How can advocacy NGOs become more innovative? Your thoughts, please | Duncan Green

19 Mar 2014 by Duncan Green

business woman in IndiaThe manager of a milk-chilling centre in India, part of a collaboration between UNDP India and the IKEA Foundation launched in 2009 to help empower women socially, economically and politically. (Photo: Graham Crouch/UNDP)
Innovation. Who could be against it? Not even Kim Jong Un, apparently. People working on aid and development spend an increasing time discussing it – what is it? How do we get more of it? Who is any good at it? Innovation Tourette’s is everywhere. Most of that discussion takes place in areas such as programming (what we do on the ground) or internal management (the unquenchable urge to restructure), drawing on innovation thinking in the private sector, government and academia. But another (increasingly important) area of our work – advocacy/influencing – feels a bit absent from the innovation circus, so I’ve been asked to crowdsource a few ideas. Help me out here. In advocacy, we see plenty of innovation already, in new themes (e.g. a range of tax campaigns in the wake of the financial crisis) and players (online outfits such as Avaaz and change.org). But we also see a fair amount of business as usual: the cycle of policy papers, recommendations, lobby meetings, media work and consultations grinds on, not always to great effect. At a higher level, there is lots of really innovative thinking going on about how to operate in complex systems, but that tends to be … Read more

Democracy: Where are women, youth, indigenous people and people of African descent?

10 Mar 2014 by Gerardo Noto, Democratic Governance Coordinator, UNDP in Latin America and the Caribbean

women dancing with feathers(Photo: Gaëlle Bruneau / UNDP)
In 2014, Latin America and the Caribbean will hold seven presidential elections, many of which are to be determined by run-offs. Fortunately, in general, our region has become accustomed to holding transparent elections where citizens can freely express their will in electing their representatives to public office. Empowered citizens demand better institutional quality: they call for more and better representation and participation in the processes of shaping and implementing public policies. From the perspective of a citizens' democracy, which UNDP strongly promotes in Latin America and the Caribbean, the right to elect and be elected is a key dimension of political citizenship. Thus, it is important to take the pulse of various sectors of society who participate in the elections, and how the elected representatives reflect the heterogeneity of our societies. Fortunately, there is good news regarding the exercise of voting rights and gender, as women effectively exercise their right to vote. However, there are still major shortcomings regarding the right to be elected. While the region has shown significant progress in recent decades, increasing from 8.2 per cent women’s representation in national legislatures in 1990 to 20.6 per cent in 2010, on average, there are still deep heterogeneities across countries. … Read more

Is the Global Partnership relevant? | Jérome Sauvage

06 Mar 2014 by Jérome Sauvage

A post-2015 consultation with young indigenous Brazilians. (Photo: Juliana Wenceslau)A post-2015 consultation with young indigenous Brazilians. (Photo: Juliana Wenceslau)
In Washington, D.C., a number of U.S. Government agencies and think tanks are preparing for the forthcoming Mexico Ministerial Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. At a recent prep meeting, I met enthusiasts and skeptics. The optimists pointed at the progress achieved from Monterrey 2002 to Busan 2011 and how the Paris Declaration started to align programs with developing countries’ priorities. This brought more harmonization and accountability between donor and recipient countries. The process now includes inter-governmental, civil society and private-sector actors and addresses gender equality, climate-change financing and the fight against corruption. The skeptics think that the “aid business” is beyond repair, that the so-called aid effectiveness agenda does not measure "effectiveness" but "efficiency" — looking at bureaucratic processes rather than the actual impact of aid on reducing poverty. One of their spokespersons, American scholar William Easterly, attributes a good share of aid’s failings to a lack of feedback and accountability: “The needs of the poor don’t get met because the poor have little political power with which to make their needs known and they cannot hold anyone accountable to meet those needs.”   But optimists and skeptics seem to agree on one thing: the need to … Read more

