Inclusive electoral processes: A pathway to more peaceful societies

09 Oct 2017 by Magdy Martinez-Soliman,Magdy Martínez-Solimán, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support and Patrick Keuleers, Director of Governance and Peacebuilding, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

Two women at a polling station placing votes in a plastic ballot box. One woman wearing a red and blue plaid coat is holding her vote in hand waiting to place it in the ballot box. A gentleman is in front of the women overseeing the voting proceduresResponding to national requests for enhanced governance capacity, UNDP has supported elections and referenda in over 100 Member States since the early 1990s. Photo:Allan Gichigi
Sustainable Development Goal 16 calls on UN Member States to promote responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making, and to build effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels. While the means to promote participation have diversified rapidly, in particular through the use of new technologies and social media, elections remain the mechanism by which most governments derive legitimacy. Responding to national requests for enhanced governance capacity, UNDP has supported elections and referenda in over 100 Member States since the early 1990s. Efforts focused on developing the capacity of national electoral management bodies; promoting the political participation of those at risk of being left behind; empowering women as electoral administrators, voters and candidates; promoting electoral dialogue between parties; and supporting civic education. Such work is done in close partnership with other UN entities. Noting the inherently political nature of elections as contests between those seeking authority to govern, UNDP works with and under the guidance of the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs (nominated in 1991 by the General Assembly as UN Electoral Focal Point). The Focal Point establishes the parameters for UN engagement in a State’s national elections, in response to either a national request or a mandate from the Security Council or General Assembly to assist in post-conflict elections. … 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

Africa’s defining challenge

07 Aug 2017 by Mohamed Yahya, Regional Programme Coordinator, UNDP Africa

By 2055, the continent’s youth population (aged 15-24), is expected to more than double. Photo: Aude Rossignol/UNDP DRC
Africa has the youngest population in the world, and it’s growing fast. By 2055, the continent’s youth population (aged 15-24), is expected to be more than double (PDF) the 2015 total of 226 million. Yet the continent remains stubbornly inhospitable – politically, economically, and socially – to young people. The success of African governments’ efforts to address this will be the single most important factor determining whether the continent prospers or suffers in the coming decades. A business-as-usual approach would risk exposing Africa not only to economic underperformance and a brain drain, but also to criminality, political and social unrest, and even armed conflict. But Africa can thrive if its governments act now to tap the energy and dynamism of the burgeoning youth population. What is needed is a comprehensive policy agenda, comprising demographically informed measures that address political, cultural, and economic exclusion in a synchronized manner. … Read more

Confronting climate change in South Sudan

29 Jun 2017 by Jean-Luc Stalon, Deputy Country Director, UNDP South Sudan and Biplove Choudhary, Team Leader, Human Development and Inclusive Growth, UNDP South Sudan

Up to 95 percent of the people of South Sudan, or more than 11 million people, depend on climate sensitive sectors, including agriculture, forestry resources and fisheries. Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNDP
The man-made crisis in South Sudan has pushed the country back on multiple fronts, hampering agricultural production, disrupting livelihoods and the coping abilities of communities. These are but few of several compelling reasons as to why climate change risks in South Sudan should be a pressing worry at this point in time for the policy makers and international partners. Despite its having no role in contributing to global warming, the country is at once highly vulnerable and least prepared to address looming threats systematically across sectors. According to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2017, South Sudan is ranked amongst the five worst performing in the world alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Haiti and Liberia. Projections indicate that in South Sudan, global warming will be felt 2 ½ times more than the global average Up to 95 percent of the livelihoods of the people of South Sudan, or more than 11 million people, depend on climate sensitive sectors, including agriculture, forestry resources and fisheries. Anecdotally, seasonal streams are beginning to dry up, affecting fishing communities in several parts of the country. Drier weather spells are also likely to be an underlying driver of increased deforestation and resource-based conflicts between the pastoralists and the farming communities over access to grazing land. … Read more

Land degradation and migration: Will restoring the land keep people at home?

16 Jun 2017 by Phemo Kgomotso, Regional Technical Specialist, Ecosystems and Biodiversity, UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa.

