Our Perspective

      • Powering sustainable energy for all | Ban Ki-moon

        17 Jan 2012

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        Solar panels provide clean energy in remote places. UN Photo.

        As a child growing up during the Korean War, I studied by candlelight. Electric conveniences such as refrigerators and fans were largely unknown. Yet within my lifetime, that reality changed utterly. Easy access to energy opened abundant new possibilities for my family and my nation. Energy transforms lives, businesses and economies. And it transforms our planet — its climate, natural resources and ecosystems. There can be no development without energy. Today we have an opportunity to turn on the heat and lights for every household in the world, however poor, even as we turn down the global thermostat. The key is to provide sustainable energy for all. To succeed, we need everyone at the table — governments, the private sector and civil society — all working together to accomplish what none can do alone. The United Nations is well-placed to convene this broad swathe of actors and forge common cause between them. That is why I have established our new initiative, Sustainable Energy for All. Our mission: to galvanize immediate action that can deliver real results for people and the planet. This is the message I will bring to the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi starting Monday. As I  Read More

      • Let’s put Haitians at the centre of rebuilding | Rebeca Grynspan

        11 Jan 2012

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        The Leogane debris management project in Haiti. Photo: Mariana Nissen/UNDP

        Two years ago this week, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the Caribbean island nation of Haiti, killing 200,000 and displacing 1.5 million people. The deaths and destruction highlighted the risks associated with a hyper-centralized government and population in Port-au-Prince, where hundreds of thousands of homes were demolished and 30 percent of civil servants lost their lives. In a matter of minutes, chronic challenges became urgent and acute, with life-or-death consequences in many instances. With the aim of “building back better,” UNDP has worked with other agencies not only to help Haiti recover but to make the country and its people more resilient, better prepared to weather any natural or man-made shocks the future will bring. That is our mission and our mandate, with Haitian people at the centre of every initiative. Since 2010, we have stepped up cooperation with the Haitian Government, expanding debris management and reconstruction while creating thousands of jobs. With 80 percent of Haitians living in poverty and some 60 percent jobless, we systematically privilege local employment and purchasing. We have helped create 300,000 temporary jobs since the quake, such as debris removal, river gabion or retaining wall construction, and garbage collection. This has given 60,000 families a chance  Read More

      • Allow the poor to define their future | Olav Kjørven

        02 Jan 2012

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        For growth to be inclusive, it must be sustainable and equitable. Photo: UNDP

        Over one billion of us live without many of the basics that the other six billion take as given. In the least-developed countries, conflict, disaster and broader human insecurity impose structural limits on efforts to move from crisis to risk reduction and from growth to sustained development. Significant and sustained progress will require faster and better efforts. Beyond the critical issues of 'carbon footprints', 'low-carbon development',' green economy' and the economics behind saving the planet, we must draw attention back to the continuing challenge of ensuring that growth and development deliver for and with the poor and vulnerable. In its many forms - energy poverty, lack of access to water and sanitation, malnutrition or insecure access to food and lack of access to education and health - the scale and scope of global deprivation call current development policy and practice into question. How can we achieve sustainable development?                “For growth to be inclusive, it must be sustained and sustainable and that, for it to be sustained and sustainable, it must also be equitable", concludes the special issue of the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) Poverty in Focus magazine (pdf).  Growth, gender, poverty and the environment can no longer  Read More

      • Sustainable energy access critical for development in Africa | Helen Clark

        29 Dec 2011

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        Access to modern affordable energy services in developing countries is essential for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals. Photo: UN Foundation

        Almost 45 per cent of those who lack access to energy live in Sub-Saharan Africa, making up 69 per cent of the region’s population. They number 585 million people. Seventy eight per cent of those living in Sub-Saharan Africa use traditional biomass for cooking and heating (650 million). Energy needs extend well beyond having electricity available in homes. In Africa, where so many depend on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood, expanding access to energy for irrigation, food production, and processing is vital. It can boost agricultural productivity and rural incomes, and empower women who make up a significant proportion of the continent’s farmers. For UNDP, access to sustainable energy is critical for making societies more equitable and inclusive, and for encouraging green growth and sustainable development overall. We advocate for equity, inclusiveness, resilience, and sustainability to be the guiding principles for efforts to achieve universal energy access.  We recognize that different groups have different energy needs. Therefore, governments need to balance the financing of large-scale energy projects with support for the off-grid, decentralized energy solutions which will help meet the needs of the poorest and most marginalised people. Cleaner cooking and heating fuels and motor power for productive activities are also  Read More

      • Volunteering changes our world for the better | Helen Clark

        02 Dec 2011

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        One of the local volunteers participating in the UNV Sudan supported Diversity campaign in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: Ayman Suliman

        On the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers coming up Monday, December 5, we celebrate the work of volunteers worldwide and the contribution they make to the development and wellbeing of communities.   Every day, volunteers make a difference for the environment, for peace, for meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and much more.  There are countless examples of volunteering having an incredible impact. In Nepal, nearly 50,000 female community health volunteers, supported by UNICEF, UNFPA, USAID, and the Gates Foundation, have helped cut child mortality by two- thirds over the past fifteen years. Japanese Red Cross volunteers played an indispensable role in dealing with the aftermath of the terrible earthquake and tsunami earlier this year. UN Volunteers form a significant part of UN peacekeeping missions, making up around one third of the international civilian staff in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Liberia, and elsewhere. A guiding principle for UN Volunteers is that people closest to the problems are also often the people most able to contribute to the solutions. The first State of the World’s Volunteerism Report to be released on Monday says that there is still plenty of room in development for volunteer and citizen action.  Read More

