Unlocking climate action: Why cities are at the forefront

18 Oct 2016 by Bahareh Seyedi, Policy Specialist, Climate Change, Energy and Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP

By 2060, more than a billion people will be living in cities in low-lying coastal zones, the vast majority in developing countries. Photo: Igor Rugwiza/MINUSTAH
Tehran, Managua, Vancouver, Manila, Montreal, Ouagadougou, New York: seven cities I love and have had the pleasure of living in! Each is rich in beauty, history, and culture, and has its own unique urban characteristics. But there is a shared threat faced by these cities that if left unaddressed has the ability to jeopardize their entire existence. The threat of climate change. From droughts, storms, and heat waves, to floods and hurricanes, these cities are all exposed to risks from climate hazards and natural disasters in one way or another. My hometown, Tehran, is at serious risk of water scarcity, with its major reservoirs reaching critically low levels in the past couple of years due to reduced rainfall and increase in temperature. … Read more

Drivers of public services and policies of tomorrow – the role of government innovation labs

12 Oct 2016 by Benjamin Kumpf, Policy Specialist, Innovation at UNDP and Laura Schnurr, Social Enterprise and Social Finance, Canadian Government and Innovation Facility, UNDP.

Kolba Lab, run by UNDP and the government of Armenia, held a mapathon of accessible places in Yerevan. Photo: @gorkroyan
What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘innovation’? The public sector? – Thought not. But we are working on changing this. Over the last three years, UNDP has set up innovation labs in five countries to support governments in designing the next generation of public services and to embark on experimental policy-design and another one is being set up right now. From Brazil, Colombia and Canada to South Africa, Israel, Malaysia and Singapore – the world map of labs is constantly growing. Government innovation labs, sometimes referred to as change labs, social labs or design labs, have been opening up in more and more places since the early 2000s. What are Public Sector innovation labs and how do they work? Government or public sector innovation labs are teams that combine expertise in innovation methods and public sector reform to improve policy design and the way governments deliver services to the public. Another important role of the labs is to help governments reframe challenges and to broaden the perspective of policy makers by bringing in the perspective of users. Labs help governments in creating better solutions based on citizen feedback and inputs. But ideally they are more than quick-solution delivery machines. … Read more

The nexus of climate change and conflict in the Arab region

12 Oct 2016 by Kishan Khoday, Regional Team Leader, Climate Change, DRR and Resilience, UNDP Regional Hub for Arab States

Conflict and climate change are major drivers of displacement in Syria and elsewhere in the Arab region. UNHCR photo
Alongside the daily barrage of rockets and gunfire facing the Arab region is a more insidious but perhaps no less important foe – climate change. Climate change and conflict both have serious consequences and their convergence, particularly in fragile states, that has now arisen as a major concern. Leading UNDP’s climate change action in the Arab region, I see first-hand how this convergence is creating new forms of social vulnerability and reshaping the prospects for peace. The Arab region was the birthplace of agricultural civilization and for thousands of years has been able to cope with risks from climatic hazards. But climate change is now happening at a pace unlike anything before, stretching the ability of societies and governments to cope. The evidence shows that the region may well be in the midst of a 25-year climate change-induced mega drought, equal in strength only to historic droughts one thousand years ago that led to major civilizational shifts. Already the world’s most water insecure region, climate change is expected to see temperatures rise faster here than the global average, making parts of the region uninhabitable by mid-century. Unless actions are taken, impacts will be felt in loss of agricultural livelihoods, high unemployment, mass displacement, and resource conflicts. … Read more

Sustainable cities – if not now, when?

12 Oct 2016 by Jessica Faieta, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean

 During the Habitat III conference, UN Member States will adopt a New Urban Agenda (NUA) that will guide the sustainable development efforts of cities and territories for the next 20 years.
For the first time in history, over half of the world’s population is living in urban areas. Latin America and the Caribbean, where 80 percent of people live in cities, is often cited as the world’s most urbanized region. This urbanization is both a great opportunity and a great challenge for sustainable human development. These opportunities and challenges will be discussed during the Habitat III World Conference in Quito, Ecuador. Habitat III comes one year after adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which, for the first time, includes a pledge dedicated to cities: Sustainable Development Goal 11 aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Cities have a crucial role to play in the achievement of the new 2030 Agenda. For example, without leadership by cities and territories it is impossible to decrease poverty, reduce inequality or achieve effective, accountable and inclusive institutions. Simply put, if we don’t take into account the local dimension, it will be more difficult to the dichotomy of the city – formal and informal, safe and unsafe, accessible for some and inaccessible for others. … Read more

Climate risk management in Latin America and the Caribbean

12 Oct 2016 by Matilde Mordt, Team Leader, Sustainable Development and Resilience, UNDP Regional Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean

Hurricane MatthewHurricane Matthew is only the latest reminder of the relentless force of nature. In 25 years, disasters have claimed more than 240,000 lives and caused losses of more than US$39 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean. Photo: Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH
In Mayan mythology, the god Huracán originated from the heart of heaven to rule the thunder, lightning, winds and storms. For the Caribbean Tainos, Juracán represented an evil god. In 1494 Christopher Columbus mentioned in his logbook a possible tropical cyclone that surprised his fleet while sailing in the waters near Cuba. It is from this time that this phenomenon, elsewhere in the world called cyclone or typhoon, acquires the name hurricane in the Western Hemisphere. The recent passage of Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean, which has affected millions of people in the Bahamas, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and the United States, reminds us once again of the relentless forces of nature. In Haiti, in addition to the death toll that is rising, there are 750,000 people in need of assistance. In the most affected areas, villages have been shattered and agriculture devastated. Given the precarious sanitary conditions in the country, cholera threatens to resurge. The forces of heaven would perhaps have surprised pre-Columbian populations. These days, however, we can monitor and predict the course and strength of tropical storms and hurricanes, allowing us to take precautions and prepare for their arrival. Scientists tell us that the speed of the winds in hurricanes will increase with climate change. This stresses the fact that the necessary preparations should be long term and an integral element as we erect human settlements. In other words, we need to build more resilient societies. … Read more