Our Perspectives

Sustainable Development Goals are country-led and country-owned

22 Sep 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

Young people in Egypt holding up SDG placardsCitizens and governments are taking ownership of the 2030 Agenda, showing that the Sustainable Development Goals are country-led, country-owned and relevant everywhere. Photo: UNDP Egypt
Over the past 20 years, the world has seen unprecedented progress of human development, as nearly 1.1 billion people have moved out of extreme poverty. But unfinished business remains. Today, roughly 800 million people still live in extreme poverty and inequalities are growing. It was with this in mind that world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) almost two years ago. This is the most ground-breaking development agenda the world has seen, for it contains a radical promise: to leave no one behind. It is a promise to every man and woman who goes to bed hungry, every boy and girl who is deprived of education, every person who is fleeing violent conflict. Put to practice everywhere, this promise transforms our world! You may ask what a set of goals and high-flown words on paper can do to address these enormous challenges in practice. It is a fair question. But the answer is - a lot! … Read more

The road from Paris starts and ends with the media

22 Sep 2017 by Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Head of Climate Change Adaptation, Global Environmental Finance Unit, UNDP

A radio presenter broadcasts educational programming in Lao PDR. The media have a crucial role to play in building consensus for climate action. Photo: UNDP Lao PDR
We live in a world of tenuous truths, shortened attention spans, competing priorities, and even-more complicated social and political forces. These very forces threaten to disrupt our pathway from the Paris Agreement to a low-carbon, climate resilient future. Somewhere in the middle, independent media are given the monumental task of looking for truth, and dispelling fake news and bogus science. And yet, the media´s most crucial task is to build consensus on the hard-and-true fact that if we don’t do something about climate change we threaten to derail economic, environmental and social gains of the past 30 years, and create one big mess for future generations to clean up. This is one of the most important stories of the 21st century, and one that I worryingly suspect will define the historic record of our society. As countries around the globe come together this November for the climate talks in Bonn, they will re-affirm the need to honour the Paris Agreement, keep global temperature rises below 2°C, and reach the Sustainable Development Goal to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” by 2030. … Read more

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

Communities can be role models for sustainable development

18 Sep 2017 by Nik Sekhran, Director for Sustainable Development, UNDP

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner presents a certificate to Equator Prize winners during an awards ceremony in New York. Photo: Arnaldo Vargas
The United Nations, governments, civil society, business, thought leaders and media gathered in New York on 17 September to celebrate the winners of the Equator Prize 2017. The 15 prize winning communities successfully advance innovative solutions for poverty, environment, and climate challenges. The Equator Prize 2017 winners will join a prestigious group of 208 previous Equator Prize winners that have been recognized by the UNDP Equator Initiative partnership since its inception in 2002. Together, these prize winners tell a compelling story about the power of local action. This year, among the winners is the Federación de Tribus Indígenas Pech de Honduras, a cooperative that sells an essential ingredient in the international fragrance and flavor industry. Across the Atlantic, the Mali Elephant Project works in a region torn asunder by violent extremism to protect the endangered African elephant and advance local development priorities. Moving further east, in Indonesia, Raja Ampat Homestay Association has created an innovative, community-run web platform for ecotourism, garnering over 600 new jobs for the community and catalyzing the creation of 84 community businesses, all while conserving fragile marine ecosystems. The stories of these groups are not simply colorful reminders that people can live in harmony with nature. They illustrate how community action is essential to achieve sustainable development. … Read more

Reinventing the wheel

15 Sep 2017 by Boaz Paldi, Engagement Manager, UNDP

Video: United Nations Foundation
People usually don’t like to reinvent the wheel. When they find something that works, they’re not inclined to tinker with it. But at the eighth annual Social Good Summit this weekend, we’ll actually be reinventing a wheel, the Sustainable Development Goals wheel. Over the next week, we’ll erect a giant 2-metre by 2-metre SDG colour wheel constructed of Legos outside the United Nations General Assembly Hall. It sounds crazy, but our inspiration is that people, including world leaders, celebrities, and influencers, will help build this wheel to signify their commitment to the SDGs. That’s one of the things I love about the Social Good Summit: its ability to bring people together to act in innovative ways to build better tomorrows for everyone, everywhere, by 2030. There’s other things I love about the event: that it serves as a Peoples’ Summit during UN Week, that it’s dedicated to fomenting open, transparent dialogue, that it harnesses technology and new media to tackle some of the greatest challenges of our world. These attributes, of working to make our world better by 2030, are the heart and soul of the Social Good Summit. … Read more

The pros and cons of ethical debt instruments

12 Sep 2017 by Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist, Development Finance, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

A man stands in front of a damaged house and a large fallen tree in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Dominican Republic.Ethical financing tools include "state-contingent" debt instruments that allow servicing payments to fall when times are bad, for example, when a natural disaster strikes. Photo: UNDP in Latin America and the Caribbean
In May, the World Bank issued the world’s first bond linked explicitly to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Labelling them “SDG bonds”, the bank raised 163 million euros from institutional investors in France and Italy with the proceeds to be channelled into projects that aim to eliminate extreme poverty, in line with Goal 1 of the SDGs. The initiative — which aims to capitalize on a rising number of investors interested in positive social and environmental impacts, in addition to financial returns — has been heralded an innovation in investment products and can be added to a growing list of innovative debt instruments that are marketed as “ethical” or socially and environmentally responsible. Other examples include: green bonds, a multibillion dollar market in which the proceeds of a bond issue are tied to environmentally friendly investments such as renewable energy and clean transportation; blue bonds, a newer debt instrument championed by the Seychelles to fund investments in sustainable ocean industries; vaccine bonds, where funds are raised from international capital markets for immunization programs in developing countries with bondholders repaid by future streams of donor development aid; and social and development impact bonds, where impact investors provide upfront financing for social or development interventions and are repaid by governments and/or donors when specified results are achieved). … Read more

