It takes a community to end violence against women

image
UNDP Serbia is working towards creating a social and institutional environment that will contribute to reducing violence against women in the country. Photo: UNDP Serbia

We are increasingly aware that preventing gender-based violence and protecting survivors requires the involvement of the entire society. Neighbors, friends and family, school systems and media professionals are all responsible for detecting, denouncing and publically condemning violence against women. An African proverb says: “It takes a village to raise a child.” To paraphrase: “It takes a community to end violence against women.” In Serbia, UN organizations supported the introduction of a multisectoral service delivery model in 21 towns and sponsored specialized training so that police, healthcare and social workers, judicial officials and civil society groups could understand their roles and better work together in assisting survivors of violence.  “A battered woman requested medical assistance for injuries several times in a local healthcare center,” explained a participant in the training. “We suspected she’d been abused by her partner, but she never admitted to it. Police intervened to stop violence on three occasions, but each time she would appeal to her right not to testify against her husband. Charges against him would be dropped and she would come back to the healthcare center soon enough.” This illustrates the institutional inability to respond to a perceived injustice and human rights violation. During the trainings,... Read more

UNDP and the Global Environment Facility: Partnership for Sustainable Development

image
Women prepare fish using a solar-powered oven as part of a project funded by GEF's Small Grants Programme. Photo: UNDP Mauritania.

Delegates from 183 countries, intergovernmental organizations and civil society organizations are meeting this week in Mexico to participate in the Fifth Assembly of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).  The GEF Assembly, the governing body of the GEF partnership, is a landmark event for the GEF, occurring every four years.  UNDP is one of the founding implementing agencies of the GEF, a partnership of governments, implementing agencies and civil society that has provided over US $12.5 billion in grants for 3,690 projects in 165 countries to address global environmental challenges.  Through its Small Grants Programme (SGP) implemented by UNDP, the GEF has also made more than 16,000 small grants directly to civil society and community-based organizations, totaling US $653.2 million.  UNDP has helped over 120 countries in the last four years alone to access more than US $1.9 billion from GEF-managed funds and associated cost sharing to address environmental challenges for sustainable development.  UNDP believes that the GEF is a critical instrument for financing sustainable development in developing countries.  UNDP’s delegation to the GEF Assembly will be advocating our belief that environmental sustainability is critical to poverty eradication, enhanced resilience and inclusive and sustainable growth. This is reflected in the areas of... Read more

The nightmare of violence against women, seen up close

image
There must be increased public awareness and political will and resources for preventing and ending all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world. Photo: UNDP Peru

Nothing raises awareness of violence against women more than experiencing this nightmare first-hand. We always think these things happen to others, but the data indicate such situations are common, albeit in different forms and degrees of cruelty. According to data from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), one in four women in the region experiences some violence from her partner. This is also the leading cause of death worldwide for women ages 15 to 49 -- ahead of cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, “Convention of Belem do Pará.” How much progress has been made since then? Less than one third of countries in the region (28 percent) have a specific national plan to respond to this issue, and most (78 percent) approach it tangentially in other plans or security policies. This has been shown by the analysis we carried out in 32 countries in the region, which led to the study “States' Commitment: plans and policies to eradicate violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean.” The result of the study shows there is no clear... Read more

Rule of Law and quality public services are key enablers of development

image
A worker tallies the trucks at the Santo Nino dump site in Tacloban, Philippines. (Photo: Lesley Wright/UNDP Philippines)

It is no longer enough for individuals to just receive services. It is equally, if not more important, to pay attention to service quality, as well as the quality of communication between public service providers and the people they serve. To bridge the knowledge gap on how to situate, understand and act on Rule of Law challenges in public administration, we developed a self-assessment tool for governments, in cooperation with the Swedish Folke Bernadotte Academy  . This measurement tool uses six clearly defined Rule of Law principles: legality, accessibility, transparency, the right to be heard, the right to appeal, and accountability. The tool assesses ‘the governance of service delivery’, using a rights-based perspective to analyze gaps between the offer– which services people should be entitled to and under which conditions – and the delivery – what people receive in reality and how these services are delivered. Piloted in three countries – the Philippines, Ukraine and Sierra Leone – the tool focuses on selected administrative processes and services affecting the rights, liberties or interests of private persons, including the private sector. The ultimate aim of the assessment is to ensure that action is initiated at the appropriate level to address the weaknesses... Read more

