Protecting and ensuring space for civil society

14 Sep 2015 by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, New York

 For an individual to fully belong to and be recognized in society they must have the most basic legal documentation to which they are entitled by law. Sri Lankans register for birth certificates and National Identiy Cards (NIC) at a mobile legal aid clinic. Photo: UNDP in Sri Lanka
This year’s theme for the International Day of Democracy, “Making Space for Civil Society”, is extremely timely. Reports by many civil society organisations and networks – many of which are echoed in the recently released State of Civil Society Report 2015 by CIVICUS – point to the worrying number of at least 96 countries where serious threats to civic freedoms were reported in 2014. The scale and the depth of these threats is of great concern. I agree with UNDP’s Civil Society Advisory Committee, whose “first and foremost concern is the shrinking legal, policy and participatory space for civil society activists and organizations, in an increasing number of countries across regions and political regimes.” While it was once true that countries in crisis and post-conflict periods are the ones where civil societies have been most at risk, we now see similar threats spreading across a range of development contexts. … Read more

Celebrating the world's indigenous peoples, declaring their rights

08 Aug 2015 by Patrick Keuleers, Director, Governance and Peacebuilding, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

indigenous manAn indigenous man at the Copán Ruinas Archaeological Site, Museum of Maya Sculpture in Honduras. Around the world, discrimination and structural inequalities disproportionately affect indigenous peoples. Photo: UN
The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples celebrates the wealth and variety of indigenous cultures and the rights, achievements, and contributions of indigenous peoples worldwide. These rights are enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), but are not always upheld. There are more than 370 million Indigenous peoples living in some 90 countries. It is estimated that they constitute 15 percent of the world’s poor, and one third of the 900 million people living in extreme poverty in rural areas. In vast numbers, indigenous peoples live in some of the world's most resource rich areas, but their own forms of conservation and resource management have been historically undervalued. … Read more

Haiti at a turning point

16 Jul 2015 by Hervé Ladsous and Jessica Faieta

Elections 2011 in Haiti.Elections in 2011 in Haiti, where there has been significant progress in restoring confidence in the political process. Photo: UNDP Haiti
Haiti will reach a major historic milestone this summer. Starting 9 August, some six million Haitians will choose 1,280 representatives for local administrations, 140 mayors, 139 Parliamentarians and finally, their President, in several rounds of electoral processes that could last until the end of the year. It has not been easy to arrive at this moment. The Haitian people have been waiting three years for these elections. A Parliament has been absent since January. Haiti has made significant strides to restore confidence in the political process and to hold these elections on time. The electoral council, appointed in January, has been impressive in taking on several challenging technical, logistical and financial tasks aiming to ensure a credible, inclusive and transparent process. … Read more

Eleven countries, one commitment:
Youth inclusion

10 Jul 2015 by Pablo Gago,Specialist, Youth and Civic Engagement, UNDP Regional Centre in Panama

YouthMore than 160 million Latin American and Caribbean youth are fighting against the inequality between different generations in public policy. Photo: UNDP El Salvador
In Latin America and the Caribbean, there is approximately a 50 percent deficit in the share of public spending on youth in relation to other age groups, considering their demographic weight and the concept of evenly distributed spending. This is not consistent with the fact that one in four people in the region is between 15 and 29 years old. More than 160 million youth are struggling to end the inequality between different generations in public policy. In order to boost investment in youth and their political participation and inclusion, last month we launched the Iber-American Programme, IberJóvenes, which will initially be implemented in 11 countries. … Read more

Unlocking the potential of Mali’s youth

08 Jul 2015 by Jean-Luc Stalon, Deputy Country Director of UNDP in Mali

Youth in Mali. Credit: Harandane Dicko / UNDP in Mali
With its youthful population and track record of civil crises, Mali is the perfect case study on the relationship between youth and stability. Mali’s fertility rate is second only to Niger’s. Yet in a country that doesn’t provide jobs, opportunities for decision-making and a sense of purpose, this youth bulge is more likely to be a powerful demographic time bomb rather than a driver of economic growth. … Read more

There is no honour in barring women from voting

24 Jun 2015 by Marc-André Franche, Country Director, UNDP in Pakistan

women vote in LahorePakistani women exercise their right to vote on the Cantonment board elections in Lahore. Photo: UNDP Pakistan
On 30 May, the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan went to the polls to exercise their hard-earned democratic right to choose their local leaders. But newspaper reports emerged of candidates, community elders, and religious leaders conspiring to bar women from voting. In an earlier by-election, local media reported that out of 47,280 registered women voters, not a single woman cast her vote, following a decision by local leaders to ban women from voting. … Read more

When it comes to governance, millions have an opinion

12 Jun 2015 by Sarah Lister, Director, UNDP Oslo Governance Centre

Indian woman speaknigSomwati Bai is the leader of a local self-government organization in India’s Madhya Pradesh province, where she leads meetings and addresses questions ranging from government entitlements to access to basic amenities. Photo: UNDP India
Recently, the world was gripped by a global corruption scandal, involving alleged bribes and kickbacks across continents and institutions. In May, ten times as many people tweeted about issues related to transparency, corruption, and ‘good governance’ than about health or food issues. But even before the FIFA scandal broke, ‘honest and responsive government’ was consistently one of the most tweeted development issues. … Read more

Years of effort are paying off in the fight against female genital mutilation

09 Jun 2015 by Ignacio Artaza, Country Director, UNDP in Egypt

Egyptian women at meetingWomen attend a community meeting at Qena governorate to call to an end to female genital mutilation. Photo: UNDP in Egypt
I was recently in Aswan to meet with the local government, partner NGOs, and people working together to fight against female genital mutilation (FGM), a widely-spread practice in Egypt that predates both Christianity and Islam and was criminalized by Egyptian law in 2008. The commitment and dedication I found are not only commendable but quite encouraging: Whole communities are taking a firm stance against a traditional practice that has no religious, medical or moral basis, as declared by both Al Azhar and the Coptic Church. … Read more

Let's make 2015 a turning point for youth participation!

27 May 2015 by Noella Richard, Youth Policy Specialist, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

2015 has a special significance for all of us. We look beyond the Millennium Development Goals and feel more and more excited about the bold, ambitious and inclusive development agenda that is shaping up. It is vital to ensure that 2015 is also a turning point for youth participation. Youth are eager and ready to contribute. … Read more

An opportunity for women’s equality

08 May 2015 by Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP

girlThere is a new opportunity to establish gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, essential foundations for inclusive and sustainable development. Photo: Javier Sagredo/UNDP
The Beijing Platform envisages a world where every woman and girl can exercise their freedoms and choices and realize all their rights, including the rights to live free from violence, be educated, exercise their sexual and reproductive health and rights choices, participate in decision-making, and earn equal pay for work of equal value. Now, in 2015, there is a new opportunity to establish gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, as both critical issues in their own right and as essential foundations for inclusive and sustainable development. … Read more