Africa demonstrated. Shocks can cause significant development setbacks. … Read more

Financing the SDGs in the Pacific: Maximizing new opportunities

07 Dec 2016 by Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist, Development Finance, UNDP

Pacific island nations like Tuvalu must secure resources not only to meet development priorities but also to adapt to climate change. UNDP photo
Pacific island countries such as Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu are among the countries most vulnerable to extreme weather events and climate change. Just last year, Cyclone Pam ripped through Vanuatu and caused damages estimated at over 60 percent of GDP, in addition to 11 lives lost and widespread damage to homes and livelihoods. The Asian Development Bank estimates that the Pacific loses US$300 million a year through disasters alone. And such events are expected to become more frequent and more severe with the predicted impacts of climate change. With Pacific islands at the forefront of climate change impacts, they need to secure resources not only to meet development priorities such as improving health and education but also to adapt to climate change, build resilience and withstand sudden (often very large) economic and environmental shocks. Where will these resources come from, and how can Pacific islands make most effective use of these funds? These were the topics of a recent workshop co-organized by UNDP and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) in Fiji, which brought together policymakers from the Pacific islands and experts from major bilateral and multilateral finance providers. When it comes to resource mobilization, many Pacific islands have made important strides to increase domestic resources over recent years. For example, through the Narue Agreement – which establishes the terms and conditions for issuing foreign fleets with licenses to fish in the Pacific – eight Pacific island countries have been able to increase fishing revenues from $100 million to over $500 million over the last five years. And there is room to increase this even further in the future. … Read more

2030 Agenda demands meaningful participation from persons with disabilities

02 Dec 2016 by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

In Cambodia, UNDP works with UNICEF and WHO to support national efforts to coordinate and implement the National Disability Strategic Plan as well as to strengthen capacities of Cambodian Disabled Persons Organizations. Photo:Bona K/ UNICEF Cambodia
It has been 10 years since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by the UN General Assembly in December 2006, and we are close to universal ratification of the treaty. This is a great achievement that recognizes the move from a charitable and medical approach to a human rights-based approach, ensuring an inclusive and accessible development for all. The second decade of implementation of the CRPD will happen within, and will be amplified by, the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015. The SDGs are universal, they are ambitious and they ensure that we leave no one behind. Progress has been made to reach with rights, technology, social protection, science, affirmative action and awareness those of our friends, family members and fellow citizens who live with a disability. So as we focus on supporting countries to achieve the SDGs, what will achieving the different goals and targets mean for persons with disabilities? For starters, we are talking about a very large group of citizens: 15 percent of the world’s population live with a disability – more than the peoples of the European Union, Russia and the United States together. In developing countries, three out of four are women, which also demands a gender analysis of causes and a robust engendered suite of interventions. What could these be? … Read more

A changing climate throws water out of balance in Asia and the Pacific

03 Nov 2016 by Gordon Johnson, Resilience and Sustainability Team Leader, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

With a warming climate in parts of the Himalayas, melting glaciers are feeding into glacial lakes that threaten to burst at the seams. UNDP photo
Every morning I jump on the Chao Phraya Express Boat to get to work. It’s a short trip, but on yet another sultry morning in Bangkok, it’s nice to feel the breeze as we slice through the muddy waters to Thewet Pier, a short walk from my office at the United Nations. As we churn upriver, I’m often reminded of the suggestion that our planet should have been named Water instead of Earth. Nowhere is this idea more true than in Asia and the Pacific. While some 4.5 billion people make their homes on solid ground here – about 60 percent of the world’s population – it’s also home to the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and dozens of major river basins (such as the Indus, Ganges, Mekong and Yangtze) that gave rise to the varied and colourful cultures of Asia. … Read more

For Pacific countries, tomorrow is too late to act on climate change

20 Sep 2016 by Estefanía Samper, Special Assistant to the Executive Coordinator of the Global Environmental Finance Unit

Pacific countries have contributed little to global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet they are highly vulnerable to sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. Photo: UNDP Fiji
The drought caused by El Niño in Palau has essentially halted life for many Palauans since March. An increasing number of Tuvaluans are displaced by sea level rise, and 64 communities in Fiji will need to relocate in the coming years. As a region, the Pacific has contributed little or nothing to global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet it is incomparably vulnerable to sea level rise, climate-induced ocean acidification, extreme weather events, and erratic precipitation and drought patterns. We heard this sense of urgency repeated many times last month in Fiji, where Pacific countries met to discuss their climate change needs and learn how best to access funds to address them. Each Pacific country present at the meeting told a story of how one extreme climate event can easily wipe out 10 years of growth in one day. … Read more

Development in 2 minutes: It’s about expanding choices

01 Aug 2016 by Douglas Keh, UNDP Afghanistan Country Director

Every week, at least one person asks me, “So what does the United Nations Development Programme do?” They want to know what the "development" is that we are trying to achieve, and what our "programme" is for achieving it. The simple answer is that “development” is about helping people have more choices. It's about removing the obstacles that prevent them from realizing their potential – overcoming the barriers that stand between them and their dreams. These obstacles come in many different forms. For 36 percent of Afghans, poverty is one barrier to self-fulfillment. For around 50 percent, it's being a woman in the face of widespread discrimination and routine harassment. For all Afghans at one time or another, it's being from the wrong ethnic group, which can make you a stranger in your own land. … Read more

The fear factor: How a little alarm protects tigers, landscapes – and us

29 Jul 2016 by Midori Paxton, Senior Technical Adviser, Ecosystems and Biodiversity

The Fear FactorPoaching, hunting and habitat loss have reduced the global tiger population from roughly 100,000 in 1900 to just 3,800 today. Photo: Midori Paxton
“Alarm call!” My 12-year old daughter whispered. Fear was in the air, and a successful tiger safari depends on it. The alarm calls of spotted deer, Hanuman langur and even the gigantic Gaur – the Indian Bison -- told us that a tiger was on the prowl. I had always dreamed of seeing wild tigers, and India was the obvious choice. More than 70 percent of the estimated 3,800 remaining wild tigers live here. My alarm calls started in February this year when I was in the Ranthambore National Park. Once a hunting ground for maharajas of yore, it is now a tiger reserve with an 11th century fort cresting a towering plateau that overlooks its lakes, dry forests and meadows. … Read more