Data innovation for development, from idea to proof-of-concept

13 Dec 2016 by Vasko Popovski , Milica Begovic and Jennifer Colville

Effective data collection, analysis and monitoring can help policymakers to course-correct programmes and policies more quickly. Photo: UNDP Armenia
New sources of data are growing with an unprecedented pace, yet in spite all the talk about ‘data revolution’ and many pilots, one could hardly point to a place that systemically uses this new resources for good. Making sense of the quickly-growing data sets in a way that they improve the lives of citizens, workings of governments and international organizations is one of the great opportunities of our time.   Identifying and integrating faster, more detailed insights into development planning processes can lead to better-targeted responses and more efficient resource allocation. Data innovation is also part of reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Effective data collection, analysis, and monitoring can help policymakers to course-correct programmes and policies more quickly, leading to cost efficiencies and greater returns on investments, as well as empower communities to use data to drive change processes. And the catch is you don’t have to be a data scientist to innovate with data. Therefore, twenty months ago a group of data enthusiasts from UNDP Europe and Central Asia and Arab States regions embarked on a big data for development exploration journey with support from the Government of Denmark. The quest was to test new sources of data to generate … Read more

Resilient people and institutions: Ecuador’s post-earthquake challenge

12 Dec 2016 by Carlo Ruiz, Recovery Unit Coordinator, UNDP Ecuador

Resilient people and institutions: Ecuador’s post-earthquake challengeIn the wake of the April 2016 earthquake, UNDP has trained hundreds of homeowners on the principles of earthquake-resistant construction. Photo: UNDP Ecuador
No one is really prepared for an emergency until they’ve had to live through one. And the 16 April earthquake in Ecuador put us to the test. With the drawdown in the humanitarian response phase that is providing relief to survivors and victims, the hustle and bustle is dying down. Remnants of the disaster can be seen everywhere, and an idea of what the near future will bring and people’s resilience – their capacity to cope – is taking shape. During tours of the affected areas, I saw that people have, to a greater or lesser extent, a natural conviction that pushes them to overcome the situation they are in. Shortly after a catastrophe hits, whether from the need to survive or from attempts to recover the normality that has been ripped from them, men and women begin to help each other out. They get together and cook, and they care for, console and support each other. In places such as Pedernales, one of the hardest hit areas, just days following the tragedy, people had set up cooking hearths and places to prepare food to sell outside destroyed businesses. They organized games of ecuavoley (Ecuadorian-style volleyball) in streets where rubble was still being cleared. Disasters hit poor people the hardest. This is why it is crucial to work on recovery of livelihoods starting in the emergency response period. People who can manage to earn a living can overcome the psychological impact of adversity more quickly. This has been a key factor in the post-earthquake process in Ecuador. The institutional structure is another element that affects how fast communities recover. Having a response system, with mechanisms to quickly and strategically identify needs, makes recovery efforts more effective. Communities are more vulnerable if local authorities are absent and exercise less authority to ensure, among other things, compliance with building and land-use standards. … Read more

On International Anti-Corruption Day: Development vs. corruption

09 Dec 2016 by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, UN Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

International Anti-Corruption DayActivists take part in a demonstration to mark International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December 2014 in Bangkok. Photo: UNDP Thailand
The 9 December International Anti-Corruption Day is probably a day of resolve, of fight against injustice, but also a day to feel good about. Many activists, civil society organizations, and honest people who hold public office or manage private businesses are united around an agenda for integrity and clean, proper management of collective affairs. This should give us hope that corruption can be curbed, and that we are many more demanding transparency than those who prosper in the dark shadows of white-collar criminal behaviour. This year, UNDP and the UN Office for Drugs and Crime are commemorating International Anti-Corruption Day around the theme “United against corruption for development, peace and security”. The effort takes forward the agreement 193 UN Member States adopted last year with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Through Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 of that Agenda, world leaders for the first time acknowledged a direct link between corruption, peace and development, and established that achieving peaceful, just and inclusive societies will not be possible without curbing illicit financial flows, tax evasion, bribery and corruption. … Read more