From the eyes of an early responder in Sierra Leone

28 Aug 2017 by Tanzila Watta Sankoh, Programme Specialist, UNDP Sierra Leone

A man speaking into a megaphone Realizing that the lack of basic tools was hampering relief efforts, UNDP provided shovels, megaphones and pickaxes to help with the search and rescue. Photo: Alpha Sesay/UNDP Sierra LeoneRealizing that the lack of basic tools was hampering relief efforts, UNDP provided shovels, megaphones and pickaxes to help with search and rescue. Photo: Alpha Sesay/UNDP in SIerra Leone
On 14 August, my phone starting ringing … It was my mother. She resides at Regent, a community on the slopes of Mount Sugar Loaf, the conical peak overlooking Freetown. Being at the epicentre of the catastrophic flash flood and landslides, she saw the disaster unfold and immediately called me, confirming my foreboding about receiving early morning calls from my mother. When I arrived at the scene with UNDP colleagues in charge of disaster management and a few staff members from the Office of National Security (ONS), I was utterly shocked by the scene of devastation. It was raining incessantly. The sky was gloomy, and one of Freetown’s highest mountains looked like it had been cracked in two. The landslides had claimed the lives of more than 400 people, leaving over 2,000 homeless and an estimated 600 still trapped in the debris. I had never seen such desolation in my entire life. As we moved on, we saw ambulances carrying corpses and youth volunteers desperately working in the hope of rescuing survivors. We also saw people's resilience, of the kind we had already witnessed during the Ebola epidemic. They dug through the mud with bare hands to rescue their loved ones. … Read more

UNDP’S new Strategic Plan is a chance to rethink and refocus

28 Aug 2017 by Joseph D’Cruz, Senior Advisor on Strategy and Planning, UNDP

Workers from several UN agenciesThe new Strategic Plan will lay out how UNDP will work with sister UN agencies, governments and other partners to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Photo: Devaka Seneviratne/UN Sri Lanka
On a Wednesday morning in late June, I got an email from HQ requesting that come to New York from Bangkok to help with the drafting of UNDP’s new Strategic Plan. I said yes, of course. The email was followed by a phone call asking if I could come as soon as possible. The span of time between my receiving the email and boarding a plane was four days. I keep this in mind as I work with the team crafting the document that will guide UNDP’s work over the next four years. There are many instances when UNDP is called on respond quickly to problems and challenges our clients face. It is part of our DNA that we do so whenever and wherever we are needed. This was demonstrated again when we asked staff all over the world to share their thoughts on our future direction. Without missing a beat, they’ve stepped up to the challenge of helping to quickly rethink our vision and strategy for the organization. … Read more

Who is Latin America and the Caribbean leaving behind?

25 Aug 2017 by Jessica Faieta, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean

An elderly woman seated in a wheelchairBeing a young person, a woman, afro-descendant, indigenous, LGBTI or a person with disabilities affects the opportunities and possibilities of social and economic advancement and access to services in Latin America and the Caribbean, a recent UNDP study shows. Credit: Javier Sagredo / UNDP
Last month, at the High Level Political Forum in New York, more than 40 countries – 11 from Latin America and the Caribbean – shared their progress in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), within the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The meeting has made evident the region’s political will to adopt and accomplish this universal agenda. Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru and Uruguay presented their progress, along with Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela who shared their reports in 2016. The SDGs recognize the virtue of inclusive and sustainable economic growth that respects the environment and strengthens institutional and regulatory frameworks. The agenda seeks to “leave no one behind,” and admits that the market alone does not solve all problems. This is fundamental for our region, the most unequal in the world. During the Forum, the Secretary-General presented his global report on the SDGs, which also shows progress and challenges for Latin America and the Caribbean. … Read more

More than philanthropy: SDGs are a $12 trillion opportunity for the private sector

25 Aug 2017 by Nazila Vali, Programme Analyst Private Sector, UNDP

African woman carrying waterUK-based micro-insurance specialist MicroEnsure, a member of Business Call to Action (BCtA) since 2012, has made an ambitious pledge to insure 5 million additional low-income customers by 2020. Photo: MicroEnsure
Inclusive business practices can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals while opening up new market opportunities for companies The vast majority of the reports, papers or articles about development starts with the numerous complex issues and challenges yet to be solved. Our work - as well as how it is perceived - could change drastically if, instead, we chose to focus on the incredible opportunities yet to be seized. According to the Better Business Better World report by the Business & Sustainable Development Commission, achieving the Global Goals could open up an estimated US$12 trillion in market opportunities in four economic systems: food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and well-being. They represent around 60 percent of the real economy and are critical to delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). … Read more

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