People living in drylands and other marginal landscapes have always lived with uncertainty and livelihood insecurities. Over time, they have employed a myriad of coping strategies, including seasonal migration in search of food, pasture and water. Photo: UNDP Somalia
Would forced migration end, if people knew that they could thrive and survive in their homeland? The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) asks this pertinent question as we observe World Day to Combat Desertification on 17 June, focused on examining the important link between land degradation and migration. A childhood memory that has stayed with me is from 1992, when Botswana, along with many other countries in southern Africa were hit by what the New York Times called 'the worst drought of the 20th Century'. … Read more

Saint-Louis, Senegal: the challenge of sustainability

09 Jun 2017 by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa

Saint-Louis is facing a lot of challenges. Chief among them is the dual threat posed by rising waters and overfishing. Both jeopardize the city’s very survival, its unique heritage and economy. Photo courtesy Eddy Graëff / www.saintlouisdusenegal.com
At the Ocean Conference in New York, we were reminded of two essential truths: life below water, with its rich fauna and flora is precious and the livelihoods that depend on it are in danger. This is especially true along the west coast of Africa, and especially in Senegal, a country where at least two thirds of the population live near coastal areas which are receding at an alarming rate (on average 1 to 2 metres per year) due to rising sea levels and rapid urbanization. Few places illustrate the compounded effects of these predicaments with greater urgency than Saint-Louis, Senegal (also known as Ndar), the island city I am proud to call my hometown. … Read more

Why prepare for disaster recovery?

08 Jun 2017 by Lucile Gingembre, Project Coordinator, Preparedness for Disaster Recovery, UNDP Africa Regional Centre

Families carry personal belonging away from flooded areas in Niamey, Niger: National actors who are trained in post-disaster needs methodology can get together, assess disaster needs and design a long-term comprehensive recovery plan for affected communities. Photo: OCHA/Franck Kuwonu.
When mega-hurricane Katrina hit the US twelve years ago, I remember staring in amazement at my TV screen. I couldn’t understand why the country seemed so unprepared to deal with the catastrophe and get back on its feet. Years later, many lessons have been drawn; the number one take away is: “Make every possible effort to reduce risk”; number two “Have a plan and be ready”. The aftermath of a disaster can be challenging with many stakeholders, competing priorities and limited financial resources. Many questions come to mind: … Read more

The food situation in Ethiopia is also of great concern

30 May 2017 by David Das Neves, South-South Cooperation and Development Effectiveness Officer, UNDP Africa

Refugees in EthiopiaFew people are aware that Ethiopia is the African country that hosts the most refugees: 730 000 have been recorded, chiefly from Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea and Kenya. Photo: IOM
Many people find it hard to imagine that people are still dying from hunger despite all the resources at our disposal. I joined UNDP's office in Addis Ababa after working in Geneva, where people usually do not have to worry about whether or not they will have something to eat that day. In contrast, when you live in Ethiopia, the challenges linked to food security stare you in the face, and it's impossible to ignore the crisis situation that the country is currently grappling with. However, one must be careful when using the term famine - a word with a distinct definition. At this very moment, areas of South Sudan arein a state of famine. Somalia and Nigeria are the two countries in Africa where the risk of famine is imminent. Beyond the continent, Yemen is also on the brink of famine. Though they are not among the countries facing the imminent threat of famine, many other countries are severely affected by food insecurity. The list includes Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Eritrea and Ethiopia. … Read more

Innovation for development in Africa: Focus on the public sector

23 May 2017 by Marc Lepage, UNDP Africa regional innovation expert

Innovation in the public sector often occurs as a pressing need arises for a solution that would deliver improved services with tighter budgets, to citizens with increasingly higher expectations. Photo: UNDP Burundi
Over the years there have been many definitions of innovation, which unfortunately left the concept rather belabored. The reality is that it is a journey that governments and public sectors need to undertake – with the aim to change the lives of citizens. For us at UNDP, it is summed up by three principles: 1) No innovation happens in isolation. Innovation exists within a particular context, and is usually prompted and driven by a the ‘need to do better’. 2) Innovation is not high-tech. Innovation is 5% technology and 95% imagination. At a practical level, it is about analysing pressure points and thinking about creative ways of dealing with that. 3) Steal with pride (and learn). In many instances, what constitutes the best knowledge would not be in our immediate or usual environment. It is highly advantageous to venture outside our comfort zone and explore partnerships for improved performance. Innovation in the public sector is not very different from other sectors. It often occurs as a pressing need arises for a solution that would deliver improved services with tighter budgets, to citizens with increasingly higher expectations. … Read more

Responding to drought must be sustainable, not piecemeal

18 May 2017 by Siddharth Chatterjee, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya

Children fetching water in Dadaab, Kenya. Photo Leonard Odini/UNDP Kenya
Food security in Kenya has deteriorated significantly since the end of 2016. According to UNICEF, nearly 110,000 children under-five need treatment, up from 75,300 in August 2016. Waterholes and rivers have dried up, leading to widespread crop failure and livestock depletion. Malnutrition is widespread among children. In the hardest-hit counties of Turkana, Marsabit and Mandera, a third of children under 5 are acutely malnourished – double the emergency threshold. High malnutrition, when combined with an outbreak of cholera or measles, can lead to a surge in deaths among children and other vulnerable groups. Underfunded response We must urgently respond to this malnutrition crisis through treatment and prevention. Blanket supplementary feeding for young children and pregnant and lactating women can avert a catastrophic spike in mortality in the months ahead. … Read more