Our Perspective

A sole woman at the negotiating table for peace

26 Sep 2014

Dialogue, mediation and negotiation are elegant words to describe ways to resolve conflicts. I was part of such a peace process that produced an agreement to end a 30 year bloody conflict between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). That was almost ten years ago. Then and now, women are rarely seen in this peace negotiation arena, often because they are not typically part of the parties in conflict. They are also not perceived as adequately prepared for tackling "tough" issues like peace and security. Despite recent international obligations to include women in peace processes, reality has not kept pace with rhetoric. My own presence, as a lone woman among "tough" men who had been at the helm of the struggle for independence for decades was unique. As a woman, and a mother of two children, one of whom is severely autistic; I did not push to go to Helsinki for the peace talks, as it meant leaving my two small children. As fate would have it, the official negotiators were arrested on the way to the airport and sentenced to jail and exiled to the prison island of Nusakambangan off Java. By default,  Read More

Building a culture of peace in the Philippines

25 Jun 2014

  "We have to teach peace to build a culture of peace. We have to build a culture of peace to create different generations of peace builders toward our goal of a just and peaceful society starting from the formative years of a child." This has always been my belief to be able to break the vicious cycle of a conflict. I am a Muslim from Lanao del Sur with underlying roots from Bulacan from the Philippines, because of my mother. Her side of the family are all Christians, while my father's side are all Muslims. My sister and I have lived our lives studying and learning about both religions and our families' culture, tradition and diverse backgrounds. I belong to a family with one of my uncles being part of the Moro National Liberation Front (MLNF), fighting for peace and development for the Bangsamoro People and a family of peace mediators who have always been trusted by the community to resolve issues and reach peaceful settlements. But my formative years were spent far from here, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Yet, I could not escape conflict and violence. All of us have our own nightmares and dark stories to tell. Mine  Read More

Why women matter for peace

24 Jun 2014

image Committed to the improvement of women’s rights in Nepal at all levels, Shashi Kumary Adhikary organized awareness and legal education programs at the village level.

"It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern wars." These are not the words of a woman who has faced the violence and ferocity of conflict, but words of Major General Patrick Cammaert, who served as the Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The nature of modern conflicts has changed: almost 90 percent of casualties are civilian, of which the most vulnerable are women. As witnesses and victims to conflict, they are overlooked as participants to peace processes. They are too often sidelined in dialogues and negotiations on peace and security, arenas still seen by much of the world as the domain of men, with the association of guns, money and power. What is often disregarded is how much women know about conflict, and therefore how much they can contribute to peace. Women experience war differently than men. They are victims of sexual violence, often used as a systematic tool of war, which has lasting impact on their lives and the lives of their families and communities long after the war is over. Women can bring new understanding of a conflict, and with it, insights  Read More

How citizen-led data is supporting policies in Viet Nam | Pratibha Mehta & Jairo Acuña-Alfaro

04 Jun 2014

image Provinces across Viet Nam are now starting to shape their policies in response to priorities and experiences that citizens report in UNDP's annual PAPI survey. UNDP Photo

The relationship between governments and citizens has undergone a sea-change in most developing countries in the last decade, riding a tide of economic aspirations that are swelling the ranks of the middle class. Viet Nam is no exception. There seems to be a general rule of thumb: the more prosperous and educated citizens become, the more they want efficient and accountable governments.    Citizen-led monitoring and accountability are emerging as key features of the new Post-2015 development agenda as a means of enabling citizens to define the issues they believe should be prioritized in the development process. They are also vital if governments, both local and central, are to be held to account. With Viet Nam’s entry into the club of middle-income countries, citizens are increasingly demanding a public administration system that promotes equitable development, and spreads the dividends of prosperity across an ever-widening sphere. Citizens expect greater participation in the decision-making processes of public policies, as well as in their implementation and monitoring. It was in this context of increasing demands for greater citizens’ voice in government affairs that UNDP Viet Nam and it’s national partners looked for innovative ways for the government and citizens to better communicate with each  Read More

How can mega-cities innovate to reduce traffic congestion? | Matthew David Viccars

29 May 2014

image Infrastructure can't keep up as the number of cars on the streets of the Bangladeshi capital increase at breakneck speed, slowing traffic to a crawl. Mohammad Asad / UNDP Photo

How do the 15 million residents of the Bangladeshi capital get to work? ‘Slowly’ is the answer. It’s common for a short commute across Dhaka (let’s say 7km) to take longer than an hour through perpetually gridlocked traffic. Transport is a big problem for anyone who needs to move about in this mega-city and it affects all residents rich and poor alike, stealing their time and exposing them to unnecessary pollution and stress everyday. Dhaka’s now infamous traffic jams keeps people from their families and has been equated to a loss of 3.86BUSD in productivity each year. That’s 3.3% of 2012 GDP!  So we thought us boffins at the UNDP should look into doing something about it. Now we’re avid (sometimes fanatical) supporters of public transport and cycling here at the UNDP. In fact in the last few years, cycling’s caught on massively among young people! So the solution to us was clear, let’s install bus and bike lanes. Easy, jobs done we can all go home! Right? WRONG! If that’s all it took to fix Dhaka’s choked transport system it would have been done long ago. We quickly recognised that other organisations and people, many smarter than us, have considered  Read More

