Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lady to Lead Science, Education, and Culture

AP image from http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iozTYry2hXNSbkPq74k2MH_S4lGwD9ASGRS00The UN is getting serious about its pledge to help achieve gender equality by putting a woman in charge of the UN Education, Science, and Culture Organization (UNESCO).

Irina Gueorguieva Bokova of Bulgaria won a hotly contested election against the Egyptian candidate. A vote on Monday had the two candidates deadlocked with 29 votes each. Apparently, if no one had one today's fifth round of voteing the winner would have been decided by a drawing of names out of a hat.

UNESCO has some really interesting projects including its list of World Heritage Sites, which promotes preservation of cutlural and natural landmarks around the globe.

Learn more about UNESCO at www.UNESCO.org

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mozambique Gets Ready to Rock the Vote

Last summer, volunteers could be found everywhere – on the streets, outside of your grocery store, at your local music festival - with voter registration forms, trying to register and motivate new voters to make their opinions count in our 2008 presidential election. Partially due to these efforts, the US saw a huge increase in new voters on November 4th, and also a great enthusiasm for our fair election process. Luckily, the UNDP is helping Mozambique prepare similar efforts for their upcoming October elections to encourage everyone to vote, and also to ensure more fair and transparent elections.

Ever since the first multiparty and parliamentary elections were held there in 1994, the UNDP has been supporting Mozambique’s electoral process. Primarily, the UNDP has helped to improve the technical skills and resources of electoral commissions by training registration officers, polling officers and education agents. These officials are trained to ensure fairness and transparency behind the scenes, and also to help educate the public about electoral practices.

Voter registration is also a high priority. More than 387,000 new voters have been registered so far for the upcoming election, and “registration brigades” are hoping not only to register more voters, but also to encourage people who are registered to get out and vote to counter the country’s historically low election turnout. Although many older voters have yet to be persuaded that their vote really matters, there’s hope. Summed up by one brigade volunteer, “I also know a lot of young people who feel just the opposite: if we are allowed to vote, let’s act. Don’t leave it to others to decide for us!”

Want to learn more about Mozambique’s election preparations? Click Here!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thailand - Turning Lights on, Taking Pollution Down

Until now, Thailand’s most remote villages lived without continuous electricity. However, villagers in settlements not even charted on Thai maps, such as Mae Ya Noi, now have the ability to turn on a light and use electric-powered devices whenever they want. Better yet, the energy they are using comes from renewable sources! 100 houses in three villages across Mae Ya Noi now receive electricity from a new small hydro power plant.

Targeted renewable energy projects are taking off throughout Thailand – over 180 villages and towns throughout the country are now provided power by small plants such as the one in Mae Ya Noi, and this number is expected to double in the next few years. These improvements come with the help of the United Nations Development Programme, who in 2001 launched an initiative in conjunction with the Global Environment Facility and the Energy for Environment Foundation to promote renewable energy. Through careful cooperation and investment by Thailand’s government, the renewable energy market is now booming, and in the past eight years the country has succeeded in cutting 5 million tons of carbon emissions annually – the equivalent of taking 1.5 million cars off the road every year!

With the support of UNDP Thailand is doing its part to decrease dependency on oil and put an end to climate change. Read more about the initiative here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cambodian Style is Very Worthwhile

Looking for fresh fashions? Check out what Cambodia has to offer! Fashion designers and garment workers are getting a boost from the International Labor Organization’s new “I am Precious” campaign, supported by UNDP. The campaign aims to encourage the creativity and innovation of the country’s garment workers, promoting the creation of quality products and their trade on the international market. To achieve this, the campaign puts on events such as the “Made in Cambodia” competition, asking for garment workers to submit original fashion designs while at the same time informing participants of career opportunities in this exciting sector. Move over Project Runway, there’s a new fashion show in town!

By 2008, the garment industry was responsible for 70% of Cambodia’s total export value. With 300,000 people directly employed in this industry and an estimated 1.5 million people benefitting from the sales of these products, the garment sector has been identified as one of 19 key Cambodian industries. These 19 sectors are being targeted by UNDP through its TRADE project with the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce. Using a sector-wide approach, UNDP aims at illuminating trade as a means to contribute to the reduction of poverty.

Read more about Cambodian fashion innovation and what it means for development here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Can the Children Cope until Copenhagen?

