Monday, April 30, 2007

It's About the Jobs

People often forget that the ultimate goal of international development organizations is to put themselves out of business by helping countries become economically developed. That's why it's always nice to hear Kemal Dervis remind everyone that helping people create decent and productive work is at the heart of the UNDP's work.

There is widespread consensus that unemployment represents one of the greatest challenges to development on the African continent – but not only the African continent I should add – many other parts of the world.

Though the International Labor Organization leads the UN efforts to promote employment, a joint UNDP-ILO Employment Strategy for Poverty Reduction has been developed that leverages the strengths of each organization to fight poverty by creating jobs - giving people a hand up rather than a hand out.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Climate change as a development issue

Earlier this month, UNDP Administrator Kemal DerviĊŸ expressed support for the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.

“For many people in the developing world climate change means drought, famine and the loss of their homes, land, or even their lives. These people have been coping ably with the variability of weather patterns for many years. Now, they face a challenge of adaptation they simply cannot deal with alone.”

The IPCC report paints an unsettling picture of the advance of climate change and its potential harm to the lives of millions. It projects that many millions more people will be threatened by serious flooding every year by the latter part of this century, especially in densely populated, low-lying areas that already face other challenges such as tropical storms and local coastal sinking.

How does climate change tie in with development? Simple, hurricanes, flooding, drought, and other effects of climate change can rapidly wipe out important gains made in human development. In Dira Dawa, Ethiopia, more than 300 people died and 10,000 were made homeless by flash flooding last August.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

UNDP Serves Up Education to Syria

Jabal Al-Hoss, a rural region in south east Syria, is comprised of 156 villages. The richness of color and natural beauty in the area provides stark contrast to the poverty in which the majority of the regions estimated 250,000 people live. Not only an area marked by drought and limited natural resources, the residents of Jabal Al-Hoss have limited access to educational opportunities. 80% of the villages have no middle schools and the entire region shares only 3 high schools!

The UNDP Rural Community Development Project is looking to change that. It has made considerable contributions to improving educational services in the area through literacy and vocational training courses, as well as recently establishing a new kindergarten.

The Jabal Al-Hoss project recognizes the vital role of women in development. Fully literate women are given the skills necessary to become teachers and help others learn to read and write. Women who are illiterate are taught to read as well as skills such as handicrafts, sewing, bee-keeping, nursing and hairdressing.

The project has been such a success that over the next year it will be expanded into other regions of the country to continue promoting women's empowerment through education.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Teaming up to fight AIDS

While AIDS continues to have its most devastating impact on Africa, it is beginning to become a problem in many other countries. In China, UNDP has teamed up with Yao Ming to launch a national campaign to fight stigma and raise awareness about the disease.

This wide-ranging campaign aims to advocate the reduction of stigma associated with HIV and AIDS among the general population, and to promote the inclusion of family members, neighbors, co-workers and friends living with HIV and AIDS and their families into our homes, schools, workplaces and communities. To increase the impact and sustained use of these materials, UNICEF and UNESCO worked with the China HIV/AIDS Information Network to develop a teacher-friendly discussion guide that is distributed with the posters and an award-winning documentary about AIDS done by Yao Ming and Magic Johnson last year.

Learn more about UNDP's work around the globe to combat AIDS.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Road Map to Saving Lives

Every day in Malawi, 16 women die while giving birth. With 1 in every 100 mother's losing their life in child birth - 90 times higher than the rate in the US - the country has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

Over the past decade, Malawi has managed to nearly halve its infant mortality rate. However, even today 1 in 10 children die within the first few weeks of birth.

But most of these deaths could be easily prevented - if women in rural areas were aware of the warning signs of the most common dangers and knew where to get help.

The Malawian government, with help from UNDP and UNICEF, is one of the first in the region to develop a road map to making more deliveries safe.

No More Silence, Act Now! includes a national action plan to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, increase the number of trained professionals to attend deliveries, and improve awareness of and access to regular and emergency medical care.

