Our Perspective

Striving to meet promises to refugees and host communities

19 Sep 2016

image Zaatari Camp that hosts Syrian Refugees in Jordan

Assessing economic opportunity in countries affected by the Syria crisis. The recent World Humanitarian Summit, held in May 2016 in Istanbul, as well as the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference in London, held earlier in February, represented important milestones in the search for more sustainable responses to complex and protracted crisis, including the one raging in Syria over the past 5 year. In the London Conference, the international community pledged to join efforts to ease the region’s economic access to world markets and to uphold its generous contributions. Governments in the region offered to open up their labour markets in an attempt to create 1.1 million jobs by 2018. The aim is to assist refugees from the crisis and neighbouring communities hosting them to find decent work that can provide for their families and help them preserve their dignity. On 19 September 2016, the United Nations will hold its Summit for Refugees and Migrants, which will explore ways for a better international response to large movements of refugees and migrants. In that vein, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been advancing development approaches to migration and displacement that particularly support national and local level authorities, where the highest burden  Read More

Migrants and refugees: A global problem or a local solution?

18 Sep 2016

image A family of 10 flees the besieged city of Yabrud, Syria in Februray 2014. Six hours later, they crossed the border into Arsal, Lebanon. Photo: UNHCR/A. McConnell.

This week, the world’s governments will come together at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to debate the international response to large movements of migrants and refugees. The concept of “root causes” has been cited often in draft resolutions and speeches. It boils down to the fears and threats people are running away from, leaving behind their homes and countries. Conflict, climate shocks and lack of opportunity, repression and violation of rights, extremism and widespread poverty top the list of development failures that produce forced displacements. Successful development appears as one of the clearest solutions. Development policies need to adequately integrate and consider migration and displacement. Responding quickly and effectively to sudden displacements is important. Migrations and other forms of human mobility should, above all, be safe and orderly, to protect those on the move. They cannot only be looked at through the prism of crisis and emergency. The bulk of displaced persons today have been living in protracted situations of fear and need. Thus, human mobility has to be included more comprehensively into long-term policy planning. National development strategies that aim at economic, social and rural development, the consolidation of the rule of law, climate action and peace  Read More

World leaders have an historic opportunity to support migrants and refugees

18 Sep 2016

image Women in Syria staying and surviving

Two years ago, I traveled to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. I met a Syrian refugee family there who had recently fled Raqqa. Unable to find regular work, the family was depending on the labour of their 12-year-old daughter who was working in the fields. The family and this young girl herself would have preferred her to be in school. The Bekaa Valley is among the areas hardest hit by the refugee crisis. Two years ago when I was there, some 770 informal tented settlements had sprung up and the valley was home to more than 410,000 refugees. These numbers have largely stayed the same two years on. Today, more people are forcibly displaced from their homes than at any time since the end of the Second World War. A recent report by the UN agency for refugees, UNHCR, estimated that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million just a year earlier. Measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, one in every 113 people globally is now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced, or a refugee. This tally is greater than the entire population of the United Kingdom. In some cases, people are  Read More

Unleashing the entrepreneur spirit for economic growth in Jordan: Let me count the ways

24 Aug 2016

image UNDP sees entrepreneurship as a central driver of economic stability and supports initiatives that tap into local skills. Photo: UNDP Jordan

There's nothing quite like having a bunch of entrepreneurs in the same room to generate off-the-charts energy and inspiration for economic development and social progress.  I was fortunate to host a social innovation workshop in Amman, Jordan, with a collection of business starters and supporters to generate ideas for strengthening the entrepreneur ecosystem in the country.  The workshop was held on the occasion of the visit to Jordan of the UN Foundation's Global Entrepreneurs Council (GEC), a group of eight luminaries from around the world who support those creative and bold enough to start new businesses.  The Council, chaired by Ashish Thakkar, was in Jordan to better understand the issues facing local entrepreneurs, particularly those affected by conflict, including in host communities and refugees. UNDP sees entrepreneurship as a central driver of economic and social stability, and supports initiatives that tap into local skills, expertise, and resources to foster entrepreneurial spirit and success.  Entrepreneurs in Jordan currently face challenges of growth (how to migrate from micro to small, small to medium, etc.); and sustainability (how to keep their businesses going after initial support).  The ecosystem has seen many business development service providers emerge over the past several years, presenting an opportunity to make these services  Read More

Creating viable, sustainable livelihoods

24 Aug 2016

image Nadia is a participant in “Emergency Employment project- a UNDP’s initiative" which is funded by DANIDA and WFP and implemented in collaboration with the National Microfinance Bank (NMB). Photo:UNDP Jordan

The recent World Humanitarian Summit, held on May 23-24, 2016, in Istanbul, as well as the Supporting Syrians and the Region Conference in London, of February 4, 2016, represented important milestones in the search for more sustainable responses to complex and protracted crisis. Some of the conclusions and recommendations from these events had been anticipated at the Resilience Development Forum, organised under the patronage of the prime minister last November, and captured in the Dead Sea Resilience Agenda. In a joint effort, the international community pledged to ease the region’s economic access to world market and to uphold its generous contributions, while the governments in the region offered to open up their labour markets in an attempt to create 1.1 million jobs by 2018. The United Nations Development Programme, the World Food Programme and the International Labour Organisation, in close cooperation with the six countries most affected by the refugee crisis, have now undertaken a Regional Economic Opportunity Assessment (REOA) that identifies the challenges to employment creation, maps successful attempts at overcoming them and spells out concrete recommendations to local governments, donors, the private sector and the international community. The assessment was conducted by national experts in each of the countries  Read More

