Engaging with parliamentarians on HIV and the law

21 Aug 2014 by Vivek Divan, Policy Specialist

A DOCTOR PROVIDING HIV COUNSELING AND TESTING TO A WOMAN IN RUMBEK, LAKES STATE, SOUTH SUDANA DOCTOR PROVIDING HIV COUNSELING AND TESTING TO A WOMAN IN RUMBEK, LAKES STATE, SOUTH SUDAN. PHOTO: MARGUERITE NOWAK/ UNDP IN SOUTH SUDAN
I have been working for several years with policy- and law-makers to support a rights-based response to HIV and contribute to stemming the tide of the epidemic. This work often requires raising highly controversial and discomfiting issues such as class, sexuality, gender and stigmatized behaviors such as drug use. It also involves the most marginalized society groups– sex workers, transgender people, homosexual men and drug users. Often, parliamentarians are not fully informed of the complex factors that allow HIV to spread and thrive within communities, particularly the ways in which marginalization, disempowerment, stigma and discrimination contribute to making people vulnerable. But I have witnessed how individuals in positions of influence – lawmakers, judges, the police – can drive advancements in the law that protect those affected by HIV and benefit society at large. Concerted efforts at engaging parliamentarians on human rights issues can lead to tangible change, although it is often a slow and onerous process. We, at UNDP, play a pivotal role in engaging governments and building capacity of government actors on many development issues, including on HIV and the crucial need for rights-based legal approaches in addressing the epidemic. Our support of the Global Commission on HIV and the … Read more

Questioning the ‘feminisation of development’ and the business logic

18 Aug 2014 by Heewoong Kim, Programme Analyst

a participant in a women's empowerment UNDP projectA PARTICIPANT in A WOMEN ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT PROGRAMME IN UPPER EGYPT. Photo: HEEWOONG KIM/undp.
‘Feminisation of development’ is a fancy phrase referring to the recent trend of seeing women as both beneficiaries and agents of change in development. This has become a popular approach and many of our programmes such as micro-loans, or skills trainings for women fit into this category. This new role is bolstered by a so-called ‘smart business’ logic. Based on this view, women’s empowerment is not only a rights or equity issue, but is also a good investment. UNDP and other UN agencies have, to a degree, subscribed to this logic saying that empowering women leads to better health, education and development overall; and many  of our programmes proved to be quite effective in producing results. For instance, the Conditional Cash Transfers programme provided to mothers in Latin America reduced inequality by 21 percent in Brazil/Mexico and 15 percent in Chile. An initiative targeting ultra-poor female-headed households in Bangladesh raised income by 36 percent and food security by 42 percent. But despite such success, there is mounting opposition against this trend, surprisingly, from the feminist schools. Sylvia Chant, a prominent gender and development scholar, strongly argues against this approach stating: “Women are enlisted as foot soldiers to serve in battles whose aims … Read more

Teamwork crucial to accelerate progress on MDGs

15 Aug 2014 by Magdy Martinez-Soliman, Deputy Assistant Administrator and Director Ad Interim of the Bureau for Development Policy

Tanzania: Sustainable forest management helps to improve communities livehoodsTanzania: Sustainable forest management helps to improve communities livehoods. Photo: UNDP in Tanzania
Concerted efforts are being made by governments, the United Nations, a host of development partners and civil society organizations to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, established 14 years ago to transform and save the lives of millions who are subject to poverty, hunger and disease. Since 2000, tremendous progress has been made and several MDG targets met — both globally and in many countries. These are impressive achievements, but the road ahead still runs uphill. Many of these successes are unevenly distributed across and within countries, and slow progress on several goals means they may not be met by 2015. The challenges are daunting: global emissions of carbon dioxide keep growing, millions of hectares of forest are lost every year, maternal mortality is still too high, basic sanitation remains out of reach for millions, and many of those infected with HIV go without treatment. It may seem like the list goes on, but what is reassuring is that it is getting shorter. What seemed like a tall order in 2000 to unite governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector to change lives for the better, has accomplished much. With each passing day, the lives of … Read more

