Friday, December 28, 2007

Liberia needs police, women step up to the plate (with the UN's help)


This week over 100 Liberian women completed basic training for the Liberian National Police (LNP). The women participated in a program sponsored by the UN, the Liberian Government, and the LNP. The program was designed to help Liberian women conquer some of the challenges they face. The goals of the program are to increase the number of women on the police force to 20% of the total force, as well as help raise women's educational level to high school graduate, which is needed to qualify for the force. Today about 10% of LNP officers are women.

The UN and the Liberian government hope that more women in the police force will be allow the LNP to be more effective in handling sexual and gender violence against women and children. The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, commended the women for their role in nation building and along with the UN sees women's empowerment as an important step towards good governance.

For more information about this program and others: click here

Friday, December 21, 2007

Learn something, feed people


You enrich your vocabulary while putting rice on a hungry person's table somewhere in the world. That is the basic plan Free Rice, the vocabulary game that is sweeping through the halls of DC think tanks and high school writting classes.


It is much easier for you to play it than read about it... so click here and spend 3 minutes. You will get addicted or feel inferior, either way you will earn some rice for hungry folks and learn something about the English language.


Ok, you are still reading and want to know how it works? Well, basically there is an ad banner on the site and the advertisers pay for the rice that you win in the game. The rice goes to the United Nations World Food Program for distribution to those who need it most.


What a good idea!


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Youth: Lots of them, lots of opportunity

There are 1.2 billion people who are between 15 and 24. That's a lot!

To take a look at the major issues, opportunities, and challenges facing these young people, on Tuesday the United Nations released The UN World Youth Report 2007.

In addition to talking about youth as a postivie force for dealing with world problems, it identifies 15 priority areas inlcuding employment, education, health, poverty and violence.

Check it out at http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/wyr07.htm.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Helping the People of Iraq

Some good news from the Iraq operations of the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR this week:

  • Earlier this week they announced that over 20,000 Iraqi Refugees have been resettled this year. While it is horrible that these individuals have suffered trauma and have had to leave their homes, UNHCR is working hard to make sure that these people have the chance at a normal life in their new nations. For a sense of what this entails, check out this story on UNHCR's website.
  • For the most desperate of the 2.2 million Iraqi refugees that are still in refugee camps on in Syria and Jordan, on Sunday UNHCR will begin providing finanical assistance via ATM cards with $100-200/month. Cash assistance helps families to purchase necessities when they need them. It is expected that 7,000 families will initially benefit from this emergency relief.
  • To top it off, UNHCR is helping the Iraqi Government to help 5,000 families (about 30,000 individuals) who wish to return to their homes by providing them support packages and repair kits.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nicole Kidman says "Say NO to Violence Against Women"



Nicole Kidman and UNIFEM (the UN Development Fund for Women) have teamed up to bring us a short awareness raising video about the fact that 1 in 3 women suffer from violence. The video can be found at sayNotoviolence.org and there is an online petition that you can sign.

While Nicole is fun to look at and listen to, the real neat stories can be found in the Stories from the Field that UNIFEM has pulled together. Our favorite is the Jurisprudence of Equality Program run by the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) in Southern Africa. This program basically works to help judges examine their personal "gender bias" while making rulings.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Will Peace Prevail?


President Bush opened the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland today, stating formal negotiations to create a Palestinian state would begin next month. The diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East, made up of the United Nations, European Union, Russian Federation and United States, has voiced its full support of the conference.

The Quartet said that it "welcomed the commitment of the Israeli and Palestinians leaders to launch bilateral negotiations toward the establishment of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza and the realization of Israeli-Palestinian peace."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be attending the conference and voiced his hope that the talks will aid in negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But in a briefing to an informal meeting of the General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban said he remained concerned by the prevailing humanitarian situation inside the Gaza Strip, where the economy has deteriorated since many border crossings into Israel were closed earlier this year in response to intra-Palestinian fighting.

Still, the Quartet welcomed the parties' continuing efforts to fulfill their respective commitments under Phase One of the Roadmap, an outline peace plan, and urged the international community to continue its support. Principals took note of the broad international support for the Annapolis Conference, and looked forward to the December Paris Donors' Conference to muster international financial backing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Indifference Kills

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

WHO doesn't like the flu?!

At the opening in of the Intergovernmental Meeting on Pandemic
Influenza Preparedness in Geneva yesterday, World Health Organization
(WHO) Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan explained that,
"vulnerability is universal," with the flu pandemic, and it will reach
every corner of the globe.

Dr. Chan stated that "countries need to brace themselves for a
situation where up to 25 per cent of the workforce may be ill at a
given time. They have to brace themselves for a possible meltdown of
basic municipal services and a slowdown of economic activity. And
this situation will be occurring globally."

Dr. Chan also expressed the need for better access to vaccines, citing
them as the best protection against a serious pandemic. The meeting
will also address the sharing of viruses for medical research, which
Dr. Chan pointed out serves public health in ways that go beyond the
development of pandemic vaccines, including by providing "the first
clues, the first early warning that the virus may be evolving in a
dangerous way."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

UN brings relief to the Caribbean

Tropical Storm Noel has become the deadliest Caribbean storm this year, killing over 100 and displacing hundreds of thousands in the region. Then United Nations has been quick to respond to these people in need. The World Food Programme (WFP) is rushing aid to 70,000 people affected by massive floods in the southern Mexican state of Tabasco, and has also deployed a team specializing in logistics and emergency assessment. The agency will be working closely with other UN agencies to support the Government following the flooding, which has affected up to 1 million people.

Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic, urgent distribution of WFP high-energy biscuits made its way to more than 130 isolated communities affected by the heavy rains and floods. The helicopters were provided by the United States Coast Guard and the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance.

In Haiti, where Tropical Storm Noel also caused extensive damage, WFP is providing food to shelters and continuing its assessment of needs and food distributions where access is possible. So far, WFP emergency teams have been able to assist 19,000 of the worst affected.

