Women’s Parliamentary Caucuses as agents of change

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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?

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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 challenge, has... Read more

In Africa, grassroots women tackle climate change

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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?

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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 ‘Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation’, an OECD/UNDP-led effort  to improve aid effectiveness by encouraging better partnerships between aid donors and aid recipients, had 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. Although much of the attention has been focused on the rapid economic advances made by the ‘big beasts’ of the developing world —Brazil, China and India— others are also doing well; Sub-Saharan Africa has grown at, on average, 5-6% annually over the last decade. Some developing countries have become major donors themselves, such as Mexico, Turkey, Kazakhstan and South Africa. Arab donors have also become more prominent and last month the UAE posted the highest aid levels of all donor countries as a percentage of gross national income (at 1.25%). All well and good, then?  Perhaps, but it’s left many ‘old’ donors confused – will taxpayers... Read more

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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(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

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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

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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

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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

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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

In search of win-win ways to address climate change

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Bangladesh has been identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as one of the countries most vulnerable to rising sea levels. (Photo: UNDP in Bangladesh)

Compelling scientific evidence indicates that reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) might slow down global warming by up to 0.5⁰C between 2010 and 2050. These SLCPs are agents with a relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere that warm the climate, like black carbon, methane and Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). A report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that by reducing the presence of these pollutants we could prevent more than 2 million premature deaths  worldwide each year, and an annual crop loss of more than 30 million tons after 2030. But if nothing is done, the impacts of climate change could translate into devastating consequences for sustainable development. The world is relentlessly trying to find solutions that reconcile economic growth and development with the need to control the increase of greenhouse gases. So is the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). By addressing short-lived climate pollutants we are implementing a model with positive impact on climate change, while improving the environment, economies and people’s health. And we are not alone. UNDP is a partner to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) and focuses on reducing the negative impact of HFCs on climate and energy use. This is... Read more

Sierra Leone: From 'blood diamonds' to long-lasting development

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Since the civil war, the UN flag has been a symbol of hope for the population in Sierra Leone. Wherever we pass, kids come waving and screaming towards our cars, which have huge UN logos, and adults casually give a thumbs up. (Photo: Silke v. Brockhausen/UNDP)

Our two white UN vehicles are carefully moving down the dusty and bumpy road between Kenema and Koindu in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone. We pass dozens of burnt ruins of what were once sturdy brick and stone homes, some with hundreds of bullet holes in their walls – eerie remnants of Sierra Leone's brutal civil war. About 1,200 of former warlord Charles Taylor's rebels launched their devastating campaign here, leading to years of fighting that killed tens of thousands and displaced more than 2 million people (about a third of the population), disrupting nearly every national institution. After more than 15 years of successive peace operations, the last United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office (UNIPSIL), closed at the end of March. Since the civil war, the UN flag has been a symbol of hope for the population in this troubled region. Many of the over 17,000 blue helmets that arrived with the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) also helped to restore peace and bring back a sense of security in this district of Kailahun. Wherever we pass, kids come waving and screaming towards our cars with the huge UN logos, and adults... Read more

Dignity and human rights lie at the heart of our work

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Today, the world is joining Rwanda, now a thriving country, to mark the twentieth commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi. Sadly, the United Nations system and the world couldn’t stop the events unfolding on the ground. Worse, the United Nations could not even save many of its national staff. The consequences of failing to heed the warning signs of the genocide are forever engraved in our minds.  The United Nations and the international system are better prepared to anticipate, prevent, respond to crises and protect their staff. In addition, the world now has important mechanisms to end impunity, including the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, large scale human tragedies are still happening. As we speak, millions are being affected in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, for instance. This is one the reason why UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon launched the “Rights up Front” Action Plan.  In essence, the Rights up Front Action Plan seeks to strengthen the United Nations’ ability to prevent large-scale violations of human rights, particularly in conflict situations. The plan is framed by several guiding concepts: First, the United Nations must respond to the early warning signs of mass... Read more

Stories from Laos: "I'm the first female bomb disposal expert"

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Chantavone Inthavongsy at work. Credit: UXO Lao PDR

During the second Indochina War between 1964 and 1974, more than 2 million tons of bombs, including cluster bombs, along with other ordnance were dropped on my country, leaving a quarter of all villages contaminated with unexploded devices. As a child, I heard many stories of people who had been injured – losing limbs and sometimes their lives. I wanted to do something to help. When I was just 20 years old I trained with UXO Lao, the national clearance operator. They taught me to be part of a team that detects, removes and safely disposes of these dangerous explosive devices. I felt nervous about the job, but I was assured that, as long as we followed instructions, it would be safe. I was the only woman to pass the test and become a team leader straight away! I became responsible for a team of 10 people. We were detecting and destroying unexploded ordnance five days a week in the fields and mountainsides across the province. It provided me with valuable experience and I was very proud of my job. After six years, I was promoted to Senior Explosive Ordnance Deminer and was, until last year, the only fully qualified woman... Read more

Empowering the world’s largest generation of youth | Magdy Martínez-Solimán

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Arab youth volunteering in Syria. (Photo: UNDP)

Our world has 1.8 billion young people. One third of them live in countries that have suffered a violent conflict, and 75 million are unemployed. It is not time for business as usual, and as UNDP is launching its first global Youth Strategy, “Empowered Youth, Sustainable Future," in Tunis, working with young people, particularly those who are in need, is indispensable if we are to achieve sustainable human development. In the Post-2015 Consultations, youth are demanding education, jobs, honest and responsive governments, and participation in decision-making; they have innovative ideas and are willing to engage, even to take risks for the causes they believe in. Young voices not only deserve to be heard — young people need to be listened to and their views must count. Doors need to open up.   UNDP is determined to play its part by strengthening its cooperation with young women and men themselves, their own organisations, other partners in the UN system, governments, civil society organizations, academia and the private sector. In a recent study, we showed how the political representation is systematically much older, in all regions of the world, than the society it represents and rules. The age gap needs to be reduced... Read more

The only way to make real progress against poverty and inequality | Antonio Vigilante

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Fish farmers in rural Cambodia adapt to climate change thanks to a project funded by the European Commission. (Photo: Alejandro Boza/UNDP Cambodia)

This year marks the 10th anniversary of UNDP’s partnership with the European Union. This relationship was forged based on the reality that the only way to make real progress in the fight against poverty and inequality is through coordinated multilateralism – and it has.   In the last decade, the EU has provided 3.3 billion Euros to UNDP activities in 115 countries, bringing about tangible results: • In Pakistan, the UNDP-EU partnership supported about 5.5 million people to rehabilitate 4,000 villages after the 2005 earthquake and the 2010 floods. Temporary employment benefitted 1.3 million people, 40 percent of which were women. • Elections in 53 countries have been supported by the partnership • 28 countries have been helped to better prepare for natural disasters. • Within the framework of the Poverty Environment Initiative, which supports 24 countries across several regions, the partnership has helped countries incorporate poverty-environment linkages into national development planning. • In the area of climate change, the partnership supports 25 countries to carry out nationally driven climate-change mitigation actions. One of the key factors that make the partnership effective is that the cooperation takes place at multiple levels: policy, advocacy, knowledge-sharing and programmes, each feeding and complementing one... Read more