Financing Post-2015: A quick run-down of the expert committee’s report

13 Aug 2014 by Gail Hurley: Policy Specialist, Development Finance

The UN’s inter-governmental committee of experts on sustainable development financing met for the last time this month to put the final touches to their much anticipated report on how the world should finance the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals – or SDGs. I’ve had the opportunity to attend many of the committee’s sessions, and they’ve had a mammoth task. So what have they come up with? You can read the full report here, but below is a quick heads-up. The range of issues they’ve had to cover is massive: from assessing how much cash is needed to finance sustainable development to thinking about where the cash could come from and where these funds should be directed. The report draws up a ‘menu of options’ for the financing of sustainable development. This allows policymakers in different countries to make choices as to what policies and financial instruments are most suited to them. That makes perfect sense of course; the strategy that will be best for a climate-vulnerable small island state such as the Maldives won’t necessarily be the same for a larger resource-rich country such as Kazakhstan. On the other hand, it could also lead governments to ‘cherry-pick’ among the ideas presented, and … Read more

Creating and sustaining ethical organizational culture

12 Aug 2014 by Alayne Frankson Wallace, UNDP Ethics Advisor

When we speak of organizational culture, we are referring to the way people behave in the workplace, how they go about doing their work and the values that they demonstrate through their actions and decision-making. Organizational culture passes down from long serving staff to new hires and becomes embedded in how the organization operates. Thus, organizational culture is influenced and impacted not just by written regulations, rules and policies, but also by the unwritten code of ‘how we really do things around here.’ So, the organizational culture can be aligned with its stated values and policies (ethical), or it can be contradictory of those written statements (unethical). Very often, employees will do what they know is rewarded and will avoid doing what they know will be punished. To create and sustain an ethical organizational culture needs constant communication about the ethical values of the organization and ensuring that the behaviors of all leaders and staff members are aligned with those values. This requires going beyond just the written rules to reaching for the highest aspirational behavior. It means living the principles underpinning the values, even when there is no rule or where the written rule is unclear. An ethical organizational culture … Read more

Africa is transforming itself: How do we turn intentions into reality?

08 Aug 2014 by Juergen Nagler, Programme Specialist

Children in DRC help a stuck carBetter investment in infrastructure could help Africa's transformation. Photo: Benoit Almeras Martino/UNDP DRC
Recently I attended an event from the Global Compact, a UN initiative to encourage businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies. Entitled "Advancing Partnerships and Responsible Business Leadership", it was held for the first time in Africa, bringing over 300 participants together from businesses, Global Compact networks, UN agencies and governments. Africa's economic transformation with various partners from China, Europe and the US was among the key topics discussed. But, while multinational companies do play a role, it is increasingly clear that African policy makers and business people are setting the continent’s agenda. Participants largely agreed that Africa’s transformation requires investment in better infrastructure, education, skills, jobs, policies and more. The WHAT was better articulated than the HOW. Africa is expected to be one of the world's fastest growing regions, with 4.8 percent growth in 2014 and over 5 percent in 2015, according to the recent African Economic Outlook 2014. However, this transformation goes well beyond economic growth. Development practitioners talk more and more about ‘inclusive growth’, agreeing that businesses should go beyond philanthropy and corporate social responsibility towards making their core activities better suited for societies and the environment.  As UNDP's Resident Coordinator in Ethiopia, Eugene Owusu stated: "Inclusive … Read more

Making sense of the world we live in: The development contribution

08 Aug 2014 by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator

South Sudanese refugees in a Refugee Settlement in Northern UgandaSouth Sudanese refugees in a Refugee Settlement in Northern Uganda. Photo: F. NOY/ UNHCR
It’s hard to remember a time when more crises were jostling for space in the headline news, or when the world’s leading diplomats, like Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN Secretary General, were engaged in shuttle diplomacy on so many issues simultaneously. Top of mind by late last month were the conflicts in Gaza and eastern Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Mali, Nigeria. Meeting the costs of humanitarian relief is proving overwhelming. By the end of June this year, UN coordinated appeals for humanitarian crises had already reached $16.4 billion. This was before the latest conflict in Gaza began, and before a lot of the fighting in eastern Ukraine.  Could more be done to anticipate, prevent, or mitigate these traumatic events? The short answer is – yes and there is a compelling need to try to get ahead of the curve of future crises and disasters, to avert huge and costly development setbacks and lives lost.   Rough estimates suggest that for every dollar spent in disaster preparedness and mitigation, seven dollars will be saved when disaster strikes. It is also true that spending in fragile states which have been or still are immersed in conflict does … Read more