This inexpensive project will also provide much needed information about pregnancy and child birth to the harder to reach areas of Malawi, where women are often not educated about the health dangers they face

Check out more on the project and what else UNDP is doing in Malawi.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

UN Foundations Nothing But Nets Up for a Webby

The UN Foundation's Nothing but Nets campaign has been nominated for a Webby Award in the charities category.

Nothing But Nets came about following an article by Sports Illustated's Rick Reilly last year on how a $10 bed net treated with anti-malarial insecticide can save a child's life. They have since teamed up with the NBA and people across the country to distribute 500,000 nets throughout Africa.

Click here to vote for your Webby choice (if you are thinking about voting for the Denver zoo check out this story - beware the sea lions!). Even better, donate $10 and help save a child.

Turkmenistan Takes On Conserving Ecosystems

The Kopetdag Mountains are an abounding source of life located in the Magtymguly region of Turkmenistan. Home to thousands of different plants and animals with a very beautiful diverse landscape from white mountains to beautiful painted deserts, they attract thousands of tourists from around the world each year.

To help preserve the protected wildlife reserves in the Mountains and promote conservation of the fragile ecosytem UNDP is working with school teachers and ecologists to educate locals about how they can preserve this fragile ecosystem - and promote eco-tourism to generate economic growth. The teachers and ecologists received books, leaflets and other information materials to take back to their various schools and organizations to educate more people on the priorities of ecological preservation. For the first time, the materials are printed in both Turkmen and Russian to make sure that everyone is able to read them.

UNDP is now helping to build the country's first national park, which will be important in ensuring sustainable development and protection of the area.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mapping Darfur

Today's news that Sudan will finally allow a UN peace keeping force into Darfur is good to hear. However, it will still take a great deal of work and support by the world community to restore peace and security - let alone beginning the process of development.

Google is helping raise awareness of the situation by allowing people to see updated satellite footage in Google maps. One of the biggest challenges development organizations face is telling the story of those that are impacted by their programs - from the individual mother that finally afford to feed her children thanks to a small business started by a micro loan to the community-wide change that results from improved government policies or programs like the Millennium Village. Hopefully technology can continue to help play an important role in not only helping us tell their stories better, but enable them to tell it themselves.

By the way, for a quick rundown on things the UN is already doing in Darfur, check out the work of UNDP, WFP, and UNICEF.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

UNDP Restoring Emergency Light in Iraq

Despite the ongoing violence, the UN continues to support the Iraqi people as they begin to rebuild their country. Much of Iraq's infrastructure has suffered damage and decay of the decades, making running water and electricity unreliable in many areas of the country.

As part of the ongoing UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, UNDP is working to restore the electricity and sanitation systems to vital institutions. Through repairs to the electrical grid, as well as the installation of several small diesel generators, places like Red Cross, hospitals, and schools are able provide regular services.

Learn more about the UN's work to help rebuild Iraq.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Morocco Fights Desertification

Brad Pitts movie Babel details the frantic Pitt struggling to keep his wife alive after being shot in the harsh Moroccan desert. Living in the desert is a reality for millions of Moroccans every day and that number is growing. The Moroccan government knows the problems that will come with desertification meaning less people will have the simple resources needed to survive such as water.

To do something about it the Moroccan government is teaming up with UNDP to preserve resources and help expand oases. The program works with local villages to teach the people ways to conserve water because when drought and hard times come the people plunge deeper into the scarce resources which ends up destroying the resource entirely. This projects will also alleviate poverty for many people by providing a more diverse use of resources to help those in poverty survive. Education will be the most effective tool in providing citizens with information on how to keep the environment sustainable.

Friday, April 6, 2007

US and UNDP - Working Together to Spread Democracy

After over 200 years of democracy in the United States, we can sometimes take for granted the important role our system plays in ensuring continued peace and prosperity at home. In Central America, many countries are only recently experiencing elections and democracy.