Reintegrating the displaced is key to tackling inequality

image
A woman rides a donkey with her children in Zam Zam camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP), North Darfur. Since the beginning of this year, 200,000 people were forced to flee their homes due to continued violence in Darfur. Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran/UN

Over 44 million people around the world today are displaced from their homes by conflicts and political instability. In places like Colombia, Somalia, or Sri Lanka, refugees often face the psychological trauma of having to run for their lives, losing their homes, families, social networks and jobs in exchange for an insecure future. Displacement also comes at a high cost to host communities, which face increased competition for jobs, water, education, health care and other resources and services. Unmanaged, this can result in heighted risk to the sustainable development of host communities and may even fuel local conflicts. I was recently in Copenhagen co-chairing a meeting with UNHCR and the governments of Colombia and Denmark, where we discussed the challenge of reintegrating the displaced. All participants agreed to work together under the banner of Solutions Alliance – Ending Displacement Together. Reintegration can present an important development opportunity. The influx of refugees into a host village can offer a special chance, for improving wells, fixing infrastructure and expanding schools. It is vital to ensure the rule of law and security, and foster national ownership, trust and accountability. In countries like Lebanon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Yemen, we are undertaking... Read more

From science-fiction to reality: A world without electrical power

image
Universal access to modern energy services is achievable by 2030. There are no fundamental technical barriers, and proven and innovative solutions exist.

This week is the season 2 finale of “Revolution”, an American science fiction television series that takes place 15 years after the start of a worldwide, permanent electrical-power blackout.  Now you may wonder why this is the start of a UNDP blog. Let me elaborate: Far from the entertainment industry and the fictional world depicted in this drama series, a world without access to energy is a reality for 1.3 billion people worldwide who are without electricity and for 2.6 billion living without clean cooking facilities. Energy affects all aspects of our livelihood, from the way we prepare our food and keep our homes warm to our education, health, and environment.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, close to 80% of people still use wood, animal waste, charcoal and other pollution-causing fuels to cook their food and heat their homes. In 2012 alone, 4.3 million people died because of indoor air pollution due to these types of fuels… more than those killed by malaria and HIV/AIDs combined.  In India, for the 25% of the population who lives without electricity, access to energy means more children can go to school and study after dark, more women can invest in starting up a business or taking... Read more

Women’s Parliamentary Caucuses as agents of change

image
Meeting of a female community organization in the district of Haripur, Pakistan. Photo: UNDP in Pakistan

Nation-building processes cannot work and development goals cannot be achieved if women are denied meaningful political participation. To ensure this, Pakistan’s Parliament introduced in 2002 a 17 percent gender quota in all legislative houses. But despite accounting for 22 percent of the federal parliament, from 2002 to 2007, women could not achieve much in terms of lawmaking except the Women’s Protection Act. In the subsequent mandate of 2008-2013, however, women made more progress, overseeing policy implementation and raising important issues in all Houses. Gender quotas alone, as global experience has shown, cannot transform the quality of women’s representation. They won’t work unless they are adapted into women’s direct representation, in which more women would win elections rather than taking up reserved seats. Compared to around 13 women in 2002, 16 women won general seats in 2008, while only 8 won National Assembly seats in 2013.  This downward trend reflects the shrinking space for women in the electoral process, despite a numerically larger parliamentary presence. Urgent measures are needed to create a level playing field for women in the electoral process. In 2002, women parliamentarians mostly worked in isolation, without enough sharing of inter- and intra-party experiences. But by 2008 they had... Read more

Can Small Island Developing States wait for global development goals to be set?

image
The UNDP Dominican Republic office works towards reducing risk and vulnerability and increasing capacity to reduce the adverse effects of disasters and ensure sustainable development. Photo: R. D. Emiliano Larizza for UNDP

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have been, and still are, facing major challenges in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs):  low growth, high unemployment, aging population, brain drain, high debt levels, small carrying capacities and extreme exposure to the effects of climate change.   One example is Saint Maarten, a small island in the Dutch Antilles, which every week welcomes more tourists arriving on cruise ships than it has inhabitants.  As Saint Maarten is highly dependent on tourism, maintaining and protecting the natural environment is essential to its socio-economic wellbeing. The tourist industry accounts for 80 percent of the island’s GDP. Reef tourism and fishing are important attractions. But the development world’s attention is now being set on the post-2015 agenda and the proposal for a new set of global goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will emerge with their accompanying targets this September at the UN General Assembly. This new agenda is anchored on the understanding that you can’t have development without simultaneously caring for its social, economic and environmental dimensions.   For Saint Maarten, sustainable development is not just a matter of negotiations at UN Headquarters, it is a matter of immediate action.  The country, aware of this... Read more