UN affiliates are making available funds for the rebuilding process. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has launched a joint appeal for $14 million to help those affected by the floods in the Dominican Republic over the next six months. The World Bank is making available up to $60 million for the Dominican Republic and Haiti by redirecting funds from existing projects. It is also preparing an emergency loan of up to $100 million for the Dominican Republic.

We get by with a little help from our friends.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Innocent Victims


Yesterday, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) marked the first-every Global Day of Action Cluster Munitions, urging governments to create a legally binding international agreement banning deadly arms that pose a great threat to civilians, especially children. The agency explained that children were especially susceptible to these weapons because of their natural curiosity and desire to play. Cluster munitions often look like balls or canisters, while others are brightly colored, making them even more attractive to children.

One third of cluster munitions casualties in Afghanistan were children, while during the Kosovo war, more children were hurt by cluster munitions than by anti-personnel landmines. Tragically, children continue to fall victim to cluster munitions years or even decades after the end of a conflict in countries such as Bosnia, Cambodia, Iraq, Laos, Serbia and Vietnam.

Children who survive cluster munitions blasts are often permanently disabled or suffer from sight or hearing loss. In countries where cluster munitions are most prevalent, most parents rarely have the ability to afford both medical and school bills, thus causing great hardship for the entire family. “Too many tragic stories show that cluster munitions cannot be used in populated areas without jeopardizing a child's right to life, to health, to play and to a safe environment,” the agency said in a press release.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Human development, just one click away

UNDP is moving with the times, especially when it comes to technology. Last week, the UN, Google and Cisco launched a new resource designed to track the progress of the Millennium Development Goals.

But MDG Monitor is far more interactive and user friendly than the wealth of information that already exists online. In the place of complex reports, this brand new resource offers users the opportunity to track progress on any of the MDGs in any given region of the world. Indicators ranging from health to education to socioeconomic factors are readily interactive and available.

Next time you're surfing the net, take a moment and visit MDG Monitor. Pick any country in the developing world and immediately find out what challenges they face, where progress has been made and what still needs to be done. Human development with just one click.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Know your reproductive health!


Reproductive health remains a top concern across the world, and especially in Asia. Experts, advocates and activists meeting at a United Nations-backed meeting in Hyderabad, India addressed this issue on Wednesday. In an opening session subtitled, “An unfinished agenda,” the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Deputy Executive Director Purnima Mane noted that Asia continues to have “high rates of unintended pregnancies, high rates of maternal death and disability, increasing numbers of new HIV infections, and persistent and widespread violence against women and girls,” despite the region's progress in reducing poverty.

Participants of the meeting cited external pressures, outmoded laws, and regulatory structures undermining reproductive health as the root of these reproductive health issues. The participants vowed to push for greater resources and awareness in a better attempt to achieve the goals of the Fourth Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights, which is an ongoing review series since governments pledged in 1994 to make reproductive health services accessible to everyone by 2005. Clearly, that goal has yet to be accomplished.

This UN-backed meeting comes at the heels of UNFPA denouncing the practice of son preferences in Asia. Preference for sons is deeply rooted in many Asian countries for both cultural and economic reasons, but UNFPA explains that prenatal son selection in several Asian countries could result in severe social consequences – such as a surge in sexual violence and trafficking of women.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Peacekeeping Launch in Sudan sparks Hope and Concern


The United Nations African Union hybrid peacekeeping operation for Darfur (UNAMID) today began operations at its El Fasher Headquarters in the conflict-ridden Sudanese region. The UN-AU Joint Special Representative for Darfur, Rodolphe Adada proclaimed, “It is a great day for the United Nations and the African Union, the day of UNAMID's launch, which was only an idea three months ago but now it is a profound reality.” This launch arrives as UN-AU mediated talks aimed at achieving a lasting political solution to the fighting are underway in Sirte, Libya.

The UN and AU are currently conducting pre-deployment visits to some of the troop contributing countries to inspect the uniformed personnel and their equipment. And though the launch of this operation seems to be a step toward achieving the peacekeeping mandate in Sudan, Adada fears that there is not enough support of the operation. He warns that UNAMID is “facing a lack of pledges for specialized units in areas such as aviation and land transport that should be arriving in Darfur as part of the heavy support package” to the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), which has been on the ground in Darfur since 2004.

With a conflict that has already claimed the lives of 200,000 people, and displaced another 2.5 million, serious support of a long-lasting solution is greatly needed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hope in Haiti


The UN Security Council is extending its stabilization Mission in Haiti through mid-October 2008. The extension includes a reduction in military forces with an increase in police in order to adjust to changing circumstances in the country, where civil unrest is still a pressing issue, but gang violence has diminished greatly.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended that the peacekeeping force’s military should enhance its capabilities in border control and engineering and mobility, while decreasing its infantry capabilities. The mission will be reducing its military force by 140 troops, while adding approximately 140 police officers. These efforts are aimed at gradually turning over the responsibility of law and order from the United Nations to the Haitian authorities themselves.

However, Mr. Ban warned that the possibility of civil unrest remains high in a society of such deep socio-economic divide. In addition Ban cautioned that, “the potential for renewed armed violence within the country remains considerable,” while the illicit drug trade continues to have a destabilizing effect on Haiti.

The success of security measures in Haiti, including the fight against gang violence has been successful, as 850 suspects have been apprehended since July. However, these captures have been costly, with six peacekeepers injured in counterattacks. The Council resolution “condemns any attack against personnel from MINUSTAH and demands that no acts of intimidation or violence be directed against United Nations and associated personnel or other international and humanitarian organizations engaged in humanitarian, development or peacekeeping work.”

Still, hope is high in Haiti. Hooray!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Women take Centerstage

Last week, the Americans for the UNFPA held the Gala for the Health and Dignity of Women in New York City. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) supports countries in using population data for policies and programs to reduce poverty, improve female healthcare, and eliminate the spread of HIV/AIDS. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was at the event, stressed the need to support UNFPA, stating “today, we understand, even better than our founders did, that the empowerment of women is a fundamental condition if we are to make progress towards the goals for which the United Nations was created.”

