Friday, May 29, 2009

Rising Up Against Climate Change

The Baka people, an indigenous tribe of hunter-gatherers that lives in eastern Cameroon, have a distinctive culture of their own – a semi-nomadic people, the Baka were revered by European colonialists for the prowess in elephant hunting. But thanks to the UN, the Baka can add one more skill to their roster: film-making. UNDP and the Global Environment Facility supplied video cameras to members of the Baka tribe, and they’re using them to make short films about how climate change is affecting their livelihoods.

The video program is one of the ways that the UN is working to implement its Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, landmark legislation that the General Assembly approved in 2007. In this case, the Baka people now have the tools to communicate to policymakers and put indigenous concerns on the agenda. And they’re teaching what they’ve learned about making videos to other communities through Okani, an organization whose name means “rise up” that the Baka founded.

Check out the video below to see what the Baka community has been working on. Or, read more about the program here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I Love Lucy: UN Edition?

Bored with Desperate Housewives and Seinfeld? Is Dr. McDreamy leaving you hanging? Tune into “Plastic Sheeting in the Wind,” to be broadcast in primetime every Saturday night beginning May 30th on Japan’s public television network (NHK)! The concept for the new television drama, which follows the life of a fictional pu blic information assistant named Rika Kudo who joins the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is based on the need to improve awareness of the United Nation and its work with refugees and internally displaced persons.

The show highlights the dangers aid workers face in conflict-prone areas and the challenges faced by asylum-seekers in Japan, while incorporating sensationalist elements to entice millions of viewers to tune in week after week. The protagonist must overcome obstacles and hardships most of us do not typically encounter in day-to-day life, including having to bid farewell to her husband, a UNHCR protection officer, when he is reassigned to Sudan. Other twists and turns are sure to have you clinging to the edge of your seat!

Using fictional accounts, the show will raise awareness of the UNHCR and stimulate dialogue about refugee issues of increasing importance in today’s conflict-ridden world.

Friday, May 22, 2009

UNDP Helps Develop Judiciary in Timor-Leste

Newly democratic states face a laundry list of problems as they try to institutionalize reforms and make their government both responsive and accountable. But combating lawlessness is one of the biggest issues - countries need to exercise their authority without becoming authoritarian. Making sure that the judicial system treats all its citizens fairly is one important way that nations can reinforce their commitment to democracy.

In the nation of Timor-Leste, UNDP is helping to ensure that judges and public defenders are not only familiar with their country's laws, but also know how important an independent judicial system is to a functioning democracy. UNDP's Justice System Program has been working closely with Timor-Leste's Council of Coordination of the Justice Sector to enforce court reform, including establishing a Legal Training Center, which can count among its graduates two judges and four public defenders who were sworn in last week.

For more information on the program, click here, and you can read a previous blog post about the Justice System Program's outreach efforts in Timor-Leste here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tech-Savvy Ghanaians!

Technology is not reserved only for the wealthy, industrialized nations. We can now use technology to aid developing countries in battling poverty as well as coping with rapid globalization. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN-Ghana), is setting up ten Information and Communication Technology (ITC) learning centers in each of the ten regions in Ghana. This MTN ITC Learning Centers Project is a US$670,000 project, with $70,000 funded by UNDP. ITC education will serve multiple purposes, from developing the economy and enhancing the quality of education, to encouraging entrepreneurship and creating employment opportunities. In addition, the UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Daouda Toure, said the UNDP would continue to help Ghana in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and middle-income status by 2015.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Creating Hope from Tragedy

The United Nations Development Program is helping the government of China bring relief to those still affected by the devastating earthquake of last year. The massive quake shook the mountainous southwestern province of Sichuan, taking the lives of over 70,000 people and causing billions of dollars in damage. After a year since the quake hit last May, the destruction left in its wake is still affecting millions.

Despite the tragic events of the Sichuan earthquake, the Chinese government is looking to the future. The State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development (LGOP) is teaming up with the UNDP to not only provide relief to those in need, but to rebuild quake affected areas so that they will have a more sustainable and eco-friendly future. The relief and reconstruction efforts will be guiding over 4500 villages in southwest China as they work to rebuild their lives and their communities.

The UNDP will be focusing specifically on assisting the most vulnerable of those in need of relief: women, children, the eldery, and the disabled. The program will be put into action over the next two years, supported by over $5.36 Million US in funding. Since its implementation in September of last year, over 25,000 people have already benefited from the program, over half of which are women and children.

Click here to learn more.

UN Helps Flood Relief in Namibia

Here in Washington, DC, we've had an unreasonably rainy spring season. But that's nothing compared to the floods that have plagued the northern regions of Namibia - floods that have killed 100, displaced 55,000, and ruined wide swathes of farmland, as well as social facilities like schools and hospitals. 350,000 Namibians - that's around 17% of the entire population - have lost their livelihoods over the past few months.

Several United Nations agencies stepped in with $2.7 million worth of goods and relief work to support the humanitarian efforts that the Namibian government had already gotten underway. UNDP in particular contributed $1.3 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund. The worst affected areas have been evacuated, but as the rainfall is diminishing and the floods are receding, aid workers are already concentrating on preventing similar consequences in future years: UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representtive Simon Nhongo says, "Since the damage has already been done, the bigger task of recovery and rehabilitation is ahead of us and will run into millions of US dollars. To lessen the impact of the rains that will surely come next year, it is essential that we start to build back better now.”

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tennis in Chernobyl?

The UN got a little help from a tennis player last week in raising awareness for its new program in Eastern Europe. The UN will allocate $2.5 million to help people who are still affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. The UN initiative will provide assistance to communities in a region home to 5 million people that cuts across three different countries. Tennis superstar Maria Sharapova urged for an international effort to assist in rebuilding affected areas. Sharapova, a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program, has a personal connection to the Chernobyl disaster. A huge area was affected by radiation, and her parents were forced to relocate just before she was born. Sharapova said of the 23rd Chernobyl anniversary, “We must continue to work with the same goal in mind: bringing life back to normal for all the people touched by the disaster.”

In order to help dispel fears and misinformation, the UN will provide education and training to a wide range of civil society actors; including teachers, medical professionals, media, and community leaders. The program will also focus on giving advice about health risks and healthy lifestyles. The work will be a collaboration between the United Nations Development Program, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization.

Click here to see the video.

Monday, May 4, 2009

UNDP Helps Marshal Volunteer Teachers in Burkina Faso

More than 70% of the adult population in the small, landlocked west African country of Burkina Faso is illiterate. And even though the country's rate of school enrollment is only 45%, its youthful population - nearly half the country is younger than 15 - means that it suffers from a nationwide teacher shortage. Classrooms of over 100 students are not uncommon, and sometimes there are so few teachers that schools simply shut down.

That's what happened this past September, when a teacher in the bush village of Iolonioro went on maternity leave. 67 elementary school students spent nearly two months on an impromtpu vacation from classes until the Burkina Faso National Volunteers Programme (PNVB) stepped in. Co-financed by the UNDP, the UN Volunteer Program, and the Burkina Faso government, the PNVB has recruited more than 80 trained teachers to volunteer in elementary schools while they wait for the test results that will give them their teaching certifications.

When they do receive their results, participating teachers will begin their search for paid positions with significant teaching experience under their belts. And Burkinab
é students will be that much closer to reducing their country's illiteracy levels - and, perhaps, passing on the favor to students of the next generation.

Read the full article here.