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

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

Brussels conference on Syria: Placing resilience at the forefront of the international response

03 Apr 2017 by Moises Venancio, Adviser, UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States

Through its 3RP partnership with UNHCR, UNDP works to build resilience among refugees and host communities in the region. UNHCR photo
The 2016 London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region drew world leaders from around the globe and raised more than US$10 billion dollars in pledges to address one of the largest, longest-running crises in modern memory. “Never has the international community raised so much money on a single day for a single crisis,” the UN Secretary-General observed. Hosted by Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the UK, London brought together OCHA, UNDP and UNHCR, integrating the need for urgent humanitarian with the need for more medium-term resilience approaches to support Syrians and the communities hosting them in surrounding countries and to assist the vulnerable populations inside Syria.. Significantly, it focused on education and livelihoods, yielding multi-year commitments including concessional loans inside Syria, and tried to spearhead a new “compact” with Jordan and Lebanon—with increased international funding aimed at boosting jobs for Syrian refugees. Together, these and other innovations acknowledged the need for a new, more robust approach to address what remains a vast and prolonged crisis. … Read more

Africa’s unique vulnerability to violent extremism

11 Jan 2017 by Mohamed Yahya, Regional Programme Coordinator, UNDP Africa

Africa bears the brunt of lives lost, economies ruined, and relationships fractured by terrorism. Stir in a large and growing cohort of unemployed and digitally connected youth, and the continent offers ideal conditions for mayhem. Photo: UNDP
Africa bears the brunt of lives lost, economies ruined, and relationships fractured by terrorism. It is the continent where al-Qaeda launched its war against the United States in 1998, by bombing the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; where Boko Haram kidnapped 276 Nigerian schoolgirls in 2014; and where 147 students were killed in their sleep at Kenya’s Garissa University in 2015. While these attacks did garner the world’s attention, most people do not realize that, in the past five years alone, 33,000 people have died in terrorism-related violence in Africa. Violent extremism and groups espousing it are threatening to reverse Africa’s development gains not only in the near term, but also for decades to come. African countries are particularly vulnerable to violent ideologues, owing to the prevalence of weak institutions and ungoverned territory where extremist groups can germinate. Add to this the mismanagement of ethnic and religious diversity, stir in a large and growing cohort of unemployed and digitally connected youth, and the continent offers ideal conditions for mayhem. Emulating countries elsewhere, African governments have responded to violent extremism primarily by putting “hard” security first. But this strategy has not reduced extremist groups’ potency or limited their reach. In fact, there is evidence that an exclusively military response can be a waste of resources, or even do more harm than good. What is missing is a deeper examination of root causes, particularly underlying development challenges. … Read more

Sport for SDGs: A journey from Khartoum to Rio de Janeiro

19 Aug 2016 by Saeed Zaki, Media and Multimedia Associate, UNDP Sudan

Sudanese athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo: UNDP Sudan
Sport is usually not the first thought that comes to mind when talking about achieving sustainable development. Nonetheless, sport has been an instrumental tool in the promotion of peace and development for many years and I was able to witness it for myself at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since the inception of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), sport has been essential in implementing the MDGs, it is also recognized by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which emphasizes “the growing contribution of sport […] in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communitie" … Read more

In high-risk areas, UNDP-Japan partnership delivers on human security

26 May 2016 by Mitsuaki Mizuno, Special Advisor, Japan Unit, Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, UNDP

The Tokyo League uses sports to encourage Palestinian youth in the face of conflict and other hardships. Japanese Ambassador for Palestinian Affairs Takeshi Okubo attended the Tokyo League table tennis championships in Gaza. The league uses sports to encourage Palestinian youth in the face of conflict and other hardships. Photo: Shareef Sarhan/UNDP PAPP
I’ll never forget watching the final match of the Tokyo League volleyball tournament. It was heart-warming to see the students, wearing their scarves known as Hijab, playing the game with delight, their eyes shining with joy. It seemed like a memorable experience also for the team, who have no opportunity to explore the world beyond the wall. As you might have guessed by now, the Tokyo League doesn’t play in Japan. The league, which began as an initiative of the Japanese Ambassador for Palestinian Affairs, Takeshi Okubo, competes 9,000 miles away in Gaza. … Read more

Building a better future for Syrians in Turkey

23 May 2016 by Kamal Malhotra, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Turkey

Syrian refugees crossing into TurkeySyrian Kurdish refugees cross into Turkey from Syria, near the town of Kobani. The war that erupted in Syria in 2011 has propelled it into becoming the world’s single largest driver of displacement. Photo: I. Prickett/UNHCR
As thousands leave Syria for safer lands, images of white tents and perilous boat journeys have flooded the world’s media. But there’s another side to this story. In Turkey, the host of this week’s World Humanitarian Summit, only about 10 percent of the approximately 2.75 million displaced people from Syria live in refugee camps. The rest live in towns and cities like many of us. Across the country’s southeast, Syrians are silently trying to make a living and blend in. … Read more

Leave no one and no city behind

02 May 2016 by Hanne Kristoffersen, Crisis Governance Specialist, UNDP

By Tammam Azzam, Freedom Graffiti II.By Tammam Azzam, Freedom Graffiti II
The world has witnessed rapid and often unplanned urban growth. Cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost. Between now and 2030, the world’s urban population is projected to grow by 1.5 billion people. More than 90 percent of that urban growth will occur in areas located in the developing world, mostly in Africa and Asia. Urbanization and cities present opportunities for enhancing the economic prospects of countries and improving the lives of many. But rapid urbanization and rapidly expanding cities also pose challenges, especially to countries already grappling with a range of development priorities. Frequently, the urbanization process is poorly managed, resulting in inequitable, exclusionary and fragmented cities with marginalized populations. This can fuel an increased risk of violence. … 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

If prevention is the best cure, we have to do better in fragile states

04 Apr 2016 by Claire Leigh, Advisor, New Deal Implementation Support, Strategic Policy Unit, UNDP

Justice and security are central to crisis recovery in fragile countries. In Somaliland, Sexual Assault Referral Centres have been established with UNDP’s support. Photo: UNDP Somalia
Not all humanitarian crises can be anticipated or prevented, but man-made crises involving conflict and state failure can be and must be. This puts states affected by conflict and fragility front and centre of discussions leading up to the World Humanitarian Summit in May. This week, the 5th Global Meeting of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding in Stockholm will emphasize the connection between revitalising the fragile states agenda and addressing the recent surge in humanitarian crises. In 2011, the International Dialogue oversaw the adoption of the New Deal For Engagement In Fragile States, a landmark international framework signed by over 40 major bilateral and multilateral agencies and countries. … Read more