Mr. Ban spoke of the fact that many women die during pregnancy and childbirth because of limited sexual and reproductive health; many women become infected with HIV because they do not have power over their bodies; and many women are subjected to violence. Ban cites this as “one of the most systematic and prevalent human rights abuses in the world.”

He encouraged the Americans for UNFPA to continue support of this increasingly important UN agency. The gala honored four Americans from the media, financial and political fields along with women from Niger, Mongolia and Cambodia for combining passion and entrepreneurship with social responsibility to advance the health and dignity of women. Ted Turner also received a lifetime achievement award for his continual support of UN programs and women’s issues.


Girl power.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Refugees in Despair

It has been an extremely tumultuous week for Iraq-related refugees, but UNCHR has been doing its best to alleviate difficulties. In Syria on Monday, UNHCR started registering Iraqi refugees in the country’s northeast region. The registration team expects to register tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees in the coming year. UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis said that the commission estimates nearly 1.4 million Iraqis in Syria, and once they have a clearer picture of the whereabouts of these refugees, they will be better equipped to protect and assist them.

Nearby, at the Al Tanf camp for Palestinian refugees on the Iraq-Syria border, a fire has swept through, injuring twenty-five people. Approximately 310 Palestinian refugees live at the camp after having fled sectarian violence in Iraq in 2006. These refugees, who have been denied entry into neighboring countries, are mostly women and children.

It is the third fire the camp has seen in less than a year, and Pagonis stresses that this latest disaster, “yet again highlights the need for a humanitarian solution to be found for Palestinians trapped at the border after fleeing Baghdad.” In the meantime, a UNHCR team has rushed tents, mattresses and kitchen supplies to the camp, organized refilling of fire extinguishers, and explored extra fire-prevention measures.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Understanding through Dialogue

On October 4, 2007, the UN General Assembly convened its first-ever high-level dialogue on interreligious and intercultural understanding. Srgjan Kerim, president of the General Assembly, told participants, “We are reaffirming the values enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But more importantly, we are taking concrete steps to advance these values around the world.”

He stressed the importance of opening dialogue and using all forms of media to encourage awareness. He noted that governments can help by adopting educational curricula that promotes peace and tolerance, while maintaining that the private sector, civil society, faith groups, and NGOs are also crucial.

Ban Ki-moon also spoke at the event, saying, “It is time to explain that different religions, belief systems and cultural backgrounds are essential to the richness of the human experience.” He emphasized that our differences should be seen as enriching, and not threatening.

Toward that end of the event, Mr. Kerim welcomed an informal talk aimed at fostering an exchange of views among Member States and civil society and the private sector. Leading academics, religious leaders, and civil society representatives will take part in this discussion.

As Jews mark the celebration of the Torah and Muslims approach the end of the holy month of Ramadan, the timing couldn’t be better.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Partnership for Empowerment and Awareness

The discrimination that children with intellectual disabilities face often means that they are less likely to have adequate healthcare and education, and more likely to encounter violence, abuse, and exploitation. UNICEF and Special Olympics International are now collaborating to reconcile these inequalities.

On October 3, 2007, they launched a partnership focusing on healthcare, education, recreational sports, and employment policies for children with intellectual disabilities. It coincides with the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai. While in the Chinese city, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman stated, “This new partnership will help make the point that children with disabilities have the same rights as all other children. They are entitled to adequate health care and quality education, and to live in an environment that protects them from abuse, exploitation and disease.”

The partnership will initially concentrate on Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, El Salvador, Jamaica, Panama, and Uzbekistan, before expanding to more countries in 2008. Focusing on developing countries is especially important as children with intellectual disabilities in these countries run an even higher risk of being overlooked or mistreated.

Speaking about the partnership, Special Olympics International Chairman Timothy P. Shriver explained, “We are thrilled to partner with UNICEF to empower children with intellectual disabilities and their families and to increase public awareness about critical issues facing this population in the developing world.”

Education. Empowerment. Equality. Three words a developing country loves to hear.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Celebrities Against Poverty

People listen when sports stars have something to say. Maria Sharapova recently joined up with NBA star LeBron James to spearhead the "Team Up Against Poverty" intiative, launched by the UN Development Program to raise awareness about the Millennium Development Goals. Essentially, the stars will use their celebrity to publicize the MDGs and encourage greater action to achieve them by the 2015 deadline.

With the help of world-renowned photographers, Sharapova, James and a total of 50 other celebrities will participate in a series of advertisements promoting the MDGs. These include eradicating povery, improving access to education, promoting women's rights and providing adequate health care. UNDP is responsible for coordinating the specific actions relating to each goal.

Sharapova has experience in using her fame to rally support for important causes. Appointed a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador in February 2007, she has supported the MDG campaign, as well as specific development programs in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Hopefully her fame and experience will provide "Team Up Against Poverty" the necessary push it needs to suceed. Let's bring the MDGs to the mainstream.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Brave Journey Home


When violence erupted in Togo in April 2005 following the installation of the son of the late Gnassingbe Eyadema as Togo's president, tens of thousands of Togolese fled the country. Nearly 9,000 of those people sought refuge in neighboring Ghana. But with the easing of social and political tensions in their home country, many now want to return.

The UNHCR is aiding in this process, giving priority to some 176 refugees who wish to take part in the October 14 parliamentary elections. The refugees will travel to Danyi prefecture in Togo's plateau, then on to their respective homes. They will be returning with some needed return packages from the UNHCR and their partners. The packages will include a $120 cash grant per adult and $60 per child, clothing, mosquito nets, mats, buckets, soap, hygiene kits and food rations for two months.

Commenting on the repatriation of these Togolese, UNHCR's Ghana chief Aida Haile Mariam stated, "today marks a new beginning...While Togo is still in the process of political reform, these 176 Togolese refugees have decided to avail themselves of the opportunity to return to their home country..."