As is the case with nearly any global problem, whether it is poverty, illness, or hunger, we see the same groups again and again fall disproportionately victim to its ramifications – women, children, and the elderly. The global economic meltdown and changing climate are no different; they constitute two issues that highly impact children and will continue to do so in the coming decade.

August 12 marks International Youth Day, which prompted Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to recognize the impact of the economic crisis on children—although youth comprise only 25% of the world’s working age population, for example, they account for nearly 40% of the world’s unemployment. Compounding the problem, Ban asserts, is the threat of climate change, which will cause increased economic upheaval as those in developing countries face an escalating and disproportionate ‘ecological debt.’

Fortunately, the current generation of children is growing up with an increased awareness of global warming and climate change, as well as the steps necessary to mitigate the problem. These young people can lead by example, practicing green, healthy lifestyles and making conscious decisions to preserve precious natural resources. The age-old adage thus stands: the children are our future. But, with Copenhagen looming, does that future stand secure?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mozambique Straight from the Field

Hear about development in Mozambique straight from the field.

According to a country report of the African Peer Review Mechanism, Mozambique has made progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but there is still much ground left to be made up. Achievements crucial to the MDGs such as successful economic reform, advances in health, and improvement of education have all been recognized as a step in the right direction; however, the issues of political corruption, inequality, HIV/AIDS, and prevalent poverty remain challenges.

Much of the praise for Mozambique is due to the government’s “self-assessment” processes. A combined effort consisting of civil society, the private sector, and various political parties, the processes are intended to review and evaluate success and failures of governance in improving the state of the country.

Recognizing Mozambique’s progress in many areas and as the United Nations continued support of Mozambique, UNDP-USA has sent a civilian delegation to the country to witness projects first hand and report to the American public about their experience. Check out updates to our blog throughout the trip -- http://voicesfromthefield.blogspot.com/! And check in after our delegation returns for articles, op-eds, and other updates!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sounds like a plan, Afghanistan!

Preparation for the August 20th elections is well underway in Afghanistan. With 40 presidential candidates and 3,000 candidates running for provincial council seats, the elections are central to the country’s future. But, organizing such an important election in such a complicated country is no easy task – over 17 million ballot papers and nearly 100,000 ballot boxes are currently being delivered to locations across the country. Ensuring that all materials are successfully distributed, safe and secure, and free of tampering is a great undertaking.

Thankfully, the country’s Independent Election Commission has some help from the UNDP with the UN’s project ELECT (Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow). In addition to providing logistical and technical support, project ELECT has also undertaken the role of training the media to inform citizens accurately about candidates and their positions as well as act as a watchdog on election day. The former is intentioned to help citizens make informed decisions while the latter is intentioned to ensure that the people’s decision is the one made on Election Day.

With the help of UNDP, now Afgans can get out and rock the vote!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mapping Out a Plan to Save the Forest!

Growing rice is a way of life for the people of the Karen hill tribe in northern Thailand. Their crop rotation system necessitates more and more land to be cleared for agriculture each year. However, this system is leading to rapid deforestation and soil erosion, which in turn has increased the number of environmental disasters in the area, such as flash flooding. New government conservation measures have, thankfully, restricted the forest areas available for clearing, but these new regulations are a problem for the Karen people, who are left unsure of where these new boundaries lie.

Thankfully, the UNDP is sponsoring a project to build 3-dimensional models of the villages and surrounding land, clearly marking natural landmarks such as rivers, as well as also rice-growing boundaries and protected forest.

Young and old villagers alike have taken an interest in the project, excited to know where they live and how their land relates to the larger community. Not only do these efforts help to stop environmental degradation, but they also help to map out future vital infrastructure, such as irrigation!

For more information (and a video!), click here!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Tajikistan Tackles Trafficking (Tricky, isn’t it?)

Well, so is the issue of drug trafficking in this central Asian nation. Tajikistan sits on the crucial frontlines of the drug trafficking flow from Afghanistan to Russia and Europe. Fortunately, the UNDP and the EU have teamed up to develop the Central Asia Drug Action Programme to combat this illicit trade.

The trafficked drugs, such as heroin and opium, create significant health and development problems in central Asia and Europe – infected needles are a major contributing factor to the spread of HIV/AIDS. In addition to these problems, trafficking provides a major source of funding for terrorists and serves as a deterrent to legitimate economic activity and investment in Tajikistan.

