Nepal: Why we must work together to reduce the risk of disasters in vulnerable countries

29 Apr 2015 by Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP

A 7.9 magnitude earthquake has caused widespread destruction in NepalIn 2011, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark visited downtown Kathmandu for an 'eathquake walk' - a tour on disaster preparedness. Photo: Bikash Rauniyar/UNDP Nepal
In 2011, I went on an official tour of downtown Kathmandu called the “Earthquake Walk.” This tour, led by the government and other partners on disaster preparedness, was intended to demonstrate the vulnerabilities of residential and other buildings, including those of heritage and religious significance, to the next large earthquake that would strike the region one day. What I learned on the tour was alarming. … Read more

Vanuatu begins rebuilding but faces severe challenges

14 Apr 2015 by Silke von Brockhausen, Communication Specialist, Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy

Damage from Cyclone Pam in VanuatuCyclone Pam has passed, but Vanuatu residents will need months, if not years, to recover from its devastation. Photo: Silke von Brockhausen/UNDP
Descending into Vanuatu’s international airport in Port Vila, I could see the devastation Cyclone Pam caused on March 13, sweeping nearly two dozen islands. What used to be a lush green landscape is washed brown by saltwater, trees are dead and uprooted, and houses have lost their roofs. … Read more

Vanuatu: at the apex of climate change, disaster risk reduction, and recovery

24 Mar 2015 by Shoko Takemoto, Regional Technical Specialist, Climate Change Adaptation and Water and Oceans, Fiji

 Scenes of the destruction caused by Cyclone Pam. Photo: Shoko Takemoto/UNDP
Early morning, I walked through downtown Port Vila, Vanuatu.  Tropical cyclone Pam certainly left many scars throughout the town: damaged buildings, one-sided trees, destroyed boats, and broken sea walls all silently speak of the immense power of what had swept through the land and the sea on the evening of 13th March 2015. Food security is a concern. The vegetable market at the centre of the town is still closed – there is no fresh produce left anywhere on the islands – and it may take weeks and months before the market will return to colour and life. Climate change and disasters go hand-in-hand in this exposed island nation, and clearly this disaster requires immediate relief. But as I continued walking by the waterfront, passing people, I could not help but notice the friendly smiles and warm good mornings that characterises the charm of the Vanuatu people.   Nambawan Café, a popular outdoor spot for gathering by the waterfront was already open a little before 7am, although it took me a while to notice that it was the same Café because most of the shops and structures around it had changed dramatically. I took the opportunity to speak to the staff … Read more

Fighting corruption: Adapting ‘best practices’ or ensuring a ‘best fit’ to local contexts

20 Mar 2015 by Anne Marie Sloth Carlsen, Director, USPC and Ahjung Lee, Programme and Policy Officer, USPC

 SeoulKorea’s case is particularly interesting because of its rapid economic and social development despite governance challenges such as corruption.
At UNDP’s Seoul Policy Centre for Global Development Partnerships, we often get to hear: “Korea developed so fast. I want to know how this happened, so that I can help my country too”. Policy makers and practitioners in developing countries find Korea’s case particularly interesting because of its rapid economic and social development despite governance challenges such as corruption. At the 2015 Seoul Debates, participants honestly wanted to take practical and immediate solutions home, and found Korea’s innovative tools particularly attractive. Besides the integrity assessment of Korea’s anti-corruption body - conducted by over 600 public organizations in Korea, and now applied in several countries including Bhutan - there was also the electronic subcontract payment system for transparent public infrastructure projects of the Seoul Metropolitan Government. Other countries also shared their experiences, among them Uganda and Columbia. Uganda’s Inspector General of Government shared how her country had exceeded its target of prosecuting 50 cases of corruption per year, and stressed the importance of working with all stakeholders both within and beyond the country. Our colleagues from UNDP Colombia shared a transparency assessment tool that helps political parties manage the integrity of political processes. Yet we deliberately avoided the ‘best practices approach,’ or … Read more

Can data better focus risk reduction strategies?

25 Feb 2015 by Rajesh Sharma, Programme Specialist, Disaster Risk Information and Application, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

flooded area in CambodiaMonsoon rains and tropical storms bring terrible flooding to Cambodia, but lighting strikes rank as the second highest cause of mortality in disaster-related deaths. Photo: OCHA/Andrew Pendleton
It’s widely known that floods are a major cause of mortality in Cambodia. Nearly 53 percent of total disaster-related deaths between 1996 and 2013 were caused by recurring floods. What’s less well-known is that during the same period, 35 percent of disaster-related deaths were due to lightning, the second-highest cause of mortality in Cambodia. Understanding the impacts of disasters, their frequency, intensity and recurrence patterns are key to addressing them systematically. In Cambodia, such analysis has been possible with the use of data provided by CamDi (Cambodia Disaster Loss and Damage database), an online system established by the National Committee of Disaster Management in partnership with UNDP. In July 2014, CamDi, with English and Khmer interface, was launched by the Government of Cambodia and an analytical report was shared with all line ministries and provincial agencies, as well as with the donor community, international non-government organizations and other relevant groups.   I remember my initial consultations and discussions with the government and stakeholders. At the time, we were largely focused on flood-related issues, and lightning, seen as an isolated event, went unmentioned. Exhaustive disaster data collection, however, revealed the team the severity of the impact of lightning on the lives of … Read more