And that, is a brave journey home.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Climate Change is in the Air

Yesterday wrapped up the largest-ever meeting of heads of state or government to discuss the issue of climate change. Top officials from 150 nations attended the one day event at UN headquarters in New York, where Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, explained,

"The current level of effort will not suffice."

Mr. Ban urged the creation of a coalition to encourage global response to climate change and to support the major summit that will be held in Bali, Indonesia in December. All of this corresponds with the launch of the 2007 Human Development Report which focuses on climate change.

In regards to climate change and developing countries, Mr. Ban noted that better global collaboration is needed to help developing countries to increase low carbon and renewable energy: strategies that could lead to better economic growth.

The Kyoto Protocol which is the current framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions expires in 2012, and Mr. Ban stressed the need for a post-Kyoto agreement at that time. However, at an event called, “Global Voices on Climate Change” that same day, former Vice-President and environmental activist, Al Gore, had a stronger message. He explained that a new agreement must be in place by 2009--not 2012, as stated by Mr. Ban. He stressed the importance of multi-lateral meetings every three months until a new agreement is in place. “We simply cannot wait longer, we cannot continue business as usual,” a statement that is both provocative and worrisome. It's time to stop the apathy.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Much Needed Day of Peace


"Peace is the United Nation's highest calling," Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declared on the lawn of the UN headquarters in New York. He marked the 26th annual International Day of Peace by ringing the Peace Bell, a gift from Japan. The day was first established by the UN General Assembly in 1981 as a day of global ceasefire. In hopes of promoting conflict resolution and peace building, UN staffers throughout the world are observing a minute of silence in the name of peace.

However, it's difficult to remain optimistic in a time of increasing global hostilities. The UN has deplored a record number of more than 100,000 peacekeepers to restore stability throughout the world. Today's front page of the BBC News online addition features stories about the murder of an anti-Syrian Lebanese member of Parliament and the extradition of Peru's former president for charges of human rights violations. In times like these, it's enough to make the most idealistic of pacifists lose hope.

Perhaps that is why now, more than ever, we must celebrate this international day of peace, not just today, but everyday. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported that while the country has seen an increase in violence, thousands of people participated in the biggest peace effort the country has ever seen. Large scale rallies took place in various cities, from Herat to Jalalabad. If a country so torn by conflict and violence can stop to appreciate the importance of peace, well that's something to be hopeful about.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Put your skills to better use

UNDP in South Sudan gets it right again. The brand new Lologo Regional Prison Training Center was inaugurated this past week in an effort to reform the corrective system and ensure that peace and stability in the region continues to hold.

UNDP is essentially hitting two birds with one stone with this new initiative by creating a new Prison Service training program that simultaneously rehabilitates former Sudanese soldiers.
The center, constructed under UNDP's Foundational Support to the Prison Services of Southern Sudan, will provide a 3-month orientation session in order to train former soldiers of the SPLA (Sudanese People's Liberation Army) and aid their reintegration into society.

UNDP's logic is the more soldiers take care of prisoners, the less opportunity they will have to join rebel groups and resume fighting. And the best part is, their new job builds upon the skills they developed during their last.

Check out the UN in Sudan for general news and humanitarian updates.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

He’s got 99 problems and the Water Crisis is One.


The statistics concerning the world’s water crisis are staggering: 1.1 billion people have no access to safe water, every day 4,400 children under the age of five die because of unclean water and sanitation, and five times as many children die each year from diarrhea than from HIV/AIDS. It’s no surprise that it is the developing world that feels the brunt of this crisis.

So what is fueling this global problem? Many poor people live outside the scope of the water infrastructure, and lack the legal rights to demand an adequate water supply. General scarcity, corruption, and global warming further perpetuate this problem. However, late last year, the water crisis was tackled by a seemingly unlikely character – hip-hop mogul Sean Carter, better known as Jay-Z. And when Jay talks, the world’s youth listen. With the help of the United Nations and MTV, Jay-Z is launching a worldwide concert tour called "Water for Life" to draw attention to the water crisis and aid support programs to end the global issue. Most of the concerts are located in developing countries, where Jay will not only perform, but give talks about the necessity for an improved water system. While meeting with former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to discuss his plans, Jay explained,

"It's a huge responsibility, and humbling at the same time."

Jay-Z has personally provided funds to help build “play pumps,” which resemble Merry-Go-Rounds that pump clean drinking water when they are spun, and has enlisted the help of his celebrity friends to do the same. But perhaps Jay’s greatest accomplishment will simply be educating the MTV generation of the fact that issues affecting the developing world, are really issues that affect everyone. A celebrity with a social conscience, now that’s refreshing.

Friday, September 7, 2007

You Reap what you Sew

Violent crime, drug cultivation, and fighting between rival armed groups continue to plague Colombia. As a result, more than 2.2 million Colombians have been internally displaced, with many others seeking refuge in neighboring Venezuela. Rosa*, who comes from the particularly violent northern region of Colombia, Norte de Santander, was forced to flee with her family to Venezuela when her father was murdered in 2002. Afraid and unhappy, they quickly returned to Colombia and began living in a swettlement in Cucuta, which lacked proper health and sanitation facilities.

As part of a project to empower the displaced refugees of Colombia, the UNHCR helped Rosa restart her life by providing her with a sweing machine and knitting equipment. Rosa exclaims,
I make purses, belts, earrings, blouses and even bathing costumes.
People buy my clothes and my mother helps me by selling them in Cucuta...I
cannot complain.

The UNHCR project is linked to the Mexico Plan of Action, which aims to protect refugees and displaced people in Latin America, and has been adopted by nearly two dozen governments in the region. The UNHCR hopes that this program will encourage self-sufficiency and local integration, while also improving social and economic development of internally displaced Colombians. Rosa is quite hopeful that this program will do just that.