Since its launch in 2004, the Central Asia Drug Action Programme has trained 23 members of Tajikistan’s major crime-fighting agencies to use specialized equipment such as endoscopes and test systems, as well as drug-sniffing dogs to root out drugs. And it’s been successful – 58 percent of all drug seizures in central Asia in 2008 were made in Tajikistan!

Want to learn more about Tajikistan’s Traffick-Tackling Program? Click Here!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Feeling Ill? Egypt’s got a Plant for That.

When you think of Egypt, you think of arid desert right? But not all of Egypt is barren! St. Katherine’s Protectorate on the Sinai Peninsula is home to 37 species of plants that are endemic to Egypt alone! There are a total of 316 plant species in the area, 102 of which are actively used by the Egyptian people for medicinal purposes.

In a country with a dearth of arable land, how can Egypt make sure this valuable flora is protected? The United Nations Development Program has partnered with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) to achieve just this. In 2003, the Egypt-Conservation and Sustainable Use of Medicinal Plants in Arid and Semi-Arid Ecosystems was launched. The project has so far protected 12 endemic endangered species, created opportunities for generating income through the use of medicinal plants, created an encyclopedia about medicinal plants, and even taken measures to abolish over-grazing of the plants. Through projects like these, UNDP is working hard to ensure the conservation of biodiversity around the globe!

Read more about the project by clicking here.

Also, check UNDP-USA's Voices From the Field Blog to follow Executive Director, Elizabeth Latham and her team on their exciting fact-finding journey to Mozambique.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sew You Think You Can... Start Your Own Business?

Due to a longstanding historical prejudice against women in business and a lack of access to capital, it’s hard for most women in Bangladesh to be entrepreneurs of any kind. However, thanks to a UNDP initiative, women like Kakuli Aktar are taking business initiatives into their own hands, one pair of pants at a time.

After being widowed with a child at age 14 and with only a seventh grade education, Kakuli was an unlikely success story. However, she refused to become another helpless statistic, and learned how to sew through a UN-supported training program. In 2008, she took out a loan from her local Community Development Committee and opened up her own tailoring shop, which now boasts a thriving business.

Not only is she now able to provide for herself and her son, but Kakuli is currently teaching two other girls how to sew through a UN-sponsored apprentice program. These women’s involvement in their communities, with the help of the UNDP, is helping to significantly break down social barriers by lifting women out of their traditional roles, and out of poverty.

Want to learn more? Click Here!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Turning Brain Drain into Brain Gain!

Here in the US, we have some of the best medical professionals in the world. But what would happen if our aspiring doctors thought they could get a better education outside of the United States, and ended up settling down and practicing abroad? Unfortunately, this is what’s happening in Lebanon – some of the best and brightest in the fields of medicine, law, economics and the environment are leaving Lebanon, taking with them their expertise, innovation and ambition.

Fortunately, the UNDP is turning this brain drain into a brain gain by bringing accomplished Lebanese individuals back to Lebanon so that they can use their expertise to help their fellow countrymen. Through the TOKTEN project (Transfer of Knowledge through Expatriate Nationals), the UNDP is facilitating the return of these talented expatriates to work as volunteer consultants on development projects in several Lebanese ministries.

The TOKTEN project has been especially effective in the treatment of cancer in Lebanon. After the Ministry of Public Health expressed a need for the development of cancer treatments, TOKTEN volunteers implemented a “National Chemotherapy Protocols” project, through which they are helping to improve, regulate and monitor oncology protocols for ailing patients.

Now, not only are the people of Lebanon healthier, but the presence of gifted doctors, lawyers and other expatriate professionals is helping improve and develop Lebanon itself!

Want to learn more about TOKTEN? Click Here!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Forget the Old School, It’s All About the “e-School”

The internet is full of great information – it’s how you found this page, after all. But many children in the world cannot take advantage of the academic and social resources available to many in the Western world due to lack of internet access. UNDP in Albania is attempting to connect primary and secondary school students across the country with computer labs and internet access.

In addition to providing expanded resources, the hope of the program is to provide students and teachers with basic information technology skills – an expertise that will help them connect to a modern and changing global job market. Over 1,600 IT-trained teachers are now running classrooms in almost 1,200 schools, benefiting thousands of students every year.