Lessons from the past help to prepare for the future

19 Dec 2014 by Haoliang Xu

Tsunami evacuation drillWe have seen that involving communities in the recovery process brings special commitment and speeds up recovery. UNDP Photo
In China there is an old proverb that goes: “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” Helping countries better deal with disasters has long been part of our mandate. But that objective took on new urgency following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Since then we have worked closely with governments in Asia and the Pacific to try to better protect communities, and provide those at risk with early warnings about approaching disasters. We have drawn on our  experience and encouraged South-South cooperation, for example, by facilitating a visit of experts from the Indonesian government – who managed the Banda Aceh reconstruction – to the Philippines so they could share expertise and ideas. These types of exchanges, support, training, and education have had an impact. Most recently, in the case of Typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) - while not as strong as Haiyan – preparedness and planning was reported to have played a vital role in saving lives, when the typhoon made multiple landfalls on the East coast of the Philippines. In recent years we have witnessed, when cyclones and storm surges have hit- … Read more

National finance helps Asia-Pacific lead the way on Climate Change

05 Dec 2014

Bangladeshi man rebuildingWith UNDP's support, rural residents in Bangladesh now have the resources and capacities to build back better and become resilient in the face of environmental threats. Photo credit: UNDP Bangladesh
A vital round of United Nations climate change negotiations is underway in Lima, Peru, from Dec. 1-12. This marks a significant milestone for the crucial Paris Summit on climate change that is a year away. At the climate talks in Lima, climate finance will again be at the forefront of negotiations and key in reaching a new global climate agreement. Initiated at the Secretary General’s Climate Change Summit in September, pledging towards the Green Climate Fund almost reached $10 billion. So far, countries in the Asia Pacific region have received a quarter of all global public climate finance. India and China are the largest recipients. Nineteen dedicated climate funds and initiatives have approved more than $2 billion for projects in the region, since 2003. With many countries in Asia Pacific at the frontline of climate change, bolstering resilience of low lying deltas and small islands, and reducing emissions from fast industrializing nations is a good investment. While this international financing is crucial, for it to have a sustained impact and leverage the investments needed it is also important that planning and budgeting systems are revisited through a climate lens. With the support of the United Nations through the Poverty and Environment … Read more

Inspiring innovation to meet development challenges

24 Nov 2014 by Nicholas Rosellini, Deputy Regional Director for UNDP’s Bureau in Asia and the Pacific

It is not unusual to hear citizens across the world complain about their government. How little things, such as fixing broken street lights or clearing garbage, can get neglected. So how do you create a more responsive government? One small island in the Maldives is testing an idea to generate dialogue between residents and their municipality. The concept is called Make-My-Island. It draws inspiration from two ideas. The first is the UK-based site Fix-My-Street, which connects communities to their council through mobile technology and the web. The second comes from the fact that there are over 600,000 mobile phone subscriptions in the Maldives, twice the national population. Our goal was to capitalise on this to connect islanders to their municipal authorities. A mobile application and website allows residents to flag municipal issues directly to the island council. For instance, if a local fisherman notices someone illegally dumping garbage, he can immediately send a text message from his mobile phone to the council, identifying the location of the problem. The complaint is recorded on the website and mapped digitally. The number of complaints recorded about an issue allows the council to quickly ascertain which concerns should be designated as a priority, and … Read more

Leaving no one behind and leaving no one out in Viet Nam

17 Oct 2014 by Dr. Pratibha Mehta, United Nations Resident Coordinator, Viet Nam

Women walking on the road. Vietnam’s fight against poverty is incomplete and it’s running out of steam. Photo: UNDP in Vietnam
Over the last decades Viet Nam has rightly earned a global reputation for rapid and sustained reductions in poverty. The positive trends have been driven by rapid, fairly consistent and high labour intensity economic growth, Viet Nam’s integration within global trade and contributory demographic changes. Yet, all is not so rosy in the garden. Viet Nam’s fight against poverty is incomplete and it’s running out of steam. Economic growth has declined considerably since 2008 and poverty is unevenly distributed - severe deprivation is experienced by particular groups and the Ethnic Minorities especially so.  Major gaps are also evident in other Millennium Development Goal outcomes, like in health and education. I have learned that to understand poverty in Viet Nam one has to look beyond the averages and the sound-bites.  As I’ve travelled around the country, I have had the chance to meet some of those who have been left behind, including young unregistered migrant workers in urban areas, the disabled and elderly and single-headed households. I’ve been struck by their resourcefulness and courage, but too many still struggle against extreme poverty and inequality. And this is in spite of the often genuine efforts of the Government. There are many things to … Read more

Eradicating poverty: thinking beyond income

17 Oct 2014 by Alfredo González Reyes, UNDP specialist on poverty and human development, Latin America and the Caribbean

Rural woman in Peru.Many countries have already started taking an important step towards a new way of thinking about poverty. Photo: UNDP in Peru
Today, the 17th of October 2014, marks 21 years since for the first time the International Day for the Eradication of Extreme Poverty was celebrated. Notable progress has been made since then. According to World Bank data, among the 115 low-income countries of the world, the proportion of people in extreme poverty (i.e. an income per person per day of US$1.25, adjusted for purchasing power parity) declined from 43.4 percent in 1990 to 17 percent in 2011; i.e. 912 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty over the past two decades. This drop was mainly concentrated in East Asia and the Pacific, where the incidence of extreme poverty was reduced from 57 to 7.9 percent during the same period (i.e. 750 million people). In Southeast Asia, it dropped from 54.1 to 24.5 percent (221.5 million people). In Latin America and the Caribbean, between 1990 and 2011, the incidence of extreme poverty dropped from 12.2 to 4.6 percent, i.e. 25.5 million Latin Americans no longer live in this extreme condition. Two decades ago, poverty was defined in monetary terms, based on a consensus around the concept that income was an adequate measure to represent wellbeing. Today, it is more readily acknowledged … Read more