Solving last mile challenges: The potential of behavioural insights for the 2030 Agenda

07 Nov 2016 by Benjamin Kumpf, Policy Specialist, Innovation at UNDP

Behavioural insight draws from research findings from psychology and neuroscience. These insights about how people make decisions matter for development. UNDP photo
Across the globe, all people – poor or rich – sometimes make choices that are not conducive to their own well-being. Saving enough for retirement, eating healthy, investing in education – all too often we humans postpone intended actions to ‘tomorrow’, succumb to inertia or get stuck in habits. In light of the extensive research on the cognitive biases that influence human decision-making, there is a broad consensus that traditional economic models are insufficient for effective policy-making. Behind every policy lie assumptions about how humans will behave in light of new regulations and why we act the way we do. Nonetheless, behavioural insights are only being leveraged by a relatively small, but growing number of policy-makers around the globe. Now, United Nations agencies and funds are catching up. Behavioural insight draws from research findings from psychology and neuroscience. These insights about how people make decisions matter for development. They matter for policy-formulation and addressing last-mile problems. … Read more

Early recovery in Haiti: Localize the relief effort to avoid the aid dependency trap

04 Nov 2016 by Bruno Lemarquis, Deputy Director, Crisis Response Unit, UNDP

A crisis response led by the Haitian people and government lowers the risk of vulnerable people becoming dependent on international assistance. Photo: Andrea Ruffini/UNDP Haiti
Exactly one month ago, Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc in Haiti. More than 1.4 million people still need assistance; more than 140,000 people have been displaced and in some areas crops were completely wiped out. The disaster has left people living in makeshift shelters, unable to provide for their families and dependent on assistance. After the first few initial critical weeks of the disaster, two lessons stand out: the need to localize crisis response and the importance of a quick transition to early recovery. I led UNDP’s immediate response after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and I can see that the Government has built on many lessons learned. National institutions have insisted that this should be a Haiti-led response, from the local to the national level, and interim President Jocelerme Privert made clear from the start that early recovery was a priority. a … Read more

A changing climate throws water out of balance in Asia and the Pacific

03 Nov 2016 by Gordon Johnson, Resilience and Sustainability Team Leader, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

With a warming climate in parts of the Himalayas, melting glaciers are feeding into glacial lakes that threaten to burst at the seams. UNDP photo
Every morning I jump on the Chao Phraya Express Boat to get to work. It’s a short trip, but on yet another sultry morning in Bangkok, it’s nice to feel the breeze as we slice through the muddy waters to Thewet Pier, a short walk from my office at the United Nations. As we churn upriver, I’m often reminded of the suggestion that our planet should have been named Water instead of Earth. Nowhere is this idea more true than in Asia and the Pacific. While some 4.5 billion people make their homes on solid ground here – about 60 percent of the world’s population – it’s also home to the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and dozens of major river basins (such as the Indus, Ganges, Mekong and Yangtze) that gave rise to the varied and colourful cultures of Asia. … Read more

Latin America and the Caribbean at the forefront of climate action

28 Oct 2016 by Matilde Mordt, Team Leader, Sustainable Development and Resilience, UNDP Regional Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean

Many Latin American and the Caribbean countries will concentrate their climate actions in the agriculture sector, one of the main sources of emissions in the region. Photo: UNDP Cuba
Latin American and Caribbean countries have long been at the forefront in climate negotiations and have demonstrated their commitment to taking action. The region is diverse and hosts some of the top 10 global greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters, such as Brazil and Mexico, as well as Small Island Developing States, which are extremely vulnerable to climate change. Together, the region has put forward a wide array of proposals for action, ranging from reforestation to renewable energy to climate adaptation. Not only are they varied, but they are ambitious. An analysis undertaken by UNDP of the cornerstones of the Paris Agreement - the Nationally Determined Contributions- shows that the commitment in the region is indeed strong. As of 21 October 2016, the 32 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (out of 33) that acceded to the Agreement have also signed it; 19 of them have submitted their instruments of ratification; and 18 of these have indicated that their previously “intended” contributions will now become formal climate targets, or NDCs. … Read more

The right to food is about much more than boosting supply

25 Oct 2016 by Olivier De Schutter, Co-chair, International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food)

Improving small-scale farmers’ access to markets is vital for achieving food security and improved nutrition, but we must also improve farmers’ bargaining position in food chains. Photo: UNDP Georgia
It is increasingly common for big agribusiness firms to contract out the production of raw commodities to hundreds and thousands of smallholders, sometimes known as “outgrowers”. Through the contracts they negotiate with small-scale farmers, private investors are shaping agriculture in the developing world. For example, the investment pledges gathered in the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition are primarily made up of plans by multinational and domestic agribusiness firms to source more widely from smallholders in a range of African countries. Yet what matters is precisely what is agreed between investors and small-scale farmers, and small-scale food producers have been largely neglected by agricultural policies to date. Understanding this situation is crucial to assessing the role of private investment in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In contract farming, farmers commit their output to processing or marketing firms at (generally) predetermined prices. Doing so can give them improved access to inputs and credit at one end, and easier access to markets at the other. Plugging small-scale farmers into new and lucrative market openings can help them to share the gains of globalisation. Under certain conditions, contract farming can also help in the development of localized food chains, for instance by linking farmers’ co-operatives to the local food-processing industry or to fresh produce retailers serving urban consumers. … Read more

Cooking up positive change

21 Oct 2016 by Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca, UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors

Josep Roca meets participants in the Roca brothers’ Food Africa project.
What we eat has a direct impact not only on our health, but also on the wellbeing and prosperity of our communities, and the health of our planet. This is a lesson we learnt at a young age at our parents’ family restaurant, and one that we now try to spread from the kitchen at El Celler de Can Roca and in our new role as Goodwill Ambassadors for the Sustainable Development Goals. One of these goals is fighting hunger and malnutrition, as well as improving the access of all people to a healthy diet. This is a significant challenge, considering, on the one hand, the terrible reality that nearly 800 million people are suffering from chronic malnutrition, and that there are nearly 100 million underweight children under 5 years of age in developing countries. On the other hand, we find a global food system that is unsustainable, that consumes too much land, too much water, generates too many greenhouse gases and overexploits marine resources. As the final element of this equation, we cannot forget that the global population is growing- it is estimated that by 2050 the global population will reach nearly 10 billion- increasing the strain on our planet and its limited resources. … Read more

Now is the time to climate proof Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19 Oct 2016 by Armen Grigoryan, Team Leader, Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP Europe and Central Asia

Only 40 cents in every US$100 spent on aid goes to disaster risk reduction, yet disasters have cost developing countries a total of US$1 trillion over the last 20 years. UNDP Photo
In this blog series, UNDP experts share their perspectives in the lead-up to the next climate summit, COP22, taking place in November in Marrakech, Morocco. Two years ago I remember watching catastrophic rains swallow entire swathes of land in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia. Most of northern Bosnia was flooded. Thousands of people lost their homes. And in Serbia, the damage was estimated at 1.5 billion euros. The following year, it was Albania’s turn, then Tajikistan followed suit with the worst mud flows the country has ever seen. Finally, this summer, a thunderstorm dropped 93 litres of rain for every square metre of the capital, Skopje, within the space of a single night. homes. And in Serbia, the damage was estimated at 1.5 billion euros. The following year, it was Albania’s turn, then Tajikistan followed suit with the worst mud flows the country has ever seen. Finally, this summer, a thunderstorm dropped 93 litres of rain for every square metre of the capital, Skopje, within the space of a single night. Whether we are talking about drought, failing crops, rising temperatures or the resurgence or appearance of new diseases, the list of possible climate catastrophes is long. … Read more

Unlocking climate action: Why cities are at the forefront

18 Oct 2016 by Bahareh Seyedi, Policy Specialist, Climate Change, Energy and Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP

By 2060, more than a billion people will be living in cities in low-lying coastal zones, the vast majority in developing countries. Photo: Igor Rugwiza/MINUSTAH
Tehran, Managua, Vancouver, Manila, Montreal, Ouagadougou, New York: seven cities I love and have had the pleasure of living in! Each is rich in beauty, history, and culture, and has its own unique urban characteristics. But there is a shared threat faced by these cities that if left unaddressed has the ability to jeopardize their entire existence. The threat of climate change. From droughts, storms, and heat waves, to floods and hurricanes, these cities are all exposed to risks from climate hazards and natural disasters in one way or another. My hometown, Tehran, is at serious risk of water scarcity, with its major reservoirs reaching critically low levels in the past couple of years due to reduced rainfall and increase in temperature. … Read more

Drivers of public services and policies of tomorrow – the role of government innovation labs

12 Oct 2016 by Benjamin Kumpf, Policy Specialist, Innovation at UNDP and Laura Schnurr, Social Enterprise and Social Finance, Canadian Government and Innovation Facility, UNDP.

Kolba Lab, run by UNDP and the government of Armenia, held a mapathon of accessible places in Yerevan. Photo: @gorkroyan
What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘innovation’? The public sector? – Thought not. But we are working on changing this. Over the last three years, UNDP has set up innovation labs in five countries to support governments in designing the next generation of public services and to embark on experimental policy-design and another one is being set up right now. From Brazil, Colombia and Canada to South Africa, Israel, Malaysia and Singapore – the world map of labs is constantly growing. Government innovation labs, sometimes referred to as change labs, social labs or design labs, have been opening up in more and more places since the early 2000s. What are Public Sector innovation labs and how do they work? Government or public sector innovation labs are teams that combine expertise in innovation methods and public sector reform to improve policy design and the way governments deliver services to the public. Another important role of the labs is to help governments reframe challenges and to broaden the perspective of policy makers by bringing in the perspective of users. Labs help governments in creating better solutions based on citizen feedback and inputs. But ideally they are more than quick-solution delivery machines. … Read more

The nexus of climate change and conflict in the Arab region

12 Oct 2016 by Kishan Khoday, Regional Team Leader, Climate Change, DRR and Resilience, UNDP Regional Hub for Arab States

Conflict and climate change are major drivers of displacement in Syria and elsewhere in the Arab region. UNHCR photo
Alongside the daily barrage of rockets and gunfire facing the Arab region is a more insidious but perhaps no less important foe – climate change. Climate change and conflict both have serious consequences and their convergence, particularly in fragile states, that has now arisen as a major concern. Leading UNDP’s climate change action in the Arab region, I see first-hand how this convergence is creating new forms of social vulnerability and reshaping the prospects for peace. The Arab region was the birthplace of agricultural civilization and for thousands of years has been able to cope with risks from climatic hazards. But climate change is now happening at a pace unlike anything before, stretching the ability of societies and governments to cope. The evidence shows that the region may well be in the midst of a 25-year climate change-induced mega drought, equal in strength only to historic droughts one thousand years ago that led to major civilizational shifts. Already the world’s most water insecure region, climate change is expected to see temperatures rise faster here than the global average, making parts of the region uninhabitable by mid-century. Unless actions are taken, impacts will be felt in loss of agricultural livelihoods, high unemployment, mass displacement, and resource conflicts. … Read more