Post-2015: On our way to the World We Want | Olav Kjorven

24 Feb 2014 by Olav Kjorven

Children in South Africa participate in MyWorld campaignIn South Africa children from the Sivile Primary, Western Cape did a ‘Long Short Walk’ campaign and the MyWorld survey on Mandela Day. Photo: Zenani Mandela campaign 2013.
Within the next fifteen or twenty years we could live in a world where everyone has enough food, access to basic health services, schooling and jobs.   That’s a different world from the one we inhabit today, but I’m optimistic, because a new emerging vision is galvanizing support from governments, business and civil society. My optimism comes from following the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG). The 70 governments in the group held in-depth discussions on how we can transform our economies, societies and environment into a more sustainable system. There is a common understanding between the governments that ambitious targets on providing access to food, education, jobs, health, energy, water and sanitation will be included in the next development goals. There is strong agreement that we need targets to reverse environmental degradation and protect the eco-systems. There is commitment to building just societies for women and girls, and to reverse the trend of rising income inequality. There is also agreement that this agenda needs to be for all countries, North and South. Another reason for optimism is that during each of the sessions of the OWG, the Member States have engaged with world-class experts, civil society and the … Read more

A million voices for education | Corinne Woods

20 Feb 2014 by Corinne Woods

 Girl scouts participating in the MY World survey in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: Stanislav Saling / UNDP
If you had to make a guess at the average person’s number one priority for a better life, what would you choose? Good health, a longer life, prosperity? Or all of the above? Because the answer encompasses them all. The answer is education. One of the biggest public opinion polls ever conducted and with the power to shape global policy, the UN-led MY World, is saying just that. A million people out of nearly 1.5 million surveyed say that education is one of their top six priorities for a better world. Because no matter where they live in the world, people know that it is education that makes the real difference to their lives. Whether they are young men in Africa, educated women in Europe or teenagers in Asia, like Pakistan’s Malala, they are dreaming of a chance for everyone to learn, to develop, to realize their potential and overcome their hurdles. Education is the key to fighting discrimination, to improving health and to securing better jobs – and people know it. They don’t need to read the statistics – and there are plenty out there – proving that a better-educated population is healthier, more prosperous, more harmonious. Across the world, in … Read more

100 days after Haiyan, the Philippines transitions to recovery | Jo Scheuer

14 Feb 2014 by Jo Scheuer

Recovery work in the PhilippinesUNDP in the Philippines is supporting the people's recovery from the destruction wreaked by Haiyan. Photo: UNDP
February 16th marks 100 days since Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines. The emergency response is almost over and the beginning of long-term recovery has begun. I have been to the Philippines twice since Haiyan struck. In the early days, I went to help coordinate the response to this tragedy. Just recently I returned, to advise on the transition to long-term recovery. The progress over 100 days has been remarkable. Immediately after the storm, UNDP began helping the government prepare for recovery. For example, only weeks after Haiyan, we facilitated a visit to the Philippines from the Government of Indonesia, bringing Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, who led the reconstruction effort in Aceh-Nias after the 2004 Tsunami. He attended a Philippines cabinet meeting on recovery, sharing with his colleagues the challenges and lessons learned from Indonesia. This visit may have been low-key – but was very valuable to the Philippines authorities – and it led to UNDP experts starting to work with the government to plan, prepare and budget the recovery. But attention must now shift beyond the first 100 days and focus on the future. It is essential that we build resilience into the new cities that rise from the rubble. Disaster risk reduction … Read more

Transgender visibility: The 'AIDS Tchê' initiative in Brazil | Angela Pires

13 Feb 2014 by Angela Pires

Transgender activists in BrazilTransgender activists in downtown Porto Alegre, Brazil, during a mobilization campaign for civil registry change and LGBT rights. Photo: Daniel de Castro/UNDP Brazil.
The Week of Transgender Visibility recently took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil, with three days of events and initiatives supported within the AIDS Tchê initiative, part of a UN Integrated Plan designed to support the poorest and most remote areas of the country. Porto Alegre is the Brazilian city with the highest incidence rate of AIDS: 99.8  per 100,000, while the national average is 17.9. A recent study from one of the city’s hospitals indicates that seroprevalence among transgender women in Porto Alegre is quite high. "If you look at the data for transgender women living in the metropolitan area of ​​Porto Alegre, we see that transgender women have a 14.5 times greater risk for HIV infection. These findings leave transgender women among the most vulnerable groups to the epidemic," says researcher Brandelli Angelo Costa. Stigma and discrimination against transgender people are regarded as the main fuel for such increased vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. The violence against their daily basic expression of self leaves them out of the development process, undermines their life choices and excludes them from enjoying basic needs such as formal education, work and health care. As with homophobic violence, transphobic violence remains rampant in Brazil and throughout the … Read more

