Our Perspective

April 2014

Beyond the street protests: Youth, women and democracy in Latin America

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Of the 600 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 26 percent are aged 15 to 29. Photo: UNDP/Peru

Recently we invited three young women parliamentarians from Latin America and the Caribbean to join a discussion in Salamanca, Spain, on young women’s political participation in the region. That’s what Paola Pabón from Ecuador, Silvia Alejandrina Castro from El Salvador and Gabriela Montaño from Bolivia have in common. They are among the very few women in parliaments and they are young: they broke a double glass ceiling. Of the 600 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 26 percent are aged 15 to 29. This is a unique opportunity for the region’s development and for its present and future governance. Even though the average regional rate of women in parliament is 25 percent, higher than the global average, a closer look shows that women still lag behind. Our recent survey of 25 parliaments in Latin America and the Caribbean shows a very low representation of youth in the region’s parliaments – especially those of African or indigenous descent. Only 2.7 percent of male parliamentarians in the region and 1.3 percent of women MPs were under 30 years old. Our regional Human Development Reports have shown that young people have enormous potential as agents of change. But despite Latin... Read more

From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals

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The UN has led consultations on a new development agenda that takes voices from all its member states into consideration. (Photo: UNDP Thailand)

The world has undergone significant change since the launching of the Millennium Declaration – a declaration capable of galvanizing political will and enabling agreement on the international development agenda as defined by eight objectives. The time has now come to examine and renew true political commitments. As part of this process, the UN has led reflection and debate to define a new agenda for the “Future We Want for All"  initiative based on two guiding principles: to accelerate and fulfill of the Millennium Declaration’s tasks, and also to incorporate the new challenges posed by our unique and complex world based on lessons learnt during the past 14 years. What role can the international community play within this context? Finish what has been started. If we take stock of what has happened during these 14 years, much progress has been made, particularly in reducing extreme poverty, creating universal access to primary education, fighting malaria and improving access to drinking water. As various UN reports have highlighted, several countries have made significant strides forward on the MDGs, and some of the most important successes in recent years have occurred in the poorest countries. However, new challenges appear on the horizon. We need a... Read more

The way forward for the UN: we need to focus more on peace and stability

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Women carrying placards ask for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the Secretary General's visit. Photo: Eskinder Debebe/UN Photos

How the international community, including the United Nations, approaches development may be about to change. In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals, a set of targets that mark major development milestones, are set to expire and a next generation of goals will take their place. However, what these new goals, commonly referred to as the Sustainable Development Goals, will entail is still up for debate. Member States at the United Nations will have ample opportunity to build and then agree upon a new framework for the development agenda. One important part of the process will be the President of the General Assembly's Thematic Debate on Ensuring Peaceful Societies on 24-25 April. This debate offers governments around the world the opportunity to understand why peace and security should be at the centre of the agenda and a separate goal of its own right. Without peace there can be no secure basis for development. It is well known that countries affected by conflict are also affected by poverty and have so far failed to achieve most -- if any -- of the MDGs. According to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation's 2014 Report on Fragile States, countries affected by conflict account for one-third... Read more

To address health challenges, we must pay attention to neglected tropical diseases

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(Photo: UNDP Zimbabwe)

TB, Malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality globally. They are diseases of poverty mostly prevalent among disadvantaged communities with high levels of inequality. In 2012, TB claimed the lives of 1.3 million people, 95 of whom lived in low and middle income Countries (LMICs). In the same year, more than 600,000 lives were lost to malaria, the vast majority of them young African children. Tropical diseases, although not always fatal, can lead to delayed growth in children, impaired cognition and memory, malnutrition, organ damage, blindness, disfigurement and permanent disability. The inter-connected challenges of innovation and access The term “neglected” says it all. While NTDs account for 11.4 percent of the global disease burden, the investment in developing diagnostics, medicines and vaccines to treat them is disproportionately low. Of the 1,556 new medicines approved between 1975 and 2004, only 1.3 percent were specifically developed for tropical diseases and TB. However, even as the number of new health technologies coming to market increases slowly, the capacity in several LMICs to deliver these products to patients in need remains very weak.  Health systems need to be strengthened so that these medicines can be delivered and... Read more

Fighting corruption and urban inequality

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Medellín, Colombia. (Photo: UN Habitat)

Today, the majority of the world’s population lives in cities. This poses great challenges but also brings big opportunities. With good management, cities can work as engines of growth and incubators for innovation. They can also serve as job providers, build sustainability and fight inequality. On the other hand, corrupt cities could also transfer resources from the public to the elites, and generally from the poor to the rich, worsening urban inequity. How can we thus ensure that urban governance delivers resources and services in a transparent, accountable way? To answer this question and others, two weeks ago UNDP’s Global Anti-corruption Initiative, UNDP Colombia and the Bogota Chamber of Commerce organized a policy dialogue at the 7th World Urban Forum (WUF7) in the city of Medellín, Colombia. The event, which took place in a traditional Maloca (a long house used by the natives of the Amazon as the centre of the village government) brought together government representatives, mayors, academics, the private sector, and UN officials to discuss how cities can fight corruption more efficiently to contribute to urban equity. One takeaway from the dialogue was that “the end cannot justify the means.” As long as corruption prevails, sustainable development of cities... Read more

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