Our Perspective

      • Saving lives, preserving dignity and securing the future in Syria

        05 Nov 2015

        Now into its fifth year, the Syrian crisis has claimed over 250,000 lives and displaced over 12 million people from their homes. Photo: UNDP Syria

        The whole world is acutely aware of the grim facts of the Syria crisis. Now into its fifth year, it’s claimed over 250,000 lives, displaced over 12 million from their homes, devastated the country, and rolled back Syria’s development indicators by four decades. Less known but also vitally important is the impact the crisis has had on neighboring countries who have generously accommodated record numbers of refugees and are reeling from the strains that come with such monumental solidarity. For more than four years, UNDP has been championing a resilience-based response to the Syria crisis, a response that is working to save lives, preserve dignity and secure the future in Syria and neighboring countries. UNDP’s response is to work with sister agencies such as OCHA and UNHCR to ensure that while all await a desperately-needed cessation of hostilities, we are helping communities in Syria and neighboring countries cope, recover where possible, and lay the groundwork so that when peace arrives, it can be sustained. This is the essence of resilience, and the lens through which we approach our work in response to this crisis. In Syria, we’ve been able to help over 4.5 million people directly and indirectly. We’ve created thousands  Read More

      • Climate Change, Peace and Security in the Arab Region

        04 Nov 2015

        Refugees and internally displaced persons from Somalia are displaced due to drought and conflict. Photo: Stuart Price/NU Photo

        In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their perspective on issues of climate change, in the lead up to COP21 in December. Among the various drivers of risk in the world today, two stand out: climate change and the evolving nature of conflict and insecurity. While each by itself has serious consequences for development, their convergence has become a subject of heightened attention. The U.N. Security Council has convened a series of debates on climate change in recent years and, for the first time, the latest global Assessment Report by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change includes a chapter on “Human Security”, mapping out the risks for resource scarcity, displacement, and conflict. Leading UNDP’s local partnerships in the Arab region, I see first-hand how the converging forces of climate and conflict can reshape the prospects for development. The Arab region is experiencing one of the most dramatic periods of change in history - with an escalation of conflict, a 33 percent rise in poverty rates, and the emergence of twenty million refugees and internally displaced persons. The very places experiencing conflict and unprecedented refugee flows are also some of the areas most at risk to the effects of climate  Read More

      • Collecting stories from chaos

        02 Oct 2015

        A Sensemaker survey taker collect data in Sana'a.

        In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on innovation in development practice. The war here in Yemen has caused over 4,000 civilians deaths and 1.4 million Yemenis to be internally displaced since March. To examine the impact of this war, UNDP Yemen turned to citizens to hear their daily hardships and identify opportunities to restore livelihoods. But the survey we’re conducting is very different from traditional assessments and our respondents are interested and curious. We’re using Sensemaker, a software suite that discovers patterns among people’s stories. Because of the need to adapt programs to respond to emerging needs, it is important to understand dynamic contexts and a diversity of perspectives. This software focuses on values and people’s experiences, which is quantified quickly without the built-in prejudices some decision makers may bring to the table. Sensemaker is being conducted in partnership with the UNDP Innovation Team and Cognitive Edge across six priority governorates. So far, 200 micro-narratives have been collected in the capital city Sana’a with support from the Youth Leadership Development Foundation (YLDF). It will not be easy to access all locations as the conflict moves rapidly, but collecting these stories now, capturing the personal  Read More

      • Amidst crisis, helping mothers and newborn to embrace life

        15 Sep 2015

        A future midwife is training in filling out assessment forms as part of a national midwife association training on community mapping. Photo: Rasha Alshargabi/UNDP Yemen

        Four-year-old Mohammed caught my eye with his innocent looks and the great amount of happiness that housed his little body. I was amused watching him play with other children in the open ground in his village in Alsilw district, Taizz. Only later did I learn that his mother died during labor due to the lack of health care services. I thought of how the world would be for a little child without a mother taking care of him. Sadly, Mohammed’s case is not accidental.  According to official reports, eight women die giving birth every day in Yemen. Almost 84 percent of all births in Yemen take place at home, and only 20 percent of these births have trained attendants present, according to UNFPA. Of the mothers who die during labor, 75 percent could be saved by the presence of skilled birth attendants and access to health centers. These challenges are now exacerbated by the ongoing armed conflict, since the mounting lack of access to health systems are resulting in more deaths amongst children and women. UNDP Yemen has launched the Private Business Midwifery Project, aiming to empower unemployed midwives by developing their businesses, harnessing their untapped midwifery skills, and establishing clinics  Read More

      • Refugee crisis requires step change in international response

        08 Sep 2015

        Photo:UNDP in Syria

        The refugee crisis is not just defying the existing aid architecture — evidenced by the severe financial shortfall of the Syria regional response — but also our capacities to prevent and mitigate crises. The unprecedented refugee influx is a dramatic call to the development community to review existing crisis prevention frameworks and tools, to make resilience building a major force in preserving the lives and futures of generations, and to support institutions to cope, recover and transform to confront the crisis. More than ever, a whole-of-government response is needed. Support is required to effectively address the simultaneous and overlapping security, development and humanitarian challenges in the subregion at once. As highlighted by the surge in refugees risking their lives to flee to Europe, the crisis knows no borders, and the time of financial and conceptual silos must come to an end. When we launched the Regional Refugee and Resilience Response Plan, or 3RP, jointly with the five countries most affected by the Syria crisis, those five nations on the front lines of this emergency, we offered the international community a comprehensive and nationally owned response to an unprecedented demographic shock in the region. The rationale was to gather the capacities and  Read More

