Our Perspective

March 2014

Empowering the world’s largest generation of youth | Magdy Martínez-Solimán

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Arab youth volunteering in Syria. (Photo: UNDP)

Our world has 1.8 billion young people. One third of them live in countries that have suffered a violent conflict, and 75 million are unemployed. It is not time for business as usual, and as UNDP is launching its first global Youth Strategy, “Empowered Youth, Sustainable Future," in Tunis, working with young people, particularly those who are in need, is indispensable if we are to achieve sustainable human development. In the Post-2015 Consultations, youth are demanding education, jobs, honest and responsive governments, and participation in decision-making; they have innovative ideas and are willing to engage, even to take risks for the causes they believe in. Young voices not only deserve to be heard — young people need to be listened to and their views must count. Doors need to open up.   UNDP is determined to play its part by strengthening its cooperation with young women and men themselves, their own organisations, other partners in the UN system, governments, civil society organizations, academia and the private sector. In a recent study, we showed how the political representation is systematically much older, in all regions of the world, than the society it represents and rules. The age gap needs to be reduced... Read more

The only way to make real progress against poverty and inequality | Antonio Vigilante

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Fish farmers in rural Cambodia adapt to climate change thanks to a project funded by the European Commission. (Photo: Alejandro Boza/UNDP Cambodia)

This year marks the 10th anniversary of UNDP’s partnership with the European Union. This relationship was forged based on the reality that the only way to make real progress in the fight against poverty and inequality is through coordinated multilateralism – and it has.   In the last decade, the EU has provided 3.3 billion Euros to UNDP activities in 115 countries, bringing about tangible results: • In Pakistan, the UNDP-EU partnership supported about 5.5 million people to rehabilitate 4,000 villages after the 2005 earthquake and the 2010 floods. Temporary employment benefitted 1.3 million people, 40 percent of which were women. • Elections in 53 countries have been supported by the partnership • 28 countries have been helped to better prepare for natural disasters. • Within the framework of the Poverty Environment Initiative, which supports 24 countries across several regions, the partnership has helped countries incorporate poverty-environment linkages into national development planning. • In the area of climate change, the partnership supports 25 countries to carry out nationally driven climate-change mitigation actions. One of the key factors that make the partnership effective is that the cooperation takes place at multiple levels: policy, advocacy, knowledge-sharing and programmes, each feeding and complementing one... Read more

Innovating for the Rule of Law? | A. H. Monjurul Kabir

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The 'My World, My Georgia' campaign used micro-narratives as a new way to collect and analyze data. Photo: UNDP in Georgia

Law students and legal researchers from the University of Oxford asked me recently whether the rule of law agenda could be more innovative, and I do believe that we need a fundamental transformation in the way we do our rule of law and governance work at all levels. There are many barriers to accessing justice and ensuring rule of law, especially where there are high levels of poverty, exclusion, marginalization and insecurity. Laws and justice institutions – formal and informal – may be biased or discriminatory. Justice and security systems may be ineffective, slow, and untrustworthy. People may lack knowledge about their rights. There may be a culture of impunity for criminal acts. Despite all these, more can be done to ensure that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups benefit from rule of law, legal empowerment and access to justice, which expand their opportunities and choices. Doing more with less is the challenge here. Our traditional structures, systems and processes are proving inadequate to deal with new development challenges. Our justice system is not the most transparent or data-friendly and bringing information to light is no easy task. We are in need of new ideas, resources and unconventional ways of collecting and... Read more

How to enhance the skills of girls, boys and youth | Martín Fuentes

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The Human Development Report Panama highlighted a number of key socio-emotional skills that must be strengthened by parents and families Photo: UNDP Panama

The 2014 Human Development Report Panama discusses early childhood, youth and formation of life skills. This report examines difficult themes, such as job training, family and education, and whether young people study and/or work. One obvious way to approach life skills in many countries in the region would be to focus on job training, either because the productive sectors require a permanent supply of qualified personnel or because a country is strongly committed to a knowledge-based economy. But concern about job training is important but short-sighted; it is more important to train people who are also motivated to work. Indeed, although applied skills are easier to learn, many employers recognize that it is more important to hire individuals who are creative and take initiative, difficult skills to learn. Therefore, it is important to provide good training in the basic skills of "learning how to learn,” — rather than having a wealth of information, it is more important to know what to look for and where, and to be capable of discerning what is relevant. However, beyond seeing training as basic building blocks with which to construct something more complex, there are a number of key socio-emotional skills that cannot be strengthened... Read more

How can advocacy NGOs become more innovative? Your thoughts, please | Duncan Green

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The manager of a milk-chilling centre in India, part of a collaboration between UNDP India and the IKEA Foundation launched in 2009 to help empower women socially, economically and politically. (Photo: Graham Crouch/UNDP)

Innovation. Who could be against it? Not even Kim Jong Un, apparently. People working on aid and development spend an increasing time discussing it – what is it? How do we get more of it? Who is any good at it? Innovation Tourette’s is everywhere. Most of that discussion takes place in areas such as programming (what we do on the ground) or internal management (the unquenchable urge to restructure), drawing on innovation thinking in the private sector, government and academia. But another (increasingly important) area of our work – advocacy/influencing – feels a bit absent from the innovation circus, so I’ve been asked to crowdsource a few ideas. Help me out here. In advocacy, we see plenty of innovation already, in new themes (e.g. a range of tax campaigns in the wake of the financial crisis) and players (online outfits such as Avaaz and change.org). But we also see a fair amount of business as usual: the cycle of policy papers, recommendations, lobby meetings, media work and consultations grinds on, not always to great effect. At a higher level, there is lots of really innovative thinking going on about how to operate in complex systems, but that tends to be... Read more

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