We can't let the socio-economic fabric of Yemen erode further

20 Jul 2015 by Mikiko Tanaka, Country Director at UNDP in Yemen

gathering of menIn Al-Ruqeen village in Taiz, Yemen, local residents and internally-displaced people partake in a livelihoods survey to help assess the needs of the area. Taiz is one of the poorest cities in Yemen, and the influx of the displaced adds pressure to those already suffering. Photo: UNDP Yemen
Yemen is in deep crisis in so many ways – humanitarian, political, security, economic, and social. The infrastructure damage that we can see on the ground is devastating, as is the growing number of civilian casualties. However, what is not as visible but just as alarming is how the socio-economic and institutional fabric has eroded. Civil servants, private sector, civil society, and students are not able to work or study. Livelihood opportunities, economic activity, and public services in many parts of Yemen have come to a standstill since fighting began, in a country already long marked by deep poverty and inequality. … 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

Breaking new ground: UNDP’s electoral lexicon

27 Apr 2015

1.3 million women voted in the 2012 Libyan elections after a large public-awareness campaign encouraged them to participate. Photo credit: Samia Mahgoub/UNDP Libya
With close to 500 entries in Arabic, English and French, the lexicon documents the most widely accepted electoral terms in Arabic accounting for regional language variations in the eight participating countries: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Tunisia and Yemen. From the responses it received, it seems that the Lexicon is destined to grow and become a living work of reference and an important knowledge tool. … Read more

Building resilience in the face of mounting risks in the Arab Region

23 Mar 2015 by Sima Bahous, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Regional Bureau for Arab States

Flood in SudanA flood-affected village in Upper Nile State in Sudan. Photo: Fred Noy/UN
Much has been said about the rolling back of development results and vulnerability of communities in parts of the Arab region because of violent conflicts, but less has been said about the increasing changes communities face from natural disasters and risks from climate change. Debates at the recent World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan highlighted that in the 21st century, development will need to be increasingly resilient to shocks and crises, and address the multi-dimensional nature of risk. This holds special relevance to the Arab region, as the most food-import dependent and water-insecure region on the planet today. The Risk Triad: Conflict, Drought, and Climate Change Many communities face the convergence of conflict, and one of the largest mass movements of forced migrants and refugees in modern history, and the exacerbating force of climate change, which brings more frequent and severe droughts, land degradation and food and water insecurity. Out of a population of 357 million, about 150 million in the region are exposed to drought risks. In Somalia, the famine killed between 50,000-100,000 people and displaced 4 million people.  In Syria, the drought of 2006-2010 decimated the livelihoods of more than 20% of the rural population, unleashing … Read more

Inside UNDP: Iman Al Husseini

09 Feb 2015 by Iman Al Husseini, Programme Specialist, UNDP Gaza

Iman Husseini with AdministratorIman Husseini briefing the Administrator, during her visit in February 2014, on infrastructure projects in Gaza. Photo: UNDP/PAPP
1. Who are you? I was raised with my two brothers in Kuwait. My father used to tell me when I was young: ”Since you are in the middle of your brothers you are the best, as the best bead in the necklace is always in the middle.” My family was a great support and driving force for me in my career. It is part of my nature to always challenge myself. 2. What do you do for work? I am a Programme Specialist at the UNDP Gaza Office, heading the infrastructure team that implements a variety of projects in sectors such as housing, water, sewage, job creation, energy, health, and education. 3. Where were you before? I started my career as an assistant site engineer at a large consultancy office in Kuwait.  As a woman, I was not used to climbing walls or trees or walking on wood beams in construction sites.  Being one of five pioneer female engineers working for the company, the resident engineer was counting on my failure to leave the site.  I took up the challenge, killed my fears, and trained myself with the site supervisor’s help. Upon my return to Gaza, I joined UNRWA in … Read more

Inside UNDP: Lionel Laurens

19 Jan 2015 by Lionel Laurens, Ebola Virus Disease Immediate Response Coordinator, UNDP, Sierra Leone

 Lionel in Freetown.
Lionel Laurens, from France, is a development practitioner who has worked for UNDP for 10 years. He’s driven by a desire to contribute to a more equal world by working with people to be in control of their own development in their own environment. … Read more

