Drop, cover and hold on: Earthquake training in Turkey

11 Dec 2014 by Cherie Hart, Regional Communications Adviser, Regional Centre, Istanbul

Trainee tries to survive the earthquake simulatorPhoto credit: Cherie Hart/UNDP
Turkey has 56 earthquakes a day. Fortunately, most are only felt by extremely fine-tuned seismic sensors.   Scientists predict that Istanbul, which sits on the Anatolian fault line, is due for a major earthquake in the next 30 – 50 years, which could kill or injure tens of thousands of people. Our security office takes this information very seriously, and I recently took a staff training course to learn some practical Do’s and Don’ts during an earthquake: Do not: run out of a building while the shaking is going on Do: Drop low, Cover your head and neck and Hold on to something stable Do not: jump out of a window or off a balcony Do not: stand in a doorway. Doors don’t protect you from falling debris as well as a table or desk I’m sad to report I failed the test. I didn’t drop low enough to my knees or adequately cover my head and neck. However, I did remember to hold on tight to the desk. That part was easy. While the training was both fun and informative, I was also reminded of the importance of being prepared for the unexpected – and how hands-on disaster preparedness trainings … Read more

Development for the People

11 Dec 2014 by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa

market scene in LiberiaA laundry basket vendor on the streets of Monrovia, Liberia (Photo: Carly Learson/UNDP)
If the Ebola outbreak is not contained soon, most of the economic and social gains achieved since peace was restored in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and since Guinea’s democratic transition began, could be reversed. In Liberia, 60% of markets are now closed; in Sierra Leone, only one-fifth of the 10,000 HIV patients who are on anti-retroviral treatments are still receiving them; and Guinea’s government is reporting a $220 million financing gap because of the crisis. All three countries remain fragile, divided, and, as the current crisis highlights, uniquely prone to shocks. More broadly, the region’s current crisis should inspire reflection about how the world supports and advances development. One important reason for these countries’ vulnerability is the consistent lack of investment in their populations, which has prevented ordinary citizens from reaping the benefits of economic growth. The threat that Ebola poses in all three countries extends beyond health care. Throughout the region, a history of conflict and a legacy of poor governance have fueled a deep distrust of governments and state institutions, as indicated in a 2012 Afrobarometer survey. Indeed, these countries’ lack of an established social contract has been the main obstacle to establishing political authority and effective governance. With … Read more

Breaking the corruption chain is our collective responsibility

09 Dec 2014 by Patrick Keuleers, Director/Chief, Governance and Peacebuilding

Indian woman and childrenIn India, UNDP and the Ministry of Law and Justice reach more than two million people and informed them of their rights in an effort to enable equitable access to justice for all. Photo credit: Shubhangi Singh/UNDP India
When corruption is rampant, some of us might think that the magnitude and complexity of the situation is hopeless. At the same time, making governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens is not a choice, but a responsibility which lies with each and every one of us. To “break the corruption chain” and encourage turning this fight into a global movement, we, at UNDP and at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have launched a global campaign  to commemorate the 2014 International Anti-corruption Day.   The message is simple: “Taking back what was lost to corrupt practices is everyone’s responsibility”. It is the responsibility of our governments and civil society organizations, of the private sector and the media, the general public, and of the youth, who must play a pivotal role in seeing this agenda through so that their future is built on solid and honest foundations. There are compelling reasons why everyone should have a stake in fighting corruption. Corruption is impeding the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  When public money is stolen for private use, fewer resources are allocated to building schools, hospitals, roads and water treatment facilities. Corruption also enables fake or … 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

Ebola: How the rumour mill can churn out fact instead of fiction

04 Dec 2014 by Lesley Wright, Communications Specialist, UNDP Sierra Leone

 Ebola community messengerA resident of Waterloo, an Ebola virus hotspot, gets first hand prevention information from one UNDP-supported community volunteer. Photo: H. Uddin/UNDP Sierra Leone
Ebola spreads fast and rumours even faster. In a crisis where information means the difference between life and death, the rumour mill is not helping to end the outbreak. Everyone has a theory about Ebola; some claim they know how to stop it, most claim to know where it came from. Most of the theories contradict reality and serve as a roadblock to eradicating Ebola, like false cures or where donor money is spent. Sierra Leone is a story-telling society, but word of mouth is the best form of communications, particularly when more than 60% of adults are illiterate. In Sierra Leone, secret societies, tacit ethical codes and centuries-long traditions rule the roost. So when some people speak, the country listens.   With this rumour mill comes potential. We, and other UN agencies, NGOs, the Government of Sierra Leone and other stakeholders have made messaging the core of our work. Whether it’s going door-to-door, erecting giant billboards or handing out flyers, getting the right message to everyone is not just about exposure, it’s about trust. Our Ebola community messengers go through their own communities, and speak face-to-face, ensuring they are heard loud and clear. If not, their blue overalls with 117, … Read more

Think tanks supporting South-South Cooperation

03 Dec 2014 by Xiaojun Grace Wang, Lead Adviser, South-South and Triangular Cooperation

 participats of UNDP project Participants of a UNDP project on family savings and improving diet of poor families in Uruguay and El Salvador using improved equipment to reduce consumption of firewood and increase use of solar power. Photo credit: UNDP
Our new strategic plan champions thought leadership in various areas, including South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSC and TrC). To achieve that vision, we will need to work very closely with think tanks from the global South and open possibilities for cutting edge research, as there is much to be done to help bridge research with policy making and practices on the ground. To start the conversation we presented perspectives from 21 think tanks in the North and South, at a recent partnership-forum we hosted at the Global South-South Development Expo 2014. This outlines emerging trends, roles, good practices and challenges faced by think tanks on SSC and TrC. At the open platform the ensuing discussion revolved around the roles and responsibilities of think tanks in supporting the growth of South-South and Triangular Cooperation and creation of a common research agenda in this area. Panelists from Brazil, China, India and Kenya presented their views on the concepts, principles, practices, and development impacts of SSC and TrC, and outlined steps for moving forward. I would like to share with you some recommendations that emerged from the consultation, and where we could provide further support: Assisting in developing networks for interregional collaboration – a … Read more