*Name changed for protection

Monday, August 27, 2007

Empowering Women with HIV

In many affected countries, women with HIV are particularly prone to the detrimental economic and social effects of the debilitating disease. But as Mr. Mechai Viravaidya, Founder and Chairman of Thailand’s Population and Community Development Association (PDA), says of combating the disease:

We all must think out of the box.
It is with such innovation that UNDP and PDA have partnered to launch a “Women and Wealth Project (WWP)” in Cambodia, China and India. The project allows women living with HIV to become entrepreneurs in their own right, with not only technical and marketing support from PDA, UNDP, international agencies and the private sector, but also business management training. The women work together and are empowered to develop their own small social enterprises, in an effort to restore self-confidence and dignity to an often negatively-stigmatized disease. It also provides the women with sustainable economic stability and a sustainable socially-focused business.
When each business is generating sufficient revenue, the net profits will be pooled into initiating a micro-credit program specifically designed for people living with HIV and based on PDA’s “Positive Partnership Project (PPP)."
As
Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, Regional HIV/AIDS Team Leader and Programme Coordinator of UNDP Regional HIV and Development Programme, concludes:
In a rapidly feminizing epidemic, the socio-economic independence of women is essential – it enables women to cope with the devastating impact of the epidemic on their family life and sources of livelihood. Smart skills and regular incomes can reduce situations of HIV-vulnerability and helps positive women live with dignity and security.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

8.7 Million Reasons for Hope

The United Nations understands better than most organizations that you cannot deal with aspects of a crisis in isolation. In the case of Sudan, it's becoming increasingly clear that environmental problems have a huge impact on the growing humanitarian crisis. Most recently, devastating floods have left 150,000 people homeless, with the potential to affect many more.

To respond to crises of this kind, the UN created the Central Emergency Response Fund. CERF functions as a stand-by fund to enable timely and reliable humanitarian assistance to victims of natural disasters and armed conflicts. $8.7 million from this fund has been allocated to the crisis in Sudan in order to help 1.5 million people.

Response to this disaster has also brought out the best in UN coordination. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are working together to use their allocated funds to respond to all the needs of the flood victims. From health care to access to food and water, the UN has it covered.

Even though disasters of this kind are difficult to predict, the UN has a clear mechanism for obtaining funds and necessary resources to help people on the ground as soon as they need it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The UN on TV

Continuing on the theme of UN information and media, I wanted to draw attention to the UN’s Multimedia website. On it you’ll find links to:

  • News Center
  • UN Radio
  • UN Television
  • UN Photos

Few people know these excellent resources exist, so start spreading the word!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Tell us what the UN does, daily

The UN, a large and complex organization, accomplishes an incredible amount in one day. To let everyone else know what's been happening in the NY headquarters and around the world, Michele Montas serves as the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The Noon Briefing, announced daily, summarizes new and ongoing projects and initiatives.

Today, the United Nations:

  • Stands ready to support relief efforts with other measures, including the release of emergency funds for Hurricane Dean,
  • Allocated 8.7 million dollars to support the ongoing humanitarian response for flood victims in Sudan,
  • Inaugurated the new Implementation Support Unit for the convention on Biological Weapons.
To find out more about the daily ccomplishments and business of the UN, click here. (Slightly less reader friendly are the UN's daily press releases, but give them a go if you're looking for day-to-day minutiae.)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What if you couldn't go home?

Thousands of Burundians face this problem every day, anxiously awaiting their turn to go home, free of the fear of persecution. Sometimes, this can takes years.

But there is both hope and help on the way. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, has assisted 350,000 Burundians in leaving the camps and returning to their country after years of dangerous war.

Though going home is a great achievement, UNHCR's work is only beginning. Though many Burundians are glad to return , they are hindered by the lack of basic services when they reach their former communities. The process of reintegration is very complex and must take this reality into account.

To bridge this gap between relief and development initiatives, UNHCR has

built more than 51,000 houses since 2003... and another 6,750 will be finished this year. UNHCR also rehabilitated 13 health centers and built or renovated some 500 classrooms in areas of return between 2002 and 2006.
The reality of a refugee can be incredibly difficult, but resilience ensures that life can also get better. Click here if you want to help UNHCR provide more services of this kind.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Let Children Run the Country

Who says children shouldn't take the law into their own hands? In fact, with their openness to different points of view and eagerness to help people who suffer, they almost seem perfect for this job.

A group of 150 children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) feel the same way, and with the help of the UN they set up a Children's Parliament to deal with any and all grievances brought forward by young Congolese people.

With no officers over the age of 17, the Parliament bases its advice to its clients on Congolese law and the UN's Convention of the Rights of the Child. The body deals with a surprising number of cases - 105 since January - ranging from neglected children to women who feel their husbands provide inadequate support for schooling and general care. According to Vice President Arthur Omar Kayumba, the Parliament has a growing sense of legitimacy, even amongst authorities such as the special police.

In 2002, UNICEF held a Special Session on Children, which capitalized on the fact that it is often a country's youth that can best identify problems, priorities and sometimes even solutions to challenges they collectively face. In the DRC, youth-centered decision making has proven to be an effective way of bypassing one of the country's most significant problems: corruption.

Sometimes, you've got to let kids have their way.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Youth Unite!

Few organizations have the power to unite people across the world in celebration of a common cause. The UN did just that on August 12 for International Youth Day, established 8 years ago to enable young people to become as politically and socially involved as possible in pressing global issues.

If you want to get involved

Youth organizations have a very refreshing take on how to take action on the Millennium Development Goals. I particularly recommend UNICEF's Voices of Youth for ideas and practical advice on where to begin on the road to advocacy.

Another great resource is TakingITGlobal, an interactive online community that connects you to others with similar interests and ideas. Create a profile and start sharing information today!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Congo Malaria Train

Malaria kills more children under five than any other disease in Africa, and yet it is completely preventable. In the Congo alone, it is responsible for nearly a quarter of child deaths.

At the end of last week, the UN began a two-day mission to deliver 300,000 malaria nets to the Congo via the Congo-Ocean railway. The initiative, spearheaded by UNICEF (UN Children's Fund) and the Congolese government, targets 10% of the population, mainly children in high risk areas.

The train will stop at several small towns along its journey to Brazzaville, the capital, where nets will be dropped off for distribution free of charge in health centers and hospitals.