A new global framework for disaster risk reduction

08 Aug 2014 by Carl Mercer, Communications Specialist

Barbados: Members of the community doing practical exercises in disaster management. Photo: UNDP in Barbados & the OECSBarbados: Members of the community doing practical exercises in disaster management. Photo: UNDP in Barbados & the OECS
It is well recognized that disasters are an impediment to the eradication of poverty, so it is no surprise that the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include indicators related to disaster risk reduction. However, while most attention is on the post-2015 development framework, momentum is also building towards a new framework for disaster risk reduction – a successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA). Adopted by 168 countries in 2005, the HFA pledges to reduce the impact of disasters through prevention, preparedness, and capacities for emergency response. Over the last nine years, the HFA has been instrumental in galvanizing global support for tackling disasters. And the results during this time have been significant. Countries in all regions have made progress and some have truly transformed the way they undertake development, mainstreaming risk reduction throughout institutions, policies and programmes. However, while a great deal of progress has been made, especially in disaster preparedness, other areas, such as risk-governance, still require a concerted push. In July, I had the opportunity to participate in the first preparation meeting for the successor of the HFA (dubbed ‘HFA2’), and its adoption in March 2015 at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. Organized by UNISDR … Read more

Building the house of development: We can get there

05 Aug 2014 by Leisa Perch, Policy Specialist

woman in Odisha IndiaLearning to adapt to climate change in Odisha, India where women are hit hardest by the extreme weather conditions. Photo: Prashanth Vishwanathan/ UNDP India
As I think about the current challenges facing international development policy I find myself increasingly concerned about how we define development. We talk about “people-centered” development, but our goals still refer to society, economy and the environment as though these can be separated. To quote Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, African Development Bank Special Envoy on Gender : “Progress on key gender indicators – such as school enrollment and completion rates, maternal mortality, labour force participation, and asset ownership – also depends on investments in water, sanitation, transport, productive assets, and access to financial services.” My recent work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) taught me that, when we separate the social, the economic and the environmental, we hamper opportunity and creativity – and we may even be doing harm.  The IPCC process was committed to finding ways to express complexity and nuance by bringing together social, environmental and economic analysis. Yet currently we seem conservative rather than progressive. We need to take unprecedented action to tackle inequality at the international level, acknowledging that it is a global challenge and not just an issue for some countries or some people. Our approach must reflect countries’ unequal capacities to cope with climate change, … Read more

Development of, by, and for the people

01 Aug 2014 by Nadine Abou El-Gheit, Programme Assistant, Energy and Environment

Youth in MontenegroThe UN joint programme on Youth Empowerment in Montenegro is trying to apply user-led design so that young people come up with solutions to problems they are facing. Photo: Christian Schwier/UN in Montenegro
Recently, I got a pretty awesome offer: Visit our country offices in Montenegro and Kosovo and see how they’d been doing development differently. Four weeks later I was in Pristina, then in Podgorica, and here is what I took away from my colleagues: 1. Keep momentum even in the face of disappointments and failures. New ideas require adjustments and refining. You probably heard how failure is just another stepping stone to success and how Walt Disney, Sidney Poitier, Albert Einstein all failed miserably at the start of their careers. Yet at the first sign of failure, most of us run and erase all tracks. Never be afraid to fail. 2. Don’t innovate for the sake of innovation. We have an edge over private sector companies that need to invest large sums in innovation: We have access. Access to a pool of technical expertise, good relationships with the governments hosting us, and the ability to convene people from all over the world, by virtue of our neutrality and impartiality. Innovation should only serve to complement this edge. 3. Dare to push the limits and do things differently: Innovation is not just about creating a Facebook page for our projects. In a recent campaign for social inclusion in Montenegro, the … Read more