In Africa, grassroots women tackle climate change

image
Organic vegetables grown for sale by members of the Gatundu Mwirutiri Women Cooperative in Kenya. Photo: UNDP in Kenya

Small, portable stoves that require only one piece of wood to prepare a meal, bio-gas digesters that turn cow dung into gas for cooking, and drip irrigation techniques to save water were among innovations shared by grassroots women leaders from Africa during a recent policy dialogue and learning exchange in Nairobi on building resilience to combat climate change and disaster.   Organized by UNDP, Huairou Commission and GROOTS Kenya, the event brought together grassroots women leaders from 11 countries with policy makers from throughout Africa and representatives from the international community. Throughout the three-day workshop, it became evident that grassroots women in communities in Africa are not waiting to be told how to cope with climate challenges, but are initiating, adapting and sharing innovations themselves. “We have seen women mobilizing themselves before being mobilized,” said Isaac Kabongo, executive director of the Ecological Christian Organization in Uganda.  “Women are becoming the drivers of change in the communities in which they live, and are showing that they are very much willing to work together with all partners and institutions to move forward on the journey to resilience.” The need for reliable, sustainable energy was a cross-cutting, common need, and was voiced by women... Read more

Development aid: where to next?

image
The first High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation launched 38 new initiatives by government, business, private foundations and civil society in Mexico last month. Photo: AGCED Mexico

Last month some 1500 people from over 130 countries gathered in Mexico City for the latest international jamboree on development aid. The so-called ‘Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation’ is an OECD/UNDP-led effort which aims to improve aid effectiveness by encouraging better partnerships between aid donors and aid recipients, as well as the myriad private-sector actors now involved in the international development business. Non-governmental organisations were somewhat skeptical as to what the event would achieve (is it yet another ‘development gabfest’? asked Oxfam); governments were decidedly more upbeat. There was good news the week before the conference when the OECD announced that development aid had reached its highest level ever (in absolute terms) at almost US$135 billion. To be fair, the Global Partnership has to confront some really tough questions. Do some countries still need development aid? Does aid really work that well? And what is ‘aid’ anyway? Over the last decade, the developing world has dominated global economic growth. There are now 103 middle-income countries and the number (happily) continues to rise.  Last year, UNDP’s Human Development Report (the Rise of the South) reported that, for the first time in 150 years, the combined output of the developing world’s three... Read more

Haiyan six months on: A promising start on the long road to recovery

image
Typhoon Haiyan affected more than 142,000 fishermen, with some areas losing 95 percent of their commercial boats and equipment. Photo: UNDP in the Philippines

Six months after one of the strongest tropical storms ever recorded on earth slammed into the Philippines last November, killing more than 6,200 people and displacing over 4 million, the physical signs of recovery are increasingly visible. Roads have been cleared, over 120,000 households have received help to rebuild, and nearly all the damaged schools and hospitals have re-opened. While the costs of the disaster are better understood after six months, the human suffering continues to take its toll. People who were already tackling extreme poverty, including many living in the Eastern Visayas region, now face a future without the security of their farms, employment opportunities, or long-term economic prospects. Rebuilding these communities could span a decade or more. While the response of the international community to the immediate emergency has been generous, post-disaster recovery requires long term engagement. Recovery is about more than the vital task of building homes and structures. It is also about building greater resilience to natural hazards. The Philippines, battered by an average of 20 large-scale storms a year, is no exception. Investments in preparedness for these events and adaptation to ongoing risks are vital. Improved infrastructure design, for example, can help save lives and protect... Read more

Friendly clinics for sexual diversity

image
LBGT people aspire to receive the same health, education, or employment services as all of us. Photo: UNDP in Colombia

