Increasing indigenous political representation: an urgent debt for our democracies

03 Jun 2014 by Álvaro Pop, Vice President of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

 Indigenous communities can be adversely affected by local and global development processes, since their distinct visions, concerns and ways of life can be ignored by policy makers. Photo: UNDP in Peru
In recent times, indigenous peoples have questioned current development models and democracies in Latin America and beyond. The main tool for measuring progress remains Gross Domestic Product, which distorts the true meaning of progress and wellbeing. The damage to ecosystems and loss of biodiversity, not to mention the erosion of cultural and linguistic diversity, have all been excluded from this general assessment. What’s more, the low representation of indigenous peoples in politics and as part of our human development -- below national averages -- is a clear indication that Latin American democracies and the development model have not fully served their purpose. However, many indigenous peoples have taken steps to become more involved in current political affairs and question our societies, accusing the latter of being exclusive, racist, and unaware of their history (for example, they often deny the existence of indigenous genocide) while stifling the diversity and existence of social issues based on a different culture and world view. Paying close attention to such issues and implementing initiatives to enact real change is the challenge faced by democracies. I would like to urge the adoption of a new and rejuvenating approach to issues related to indigenous peoples and their values. … Read more

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

23 May 2014 by Patrick Keuleers, Director a.i. of UNDP's Democratic Governance Group

 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

Women’s Parliamentary Caucuses as agents of change

19 May 2014 by Marc-André Franche

 Meeting of a female community organization in the district of Haripur, Pakistan. 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

Friendly clinics for sexual diversity

01 May 2014 by Manuel Irizar, Inclusive Development Programs Officer

 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

Fighting corruption and urban inequality

24 Apr 2014 by Anga Timilsina

Medellin, ColombiaMedellín, 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

Democracy: Where are women, youth, indigenous people and people of African descent?

10 Mar 2014 by Gerardo Noto, Democratic Governance Coordinator, UNDP in Latin America and the Caribbean

women dancing with feathers(Photo: Gaëlle Bruneau / UNDP)
In 2014, Latin America and the Caribbean will hold seven presidential elections, many of which are to be determined by run-offs. Fortunately, in general, our region has become accustomed to holding transparent elections where citizens can freely express their will in electing their representatives to public office. Empowered citizens demand better institutional quality: they call for more and better representation and participation in the processes of shaping and implementing public policies. From the perspective of a citizens' democracy, which UNDP strongly promotes in Latin America and the Caribbean, the right to elect and be elected is a key dimension of political citizenship. Thus, it is important to take the pulse of various sectors of society who participate in the elections, and how the elected representatives reflect the heterogeneity of our societies. Fortunately, there is good news regarding the exercise of voting rights and gender, as women effectively exercise their right to vote. However, there are still major shortcomings regarding the right to be elected. While the region has shown significant progress in recent decades, increasing from 8.2 per cent women’s representation in national legislatures in 1990 to 20.6 per cent in 2010, on average, there are still deep heterogeneities across countries. … Read more