Sport for SDGs: A journey from Khartoum to Rio de Janeiro

19 Aug 2016

image Sudanese athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo: UNDP Sudan

Sport is not usually the first thought that comes to mind when talking about achieving sustainable development. Nonetheless, it has been an instrumental tool in the promotion of peace and development for many years and I was able to witness it for myself at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since the inception of the Millennium Development Goals, sport has been essential in implementing development targets as recognized by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which emphasizes “the growing contribution of sport […] in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities…" For this reason, many organizations have been promoting peace through sport. The International Olympic Committee, is an organization encouraging collaboration between all parties of the Olympic family to promote Olympic values such as excellence, friendship and respect. The Committee established a strategic roadmap for the future, highlighting the potential of sport to help achieve at least four of the Sustainable Development Goals: good health and well-being (SDG 3), gender equality (SDG 5), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11) and peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16). In Sudan, the power of  Read More

4 lessons learned fighting tuberculosis in Syria

05 Aug 2016

image Tuberculosis patients displaced by conflict may lose access to health services, causing an interruption in treatment that increases their risk of developing multi-drug resistant strains of TB. Photo: UNDP Syria

Tuberculosis thrives on war and suffering. In theory, Syria offers the perfect breeding grounds for the disease. A lack of access to adequate medical services and poor and crowded housing conditions have created conditions ripe for the spread of tuberculosis.  Yet, TB has been largely kept in check. Some 3,479 people were placed on treatment in 2015, a 150 percent increase compared with 2013. The TB treatment success rate has also been maintained at 80 percent during the conflict.  UNDP has been supporting Syria to tackle TB since 2007, in partnership with the Global Fund. The onset of war in 2011 made this highly complex and has required a range of innovative approaches.  The experience highlights four vital lessons, which could work in other crisis countries: The courage and innovative thinking of front line health workers is critical.  Syrian health workers and volunteers are striving to keep services going, despite a crumbling health system and exceptional security threats. Theirs is a story of heroism in a country that has lost 750 health workers since the start of the crisis. They work bravely and ingeniously so services reach all areas, even those controlled by ISIS. Using mobile applications like WhatsApp, they reach  Read More

Peacebuilding through parliaments

07 Jul 2016

image Parliament in Algeria

We look to our parliaments to represent us, adopt laws that protect our fundamental rights and freedoms, and distribute resources to those in need. In such ways, parliaments are uniquely positioned to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. So why is it that they are so often absent from discussions surrounding the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda and its implementation? The adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 in 2000 acknowledged the inordinate impact war has on women, and the pivotal role women play in development, peace and security. Recent resolutions stressed the need for including women in peace talks, to prevent violent extremism and foster post-conflict reconstruction. We have learned that the probability of peace agreements lasting at least two years increases by 20 percent when women participate in the process. The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals recognize the links between gender equality, strong institutions, peace and security. Despite these advances, implementation of UNSCR 1325 has been lagging. The Global Study on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 cites the lack of funding as the most serious obstacle to implementing the WPS agenda. If we want to bridge the funding gap and guarantee that WPS commitments translate into  Read More

A new Global Alliance to 'think urban' in humanitarian response

03 Jun 2016

image Syrian Refugee in Lebanon

In this blog series leading up to the World Humanitarian Summit, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on responding to conflict and disasters. The humanitarian situation is changing. There are now more refugees and internally displaced persons than at any time since the end of the Second World War and 60 percent of these are in urban areas.  We need to ‘think urban’ when we design our responses to these increasing crises.  Rapid and poorly planned urbanization is driving vulnerability in towns and cities around the world. Humanitarian emergencies are increasingly occurring in towns and cities. Responding to this reality requires new ways of working. Major international humanitarian responses are often not closely tied to local municipal actors that understand their communities’ ongoing needs. Humanitarian work was not always designed to tackle the particular challenges of urban crises such as the ongoing settlement of Syrian refugees across Middle Eastern cities. At UNDP, we’ve adapted the way we work within these contexts, as the UN lead on early recovery. Supporting municipal actors is one of UNDP’s key roles in crisis situations, and we have been supporting municipal governance actors in leading, managing, coordinating and delivering services to assist their  Read More

New aid architecture and resilience building around the Syria crisis

01 Jun 2016

image Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan

The  international  community  has  been  piloting  an  integrated  humanitarian,  development  and  government  response  to  the  crisis  in  the  region  of  Syria.   As  middle-­‐income  countries,  Jordan,  Lebanon,  Turkey  and  Egypt  to  a  large  extent,  and  Iraq  and  Syria  to  a  lesser  extent,  saw  declining  official  financing  flows  supporting  their  development  in  the  years  preceding  the  current  Syrian  crisis.  In  middle-­‐income  countries,  financing  for  development  relies  primarily  on  national  resources  and  international  borrowing.  The  flows  of  refugees  have  put  national  budgets  under  stress  due  to  the  growth  in  the  volume  of  subsidies  for  basic  goods  and  services  and  to  mounting  security  costs,  with  Jordan  and  Lebanon  facing  higher  public  debts  than  their  Gross  Domestic  Products  (GDP).     The  effectiveness  of  the  support  of  the  international  community  has  also  been  weakened  by  the  prevalence  of  separate  humanitarian,  development  and  climate  adaptation  financial  ‘silos’.  The  three  have  different  aims  and  follow  different  principles.  They  have  evolved  separately  and  operate  over  different  spatial  and  temporal  scales,  are  aligned  with  different  budget  lines  and  rules,  and  are  managed  by  different  actors.  A  multitude  of  multilateral,  bilateral  and  non-­‐governmental  initiatives  exist  with  their  individual  funding  streams  –  with  communication  and  coordination  among  initiatives  often  lacking  even  within   Read More