Our Perspectives

Peacebuilding

The subtle flutter of peace

21 Sep 2017 by Pablo Ruiz, Country Director, UNDP Colombia

A colourful mural in Colombia of the word A mural in Colombia sends a simple message: peace. Photo: UNDP Colombia
Recently I was invited by the Government of Colombia to an event in Cesar, in the north of the country, in a beautiful place called La Paz. In the presence of President Juan Manuel Santos, a woman victim of the conflict pointed out some improvements in her community, so subtle, she said, like the flutter of butterflies. I want to briefly outline some of those improvements, inspired by one of the many survivors of the armed conflict. First, Colombia has become a reference for a convulsive world, with thousands of lives saved since the beginning of the peace negotiations. After decades of conflict with the FARC-EP, and indescribable pain, the country has begun to close that chapter of its history. On 15 August, we attended the UN-certified FARC-EP laying down of arms, and on 4 September we celebrated the agreement reached between the Government of Colombia and the National Liberation Army (ELN) to implement a bilateral and temporary ceasefire. How not to contrast this episode with the tragedy of Syria, a country that years ago I visited several times, where the dark side of mankind continues to be on display with terrible consequences. … Read more

Powering west Mosul’s water plants

16 Aug 2017 by Hugo de Vries, Stabilization Specialist, Funding Facility for Stabilization, UNDP Iraq

Working with the Government of Iraq, UNDP is contracting local companies and workers to rebuild areas liberated from Islamic State control, including restoring the water plant that supplies half of west Mosul.
Mosul was one of the last major holdouts in Iraq of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who took control of the city in mid-2014. The military campaign to liberate the city started in October 2016 and continued for 10 months. Nearly one million civilians were evacuated during one of the largest managed evacuations in modern history. Mosul was declared fully liberated by the Prime Minister of Iraq in early July, and the difficult work of rebuilding has begun. More than 700,000 civilians are still away from their homes – waiting to restart their lives. Through its Funding Facility for Stabilization, UNDP has been implementing projects in Mosul in close proximity to the front line since late 2016. More than 300 are already under way and hundreds more are starting in coming weeks. In support of the Government of Iraq, the Facility focuses on speed and functionality and is designed to help jumpstart local economies once the fighting stops. Ninety-five percent of all stabilization initiatives are contracted through the local Iraqi private sector. This lowers costs, ensures high levels of local ownership and produces jobs in the areas where they are needed the most. … Read more

Sustainable development and sustaining peace: Two sides of the same coin

20 Jul 2017 by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support and Oscar Fernández-Taranco, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support

Just emerging from decades of conflict, Colombia sees the SDGs as an integral tool in its peacebuilding process. Photo: UNDP/Freya Morales
More than 1.4 billion people, including half of the world’s extremely poor people, live in fragile and conflict-affected settings. The number is forecast to grow by a staggering 82 percent by 2030. Around 244 million people are on the move, with 65 million people in our world being forcibly displaced. You might assume that for countries in the cross hairs of these dynamics, the last thing on anyone’s mind right now is getting on track to achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If you did, think again. Sustainable development is key to sustaining peace and vice versa. Sustaining peace, a concept endorsed by the UN General Assembly and Security Council, focuses on the importance of having a long-term, comprehensive vision in all responses to violent conflict, to end vicious cycles of lapse and relapse. Many countries in complex situations have embraced the SDGs as part of the solution. Afghanistan, for example, is presenting its plans at this year’s UN High-Level Political Forum, the global platform for SDG follow-up and review. At the same forum, Togo, a self-declared ‘fragile’ state, is showcasing its SDG initiatives for the second year running. And Colombia, one of the masterminds of the SDGs, considers them an integral tool in its peacebuilding process. … Read more

7 things we learned in the Western Balkans about tackling displacement

20 Jun 2017 by Susanna Dakash, Youth and Civic Engagement Consultant, UNDP Europe and Central Asia

In the Western Balkans and elsewhere, the refugee crisis is a wake-up call for local governments to better prepare for sudden crises. UNDP photo
In 2015, 900,000 refugees and migrants crossed through Southeast Europe in the largest displacement of people since World War II. Many crossed from Greece to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia on their way to northern Europe. Most towns on that route were taken by surprise. Many didn’t have the doctors, food stocks, waste capacity, or sufficient housing to handle hundreds of thousands of additional people. Their whole approach to planning was suddenly upended. And many refugees ended up staying for months. … 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

