Our Perspective

      • Remembering and learning from Fukushima | Kamal Kishore

        12 Mar 2012

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        Japan has developed disaster risk reduction systems, an investment that has paid off in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Photo: Patrick Fuller/ IFRC

        One year ago, a major earthquake struck off Japan's northeastern coast, causing a devastating tsunami. A massive tidal wave followed, overwhelming some of the tsunami protection systems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, killing thousands of people and forcing 100,000 more from their homes. While radiation at the nuclear site has now been contained, it will take years to decommission the plant and gauge the radiation impact it has had. Three simultaneous major disasters—earthquake, tsunami, and radiation leak—this was a crisis without precedent. Japanese authorities drew sharp criticism from domestic constituencies. But we must recognize that some parts of the Japanese disaster management system worked well, preventing losses of an inconceivable magnitude as might have occurred in many other countries. In earthquake-stricken areas, trains came properly to a halt, electrical systems shut down, people were evacuated, lives and property largely survived. Most of the damage stemmed from the tsunami and nuclear leakage. The lessons from Japan are complex:  Prevention pays. Japan has developed disaster risk reduction systems – building codes, systems for implementation of buildings codes, emergency response systems, and public awareness of disasters, painstakingly over several decades.  This investment has paid off.  Take Indonesia as another  example reinforcing this message:Read More

      • Asia needs more of the 'fair sex' on political front | Ajay Chhibber

        09 Mar 2012

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        Image from UNDP's documentary "The Glass Ceiling,” shining light on political inequality. Photo: UNDP Thailand

        The political empowerment of women is critical to human development and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Worldwide, women continue to be under-represented in national parliaments, occupying less than 20% of seats and accounting for just 18% of government ministers. The Asia-Pacific region has the lowest percentages of women in national legislatures of any region outside of the Arab states 18.2% in Asia and in the Pacific just over 15%. However, if you exclude Australia and New Zealand, it drops to just 5%. The winds of change though are blowing, though. The Asia-Pacific region is growing fast and more people are reaping the rewards of development. The gender gap in school enrolments is closing and there are many examples of women outnumbering men entering university. But what good does education do when it is not met with opportunity? To achieve political equality, we must give women the support they need to develop their full potential: we must empower women to see themselves as leaders. Social, political, economic and legal barriers have hindered participation at all levels of government. To make gender equality a political reality, governments need to craft policies and programmes that build the economic power of women, promoteRead More

      • On Women’s Day, Remember Our Arab Sisters | Amat Al Alim Alsoswa

        07 Mar 2012

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        Progress toward social justice and dignity will move only as fast as progress in empowering women. Photo: UNDP

        Arab women have fought bravely over the last year to demand dignity and new freedoms. And their courage has been noted: In December, my Yemeni sister Tawakkol Karman became the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Prize for Peace, in recognition of her principled democratic activism. But launching transitions was the easy part. Across the region, Arab women are realizing that while moves toward democracy can bring hope for long-suppressed rights, they can also unveil deep-seated discrimination that threatens to set women back. In Tunisia, admirable efforts by the interim government to achieve parity in the Constituent Assembly elected last October were thwarted as most parties buried the names of female candidates at the bottom of electoral lists. In Egypt, where a 12 percent quota for women’s representation was scrapped in the early days of transition, the new 508-seat People’s Assembly includes only 12 women—less than 3 percent.  And last week Libyans celebrated one of their first democratic elections, for the local council in Misrata. The result? Twenty-eight men, zero women. What’s more, women activists have faced harassment—not only by security forces but also by men who oppose to their presence in public life. In several countries, some newly empoweredRead More