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

How can we achieve universal access to water and sanitation?

10 Apr 2015 by Jean-Philippe Bayon, Expert/Coordinator, UNDP-Global Water Solidarity

 Internally displaced people (IDPs) in Bannu, Pakistan gain access to water through a UNDP-supported project. Photo: UNDP/Pakistan
Water is essential for local development, particularly for sectors such as health, agriculture, economic development, education and environment. But too often potential donors work in silo without taking into account the heritage of existing projects or understanding the available expertise on the ground. … Read more

Inside UNDP: Jorge Álvarez

06 Apr 2015 by Jorge Álvarez, Programme Officer, Energy and Environment, Peru

 Jorge Álvarez with community members from UNDP’s sustainable land management project in Las Bambas, Apurímac, Peru. Photo: UNDP/Peru
Jorge Álvarez, from Peru, is an agricultural engineer who has worked for UNDP for over five years and is on the roster of Peruvian national experts of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He is motivated by the desire to raise public awareness on the importance of taking care of the planet and its resources, to generate tangible changes in his country, and to leave to his children a legacy of a cleaner and sustainable Peru. … Read more

Building resilience and livelihoods in the aftermath of war

31 Mar 2015 by Benjamin Larroquette, Regional Technical Advisor, Climate Change Adaptation

 The UNDP-supported project is working to deliver tangible socio-economic benefits by investing in and restoring ecological infrastructure such as rangelands. Photo: UNDP/Afghanistan
Travelling through Afghanistan, one can see that the country is struggling to recover from 30 years of war. Poverty is especially apparent when you leave Kabul and travel to other parts of the country. UNDP has been in Afghanistan for more than 50 years, working closely with the Afghan government to operate projects across the country’s 34 provinces, but despite significant steps forward, this is a country that faces enormous recovery needs after decades of war, natural disasters and a continuing cycle of violence. After months of preparation, we at UNDP are now starting to implement the “Strengthening the Resilience of Rural Livelihood Options for Afghan Communities” project, the first climate change adaptation project in this country. UNDP is now helping Afghan communities withstand the effects of climate change, and we are focusing on building awareness and planning capacity, as well as demonstrating adaptation activities such as livelihood diversification, resilient water and irrigation infrastructure, and improved agriculture practices. This is a crucial project for poverty reduction in Afghanistan. Sixty percent of the Afghan workforce is employed in agriculture, but climate change impact has been making their lives difficult. Due to prolonged droughts, erratic rainfall and extreme temperatures, the most cultivable land … Read more

Why more tigers in India is good news for us all

25 Mar 2015 by Midori Paxton, Regional Technical Advisor, Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Bangkok

 There were roughly 100,000 tigers in 1900; that number has tumbled to 3,200 in 2014. UNDP Photo
My first encounter with a wild tiger was pure drama. I was on safari in India’s Nagarhole National Park and only a few minutes into our game drive, the forest erupted into bedlam. There it was, slipping effortlessly through the dry season undergrowth as everybody held their breaths in a spellbound silence. But, once the safari over, I felt the pangs of loss. How much longer before this majestic creature is extinct? Tigers’ decline has been catastrophic. There were roughly 100,000 tigers in 1900.  Poached for traditional medicine, hunted for sport and hounded by the destruction of their habitats this number has tumbled to just 3,200 in 2014. Last month, for the first time in decades, tigers featured in some good news. The Indian government announced an increase in wild tiger numbers from 1,706 in 2010 to 2,226 – a 30 percent bounce back. These astonishing results didn’t come out of nowhere. India is the only country that has an official body, mandated to ensure the nuts and bolts of tiger recovery: regular population surveys, habitat and population monitoring, law enforcement etc.   India is taking a landscape approach. To protect a tiger one needs to set aside areas strictly for … 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