A historic day in Colombia

26 Sep 2016 by Martín Santiago, Resident Representative, UNDP Colombia

The Peace Agreement signed by the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP is of great significance for Colombia and for the world. Photo: UNDP Colombia
Betsaida and her family abandoned their home and a small business in the port of Tumaco, in the Pacific of Colombia, and were forced to follow the road that more than 7 million displaced Colombians have as a result of the armed conflict. Their story, and that of millions of victims of the war, is at the heart of what the United Nations Organization is and does. Seventy-one years after its creation, the universal aspiration to end war, reaffirm the fundamental human rights and promote social progress is latent and more crucial than ever. Despite the progress we have made in the last quarter of the century, in which we achieved a significant reduction of armed conflicts, we have witnessed serious setbacks in the last four years: the number of civil wars and attacks by governments and armed groups against civilians have increased for the first time since 2005. More than fifty million people, the highest number recorded in history, have been uprooted from their homes around the world as a result of armed conflicts. In the face of adversity by human tragedies, the Peace Agreement that was signed yesterday by the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP is of great significance for Colombia and for the world. … Read more

Securing our societies from the threat of senseless terrorism

11 Apr 2016 by Patrick Keuleers, Director of Governance and Peacebuilding, UNDP

Ten of the eleven countries with over 500 deaths due to violent extremism in 2014 also have the largest number of refugees, migrants, and IDPs. Photo: Central African Republic
Since 2000, we have witnessed a more than ten-fold increase in the number of deaths from violent extremism and terrorism - from 3,329 victims in 2000 to 32,685 in 2014. And the death toll keeps rising. During the first months of 2016, more than 200 terrorist attacks claimed over 2500 victims. These incidents have taken place in all corners of the world and the diversity of countries shows the ubiquity of the challenge. Many attacks have been linked to well-known violent extremist groups, while others were perpetrated by lone wolfs or attributed to ongoing conflicts and civil wars. … Read more

Young people are building peace in Colombia

02 Feb 2016 by Karin Andersson, Advisor, Participation and culture of peace, UNDP Colombia

UNDP has supported the actions of more than 10,000 college students from across Colombia to participate in peace talks. Photo: UNDP Colombia
Why have young people embraced the opportunity to lead and participate in the efforts to build peace in Colombia? Perhaps it is because in over sixty years, Colombians haven’t known one day of peace? At a festival for peace last year in the province of Norte de Santander, a young woman told me that “this is a unique opportunity to get to know a country that I’ve never really known, a country in which no one dies because of a war.” Colombia is a country with a unique geography and history that produced a rich cultural diversity. Each region of the country has its own unique cultural and social norms. With this in mind, the ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the left wing FARC guerrillas highlight the importance of peace building at the local level. … Read more

Games and apps that build peace

07 Oct 2014 by Anne Kahl, Programme Specialist, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support.

Photo: Tom Pietrasik / UNDP India
When I was in Liberia last year, my national colleagues were making fun of me because of my ancient Nokia, compared to their flash phones. I will admit that I could use an upgrade, but I was struck by how ubiquitous smart phones have become – even in developing countries. Of course there are big gaps and the spread of technology has not been completely equitable – but 6.8 billion people use mobile phones daily and mobile use in developing countries is growing at an annual rate of 7.5 percent. And in many developing and conflict affected places, phones, tablets and computers today offer a great opportunity for communities to interact and engage with one another – and especially to bridge gaps between young people. When I was growing up video games were all about killing aliens, shooting bad guys and jumping over barrels to save the girl from the angry gorilla. Today however, their scope has broadened. A new breed of games and smart phone apps are being designed to promote peace and development. As my friend Helena says in a recent blog “…is it a crazy proposition to suggest that digital games could also be venues for dialogue and … Read more

How can we promote peace and development at the same time?

11 Jul 2014 by Ozonnia Ojielo, Coordinator for Conflict Prevention and Recovery

A woman greets members of the technical committeeA woman greets members of the Technical Support Committee of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework in Mugunga IDP camp near Goma, DR Congo. Photo: Sylvain Liechti/UN
The 2014 Global Peace Index, which was released last week, revealed that the world has become less peaceful every year since 2008. It also showed that the global economic impact of violence is USD 9.8 trillion – or 11.3 percent of global GDP. While many developing countries have made tremendous progress in reducing poverty over the last decade, these are depressing numbers. However, they reiterate that peace and stability – and the prevention of violent conflict — are inherently tied to sustainable development. A less peaceful world is a much more challenging place to fight inequality and want. Countries experiencing repeated cycles of violence face poverty at significantly higher rates. People in unstable and conflict-affected countries are more than twice as likely to be under-nourished as those in other developing countries; and children in conflict zones are more than three times less likely to be able to attend school, and twice as likely to die before the age of five. Nine out of 10 countries with the lowest human development index have experienced conflict within the past 20 years. We must double down on efforts to mitigate risk and prevent the loss of development investment when conflict strikes. Success today depends … Read more

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