Why we must fight harder for the rights of young women and girls

09 Dec 2016 by Mandeep Dhaliwal, Director, HIV, Health and Development Group, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

Why we must fight harder for the rights of young women and girls In the scenic valley of Panjshir, a bridge built with UNDP support makes it possible for Bahara and her classmates to go to school. Photo: Omer/UNDP Afghanistan
In her 2013 memoir, activist Malala Yousafzai recounts a moment that changes not only the course of her destiny but that of many other young girls across the world. On a trip in northwest Pakistan, she comes across a girl selling oranges who is unable to read or write. Disturbed by the discovery that this girl had not received an education, Malala makes a decision that she famously continues to see through: “I would do everything in my power to help educate girls just like her. This was the war I was going to fight.” This year, Human Rights Day calls on everyone to stand up for someone's rights. Malala’s example is what we all need to do more of: stand up for the rights of young women and girls in health, education and beyond. … Read more

Africa: To get the future we say we want, we’ve got to get rid of corruption

08 Dec 2016 by Njoya Tikum, ‎UNDP Africa Regional Anti-Corruption Advisor

One just needs to look at the newspaper headlines across Africa to see the continent’s struggle with corruption: South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, all have seen corruption and bribery rise recently. According to the latest Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, “not a single country, anywhere in the world, is corruption-free”. But in sub-Saharan Africa, people in 40 out of 46 countries think theirs has a serious corruption problem. Africa has lost over USD 1 trillion to illicit financial flows over the last 50 years, as reported the African Union’s high level panel on illicit financial flows (IFFs), led by South Africa’s former President Thabo Mbeki. This is roughly equivalent to all the official development assistance the continent received during the same timeframe. According to the panel, companies and government officials are illegally moving as much as USD 60 billion out of Africa each year. From high-level political abuse to harassment by police officers, teachers, doctors or customs officials, corruption drains countries of resources, stifles small businesses and hampers education and healthcare. Together with lack of accountability and transparency, it is the most harmful barrier to development in Africa. … Read more

Financing the SDGs in the Pacific: Maximizing new opportunities

07 Dec 2016 by Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist, Development Finance, UNDP

Pacific island nations like Tuvalu must secure resources not only to meet development priorities but also to adapt to climate change. UNDP photo
Pacific island countries such as Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu are among the countries most vulnerable to extreme weather events and climate change. Just last year, Cyclone Pam ripped through Vanuatu and caused damages estimated at over 60 percent of GDP, in addition to 11 lives lost and widespread damage to homes and livelihoods. The Asian Development Bank estimates that the Pacific loses US$300 million a year through disasters alone. And such events are expected to become more frequent and more severe with the predicted impacts of climate change. With Pacific islands at the forefront of climate change impacts, they need to secure resources not only to meet development priorities such as improving health and education but also to adapt to climate change, build resilience and withstand sudden (often very large) economic and environmental shocks. Where will these resources come from, and how can Pacific islands make most effective use of these funds? These were the topics of a recent workshop co-organized by UNDP and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) in Fiji, which brought together policymakers from the Pacific islands and experts from major bilateral and multilateral finance providers. When it comes to resource mobilization, many Pacific islands have made important strides to increase domestic resources over recent years. For example, through the Narue Agreement – which establishes the terms and conditions for issuing foreign fleets with licenses to fish in the Pacific – eight Pacific island countries have been able to increase fishing revenues from $100 million to over $500 million over the last five years. And there is room to increase this even further in the future. … Read more