Have a Facebook or Myspace account? Maybe now you can make an e-friend in Albania!

Monday, July 20, 2009

From Street Gangsters to Kings of Kitchen Science

16-year-old Nuria enjoys cooking low-fat porridges, curd pancakes, and various salads. Her friend Ravshan likes to prepare meat dishes. Both Ravshan and Nuria who were brought up in a Kyrgyz orphanage could have ended up in the street, but instead, with the help of UNDP, they are going to become professional cooks and find their own place under the sun.

In Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet Union country in Central Asia, children proved to be one of the most vulnerable to the blows of transition. Due to economic hardships, they drop out of schools, go to the streets to work and help their parents, or join gangs. Once children find themselves in the street, they suffer from poor nutrition, insufficient winter clothing, and accidents as they take over the tasks of adults.

One of the initiatives that UNDP-Kyrgyzstan proposed in order to address this problem is providing vocational education for such children. Analysis of the Kyrgyz labor market showed that the most demanded professions are those of cooks, builders, and carpenters. UNDP-Kyrgyzstan helped children from vulnerable families, orphanages, and shelters – just like Nuria and Ravshan – to get enrolled in culinary classes where they studied European and traditional Kyrgyz cuisine. Right after the completion of the courses, the cooks-to-be started receiving numerous job offers from the prospective employers.

Hopefully, as the program expands, more street children in Kyrgyzstan will be able to learn a good trade that will provide them with bread and help manage their lives.

Learn more about UNDP’s project “Vocational Education to Street Children in the Kyrgyz Republic” here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

They're on a Boat

Break out your swim trunks and your flippy floppies - fisherman in the poor, rural Arbaat region in Eastern Sudan are now sailing on a boat. The Recovery and Rehabilitation Program, managed by UNDP Sudan, recently donated three fishing boats to help the fishermen help themselves.

Although fishing is traditionally a way of life in the region, lately fishermen have had trouble finding the resources to bring home any fish at all, let alone make any kind of profit. Small, wooden shallow-water boats are few and far between and those which do exist have insufficient refrigeration on board, leading to spoiled fish and hungry mouths.

Now, 35 fishermen in the region operate in teams to share three motorized, fiberglass boats provided by the program. Not only can they catch a variety of previously inaccessible deepwater fish, three coolers onboard the ships guarantee that the fish can be taken back to the shore unspoiled. Truly a community program, the fishermen share all profits between them when the fish are sold at local markets.

Teach a man to fish and he’ll have food for life. Give a man a boat and he can feed the whole community!

Want to learn more? Click Here!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Excelling in Electoral Education

How important is the media in public elections? They are a lot more influential than you might think! As the main source of public information about candidates and the voting process in many countries, the media has a responsibility to understand local electoral practices and convey mass messages objectively. The UNDP, with its focus on democratic governance and capacity development, works to improve the practices of the media in the electoral processes of countries around the world, including in the nation of Turkmenistan.
In 2008, in response to a request made by the government of Turkmenistan, UNDP in partnership with the National Institute of Democracy and Human Rights launched a project entitled “Cooperation on Enhancing Electoral System and Processes in Turkmenistan.” As part of this project, UNDP and the NIDHR held a one-day workshop on June 30th for members of the Turkmen mass media from TV channels to regional print media to learn about electoral best practices and enhance the professionalism of electoral media coverage. By providing national media with the skills they need to do their job fairly, UNDP is empowering the Turkmen population to get out the vote!
Learn more about UNDP’s efforts to enhance the Turkmen electoral system here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Syrious about Environmental Protection

Ever wanted to frolic with an Arabian Oryx? How about swim with a Mediterranean Monk Seal? Thanks to the work of the Syrian government in conjunction with the UNDP’s Global Biodiversity Programme, you might still get that chance. After facing the negative impact of more than fifty years of climate change, Syria has had enough – no more environmental damage! The Oryx and Monk Seal along with about twenty other rare and endangered species are now being protected through the project for Biodiversity Conservation and Protected Area Management, a seven year initiative implemented through the work of Syrian ministries and the UNDP.