A rural community calls for an end to FGM

01 Dec 2014 by Ignacio Artaza, Country Director, Egypt

 Communities in Qena are joining forces with international organizations and civil society to end FGM in Egypt. Photo credit: Jose Sanchez/UNDP Egypt
I recently visited the village of Beir Anbar in the district of Koft, Qena governorate, and listened to the powerful statement this community is conveying to the rest of the country to put an end to the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The whole village, from young schoolchildren to village elders came together to denounce FGM as "violent", "wrong" and "harmful". Even today, many girls and young women are subjected to genital mutilation in the name of ‘tradition’. According to the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, at least 91 percent of Egyptian women between the ages of 15-49 have undergone genital mutilation. The people of Beir Anbar made it clear that Egyptian girls and women deserve a new tradition – a tradition of protecting and safeguarding their rights. The joint efforts of families, community activists, authorities, development agencies and media are gradually making a difference to phase out this traditional harmful practice. Let us be clear: there is no justification – moral, religious, cultural, medical or otherwise for this practice. ‘Cutting’ demeans, dehumanizes and injures. It is a human rights violation that must be actively opposed until it is ended. As we gathered inside the community centre, a group of … Read more

The lessons from the ground on Gender-based Violence

25 Nov 2014 by Diego Antoni, Policy Specialist, Gender, Governance and Crisis Prevention and Recovery

girls from QenaGirls from Qena where the whole community has joined forces to end FGM. Photo credit: Jose Sanchez/UNDP
To commemorate this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, our innovation lab in Egypt will work with young people to develop an IT application that helps victims report cases of gender-based violence (GBV). The space offered to these young champions of the GBV cause is just one of many examples of how social innovation is providing solutions to tackle and prevent violence.   Across the world, similar bottom-up initiatives pick new angles to address GBV. In Uganda, the organization Raising Voices has developed an ambitious project called SASA! It explains to social activists  what power means, both its positive and negative uses, and has successfully reduced community tolerance of GBV. In Azerbaijan, an  organization for gender equality explores different cultural values –what they call “national values”- that can help raise awareness about the need to reduce GBV. Many of these initiatives focus on making the voices of the people heard. Also in Uganda, the Manya Human Rights International Film Festival is providing film training for marginalized women so that they can tell their own stories through documentaries. As the UN-led consultations on the Post-2015 agenda have shown, people who participated in the discussions care and are willing … Read more

Bridging the language gap: A new lexicon for electoral terminology

19 Nov 2014 by Philippa Neave, Electoral Assistance Expert

Libyan woman votesRadhya Bourawi is elated to have voted after a three-hour wait in the Libyan elections. Photo credit: Samia Mahgoub/UNDP Libya
What happens when there are no words in a language to refer to a new situation or process? People naturally make up new ones, either using their own language, borrowing from others, or a combination of both. This is what makes language so fascinating because it is alive and constantly changing. But talking about things that are both very technical and politically sensitive is a challenge. This is what happened in the Arabic speaking world when winds of democracy started to blow across the region, regimes fell and people aspired to hold real elections as the key to a new future.   When people in the countries of the Arab Spring - Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – began work on organizing their first democratic elections, they used their own local understanding and expressions to refer to what are often complex processes and concepts. Just like others in the region who had had earlier electoral experiences, for example in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, people delved into the rich vocabulary of the Arabic language. As an Arabic speaking international electoral assistance consultant for UNDP, I worked in a number of Middle Eastern countries. In Tunisia in 2011, I saw the potential for misunderstanding … Read more

Development of, by, and for the people

01 Aug 2014 by Nadine Abou El-Gheit, Programme Assistant, Energy and Environment

Youth in MontenegroThe UN joint programme on Youth Empowerment in Montenegro is trying to apply user-led design so that young people come up with solutions to problems they are facing. Photo: Christian Schwier/UN in Montenegro
Recently, I got a pretty awesome offer: Visit our country offices in Montenegro and Kosovo and see how they’d been doing development differently. Four weeks later I was in Pristina, then in Podgorica, and here is what I took away from my colleagues: 1. Keep momentum even in the face of disappointments and failures. New ideas require adjustments and refining. You probably heard how failure is just another stepping stone to success and how Walt Disney, Sidney Poitier, Albert Einstein all failed miserably at the start of their careers. Yet at the first sign of failure, most of us run and erase all tracks. Never be afraid to fail. 2. Don’t innovate for the sake of innovation. We have an edge over private sector companies that need to invest large sums in innovation: We have access. Access to a pool of technical expertise, good relationships with the governments hosting us, and the ability to convene people from all over the world, by virtue of our neutrality and impartiality. Innovation should only serve to complement this edge. 3. Dare to push the limits and do things differently: Innovation is not just about creating a Facebook page for our projects. In a recent campaign for social inclusion in Montenegro, the … Read more