How to change the world in one word: Volunteer

05 Dec 2016 by Isabela Barriga, Communications Intern, United Nations Volunteers, Ecuador

UN Volunteers in Ecuador are working to improve conditions in areas affected by the recent earthquake. Photo: Juan Diego Pérez Arias/UNV
"Young people can change the world!" These words spoken by a youth representative from the Municipal Volunteer Network in Cuenca, Ecuador, made me think. In general, young people are told that they have the power to make a difference and create a better world, but this is often just left in words. How can youth really contribute to the development of their societies? My name is Isabela, I am of American and Ecuadorian nationality. I left the United States in July of 2016 through the United Nations Volunteers programme (UNV) to explore how youth are contributing to the development of my second home, Ecuador, This is how I got to participate in the First Regional Meeting of Youth Volunteer Networks in Cuenca, where I had the opportunity to interact with young volunteers from Latin America and learn how volunteering contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region. … Read more

2030 Agenda demands meaningful participation from persons with disabilities

02 Dec 2016 by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

In Cambodia, UNDP works with UNICEF and WHO to support national efforts to coordinate and implement the National Disability Strategic Plan as well as to strengthen capacities of Cambodian Disabled Persons Organizations. Photo:Bona K/ UNICEF Cambodia
It has been 10 years since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by the UN General Assembly in December 2006, and we are close to universal ratification of the treaty. This is a great achievement that recognizes the move from a charitable and medical approach to a human rights-based approach, ensuring an inclusive and accessible development for all. The second decade of implementation of the CRPD will happen within, and will be amplified by, the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015. The SDGs are universal, they are ambitious and they ensure that we leave no one behind. Progress has been made to reach with rights, technology, social protection, science, affirmative action and awareness those of our friends, family members and fellow citizens who live with a disability. So as we focus on supporting countries to achieve the SDGs, what will achieving the different goals and targets mean for persons with disabilities? For starters, we are talking about a very large group of citizens: 15 percent of the world’s population live with a disability – more than the peoples of the European Union, Russia and the United States together. In developing countries, three out of four are women, which also demands a gender analysis of causes and a robust engendered suite of interventions. What could these be? … Read more

It’s time for a climate revolution. Can the Paris Agreement take us there?

01 Dec 2016 by Daniela Carrington, Climate Change Policy Advisor, UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub

It’s time for a climate revolution. Can the Paris Agreement take us there?The Paris Agreement on climate change represents a ground-breaking global accord. At the COP22 conference in Marrakesh, decision-makers moved to implement the deal. Photo:
A year ago, against all expectations, delegates in Paris agreed on a ground-breaking new deal to take action on global warming. In less than a year, the agreement came into force and was ratified by 113 nations, together accounting for 75 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. It was unprecedented in the history of international agreements. At the COP22 climate conference in Marrakesh, decision-makers moved quickly to begin to implement the deal. Here are a few of the key results. … Read more

#inno4dev in Iraq: Doing more, lots more, with less

30 Nov 2016 by Jennifer Colville, Team Leader, Innovation, UNDP Arab States

The #inno4dev programme provides hands-on learning events for hundreds of budding entrepreneurs and promotes a sense of social cohesion among youth from all parts of Iraq. Photo:UNDP
Innovation is alive and well in Iraq as evidenced by the energy, creativity and "grit" of the 175 young entrepreneurs I had the privilege of spending four days with in an #inno4dev (innovation for development) workshop in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq last weekend. The workshop is part of a UNDP Iraq multi-year #inno4dev programme that promotes innovative approaches to solving development challenges. These 175 youths were selected from among 500 women and men who participated in six #inno4dev gatherings earlier this year. At the workshop, they were put through their paces, learning about approaches and tools, such as design thinking, lean startup, and business model canvas, as they developed ideas for ventures ranging from a health data surveillance system to educational zones for kids. From these, about two dozen teams will be selected to participate in an #inno4dev forum in the first quarter of 2017, where they will have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to potential investors. So, how does the UNDP #inno4dev team, a team of one, manage these activities with all these moving parts: hundreds of youth coming from all around the country, speaking different languages, having different skills and levels of experience, with different areas of interest? Innovatively, of course. … Read more