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

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

Making “women’s work” count

22 Aug 2017 by Bharati Sadasivam, Regional Gender Adviser, UNDP in Europe and Central Asia

The “gender chore gap” limits women’s choices, as it impedes their ability to obtain formal education, secure good jobs, and achieve equal pay. Photo: UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and Central Asia
Over the next few months, the 12,000 employees based at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California will complete their move to an extravagant new campus. The “spaceship,” covering 2.8 million square feet, includes a two-story yoga studio, running paths, and even revolutionary pizza boxes that keep slices crisp. One thing it does not have, however, is day-care. When it comes to ignoring the importance of childcare for working parents, Apple is far from unique. And that omission places a powerful drag on parents’ ability to achieve their economic potential, with women suffering the most. … Read more

Powering west Mosul’s water plants

16 Aug 2017 by Hugo de Vries, Stabilization Specialist, Funding Facility for Stabilization, UNDP Iraq

Working with the Government of Iraq, UNDP is contracting local companies and workers to rebuild areas liberated from Islamic State control, including restoring the water plant that supplies half of west Mosul.
Mosul was one of the last major holdouts in Iraq of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who took control of the city in mid-2014. The military campaign to liberate the city started in October 2016 and continued for 10 months. Nearly one million civilians were evacuated during one of the largest managed evacuations in modern history. Mosul was declared fully liberated by the Prime Minister of Iraq in early July, and the difficult work of rebuilding has begun. More than 700,000 civilians are still away from their homes – waiting to restart their lives. Through its Funding Facility for Stabilization, UNDP has been implementing projects in Mosul in close proximity to the front line since late 2016. More than 300 are already under way and hundreds more are starting in coming weeks. In support of the Government of Iraq, the Facility focuses on speed and functionality and is designed to help jumpstart local economies once the fighting stops. Ninety-five percent of all stabilization initiatives are contracted through the local Iraqi private sector. This lowers costs, ensures high levels of local ownership and produces jobs in the areas where they are needed the most. … Read more

Every day is our day

09 Aug 2017 by Myrna Cunningham Kain, President, Center for Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples

Couple of indigenous people9 August is a date to make visible the different realities, histories and struggles of over 370 million men and women from some 5,000 indigenous peoples in the world. Photo: UNDP Peru
When 9 August approaches, as an indigenous woman, I tend to ask myself, what does it mean for there to be an International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on the calendar? If 9 August is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, then what are all the other days? As with many of these celebrations, those of us who belong to the peoples, groups or sectors referred to by these days cannot help but ask this question, whether it is 8 March (International Women’s Day), 1 May (Workers’ Day), or many others. But for indigenous women, every day is our day, because our status as women and as indigenous is permanent. For the men and women of indigenous communities, every day is our day. 9 August is a day about us, but it is particularly relevant for those who still do not see us or do not want to see us, and who refuse to consider us as peoples with all the rights and potential to build a better, just and sustainable world. It is a date to make visible the different realities, histories and struggles of over 370 million men and women from some 5,000 indigenous peoples in the world. … Read more

Collective rights, the global commons, and Our Common Home

08 Aug 2017 by Maryka Paquette, Policy Analyst, Global Forests Initiative, UNDP

The Apiwtxa association uses participatory 3D mapping to demarcate Ashaninka territory and support community-based management of indigenous lands. Photo: Associação Ashaninka do Rio Amônia
This year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples commemorates the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), a monumental step forward in the recognition and protection of indigenous peoples’ individual and collective rights. Representing 370 million people across 90 countries worldwide, indigenous peoples are communities and societies that, due to their strong dependence on natural resources, are closely rooted to earth-based traditions. Indigenous peoples’ oral histories hold generations of accumulated knowledge of the flora and fauna supported by surrounding ecosystems, as well as the principles and values that allow people to adapt and flourish. The many indigenous peoples’ communities today thrive because they respect the forces of nature and the limits to growth and development. As we begin to push planetary boundaries, we would be wise to draw on those values if humankind is to survive the catastrophic impacts of climate change now upon us. … 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

Sustainable development and sustaining peace: Two sides of the same coin

20 Jul 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

Just emerging from decades of conflict, Colombia sees the SDGs as an integral tool in its peacebuilding process. Photo: UNDP/Freya Morales
More than 1.4 billion people, including half of the world’s extremely poor people, live in fragile and conflict-affected settings. The number is forecast to grow by a staggering 82 percent by 2030. Around 244 million people are on the move, with 65 million people in our world being forcibly displaced. You might assume that for countries in the cross hairs of these dynamics, the last thing on anyone’s mind right now is getting on track to achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If you did, think again. Sustainable development is key to sustaining peace and vice versa. Sustaining peace, a concept endorsed by the UN General Assembly and Security Council, focuses on the importance of having a long-term, comprehensive vision in all responses to violent conflict, to end vicious cycles of lapse and relapse. Many countries in complex situations have embraced the SDGs as part of the solution. Afghanistan, for example, is presenting its plans at this year’s UN High-Level Political Forum, the global platform for SDG follow-up and review. At the same forum, Togo, a self-declared ‘fragile’ state, is showcasing its SDG initiatives for the second year running. And Colombia, one of the masterminds of the SDGs, considers them an integral tool in its peacebuilding process. … Read more

3 lessons from Equator Prize 2017 winners

29 Jun 2017 by Martin Sommerschuh, Programme Analyst, Equator Initiative, UNDP

Children planting mangroveThe village of Bang La has been sustainably managing a 192-hectare forest that has shielded the community from devastating disasters and improved livelihoods through increased fish catch. Photo: Community Mangrove Forest Conservation of Baan Bang La
The Equator Prize recognizes innovative community initiatives that promote nature-based solutions for local sustainable development. In the past 15 years, the Equator Initiative has highlighted the successful contributions of indigenous and local communities to the environment, poverty and climate challenges. The initiatives we work with have taught us that action at the local level is essential to achieve sustainable development. Today, the Equator Initiative announces the winners of the Equator Prize 2017, recognizing 15 new Equator Prize winners. They will be honoured at an award ceremony in New York in September. Over the past three months, I have had the privilege of leading the inspiring and sometimes nail-biting selection process – a three-stage exercise in which an independent Technical Advisory Committee chooses the winners. I am sharing here a few key lessons we learned along the way. … Read more