      • We can't let the socio-economic fabric of Yemen erode further

        20 Jul 2015

        In Al-Ruqeen village in Taiz, Yemen, local residents and internally-displaced people partake in a livelihoods survey to help assess the needs of the area. Taiz is one of the poorest cities in Yemen, and the influx of the displaced adds pressure to those already suffering. Photo: UNDP Yemen

        Yemen is in deep crisis in so many ways – humanitarian, political, security, economic, and social. The infrastructure damage that we can see on the ground is devastating, as is the growing number of civilian casualties. However, what is not as visible but just as alarming is how the socio-economic and institutional fabric has eroded. Civil servants, private sector, civil society, and students are not able to work or study. Livelihood opportunities, economic activity, and public services in many parts of Yemen have come to a standstill since fighting began, in a country already long marked by deep poverty and inequality. Yemen’s strength is said to be its informal systems through family, regional, and community ties, and we see many Yemenis in need helping others in need. But even the strength of informal systems is eroding as assets are depleted, income sources cut, law and order collapsed, and people’s psychological strength exhausted. Communities are consumed with coping with the hard reality of the conflict, as the complexity of the crisis fragments society and exposes old and new divides. Recent events in the Arab States region have proven that when crisis becomes protracted, the negative impact on development can be devastating. UNDP  Read More

      • MDGs in the Arab States Region: Taking stock in 2015

        07 Jul 2015


        Today’s launch of the 2015 MDGs Report is challenging reading for those of us committed to supporting sustainable human development in the Arab States region. As the last global report coming before this September’s Special Summit on Sustainable Development, the report goes a long way to setting the tone on stock-taking of progress during the implementation of the MDGs framework. While the overall global message of the report is upbeat, the analysis of progress in the Arab States is decidedly gloomy. While there are important highlights to be appreciated, especially for headline-indicators of poverty, hunger and education in North Africa, and in gender-parity in education in Western Asia, a standout message for the Arab States is the lack-of-progress, or in some cases regression, of several development indicators which have been dragged down by conflict. In particular, poverty and hunger rates in Western Asia increased between 2011 and 2015. In 2013 the Arab States MDGs Report by UNDP, the League of Arab States and ESCWA showed for the first time that the Syria crisis, instability in Libya and Yemen and upheavals in Egypt had begun to slow progress on MDGs in those and neighboring countries. UNDP findings later that year showed that  Read More

      • Consequences of underfunding the Response to the Syria crisis

        25 Jun 2015

        photo credit: UNHCR

        At the end of 2014, a wide range of national and international partners launched the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) to address the most challenging needs of refugees and host communities, as well as the longer-term socio-economic impact from the ongoing crisis in Syria. As a broad regional platform, the 3RP brings together plans developed under the leadership of the governments of Syria’s neighbours — Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt — which house 98 per cent of the 4 million refugees resulting from the crisis.  The 3RP was conceived and planned based on valuable lessons learned from four years of effective humanitarian assistance work in the sub-region. It represents an unprecedented shift in the way that the international community responds to a multidimensional crisis. Neighbouring countries have been the first donors in addressing the demographic and economic shock generated by the conflict. The magnitude of the impact has been clearly portrayed by the former Lebanese president Michel Sleiman who framed it last year as an “existential” problem, referring to the unprecedented refugee-host population ratio in his country.  A few days ago, Jordanian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury stressed at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)  Read More

      • Years of efforts are paying off in fighting female genital mutilation

        09 Jun 2015

        Women attend a community meeting at Qena governorate to call to an end to female genital mutilation. Photo: UNDP in Egypt

        I was recently in Aswan to meet with the local government, partner NGOs, and people working together to fight against female genital mutilation (FGM), a widely-spread practice in Egypt that predates both Christianity and Islam and was criminalized by Egyptian law in 2008. What a refreshing experience!  The commitment and dedication I found are not only commendable but quite encouraging:  Whole communities are taking a firm stance against a traditional practice that has no religious, medical or moral basis, as declared by both Al Azhar and the Coptic Church. In the village of Nagaa El Haggar, community leaders, local associations, women, men, and children gathered to watch a series of plays performed by young actors, intended to raise awareness and engage people in FGM-related discussions.  What ensued was remarkable: women describing the dramatic impact on their physical and mental health, men talking openly about the damage caused in their marital relations, and girls referring to it as ‘worst day in my life’. Since 2005, the Governorate of Aswan has taken a firm stance in combatting FGM.  To date, ten villages have declared their opposition to this harmful practice and are continuing to advocate for its end.  A community association member stated,  Read More

      • Permanent Beta: Six ways to innovate for development in 2015 and beyond

        19 May 2015

        Social Good summit in Egypt

        In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on innovation in development practice. As negotiations on finalizing the new development agenda heat up, one thing is clear - delivering on these goals will require investment in innovation. But what exactly does innovation mean in the context for development? It means to embrace complexity, acknowledging that there are no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions for the persistent, inter-connected development challenges across the globe. Innovations that lead to breakthroughs can only be created in partnerships. These are two of Nine Innovation Principles UNDP endorsed last year, together with seven UN entities and seven foundations and donors. We also launched the Innovation Facility with the support of the Government of Denmark. The Innovation Facility’s “Year in Review” report is just out. As we approach our first anniversary, we highlight six areas where UNDP will seek to innovate in 2015 and beyond. What, exactly, is the problem? We focus on understanding the problem based on available data. UNDP is working with UN Global Pulse and other partners on big data analysis to help give us and governments the most detailed picture possible with the data available. We also embrace ethnographic methods that help  Read More

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