Our Perspective

      • Consumption consumes you | George Gray Molina

        10 Jan 2014

        Casimira Sanchez prepares pieces of gym equipment at a plant in Mexico City. A UNDP programme to strengthen small and medium-sized businesses increased their access to new market technology. Photo: Luis Acosta/AFP for UNDP

        F. Scott Fitzgerald used to say about alcohol: “First, you take the drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” The same thing could be said about consumerism as a way of achieving social status and recognition. First, let’s look at a few facts. Consumerism is the engine driving growth in Latin American economies. It represents 59 percent of the GDP in Brazil, 66 percent in Mexico, 69 percent in Chile, 77 percent in Honduras and 88 percent in the Dominican Republic — so more than two thirds of the economic growth in Brazil, Mexico and Chile over the past twelve months. Consumerism also led to a significant reduction in poverty and favored the emergence of the middle class in the region. Today, most of the population is no longer “poor” in the statistical sense of the term, but “vulnerable” as they work in precarious labour markets yet enjoy higher levels of income and purchasing power than before. Secondly, let’s look at some areas of concern. Consumption is intrinsically linked to high levels of liquidity, easy access to credit, and household debt. Household debt has increased throughout the region: According to Morgan Stanley, the ratio of household debt to income is Read More

      • A clash of generations: How high percentages of young people can fuel conflicts | Henrik Urdal

        20 Dec 2013

        Refugees from Syria's conflict. (Photo: UNHCR)

        In a time of unprecedented demographic change — there will be an estimated 9.6 billion people mainly concentrated in cities around the globe by 2050 — population structures play a significant role in the overall peace and stability of a country. My research focuses on the correlation between populations with burgeoning numbers of young people, which social scientists call "youth bulges," instability, and conflicts. Around the world, 68 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, and Yemen, have demographic pyramids heavily skewed towards younger populations. Many of these countries, where more than 30 percent of the adult population is between the ages of 15 and 24, are currently experiencing violence or social or political unrest. While youth bulges are not the only cause of violence, when combined with low education, a failing job market unable to employ high numbers of young workers, and an inaccessible political system excluding youth from participation, the risk of conflict increases. The current conflict in Syria is a case in point. In 2000, Syria had the third-largest youth bulge in the world, as well as one of the lowest rates of secondary education in the Middle East and North Africa. As in many other countries in the region, Read More

      • Planning the recovery: Three observations from the Philippines | Kamal Kishore

        18 Dec 2013

        In areas around Tacloban city, even well-engineered buildings suffered serious damage. (Photo: UNPD in the Philippines)

        Arriving in Manila only a few days after Typhoon Haiyan, I found myself wondering why we were there in the first place. As we often point out, the Philippines is one of the best prepared nations in the region, with impressive early warning and emergency systems. So why then did Haiyan have such a devastating impact, and how can we avert future emergencies? One of the first things I noticed upon arriving is how damage, destruction and deaths from the storm varied significantly across the country. Guiuan, for instance, suffered about one tenth of the casualties endured by other regions, although it faced winds of a similar magnitude. It cannot be a coincidence then that the lower number of deaths seems to be directly proportional to how quickly and efficiently the local government responded. The second observation is that the transition from relief to recovery seems to be moving quickly. A sense of urgency is indeed welcome; however, the key challenge is to not only rebuild quickly but also to do it better, with a long-term view and resilience-building mindset. It is important to remember that during the recovery we are not only rebuilding physical things but also lives, livelihoods and Read More