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

Seven things to consider when managing non-renewable natural resources

19 Mar 2015 by Degol Hailu, Senior Advisor, Sustainable Development

Golding mining in DRCGold mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where production is booming but many diggers live in abject poverty. Photo: Benoît Almeras-Martino/UNDP DRC
Natural resource wealth offers enormous potential for achieving development goals. But without effective management, the wealth can be squandered. UNDP works with governments, the private sector and civil society to minimize the risks associated with building an oil, gas and mineral economy and optimize the benefits. Here are seven tips on how the development impact of these finite resources can be enhanced. Know your wealth. Most of the oil, gas and mineral resources in developing countries are yet to be discovered. Consequently, foreign companies that carry out exploration activities have pertinent geological information before governments do, creating bargaining asymmetry during contract negotiations. As the African Mining Vision notes, governments need to fully know their resource wealth to be able to negotiate as equals. Establish comprehensive legal frameworks. Several contracts and mining codes have been revised in recent years, usually when governments realize, sometimes under pressure from civil society, that tax rates are low, environmental protection is weak and re-settlement schemes are inadequate. Participatory and consultative measures are indispensable when drafting key legislation. Maximize revenues for development. The income earned from taxing resource extraction can be low, first, because of weak contract negotiating capacity, and second, due to lack of transparency and … Read more

Managing local level risks for sustainable development

18 Mar 2015 by Rajeev Issar, Policy Specialist, Disaster and Climate Risk Governance

 Jambeshwar Maji, 48, works around the lift irrigation unit. UNDP’s partnership with the Government of Odisha is helping communities in Puri in Odisha adapt to extreme weather events. Photo: Prashanth Vishwanathan/UNDP India
“The most effective disaster and climate risk management focuses on the local level.” As a Disaster Risk Management (DRM) practitioner, I heard this often, and yet only once I worked with communities on the ground did I truly understand the idea’s full import. Working with the GoI-UNDP DRM Programme in India showed me that the most successful and innovative DRM efforts start with communities. The Programme’s bottom-up approach allowed community members to identify their own risk management and climate adaptation needs, formulate local development and disaster management plans, and have these approved by elected village councils/representatives. It was particularly satisfying to note the sense of ownership the people had for the plans. While this might sound both intuitive and easy, I learned that a bottom-up approach requires sustained and continuous engagement with community members. It requires numerous meetings and consultations with a large cross-section of people, including women, the elderly and other traditionally overlooked groups. It requires sharing information and knowledge about successful practices with these communities, while also familiarizing these communities with administrative mechanisms and methods of promoting administration-community collaboration. We used this process in India. After the village/community disaster management plans were approved by the village council, the plans … Read more

Disaster resilience? There’s an app for that.

18 Mar 2015 by Patrick Grémillet, Partnership Advisor, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction

 Improved technology and disaster communication training supported through UNDP's projects in the Philippines helped local authorities obtain information rapidly and coordinate on a response during emergencies such. Photo: Hari Krishna Nibanupudi for UNDP
Mobile phones are helping revolutionize the way we protect communities from disasters. While more traditional measures, such as earthquake-resilient buildings and early warning broadcasts, will continue to be the hallmark of disaster risk reduction, innovations in technology are offering new ways to strengthen resilience. From simple SMS-style early warning messages to full touch-screen enabled ‘hazard maps,’ mobile technologies connect users to real-time disaster info. These innovations provide new ways of sharing life-saving information, but also help ‘crowd-source’ disaster info, allowing users to receive and update hazard-related information in real-time. Such technology has already had impressive results. For example, after the devastating 9.0 earthquake struck the coast of Japan in 2011, 120,000 residents in the Philippines’ exposed coastal communities received warnings of a possible tsunami on their mobile phones. While the tsunami fortunately did not materialize in the Philippines, some 150 coastal districts were nonetheless successfully evacuated. Countries around the world are using technology to raise awareness about disaster threats and create cultures of action. In Uzbekistan, UNDP helped create a mobile app in Uzbek and Russian that can transmit emergency information from the Ministry of Emergency Situations to at-risk communities. “It’s really easy to use,” says Vasko Popovski, UNDP’s Project Manager … Read more