Efforts to protect the environment don’t stop with the Syrian government. Children are being taught to make toys out of recycled garbage! Volunteers are working with UN agencies to clean up streets! Environmental art competitions are getting youth involved in the fight against pollution! By empowering the local people to take an active interest in the protection of the land which they call home, the UNDP is building sustainable conservation efforts in Syria.

To learn more about conservation efforts and progress in Syria click here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

UNite for Women's Rights!

Gender inequity and violence against women have been major problems for centuries. In the United States, women’s rights became an issue to be addressed in the late 19th century when the outspoken Susan B. Anthony launched the women’s suffrage movement. Even then, Anthony’s efforts only came to fruition fourteen years after her death with the 1920 ratification of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Fortunately, in most Western societies today, women are considered equal to their male counterparts.

Unfortunately, gender-based violence and the mistreatment of women remains a harsh reality in many countries around the world. A report released today by the United Nations shows that violence against Afghan women, for example, is widespread and often goes unpunished. To make matters worse, the Afghan government does nothing to address the impunity with which these crimes occur; within the state structure, no legislation protecting women’s rights exist, thus allowing rape and other acts of discrimination to continue.

Women actively involved in sectors of public life are most frequently attacked. Political leaders within Afghanistan must do more to address this issue and ensure that women and girls do not have to live in a state of perpetual fear. It is time that someone like Susan B. Anthony stands up against these abhorrent acts and condemns gender inequity wherever it takes place.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Is São Paulo the New Venice?

There’s a new way to commute to work in São Paulo—by water. Far from a Venetian gondola, Latin America’s first hydrogen-powered bus carries 63 passengers while releasing only water vapor into the air, rather than carbon dioxide.

Four years or research and partnership of the United Nations Development Programme, the Brazilian Mines and Energy Ministry, and the city of o Paulo’s Urban Transportation Company have made such a feat possible. While on a two-month trial basis, the city will monitor the bus with hopes that it can expand the program in coming years.

As the world seeks an alternative to fossil fuels, hydrogen is proving to be a promising alternative. Carlos Zündt, planning manager of the Sao Paulo Urban Transportation Company and coordinator of the hydro bus project, asserts, "By 2080, 90 percent of the world’s vehicles will be run by hydrogen." To find out more about the hydrogen bus project click here or hydrogen-fueled technology click here!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Nasty Nematodes Beware!

Can you imagine never seeing the sun rise? How about never seeing the smile on your child’s face? Thanks to a new drug called Moxidectin, some 100 million people across the African continent will be saved from such a dire reality. These individuals currently suffer from river blindness, a debilitating disease caused by the worm Onchocerca volvulus. Transmitted by the bite of the Black Fly, which breeds in fast-flowing rivers, these nasty parasites spread rapidly and can survive for up to fifteen years in the human body.

At present, the drug ivormectin is used to control river blindness endemic in African countries. Unfortunately, the drug only kills the worm larvae, which means that annual treatments are required for anywhere from 11-14 years to prevent further reproduction and transmission. On Wednesday, however, the UN health agency announced the launch of a clinical trial of Moxidectin in Ghana, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is believed this drug will kill not only the worm larvae, but also the adult worms, halting the disease cycle within six annual rounds of treatment.

Some 1,500 individuals are currently enrolled in the clinical trial, which will last approximately 2.5 years.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Women, Work, and Family: Lessons from Latin America

It’s normal thing in the United States for husbands help their wives with cleaning the house, cooking, or doing the laundry. This is especially true in cases when wives, along with their husbands, work and make their own contribution to the family budget. However, in Latin America, the situation is completely different – such behavior on the part of men would be ridiculed and considered challenging the traditional “machist” perception of manhood.

Today, when more than 100 million (!) women throughout Latin America and the Caribbean work, a traditional Latin American perception of gender roles is still impeding improvements in the quality of women’s life: the household work is undervalued and there is an overall belief that caring for the home and family is a woman’s responsibility. The tensions between their family life and work also have a negative impact on women’s performance and commitment in the workplace, which, in turn, decreases their own productivity and that of the national economy.

Yet, a few Latin American countries have achieved quite a notable progress in addressing these issues. For example, Costa Rica offers day care plans for almost all workers; Brazil has a pension plan for workers in the informal economy, which often includes more women than men; and Chile has paternity leave as well as maternity leave. To read the full version of the joint UN and ILO report “Work and Family: A New Call for Public Policies of Reconciliation with Social Co-responsibility” that describes some of these strategies in detail, please click here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Emergency? Dial 9-1-Camel

When someone is seriously injured here in the US, they’re whisked away in a fast-moving ambulance. But try to drive that ambulance in a rural desert with no roads, and you’ve got yourself a problem. To solve this predicament, the UNDP in Ethiopia is turning camels into emergency transport vehicles.

