Our Perspectives

Crisis response

Renewed hope in Lebanon

28 Mar 2017 by Luca Renda, Country Director, UNDP Lebanon

A Syrian family fleeing the besieged city of Yabrud, Syria arrives in Arsal, Lebanon. Lebanon is now home to the largest number of Syrian refugees: one out of five people in the country is a refugee. Photo: UNHCR/A. McConnell
The ramifications of the Syrian crisis are far reaching in all its neighbouring countries, but are especially felt in Lebanon, a country 
still recovering from the scars of its own civil war. The crisis has affected Lebanon in many ways: slowing down economic growth, amplifying social divisions along confessional lines and spawning political paralysis. The most dramatic impact is the influx of over a million Syrian refugees, who now constitute around a quarter of the population. Lebanon now has the highest per-capita concentration of refugees in the world. Such combined shocks have greatly reduced Lebanon’s chances of meeting its development targets. Even before the outset of the Syrian crisis, Lebanon had a mixed performance on the Millennium Development Goals, registering good progress in nutrition, health and education, but lagging behind in key goals such as poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. The crisis has further exacerbated these gaps – particularly as almost 90 per cent of Lebanon’s Syrian reflive within the poorest Lebanese communities. The exceptional magnitude of the crisis has prompted the UN to mount one of the largest and most complex response operations in the world. This is to meet the needs of both the Syrian refugees and – just as importantly – the Lebanese hosting communities. … Read more

Lessons from a year of post-ISIL stabilization in Iraq

07 Mar 2017 by Moises Venancio, Adviser, UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States

The Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization project is designed to support early recovery in liberated towns and motivate millions of displaced Iraqis to return to their communities. Photo: UNDP
In Mosul a battle is raging to take back the city from ISIL. As the fighting ends, essential work is ramping up to make sure that people who have been displaced by occupation and war can return to their homes as fast as possible - and stay there. Already in the past year, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in close cooperation with the Iraqi government, the provincial authorities and the international coalition, has helped to re-boot social and economic recovery in 18 locations that have been liberated from ISIL, including Falluja and Tikrit. Our US$790 million Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization (FFIS) project is designed to support the early recovery effort in liberated towns through a three-month, high-impact programme to motivate millions of displaced Iraqis to return to their communities from camps and informal settlements across the country. UNDP is making sure that people get services like water, clinics, schools, police stations, markets and government buildings. Families are receiving help to rebuild damaged homes, public infrastructure is being rehabilitated and small businesses are being supported with cash grants to get started again. These actions are essential to ensure those who were forced to flee are able to return and stay in the area, making them productive citizens once again. It is the first step towards post-conflict recovery and peace building. … 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

Ukraine: Humanitarian assistance, recovery and development need to go hand in hand

10 Jan 2017 by Janthomas Hiemstra, Country Director, UNDP Ukraine

A metalware factory in Kramatorsk provides critical jobs for displaced people and local workers after being rebuilt through UNDP Ukraine's co-financing programme. Photo: UNDP Ukraine
The conflict in the Ukraine is, without doubt, a humanitarian crisis. Almost 10,000 people have been killed in the eastern region of Donbas alone. Among the victims, some 2,000 people were civilians. Another 22,000 people have been wounded, millions are displaced and living dangerously close to heavy fighting. This crisis has affected millions, despite repeated ceasefires. The Ukraine crisis is also a crisis of development. Amid the human tragedy, concerns about development are often easy to overlook. But the impact can be devastating in the long-term. Basic infrastructure is put under enormous stress in a conflicts like this one, and that stress can lead to economic decline, eventually weakening the delivery of crucial social services in regions like Donbas. If we do not address human welfare and social development concerns, the impact of the conflict is likely to worsen dramatically. The burden will fall particularely on the elderly, the disabled, the poor, women and youth. This is why UNDP has set up its presence in Eastern Ukraine. for the past two years, UNDP has made its priority to contribute in finding solutions to everyday problems affecting the local population. … Read more

