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!