A rural community calls for an end to FGM

01 Dec 2014 by Ignacio Artaza, Country Director, Egypt

 Communities in Qena are joining forces with international organizations and civil society to end FGM in Egypt. Photo credit: Jose Sanchez/UNDP Egypt
I recently visited the village of Beir Anbar in the district of Koft, Qena governorate, and listened to the powerful statement this community is conveying to the rest of the country to put an end to the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The whole village, from young schoolchildren to village elders came together to denounce FGM as "violent", "wrong" and "harmful". Even today, many girls and young women are subjected to genital mutilation in the name of ‘tradition’. According to the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, at least 91 percent of Egyptian women between the ages of 15-49 have undergone genital mutilation. The people of Beir Anbar made it clear that Egyptian girls and women deserve a new tradition – a tradition of protecting and safeguarding their rights. The joint efforts of families, community activists, authorities, development agencies and media are gradually making a difference to phase out this traditional harmful practice. Let us be clear: there is no justification – moral, religious, cultural, medical or otherwise for this practice. ‘Cutting’ demeans, dehumanizes and injures. It is a human rights violation that must be actively opposed until it is ended. As we gathered inside the community centre, a group of … Read more

Meaningfully reducing disaster risk requires borderless efforts

28 Nov 2014 by Mukash Kaldarov, Chief Technical Adviser, UNDP Kyrgyzstan

 A boy looks at eroded canalA boy looking at an eroded canal in Jalal-Abad province, Kyrgyzstan. Credit: Kairatbek Murzakimov/UNDP
It is fair to say that disasters, whether natural or technological, are not limited or restrained by borders. Floods, storms, environmental degradation and the ramifications of industrial or radiological waste affect multiple countries at once when they occur. National and local efforts to prepare for this, while necessary, are simply not sufficient or efficient. The reality, however inconvenient at times, is that regional threats require an equally regional effort to prepare and respond. Preparing communities along a river or waterway for possible flooding should not stop simply because of a political boundary; efforts, therefore, must be made to integrate and coordinate actions for optimum results. This understanding is quickly taking root in the Central Asian region; between 1988 and 2007 at least 177 disasters affected the region, causing more than 36,000 deaths. In 2000 alone, at least 3 million people regionally were affected by droughts that caused serious economic losses. Looking ahead, the threat of climate change means that weather related disasters may only increase in severity and frequency. Equally as threatening, though thankfully rare, is the threat of technological or industrial disasters stemming from aging but critical infrastructure, such as dams, irrigation nets and uranium mines. Reducing and managing these … Read more

Against all odds: Egypt's fight against Climate Change

26 Nov 2014 by Keti Chachibaia, Regional Technical Specialist for Climate Change Adaptation

 Egyptians on the seaside in AlexandriaResidents of Alexandria enjoy the seaside in Egypt. Photo credit: Dylan Lowthian/UNDP
It’s less than a week to COP20, the UN climate change summit where nearly 200 governments will meet in Lima, Peru. This is an important opportunity for the global community to make progress on a universal and meaningful global climate change agreement, to be agreed in Paris in 2015. Reaching an agreement is often a hard process, but if everyone is committed to it we can break through. Egypt is one example. The Nile delta is the richest farmland in Egypt. It is fascinating that, while it covers only 5% of the total area of the country, it is home to 95% of its population. But this beautiful area dotted with tourist sights and industries faces a harsh reality: Coastal erosion caused by sea-level rise threatens low lying lands and has a direct and critical impact on the country’s entire economy. In 2010, we started working on coastal protection, with a grant from the Special Climate Change Fund.  Our project promotes the idea that we should work with the sea rather than trying to fight nature. “Living with the Sea” became our strategy, as we aimed to strike a balance between protective, hard, infrastructure such as seawalls, and reinforcing the protection … Read more

The lessons from the ground on Gender-based Violence

25 Nov 2014 by Diego Antoni, Policy Specialist, Gender, Governance and Crisis Prevention and Recovery

girls from QenaGirls from Qena where the whole community has joined forces to end FGM. Photo credit: Jose Sanchez/UNDP
To commemorate this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, our innovation lab in Egypt will work with young people to develop an IT application that helps victims report cases of gender-based violence (GBV). The space offered to these young champions of the GBV cause is just one of many examples of how social innovation is providing solutions to tackle and prevent violence.   Across the world, similar bottom-up initiatives pick new angles to address GBV. In Uganda, the organization Raising Voices has developed an ambitious project called SASA! It explains to social activists  what power means, both its positive and negative uses, and has successfully reduced community tolerance of GBV. In Azerbaijan, an  organization for gender equality explores different cultural values –what they call “national values”- that can help raise awareness about the need to reduce GBV. Many of these initiatives focus on making the voices of the people heard. Also in Uganda, the Manya Human Rights International Film Festival is providing film training for marginalized women so that they can tell their own stories through documentaries. As the UN-led consultations on the Post-2015 agenda have shown, people who participated in the discussions care and are willing … Read more