Resilient people and institutions: Ecuador’s post-earthquake challenge

12 Dec 2016 by Carlo Ruiz, Recovery Unit Coordinator, UNDP Ecuador

Resilient people and institutions: Ecuador’s post-earthquake challengeIn the wake of the April 2016 earthquake, UNDP has trained hundreds of homeowners on the principles of earthquake-resistant construction. Photo: UNDP Ecuador
No one is really prepared for an emergency until they’ve had to live through one. And the 16 April earthquake in Ecuador put us to the test. With the drawdown in the humanitarian response phase that is providing relief to survivors and victims, the hustle and bustle is dying down. Remnants of the disaster can be seen everywhere, and an idea of what the near future will bring and people’s resilience – their capacity to cope – is taking shape. During tours of the affected areas, I saw that people have, to a greater or lesser extent, a natural conviction that pushes them to overcome the situation they are in. Shortly after a catastrophe hits, whether from the need to survive or from attempts to recover the normality that has been ripped from them, men and women begin to help each other out. They get together and cook, and they care for, console and support each other. In places such as Pedernales, one of the hardest hit areas, just days following the tragedy, people had set up cooking hearths and places to prepare food to sell outside destroyed businesses. They organized games of ecuavoley (Ecuadorian-style volleyball) in streets where rubble was still being cleared. Disasters hit poor people the hardest. This is why it is crucial to work on recovery of livelihoods starting in the emergency response period. People who can manage to earn a living can overcome the psychological impact of adversity more quickly. This has been a key factor in the post-earthquake process in Ecuador. The institutional structure is another element that affects how fast communities recover. Having a response system, with mechanisms to quickly and strategically identify needs, makes recovery efforts more effective. Communities are more vulnerable if local authorities are absent and exercise less authority to ensure, among other things, compliance with building and land-use standards. … Read more

Addressing radicalization and violent extremism through climate action

14 Nov 2016 by Aliou M. Dia, Team Leader, Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change, UNDP Africa

Climate change and violent extremism will be two of the major threats to the stability of states and societies in the next decades. In many countries in the continent (Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, etc.) climate change has significantly increased instability by over-stretching the already limited capacity of governments to respond. Boko Haram and Al Shabab threats and attacks in West and East Africa, continued fragility in Central African Republic (CAR) and renewed instability in Burundi and South Sudan are among some of the conflicts that contribute to this fragility cycle. It’s estimated that there have been over 4000 terrorist attacks since 2011 in Africa and 24,000 people killed. Some 2.8 million people are displaced in the Lake Chad Basin alone, and 700,000 Somalis are languishing in refugee camps. Violent extremism is currently devastating economies in the Sahel, Horn of Africa and Lake Chad Basin. For these and other fragile contexts, adding climate change as a ‘threat multiplier and shock accelerator’ triggers further frustration, tension and conflict. It is worth exploring how a changing climate and its impacts on the continent are contributing to exacerbating radicalization on the African continent. … Read more

Early recovery in Haiti: Localize the relief effort to avoid the aid dependency trap

04 Nov 2016 by Bruno Lemarquis, Deputy Director, Crisis Response Unit, UNDP

A crisis response led by the Haitian people and government lowers the risk of vulnerable people becoming dependent on international assistance. Photo: Andrea Ruffini/UNDP Haiti
Exactly one month ago, Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc in Haiti. More than 1.4 million people still need assistance; more than 140,000 people have been displaced and in some areas crops were completely wiped out. The disaster has left people living in makeshift shelters, unable to provide for their families and dependent on assistance. After the first few initial critical weeks of the disaster, two lessons stand out: the need to localize crisis response and the importance of a quick transition to early recovery. I led UNDP’s immediate response after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and I can see that the Government has built on many lessons learned. National institutions have insisted that this should be a Haiti-led response, from the local to the national level, and interim President Jocelerme Privert made clear from the start that early recovery was a priority. a … Read more