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Our Perspectives

Asia & the Pacific

Working together for sustainable palm oil

03 Jul 2017 by Christophe Bahuet, Country Director, UNDP Indonesia

The Musim Mas palm oil plantation is set up and run by a collective of individual smallholders according to the guiding rules of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Photo: James Morgan/WWF International
Heated debates have surrounded the palm oil sector in Indonesia and its access to export markets, including the European Union. The issue is crucial for Indonesia as the world’s largest palm oil producer and largest exporter; about 16 million jobs depend directly or indirectly on this sector. Palm oil has also become a public issue in many consumer countries. Governments, parliaments and citizens are paying increasing attention to environmental protection and the sustainability of production patterns, which they expect national and international standards to guarantee. Through Sustainable Development Goal 12 on sustainable production, the world has committed to ensure production systems don’t harm the planet. A statement from the World Trade Organization’s Trade and Environment Committee came to mind: ‘The answer is not to weaken environmental standards, but to set appropriate standards and enable exporters to meet them.’ … Read more

Transformative action to leave no one behind

14 Jun 2017 by Haoliang Xu, Director, Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, UNDP

Woman smilingA pilot strategy to reduce poverty rates among slum dwellers in Bangladesh laid the foundation for a new National Urban Poverty Reduction Programme aimed at improving the lives of 6 million people. Photo: UNDP Bangladesh
We live in a dynamic world, where great progress has been made. Yet the gulf between rich and poor is widening, and the natural world is under ever greater threat. That’s why we need to make development more sustainable and inclusive, as set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its pledge to “leave no one behind”. It means that our interventions have to be transformative. They need to reach large numbers of people and strengthen the institutions and services that underpin both human and environmental well-being. UNDP is fully committed to this vision. Indeed, UNDP Asia-Pacific has been through its own transformation, from traditional donor to development advisor and service provider. Ideas and innovation are now intrinsic to the way we work. We bring together in-house expertise and an extensive network of public and private partners. Thinking and working together allows us to identify solutions to unlock and scale up progress that work across countries at diverse stages of development. UNDP tracks emerging trends in real time and the insights we gain make our support to countries flexible and highly responsive, enabling countries to grasp new opportunities for sustainable development as they arise. … Read more

Connecting the dots for life below water

31 May 2017 by Shoko Noda, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative of the Maldives

Diving reminds us how above and under water lives are inter-dependent. Photo: Shoko Noda/ UNDP
I just finished my two dives for the day and was waiting for the boat to pick us up at our surface location. It was a beautiful calm day with the water as clear as crystal, all I had to do was look down to see the small colorful fishes beneath me. While waiting, my thoughts floated back to my childhood. Growing up in Kobe, Japan, I could not jump into the ocean whenever my parents took me to the beachside, because back then the nearby sea from home was polluted with industrial waste. Many years later, I feel very lucky to enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of the Maldivian ocean just around the corner of my apartment. While each dive is as breathtaking as my very first one, these days, I look beyond charismatic turtles and sting rays and appreciate smaller marine creatures that play such an important role in maintaining the much needed delicate marine life balance. The so-called “cleaning stations” are a perfect example of how all the elements in the food web and the ecosystem are interconnected in a seamless harmony.” The cleaning stations are the places on the reef where special “cleaning fishes or shrimps” live. Those colorful tiny fishes play a critical role by cleaning dead skin, bacteria and parasites, which are their main food supply, off the bigger fish such as Groupers. … Read more

Internal compass for the implementation of SDG 14: Putting local people and communities at the centre

19 May 2017 by Sulan Chen, Programme Advisor, International Waters and Chemicals and Waste Management, UNDP

man repairing a fishnetIn Malaysia, the Small Grants Programme supported an initiative to address accidental capture of sea turtles in commercial and artisanal fisheries. Photo: SGP Malaysia
On 25 September 2015, world leaders adopted the comprehensive and ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since then, life has continued and gone on in thousands of communities around the world, for whom the SDGs are probably of little significance. Indeed, political declarations or statements, if left with no implementation on the ground, are barely anything more than good wills. If, on the other hand, SDGs are people-centered, the focus should be on local people, communities and the ecosystems they rely on for their survival and prosperity. This, in my view, is the internal compass for the implementation of the SDGs. Now that the upcoming Ocean Conference confronts the world to implement SDG 14: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”, there is a need to strengthen its implementation at the local level. Guided by this internal compass, the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (SGP) implemented by UNDP has provided financial resources and technical guidance to communities and civil society organizations for the environment and sustainable development. … Read more

Nature to the rescue: Using ecosystem services to reduce flood risks

12 May 2017 by Saskia Marijnissen, Regional Technical Adviser, Ecosystems and Biodiversity, UNDP Africa

In Sierra Leone, over 3 million people live in increasingly vulnerable coastal areas. Finding innovative and sustainable ways to work together with, rather than against, nature for effective risk reduction is critical. © Tommy Trenchard/ UNEP
From the mouth of the Mississippi to that of the Nile, communities have been drawn to coastal flood plains throughout the centuries. Where rivers and oceans meet, nature is at its best, and river sedimentation provides rich soils that greatly benefit agricultural productivity as well as fisheries. At present, an estimated 60 percent of our global population lives along estuaries and coastlines – making them among the most heavily populated areas of the world. As appealing as coastal areas are, living on a fertile floodplain comes with substantial risks. Floods are the most frequent of all natural disasters globally, and some of the largest disasters have occurred in coastal areas. Think about the devastation done by hurricane Katrina in New Orleans or the dangerous floods which happen every year in Bangladesh. … Read more

Oceans of data, islands of databases

08 May 2017 by Sanny Jegillos, Senior Advisor, Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

Man in his shopRisk-informed recovery programmes respond to the unique development challenges of island countries like Vanuatu, which was hit by Cyclone Pam in March 2016. UNDP Photo
I am currently in the Solomon Islands, on my second mission in the Pacific Islands this year, and I am now certain that I will be back in Papua New Guinea in less than a month. Since Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and Cyclone Winston in Fiji (2015/2016), my engagement as UNDP advisor on disaster risk reduction and recovery in the Pacific has increased. For UNDP colleagues based in the Pacific, I hear that there has not been any pause in crisis response since 2014. What does this trend mean? What do we foresee in the future? Where do we get the information to guide our organization’s strategy and programmes? … Read more

Celebrating indigenous peoples as nature’s stewards

02 May 2017 by Eva Gurria, Programme Analyst, Equator Initiative

undp-pe-environment-indigenous-woman-2017Indigenous lands and waters represent 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity, and indigenous peoples act as effective stewards of these areas. Paola Delgado/UNDP Peru
In recent weeks we’ve marked several milestones for planetary wellbeing. The first was the 47th anniversary of Earth Day, a day where communities around the world gather to bring awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship. The second was the 1st anniversary of the landmark signing of the Paris Agreement, where the world’s governments formally agreed to take urgent action on climate change. The third was the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a declaration that provides a universal framework for the dignity and wellbeing of indigenous peoples everywhere. All three anniversaries are interlinked; there is a growing understanding that indigenous lands and waters represent 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity, that indigenous peoples are effective stewards of these areas, and that these ecologically intact areas of the earth are a vital strategy for tackling climate change. In short, if we are to achieve the Global Goals for sustainable development by 2030, we must recognize, celebrate, advance and safeguard the rights of indigenous peoples to govern their lands and waters. … Read more

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