In recent years, Argentinian society has made significant progress as relates to the full exercise of citizens’ rights. However, sexually diverse groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LBGT) people still face discriminatory situations affecting dramatically their quality of life. Access to free public health services for LGBTs has always been problematic in Argentina. At UNDP, we consider that the system’s shortcomings must be countered by concrete initiatives - such as the Friendly Clinics for Sexual Diversity. Financed by our Regional Office, the project involves setting up dedicated areas for LGBTs as part of the public health service. These areas are supervised through joint action by social organizations, local HIV programs and Public Hospital Services. A joint task force involving civil society organizations and a health team working at the Public Hospital has been established to raise awareness of the Friendly Clinics, and to encourage and accompany regular visits by members of the diversity groups accessing health care. The health team provides services such as medical care, counseling   and diagnosis of HIV and other STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), psychosocial support and schedules specific treatments required by the patients. To get this proposal off the ground,we surveyed 11 provinces across the... Read more

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

image
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

image
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

image
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

image
(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

image
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

A sustainable future for all: The inequality and exclusion challenge

image
Woman at work in the field in Jeypore village, India. Many people are excluded from development because of their gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability or poverty. The effects of such exclusion are staggering, deepening inequality across the world. (photo: Prashanth Vishwanathan/ UNDP India)

Over the past few decades, the world as a whole has experienced unprecedented progress, coupled with complex development challenges. Ending poverty remains an unfinished agenda, societies are growing increasingly unequal and too many people continue to be left behind. One percent of the global population now owns nearly half of the world’s wealth. Inequality and exclusion are major impediments to human progress, already threatening both global security and social stability within countries. It is thus not surprising that people, and in particular young men and women, are amplifying their frustrations with a world that remains deeply unfair. Indeed, in the global “MY World” survey, people consistently ranked “honest and responsive government” among their highest priorities. Hence, for development to be sustainable – economically, socially and environmentally – and equitable (from a human rights perspective), a new approach is needed that deals as much with the often sensitive political and governance aspects of the questions, as with the technical answers and solutions. Aspiring for such a development outcome does not imply the promotion of a one-size-fits-all model of governance. The real challenge in integrating governance into the post-2015 development framework is no longer convincing stakeholders of its importance, but rather translating this multi-dimensional... Read more

Toward a proposal for shared parenthood

image
Women still provide most housework and family care in Latin America and the Carribbean. (Photo: Mauricio Martínez/UNDP El Salvador)

In the past decade in Latin America and the Caribbean, around 22.8 million women joined the labour market. This advancement has contributed to a labour force today with more than 100 million women. Nevertheless, their labour-force contribution in urban areas (52.6 percent) is still lower than that of men (79.6 percent), and women are still working in low-quality jobs, with negative consequences on their income level and their potential for development. Housework and family care that women still fundamentally provide help explain this. Two main principles underlie the resistance to re-organizing the time men and women dedicate to working in the market and in households. First, men are strongly identified with paid work and women with reproductive work. Second, due to the traditional organization of productive work, there are obstacles to men’s greater commitment to caretaking. Labour laws in the region were established for male workers in an industrial sector working full-time and who are responsible for the family’s financial support; they do not indicate conciliation provisions because they do not consider men responsible for housework and caretaking. The main advancement in labour legislation in the region promoting shared caretaking has been the recognition of the father's right to participate in... Read more

Women’s empowerment and corruption prevention can go hand-in-hand

image
A woman in India with a state-allotted bicycle that had been denied her without explanation. UNDP helped members of her community learn about their legal rights, empowering them to secure their entitlements, like bicycles. (Photo: Shubhangi Singh/UNDP India)

A recent discussion at the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women initiated by UNDP and partners highlighted what an asset grass-roots women’s organisations can be in the fight against corruption in their communities. The discussion was based on country stories about how women-led strategies strengthened transparency and accountability, leading to prevention of corruption. By way of background, UNDP funds and supports a programme in partnership with the Huairou Commission (a global network of grassroots women’s organisations) that so far has mobilized 2,300 community members and trained more than 500 people on social accountability strategies in Brazil, Nepal, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Uganda. Not only did women lead anti-corruption initiatives, their involvement also reaped important gender equality gains. For example, in less than a year, the programme yielded results that speak for themselves: in the town of Jinja in Uganda, because of women’s collective fight for land rights, 35 women received land deeds in their names, and 120 women are in the process of obtaining these deeds. In Brazil, since the start of the programme, 3,000 land deeds were granted to women as rightful owners. Corruption is not gender-neutral. For example, in many developing countries, women are often... Read more