Ok, so they don’t have sirens or flashing lights. But these humped, spitting beasts of burden are ideally suited to transport seriously ill patients across the deserts of rural Ethiopia to hospitals. The UNDP has also trained men and women in basic healthcare to ride along with the camels, and these doctor-camel teams are working as primary and emergency health providers for around 140,000 rural residents.

So, the next time you fall and you can’t get up, you might want to consider calling a camel.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Picture This: Environmental Sustainability in Pictures!

Last week, UNDP, Olympus and AFP partnered to launch Picturethis, an Africa based photo competition designed to highlight the work of African natives to negate and reverse the effects of climate change. The competition aims to demonstrate the people of Africa as ‘stewards of their natural environment’.

The contest is inspired by the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, which will bring together over 15,000 officials from 200 countries to address climate change and explore options to extend the Kyoto Protocol’s treaty’s into the future.

The contest is exclusively for those who have resided in Africa for 12 months and has amateur and professional categories. The entries can be either single photographs or a series and are expected to display how the local population is working together toward MDG 7- Environmental Sustainability. The contest also looks to depict the role that women play in protecting their environment.

UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark said recently “the developing world stands to lose the most from the effects of climate change and environmental degradation”. With this in mind, the competition seeks to demonstrate how even the smallest of projects can have a positive impact on the surrounding environment.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sneaky Sands Threaten Livelihoods Around the World

With the majority of news broadcasts covering incidents of death, disease, and destruction, the major threat of desertification to the lives of millions around the world is often overlooked. However, on June 17—officially marked World Day to Combat Desertification—Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon made it his personal mission to emphasize the danger of encroaching deserts, especially to populations already marginalized by poverty. A process that is accelerating rapidly as a result of climate change, desertification is an issue that, like many others, will disproportionately affect the poor. According to Mr. Ban’s statement, by 2050, an estimated 200 million people, particularly those who lack the capacity to adapt, will become environmentally-induced migrants. The resultant extent of displacement in turn will set the stage for increased instability and conflict in those regions hardest hit.

As the average surface temperature of the planet continues to rise, increased periods of drought and famine will deepen poverty, and as a consequence, reverse any progress made toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Further land degradation is sure to incite a greater incidence of transnational and intrastate conflicts as displaced populations fight to secure their most basic needs. While these conflicts may occur under the pretense of cultural and religious differences, the underlying environmental factors must be addressed. Simply put, regardless of cause, climate change is real, and its portended effects can and will be devastating. Something most be done to reverse environmental degradation; if not, a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions may be inevitable.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Saving the World. One Goal at a Time.

On Thursday, the Intergovernmental Organization for Renewable Energy honored former Brazilian Striker and current World Cup goal-scoring record holder Ronaldo for his work on securing Brazil’s natural energy reserves. Ronaldo, a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, is also set to be awarded by UNDP for his work with poverty-stricken children in Brazil and Latin America.
The Brazilian star’s recently announced a follow up to 2004’s ‘Match for Peace’ in Haiti only serves to further reinforce his international image. The friendly match will this time be held in Palestine, a region ravaged for decades by conflict and turmoil. Add to this the annual ‘Match for Poverty’ he and French star Zinedine Zidane have organized since 2002 and you have the beginnings of what could be a football-fueled development blitz.

UNDP, FIFA and the stars organize these matches to mobilize the public against poverty and promote the Millennium Development Goals, which collectively aim to halve global poverty by 2015. Ticket sales and proceeds from the previous matches have benefited anti-poverty projects ranging from support of female entrepreneurs to the construction of sports centers for street children and the disadvantaged. Funds have gone to support projects all over the world, from Brazil and Burkina Faso to Tajikistan, Uganda, and Vietnam.

French star Zinedine Zidane, not to be outdone by his Brazilian colleague, recently announced his own ‘Zidane and Friends’ football tour of Canada to raise money for UNICEF and UNDP. The Canadian leg of the Zidane Friendship Tour is a three-city event designed to give Canadian soccer fans the unique opportunity to watch world class football while helping those who need it most. With this kind of star power behind it, UNDP hopes to kick development goals around the world.