UNICEF's work in Congo doesn't stop there. UNICEF and its partners have rehabilitated several health centers, facilitating the distribution of vaccines. A large number of wells and latrines have also been constructed to improve access to water and sanitation. In addition, several schools have been rebuilt and are now able to provide basic services to the youth population.

In helping to curb malaria and improve public services, the impact of these projects will significantly increase and improve the lives of thousands of Congolese.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

They Need To Eat

When the most recent flood disaster hit in South Asia earlier this month, the World Food Program (WFP) was one of the first UN agencies on the scene, providing immediate assistance to those in need. The flood has affected thousands in Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.

From distributing high energy biscuits (left) to stopping the spread of water-born diseases, WFP does its best to make sure that the aftermath of the disaster is punctuated by as little human suffering as possible.

Also looking to the long-term, WFP will dedicate attention to rebuilding livelihoods based on crop production and animal rearing, thus restarting lives and ensuring that the rest of the population continues to receive food supplies.

WFP delivers $90 million in food aid every year, often working in the most severe crisis areas of the world. Learn more about its important work in this setting and many others.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Giving Women Their Rights

2-3 million girls worldwide undergo FGM/C (female genital mutilation or cutting) each year, defined by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) as the “partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons.”

FGM/C is hard to talk about because it has a deeply entrenched cultural component. But the detrimental health effects on women can’t be ignored: pain, psychological trauma, infection, infertility and even death.

Today marks the end of a 4-day conference in Ethiopia convened by UNFPA devoted to understanding this practice and devising a strategy to protect those that suffer from FGM/C. Participants included many development experts, ranging from other UN agencies and NGOs to the World Bank and USAID. This gathering is meant to provide an opportunity for the intersection policy and ideas.

UNFPA is doing incredibly important work in ending harmful practices against women, while ensuring that men are also involved in this process, as well as discouraging all forms of gender-based violence.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

100 People

Sometimes it can be easy to get lost in talk of GDP, percentages, billions. This video does a great job breaking through the numbers and showing what achieving the Millennium Development Goals really means for all of humanity.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Coalition of Conscience


After meeting on Monday with George Bush, new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared that the world is facing a “development emergency.” If governments, NGOs, private sector actors and others come together to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, he stressed, this situation could be reversed by the 2015 deadline.


Do you want to help the UN achieve the MDGs? Then visit the Millennium Campaign website for ways you can Take Action.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sing For Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is preparing for elections on August 11th. What better way to get out the vote than with music? UNDP Sierra Leone is partnering with local organizations to support the "Artists for Peace" initiative which will sponsor a dozen Sierra Leonean musicians in concerts around the country. Their message is non-partisan, designed to promote political tolerance and non-violence during the elections.

"Elections are meant to uplift the lives of all citizens," said Velma, one of the lead female musicians in her self-titled group. "We want to use our voices to encourage people to exercise their civic rights in a peaceful manner and to remain tolerant of each other."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Save the Environment, Save Sudan

Competition over resources. Environmental degradation. Deforestation. Lack of clean water. All this on top of a massive refugee and humanitarian crisis. These inflictions cannot be dealt with in isolation of one another if peace and prosperity is to return to Sudan.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is rightly bringing increased attention to the environmental challenges facing Sudan, which play a significant role in the ongoing conflict within the country. The agency assessed that “Sudan is unlikely to see a lasting peace unless widespread and rapidly accelerating environmental degradation is urgently addressed.”

Thanks to UNEP's comprehensive environmental assessment, we know what the main problems are. What Sudan needs now is a solution that deals with all of these problems in a coordinated manner. In conducting this study, UNEP participated in community hearings to consult with local people on what they deemed to be their greatest needs and challenges. Future action will hopefully combine feedback from these hearings and best practices from a variety of UN agencies operating in Sudan.

One thing that can be agreed on from the start is the need for action now.


Watch this video for an excellent overview of UNEP's Sudan project.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Malaria Nets for Chad

Nothing But Nets, an initiative of the UN Foundation designed to stop the spread of malaria, is conducting an emergency campaign for Chadian refugees that have been forced from their homes due to the continuing conflict in Darfur.

The rainy season, which stretches from June to November, puts these people at extreme risk of contracting malaria. The target is to send 40,000 nets in the next 6 weeks and they need all the help they can get!


Nothing But Nets

IFAD and Rural Poverty

The beauty of exploring the UN system is the periodic discovery of agencies doing important work on the less publicized aspects of development. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is a great example of this, as an organization dedicated to addressing the root causes of poverty.

IFAD is working to enable the rural poor to overcome poverty (note the word enable). There is a delicate interplay between hunger, agriculture, and HIV/AIDS that together form the basis of rural poverty, and IFAD wants to provide people with the tools to combat these challenges.

In case you weren’t convinced of the importance of this mission, remember that 75% of the world’s 1.1 billion extremely poor people live in rural areas. IFAD’s work contributes directly to achieving the 1st Millennium Development Goal, to cut poverty in half by 2015.

IFAD also powers a website called the Rural Poverty Portal which allows rural poor people, donors, policymakers and others to communicate and share information about this challenge. The Stories from the Field are particularly inspiring, as they provide examples of the ripple effect – how seemingly small changes can make a large impact on the surrounding community. Examples include octopus fishing in Mauritius and providing electricity and water to a small mountain village in Vietnam.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Helping Africa Catch Up

The latest Millennium Development Goals Report revealed that sub-Saharan Africa has not made as much progress as was initially hoped for in meeting all of its targets. Part of the reason is the lag time between implementing development programs and reaping their long-term benefits.

UNDP maintains its strong presence on the continent to ensure that these benefits reach those most in need. UNDP's country offices are well-equipped with knowledge and expertise to contribute to and monitor progress on the MDGs as the 2015 deadline approaches.