Growth with inclusion, a four-point plan for Africa | Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

03 Feb 2014 by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

farmers in BurundiDeveloping agriculture, which employs up to 60 percent of Africa’s workforce (most of it women), can be an effective way to reduce poverty in rural areas. (Photo: UNDP in Burundi)
Avoiding conflict and reducing poverty in Africa will require sustained efforts to promote inclusive development. First, the continent faces the challenge of building economies that can create jobs and more equal opportunities for all. In many countries, better managing revenues from extractive resources holds the key to economic diversification and investing back into communities through quality infrastructure and social services. In addition, developing agriculture, which employs up to 60 percent of Africa’s workforce (most of it women), can be another effective way to reduce poverty in rural areas, where many marginalized groups live. Second, securing equal political representation for disenfranchised populations is critical to ensuring they can participate in key decisions and enjoy the same levels of development at the national and the local level. When elections take place, political inclusion can also prevent vote-rigging, “winner takes all” politics and electoral violence, while involving youth is particularly important-to-avoid conflict. In Kenya, for example, the principles of equality and non-discrimination are now enshrined in the Constitution, attempting to eliminate the ethnic and regional tensions which fuelled the post-election violence of 2007. Third, countries in Africa must equip themselves with effective national and grassroots mechanisms to build social cohesion and prevent conflict. Such … Read more

A joint endeavor: Reflections on the political feasibility of inequality reduction | Selim Jahan

31 Jan 2014 by Selim Jahan

Somali woman drawing water  A Somali woman draws water from a man-made pond dug through a UNDP-supported initiative to bring water to drought-affected communities. (Photo: UNDP Somalia)
Inequalities have come to occupy center stage in many discussions on development in general and the Post-2015 Agenda in particular. This is not surprising. Deprivation in the midst of plenty remains the daily reality for hundreds of millions of households around the world. And at the same time, a host of economic, social and cultural factors perpetuate the disadvantage experienced by a range of discriminated-against groups – from women to people with disabilities, and from ethnic minorities to people living in rural communities, just to mention some. Despite impressive economic progress, humanity remains deeply divided.   To advance the debate on the causes and effects of inequality as well as ways in which it could be reduced, the UNDP Poverty Practice has produced a report addressing a number of these issues. Among them is the question of the political feasibility of inequality reduction, on which I will focus here. A global survey of 375 policy-makers from 15 countries conducted for the report shows that policy-makers all over the world see the reduction of inequality as a major policy priority. However, as a result of deeply entrenched vested interests, policy-makers are also faced with significant constraints on their ability to address inequality … Read more

Saving the imperiled Hamouns of Eastern Iran | Gary Lewis

31 Jan 2014 by Gary Lewis

Iranian wetlandsThe UNDP-supported Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Project aims to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of Iran’s system of wetland protected areas as a tool for conserving globally significant biodiversity. Photo: UNDP/Iran
“Angels will kiss the hands of those who help us,” the man said. The face behind the handshake was grizzled and weathered with  leathery skin that bespoke years of harshness. The fisherman’s eyes welled with suppressed tears. He yearned for a time when his life was one of plenty.  Lakes brimmed with water and fish, his children were happy, and life was good. He wanted me to tell the world about the desperate conditions in Iran’s harshest, poorest region: the Hamoun wetlands of Sistan. “Wetlands” is really not the right word for these parched lands. There is little gainful employment, and more than half the residents get by on welfare delivered through the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation (IKRF), a parastatal organization.   They were mainly fisher folk, though almost all are now unemployed, living amid the decayed ruins of ghost-like villages built alongside once-thriving lakes. Hamouns comprise three large wetland areas covering 5,660 square kilometers.  Two-thirds of these wetlands are located in Iran, linked and fed by water from Afghanistan’s Helmand River. Twenty years ago, most of this area was green, and the lake teemed with fish. The wetlands also supported agriculture and water buffalo herds, providing a livelihood for thousands … Read more