      • Inclusive and sustainable growth is the answer | Ajay Chhibber

        23 Nov 2011

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        UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Zinedine Zidane visits one of UNDP's inclusive growth projects in Mali. Photo: UNDP

        As leaders of the G-20 countries grapple with the immediate euro crisis, we must look beyond to a more fundamental problem facing the world – rising inequality, joblessness and ultimately a lack of demand, causing deep recession. This is not a cyclical problem that will be addressed by stimulus packages but a more structural problem, inherent in the current growth process. Addressing inequality is crucial in responding to the current economic, food and climate change crises across the globe. As the spreading Wall Street protests indicate, inequality and a sense that the system only works for the top one percent is under attack across the world. Rising inequality and unemployment is also cited as a major factor in the Arab uprisings which are still playing out.  And rising food and fuel prices are again ringing alarm bells. Even in Asia where there has been a sharp acceleration in economic growth in many developing countries, rapidly rising inequality is causing concern, and the poor continue to suffer disproportionately from high food and fuel prices—in addition to being the hardest hit by an increasing wave natural disasters and rising sea levels. Rather than trying to compensate those left out of the growth process,  Read More

      • Building wealth long after the miners depart

        08 Nov 2011

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        UNDP Administrator Helen Clark with a felt processing entrepreneur who is part of the Enterprise Mongolia project. (Credit: UNDP)

        A conference on managing extractive industries in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, addressed the challenge of how resource-rich countries can make best use of their precious oil, gas or mineral assets and develop resilience to price volatility. Countries exporting these commodities need options to stabilise their economies and make them less vulnerable to the vagaries of unpredictable prices. Recent market history shows why: copper prices dropped nearly 15 per cent from July to September, and the price of gold has gone up more than 30 per cent since January. Such fluctuations make budget planning difficult and resource-rich developing countries vulnerable to market shocks. It’s also true that economies where extractive industries dominate do not always reap social and economic benefits for their people. Indeed, the extraction of mineral resources can become a curse where it fuels conflict and creates environmental disaster. The gross mismatch between the wealth generated and the paucity of local benefits derived is often exacerbated by weak governance and a lack of transparency and accountability. Yet it is possible to design policies that guard against the negative impacts of exploiting natural resources. That is why UNDP and the government of Mongolia brought together representatives of 17 resource-rich developing countries to  Read More

      • Ultimate goal of development? Expand peoples’ choices

        02 Nov 2011

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        Human Development Report 2011: Investments in access to renewable energy, clean water, and improved sanitation will advance equity, sustainability, and human development. PHOTO: ©UNDP/ARANTXA CEDILLO

        Finding ways to make human development progress truly sustainable for the seven billion people who now live on our planet and for generations to come is a central challenge of the 21st century. The international community must find pathways to development which maintain ecosystem balance and reduce inequalities. This year’s Human Development Report asks whether we can expect the positive trends of the last forty years to continue and improvements to be sustained for the people who will live on this planet over the next four decades. The report warns that some 1.7 billion people in 109 countries are living in ‘multidimensional’ poverty. According to the report, escalating environmental hazards threaten to slow or reverse the notable progress in human development of previous decades. The impact in the worst case scenario is projected to be worse for countries which are low on the Human Development Index (HDI), leading to widening inequalities between high HDI and low HDI countries.  Key Messages of the Human Development Report 1 The most vulnerable suffer a double burden: They are more affected by environmental degradation and are less resilient towards its resulting threats such as unclean water, indoor air pollution from unhealthy cooking and poor sanitation.  Read More

      • Ridding Developing Countries of Armed Violence

        31 Oct 2011

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        As part of UNDP Kenya’s initiative to reduce and control the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, the Government of Kenya burnt to ashes over 2,500 illegal firearms at a public event in March 2010. (Photo: Jemaiyo Chabeda/UNDP Kenya).

        In the next two days, more than 3,000 people are expected to lose their lives to armed violence all across the world. The economic cost of violence is sobering.  It is literally reversing development—destroying livelihoods, wrecking infrastructure, reducing foreign direct investment, stunting economic growth, and inhibiting achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. In many countries insecurity is also diverting public resources from education and health towards law enforcement. The question, as ever, is “what can be done?” By understanding and addressing the sources of violence, and by investing in prevention, early warning and early response capabilities, we will be able to avert conflict and violence and save lives and resources. Education has a significant role to play in preventing conflict and violence.  Countries with high levels of primary education enrolment generally have low levels of violence – and, similarly, children who are deprived of education are more likely to turn to a life of conflict. Education must be part of any effort to address violence. We are also aware that violence is often a symptom of a breakdown in the rule of law, and more broadly in state-society relations. A more just and equitable world is one which will be more  Read More

      • Development in an age of economic uncertainty

        17 Oct 2011

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        Sewing machine operators work at the "Multiwear" Factory at Sonapi Industrial Park, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo: Eskinder Debebe/UN.

        Today, the world economy is more volatile than ever, endangering recent progress in developing countries. The adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 marked a significant moment in history that addressed issues of universal human importance. It was a hopeful moment in which there was a global conviction that human deprivation could be alleviated through the coordinated and sustained effort of the world's nations. Nearly twelve years later, many countries have made impressive strides towards achieving the MDGs. However, we also now live in a more uncertain and integrated world where economic and financial shocks are more likely than ever, and their impact can be more broadly devastating. With such an environment come different and profound challenges for human development. To be clear, vulnerability to shocks directly impacts how well households meet basic needs, how many people live in poverty, the access children have to schooling, and the ability of men and women to find meaningful and productive employment. Therefore, fostering human development now demands that we effectively leverage recent lessons about how such crises affect developing countries and the world's most vulnerable populations. Only then can we develop and promote policies and programmes that successfully manage vulnerability, build  Read More