For more information, click on the “Match Against Poverty” or the “Zidane and Friends” tour.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Need an Excuse to Play Computer Games? FreeRice.com Needs You…Now.

For many Americans, the current financial crisis means cutting back. Across the board, people are spending less money on luxury and even some essential items, from food and clothing to outings and vacations. Many families face home foreclosure; stores, bankruptcy. The evidence of economic hardship is everywhere, and yet the impact of the financial crisis extends beyond national borders. The head of the United Nations World Food Program warned today that, as a consequence of the lowest level of global food aid in twenty years, the poor and hungry around the world are facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

Compounding the problem is the UN food agency’s total reliance on voluntary donations to achieve its ends. In light of the financial crisis, it should therefore come to no surprise that the World Food Program is feeling the crunch. However, given the millions who rely on UN food aid, something needs to be done. Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the organization, today urged development ministers of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations meeting in Italy to support the agency in its efforts to help the world’s most needy survive. One in six people are going hungry, and every six seconds, a child dies of starvation.

Why should you care? The expanding hunger crisis can lead to destabilization, and impact global peace and security. Do your part today. If you have the means, donate to WFP. If you do not, go to www.freerice.com and play! For each correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated through the UN World Food Program to help end hunger.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hot Enough to Fry an Egg!

Have you ever felt weather so hot that you could fry an egg on the sidewalk? There is so much energy from the Sun hitting Earth everyday that it could cook every last egg on the planet! Harnessing that energy is a vital part of creating a more sustainable future, from massive solar power plant complexes, like the planned "solar tower" of Australia, to smaller scale projects like solar powered vehicles. Today, the United Nations Development Program has partnered with the Global Environment Facility, the European Union, and the Chilean government to harness the power of the sun, prevent deforestation and bring renewable energy to local communities in northern Chile.

The people who live in these communities traditionally relied on wood to fuel their stoves, but thanks to UNDP are now embracing solar ovens as a way to rehabilitate their damaged environment. The overcutting of firewood in northern Chile has accelerated deforestation, drying up already-arid lands. Solar ovens bring an eco-friendly alternative to cooking needs, and lay the foundations for greater
renewable energy use in the future. But UNDP is not just providing solar ovens, it is training locals to construct their own ovens so that they may pass the knowledge on to others in the community. Alejandra Alarcon, National Coordinator of the UNDP Small Grants Programme’s Global Environment Facility, stressed the importance of providing not just the materials but the know-how, "The only way to see long-lasting results is if people can build their own ovens and share the knowledge with other communities.”

To learn more about solar ovens in Chile, and how they are sparking green-change and green-entrepreneurship click here

Friday, June 5, 2009

Become a Lean, Mean [Green] Climate Change-Fighting Machine!

Rising sea levels. Glacier retreat. Arctic shrinkage. Climactic variation. Increased annual temperatures and extreme weather events. Expansion of tropical diseases. Fluctuating precipitation patterns. We have all heard about global warming and its consequences, and yet for most of us, the warnings do little to fundamentally change our behavior. While “going green” has become the 21st century’s latest fad, SUVS with single passengers continue to clutter America’s roads, gas prices remain low (discouraging responsible conservation practices), and recycling systems remain woefully inadequate. Buying clothes from eco-friendly stores and food in biodegradable containers from environmentally-conscious restaurants is a start, but it is not enough.

Today, June 5, is World Environment Day, an annual celebration established by the United Nations in 1972 to raise awareness, stimulate dialogue around environmental issues, and enhance political attention and action. WED is hosted by a different city every year; to show Mexico’s increasing importance in the fight against climate change, this year’s event is being held in Mexico City. As a leading partner in the Billion Trees Campaign, Mexico is at the forefront of Latin America’s progress toward combating global warming.

Because the theme for the 2009 World Environment Day is “Your Planet Needs You—UNite to Combat Climate Change,” do your part to help save the environment! Turn out the lights behind you. Ride a bike to work. Pick up a piece of trash lying in the park. It is time that everyone in the United States did their part to cut back on the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. We can only hope that world leaders feel a similar urgency in Copenhagen in December.