Making Life Easier for Sudanese Refugees

The desire of refugees to return to their homeland is heartbreaking – but repatriation can only be successful if the receiving country has developed basic infrastructure and can provide essential humanitarian services to those it seeks to welcome.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is intimately familiar with this challenge, particularly in the region of South Sudan, where refugees from the region have scattered into Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic.

High Commissioner António Guterres recently visited South Sudan to raise awareness during World Refugee Day (June 20) while also highlighting an emerging success story.

Since 2005, more than 155,000 Sudanese refugees from at least seven countries have returned home to South Sudan, including 64,000 through UNHCR’s voluntary and assisted repatriation operation. However, over 300,000 refugees remain in camps in neighboring states.

To improve this situation, UNHCR plans to bring home a total of 102,000 refugees by the end of 2007. The plan is to provide them with individual repatriation packages and community-based reintegration support. UNHCR needs all the support it can get, whether through awareness raising or donations.

Click here to donate now!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Don't Underestimate the Poor

The problem? 2.7 billion people live on less than $2 per day. A potential solution? Harness their potential as workers and entrepreneurs by utilizing them in the private sector.

UNDP is leading Growing Inclusive Markets, an initiative seeking exactly to explore this intersection between the pursuit of profit and and inclusive economic growth. By connecting with business communities, development workers can tap into a vastly under-utilized resource and learn how to engage impoverished populations as drivers of economic growth. In this way, those in direst need can lift themselves out of poverty - permanently.

Click here to find out how the GIM report plans to make business work for development and development work for business.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bush to Ban: Good Work

Yesterday, Ban Ki-Moon met with President Bush to discuss a variety of issues such as Iraq, climate change, Darfur, and more. Ban Ki-Moon held a press conference in New York on Monday during which he addressed these issues in greater detail.

The Secretary General emphasized the importance of U.S. participation in international issues, and urged the President to continue support for initiatives like climate change, which now more than ever need the backing of the world's superpowers.

UNDP's Anniversary in Lebanon

Immediately after war broke out one year ago in Lebanon, the High Relief Committee - a Lebanese national entity dealing with the humanitarian crisis - called upon UNDP to use its strong presence in the country to assist in the reconstruction effort. A week later, UNDP was on the ground.

Along with the Prime Minister's Office, UNDP drafted the Quick Delivery - High Impact report on the projects for the post-ceasefire period in order to coordinate critical early recovery initiatives. Focus areas included repairing infrastructure, clearing rubble, cleaning up oil spills, and restoring fishermen's livelihoods.

Testimonial

Nicolas M. Farah, the mayor of Alma Al Chaab, a town in Southern Lebanon, praised UNDP's work in the aftermath of the conflict. His words speak for themselves:

During this last war…I remained in the village until July 27 helping the families with food distribution, securing a safe place for the children and ensuring their evacuation to safer villages or to Beirut…UNDP was always the prime supporter for us...Many organizations visited the village and promised to help us, only UNDP acted so quickly and implemented its intervention as of the cessation of hostilities. We were impressed by its integrity, honesty, transparency and legitimacy…UNDP's capacity for constant supervision, follow up and technical assistance will avoid any wasting of resources and funding. Moreover, I believe that the direct coordination with local authorities in the villages and the long experience of the UNDP field officers and their knowledge of the area and its needs is the reason for [UNDP’s] effectiveness.

See here for all UN projects in Lebanon.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Uniting over the Black Sea


Countries sharing a common natural resource often fight over ownership and rights, but nations surrounding the Black Sea are well on their way to solidifying mutually beneficial policies that contribute to the economic development of the region.

UNDP has recently signed a renewed cooperation agreement with the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) to ensure that this integration continues to take place in a sustainable manner. New focus will be placed on poverty reduction and capacity building, allowing countries to help themselves in the future.

UNDP already implements the Black Sea Trade and Investment Promotion Programme (BSTIP), which promotes the establishment of economic, business and networking linkages in the region that benefit all members. The twelve member states are Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine.






Monday, July 16, 2007

Men At Work

Who says men can't participate in maternal health? In fact, overlooking their important role in this endeavor would be a mistake, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid recently stated that "Men are equal partners in making the new life that the women will deliver." To emphasize this, the chosen theme for World Population day, held on July 11, was Men as Partners in Maternal Health. Men all around the world, from Nigeria and Zimbabwe to Brazil and Indonesia, took this message to heart and supported maternal health initiatives to demonstrate their commitment to the it-takes-two mentality.

UNFPA is committed to the equality of development in men, women and children. It operates under the guidance of the UNDP governing council and is a founding member of the UN Development Group (UNDG).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Kosovars Returning to Peace and the Promise of Development

Hundreds of thousands of Kosovo people have fled the province since violence began to break out in the mid 1990s. Now, with the help of UNDP, these families can return to this once war-ravaged area with the hope of peaceful development.

In the village of Vidanje in the Central-West of Kosovo, the UNDP has implemented the Government Assistance to Returns project, which has helped Kosovo-Serbs return to their previous homes alongside Kosovo-Albanian neighbors. Through this UNDP project, more than 50 houses have been reconstructed. A community center has been established and a functioning electrical and sewage system, as well as suitable roads, have been constructed, thus literally paving the way for Kosovo’s future.

On his visit through Kosovo, Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator for UNDP Ad Melkert, stressed the importance of refugee return within the goals of development and the necessity to foster an inclusive development for peace. Remarking to two returned families, one Kosovo-Albanian-Christian and the other Kosovo-Bosniak-Muslim, Melkert said:

It is important to provide a future for the young people in Kosovo so that they are not only encouraged to stay, but also are reintegrated into a society that has a place for everyone.

It is this type of development, aware of the conditions of social cohesion particular to this post-conflict region, which helps to make UNDP projects not only successful now, but successful for years to come on the road to recovery ...

For more details, see this UNDP Press Release.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stay Informed

Do you want to know what's happening at the United Nations all over the world? Frustrated by the lack of UN reporting in most major news sources?

Then click here to sign up for UN Wire, a daily e-mail News Briefing of the most important stories covering the United Nations from several international sources. It's a quick and easy way to stay informed about an entire range of issues, including peacekeeping, poverty relief, and, of course, development.