UNDP is the world's largest provider of support for elections and building democratic institutions in developing countries. Recently UNDP’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Ms. Rebeca Grynspan visited the Carter Center met with former president Jimmy Carter to discuss possibilities of partnering to promote democratic governance and prevent violent conflicts. The two discussed the possible benefits of the a combined effort and what advantages the two would have working together. By working together, they hope to be able to have an even greater impact in helping the world's emerging democracy's.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Runners Finish Mega Marathon Across Sahara to Raise Awareness

Three ultrarunners Charlie Engle of the USA, Ray Zahab of Canada, and Kevin Lin of Taiwan just finished their 111 day journey across the Sahara Desert to raise awareness about the water crisis and poverty. They ran 7300 km (4580 mile) in 4 months the equivalent of two marathons a day for nearly four months. This was a very difficult task with the runners enduring extreme heat as well as adverse weather and insects.

UNDP hosted the runners for their journey across the desert providing supplies and shelter along their trip. Actor/ filmmaker Matt Damon traveled along with the men to document the incredible journey they embarked on. Damon is partnering with H20 Africa to raise awareness and funds for projects in the region. UNDP's role as coproducers was to work with the governments of the six countries they traveled through to make sure that the runners were welcome and safe during their trip. According to UNDP’s 2006 Human Development Report, a lack of clean water and sanitation causes nearly two million child deaths every year. This documentary will be released later this year and will hopefully bring awareness to the increasingly harsh reality of water scarcity.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Operation Enterprise Mongolia

Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the backbone of any economy, providing the jobs and innovation necessary for sustained growth. Located in the barren plains between China and Russia, 75% of its citizens are subsistence farmers who live on less than $2 a day. To help promote growth and create opportunities for Mongolians, UNDP is starting up a program to support entrepreneurs in Mongolia.

Operation Enterprise Mongolia promotes business growth in three ways. First is to give access to knowledge and skills for being a successful enterprise giving more small businesses the ability to grow and employ more people. The second way UNDP is assisting micro economic growth is by increasing access to financial information and making business transactions more transparent. The last part is to promote business growth is to create a level playing field for businesses to compete at. This project gives locals the ability to empower themselves and the help the community by giving people jobs.

To learn more, visit them online.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Effect of Global Warming

I highly recommend todays NYT article on global warming and its impact on different regions. Especially take a look at the map of "winners and losers".

The issue of the costs of limiting and coping with the effects of climate change is also picked up in this new report by UNEP on low-cost and easy to do changes that could have a huge impact on carbon emissions.

Norway Contributes to China to Fight Global Warming

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in western China is the world's second largest fresh-water glacier. Feeding rivers in China, India, and other neighboring countries, it helps provide almost a billion people with water each day. Unfortunately, global warming and growing pollution in China has made it the fastest melting glacier in the world.

Recognizing that one of their main sources of water needed for humans and farming is being endangered, the Chinese government is beginning to take action. Working together, UNDP, Norway, and the Chinese National Coordination Committee on Climate Change (NCCC) are building better infrastructure to utilize the up-stream water supplies. This project will ease the stress of water scarcity and better prepare the country to use less water in an age where resources are becoming more scarce.

Read the whole article

Monday, April 2, 2007

Burka Blue

Under the Taliban, Afghan womenwere largely confined to the home and not allowed to participate in society. Since 2002, UNDP has been helping the new government protect womens rights and educating Afghan society about the important of providing opportunities for all citizens - boys and girls.

Working in partnership with the Ministry of Women's Affairs, UNDP has supported the training of women leaders, established workshops to ensure the heads of other Ministry's are sensitive to gender issues, and created the first gender-awareness training kits written in Pashtu and other local languages. Last year they also helped support the first Afghan women's magazine, Ershad-ul-Naswan, and the establishment of a Gender Training Institute at the University of Kabul.

While helping women regain an equal place in society will take many years, a great deal has already been accomplished. Check out this video of the country's first all-women rock band.