Working women’s empowerment into conservation initiatives | Doley Tshering

15 Apr 2014

image Ensuring gender equity is the only path to sustainable development. UNDP Photo

It is 6:00 AM. My mother wakes me. Her motto: anyone who sleeps late is “not going to be able to eat their food warm”. It’s a Bhutanese phrase meaning one is unable to feed oneself or meet the needs of the family.  As early as it feels to me, I know she has already spent two hours feeding the animals, fetching a mountain of leaf litter (to serve as bedding for the cows and later be used as compost), and cooking breakfast for all of us. This is how most women in my village begin their days. After breakfast my mother and other women tend crops, walk through the forests to collect firewood or leaf litter, and travel far to bring water to irrigate the fields.    Women play the dominant role in natural resource management, agricultural production and the well-being and very survival of many rural families. Despite the fact that women also play a critical role in the conservation, management and use of biodiversity, their contribution is often overlooked; they are  “invisible” stakeholders. For effective natural resource management they must be seen and heard for the simple reason that this is the most equitable and effective strategy to  Read More

100 days after Haiyan, the Philippines transitions to recovery | Jo Scheuer

14 Feb 2014

image UNDP in the Philippines is supporting the people's recovery from the destruction wreaked by Haiyan. Photo: UNDP

February 16th marks 100 days since Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines. The emergency response is almost over and the beginning of long-term recovery has begun. I have been to the Philippines twice since Haiyan struck. In the early days, I went to help coordinate the response to this tragedy. Just recently I returned, to advise on the transition to long-term recovery. The progress over 100 days has been remarkable. Immediately after the storm, UNDP began helping the government prepare for recovery. For example, only weeks after Haiyan, we facilitated a visit to the Philippines from the Government of Indonesia, bringing Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, who led the reconstruction effort in Aceh-Nias after the 2004 Tsunami. He attended a Philippines cabinet meeting on recovery, sharing with his colleagues the challenges and lessons learned from Indonesia. This visit may have been low-key – but was very valuable to the Philippines authorities – and it led to UNDP experts starting to work with the government to plan, prepare and budget the recovery. But attention must now shift beyond the first 100 days and focus on the future. It is essential that we build resilience into the new cities that rise from the rubble. Disaster risk reduction  Read More

Saving the imperiled Hamouns of Eastern Iran | Gary Lewis

31 Jan 2014

image The UNDP-supported Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Project aims to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of Iran’s system of wetland protected areas as a tool for conserving globally significant biodiversity. Photo: UNDP Iran

“Angels will kiss the hands of those who help us,” the man said. The face behind the handshake was grizzled and weathered with  leathery skin that bespoke years of harshness. The fisherman’s eyes welled with suppressed tears. He yearned for a time when his life was one of plenty.  Lakes brimmed with water and fish, his children were happy, and life was good. He wanted me to tell the world about the desperate conditions in Iran’s harshest, poorest region: the Hamoun wetlands of Sistan. “Wetlands” is really not the right word for these parched lands. There is little gainful employment, and more than half the residents get by on welfare delivered through the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation (IKRF), a parastatal organization.  They were mainly fisher folk, though almost all are now unemployed, living amid the decayed ruins of ghost-like villages built alongside once-thriving lakes. Hamouns comprise three large wetland areas covering 5,660 square kilometers.  Two-thirds of these wetlands are located in Iran, linked and fed by water from Afghanistan’s Helmand River. Twenty years ago, most of this area was green, and the lake teemed with fish. The wetlands also supported agriculture and water buffalo herds, providing a livelihood for thousands of  Read More

Did you cook your meal with wood or charcoal today? | Mina Weydahl

09 Oct 2013

image Globally, billions of people still rely on solid fuels for lighting, cooking and heating. Photo credit: Patrick Fries/Arrowhead Films

With few exceptions, all of us engage in some sort of cooking every day, in various ways, and sometimes with varying success. Some of us cook with an electric stove, some with gas stoves, some cook outside, some inside. 2.7 billion people across the world cook with traditional stoves and with wood, charcoal and other so-called 'traditional fuels.' Cooking with wood or charcoal is a bit more challenging than cooking with gas or electricity. First of all, it’s trickier to get – whether I buy wood or charcoal at the market or I actually go to the forest and get the wood myself, it takes a lot longer than turning on a gas flame or an electric stove. In the state of Himachal Pradesh in India, for example, rural women typically spend 40 hours collecting fuel every month, many of them walking more than 6 kilometers round trip.  Secondly, traditional fuel is a lot heavier – a family cooking with wood will use, on average, 2400 kilograms per year. This can contribute to deforestation in areas where wood is the only affordable and available option.  Thirdly, wood and charcoal produce more smoke than a gas or electric stove, depending on what  Read More

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