Then you can also spread the news about what the UN is doing across the globe to help people improve their lives and have a better future.

Governance From A Young Age

It is challenging to think of long-term issues such as education about democracy in post-conflict countries, but someone has to do it. Democratic governance is one of the five key areas which UNDP focuses on as part of its multilateral approach to development, and the youth of Afghanistan have demonstrated intelligent and passionate interest in contributing to this cause.

UNDP has recently worked closely with Support for Establishing an Afghan Legislature (SEAL) and the Ministry of Education in organizing an Afghan Youth Training Assembly, held in June. This conference brought together students from 80 schools to discuss broader issues of governance as well as specific problems facing the country, like the lack of materials in public schools.

The best ideas about representation and participation can often come from a country's uncynical and much more optimistic youth, and this is why it is extremely important to give this group a voice.

See here for more information on UNDP's work in Afghanistan.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Give Them Grants and They Will Conserve

The locals of Baan Mae Korn, a small community in Northern Thailand, attempt to sustain a traditional, untouched lifestyle. However, established farming practices are damaging the local ecosystem. This degradation is caused mainly by the unsustainable growth of cash crops that cause erosion and pollute surrounding water sources.

This is just the kind of project the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) of the UNDP frequently takes on to simultaneously help communities and protect the environment.

GEF’s Small Grants Programme has provided funds to the inhabitants of Baan Mae Korn to install biogas collectors (a renewable source of energy) in their homes. Biogas is produced from pig manure and can be used instead of wood for cooking. This means less deforestation and more time for locals to concentrate on sustainable farming practices.

GEF also encourages local farmers to move away from cash crops such as corn in order to grow organic produce, which increasingly fetches great prices at market.

For more details, see this UNDP Press Release.



Friday, July 6, 2007

Help a Village in Tanzania

Imagine a village, isolated, poor and malaria-ridden, far from any major urban center and almost devoid of navigable routes. This is Mbola in western Tanzania, a cluster of small communities living in extreme poverty.

But there's good news too. The You+Village Campaign is working with the people of Mbola in community-based initiatives to help locals lift themselves out of poverty in a sustainable way. Things this Campaign has already achieved include:
  • Laying the foundations for a new medical clinic, maternity care ward, and staff housing that with the help of the Ministry of Health will soon become a fully functioning health center positioned to combat malaria, AIDS, maternal health and other challenges,

  • Distributing 33,000 bed nets throughout the cluster of villages, with preliminary indications that malaria cases have already fallen,

  • Distributing improved seeds and fertilizer to 6,000 farmers to help increase their overall food yields.

See how you can get involved here.



This Campaign is a project of Millennium Promise, a non-profit organization supporting the progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This campaign supports the work of Millennium Villages, a "bottom-up" approach to ending extreme poverty in Africa. See this previous post for more information.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Young, but Business Savvy - Microcredit in Turkey

Recently, UNDP has created a revolutionary micro credit program for Turkey’s youth, in partnership with the Turkish Economic Bank (TEB) and the Young Managers and Businessmen’s Association (GYİAD). The program, which will help around 500 18-35 year olds create new businesses, takes a multifaceted approach to business entrepreneurship by providing not only initial funding but also business education, vocational training, and consulting services to new companies.

The president of GYİAD, Pınar Eczacıbaşı, thanked UNDP for its efforts:

I believe that we are cooperating with the best partners in this field both in Turkey and on an international level and that we are creating a major opening for Turkey’s young population. I believe that the Micro Credit Project that was initiated in order to encourage the youth into production and entrepreneurship will be successful.

This project continues the microfinance theme, which was established in 2005 with the UN's International Year of Microcredit. UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis pledged support for Turkey's push for youth entrepreneurship, an innovative project that will provide new opportunities for young professionals to participate in the economy.

Monday, July 2, 2007

2007 MDG Report Released

Today, halfway through the set MDG deadline, the UN released its annual Millennium Development Goals Report, which provides a progress update for the UN system and the general public.

Unsurprisingly, the report shows that progress has been uneven across the globe, with the fewest gains made in sub-Saharan Africa. That being said, all regions have made advances on at least a few of the goals, and none have moved backwards.

Though the findings of this year's report are not 100% positive, statistics show that there has been a upward spike in development indicators, such as poverty, health and education, since the Millennium Summit in 2000. This shows that UNDP's efforts--along with all of its partners--have made a difference. A comprehensive development framework has slowly been put into place which will allow exponential progress toward the MDGs in the future.

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had the following to say about progress on the MDGs:
"We will have time to reach the Millennium Development Goals – worldwide and in most, or even all, individual countries – but only if we break with business as usual. We cannot win overnight. Success will require sustained action across the entire decade between now and the deadline. It takes time to train the teachers, nurses and engineers; to build the roads, schools and hospitals; to grow the small and large businesses able to create the jobs and income needed. So we must start now. And we must more than double global development assistance over the next few years. Nothing less will help to achieve the Goals."

Don't ignore Desertification

The UN University in Bonn, Germany, has recently released a report drawing attention to desertification as a mounting environmental crisis. Desertification occurs as a result of overexploitation of the land by unsustainable irrigation practices and is compounded by the devastating effects of climate change on arable soil.

The study warned that lack of arable land may displace over 50 million people within the next 10 years. And not only that, but 1/3 of the world's population - concentrated in the poorest regions - are also potential victims.

What can be done: The report urges synchronization of development and environment priorities at the national level. The study suggests that sustainable management of drylands is the most important step that can be taken now. One approach is providing alternative livelihoods to dryland dwellers. The study's lead author, Zafaar Adeel explains, "we need to provide alternative livelihoods [to dryland dwellers]- not the traditional cropping based on irrigation, cattle farming, etcetera - but rather introduce more innovative livelihoods which don't put pressure on the natural resources."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is one of the UN Environmental Program's initiatives to assess the impact of different aspects of climate change. It is then up to policymakers to incorporate this information into the national agenda.