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.


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.