Our Perspective

      • Seizing the opportunities

        04 Feb 2016


        Today, the United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait and the United Nations jointly host a conference in London for supporting Syria and the region. Above all, the conference is an opportunity to raise funds to help the millions in Syria and the region whose lives have been shattered by the war in Syria. With the need for aid in Syria and the region now higher than even before, donors are being asked to give even more generously than before. And the London conference looks set to produce outstanding pledges, exceeding those at previous conferences for Syria, held in Kuwait in 2015 and 2014. This is welcome. But beyond the headline figures of financial pledges, the conference is also an important opportunity to transform the way that aid for Syrians and the region is provided. Great needs Nearly five years since the start of the uprising and conflict in Syria, its destructive impact continues to grow. Some 6.6 million Syrians have been displaced within the country. Around 4.3 million Syrians have fled abroad. Of these, most are living in Syria’s neighbors — some 2.5 million in Turkey, 1.1 million in Lebanon, 635,000 in Jordan, and 245,000 in Iraq. Their needs — housing, education, health  Read More

      • Managing the refuse of the refused

        03 Feb 2016

        Looking at current waste management practices in the town of Elbeyli, Turkey. Photo: Alpert K. Doğan

        Imagine yourself as the mayor of a small border province in Southeastern Anatolia five years ago. It is a big day for you. After years of petitions, meetings, and a heavy financial burden you are about to open a sanitary landfill site to serve your community for at least 25 years. You and your team are proud to make a lasting contribution both to the community and environment. You are reading about the events in neighboring Syria but hopeful that the conflict will end soon. Your heart is with them, as you think maybe of the distant relatives of yours living in Aleppo. Then refugees begin to arrive. First in a trickle, then a flow. Camps are erected, and you do your best to fulfill basic needs and cooperate with relevant government offices. You feel a little bit tired, but satisfied knowing that you’re helping out a neighbour in need. Fast-forward four years: There hundreds of thousands of refugees now residing in your tiny city, some camps now accommodate over 30,000 people. Every day you receive more complaints about municipal services. Waste and litter is everywhere, your few vehicles are constantly on the road, personnel are overwhelmed, your new sanitary landfill  Read More

      • When home is no longer safe: Reporting human rights abuses in Yemen

        10 Dec 2015

        UNDP is training NGOs in Yemen to document and report on human rights abuses during the conflict and to provide support to victims. Photo: Ehab Al-Absi/UNDP Yemen

        "So close to dying”. This is how Hanan describes what happened earlier this year, when forces surrounded and stormed her home in Khur Maksar District, Aden, where she lived with her husband, 4-year-old child and niece, aged 16. Later Hanan and her family fled their home due to shelling and because of gas, electricity and water shortages. In this sense, their suffering is typical of stories told by Yemenis throughout the country who describe human rights violations at the hands of the parties to the conflict, which began in March 2015 More than 2,600 civilians have been killed and more than 5,200 wounded since March, according to October figures from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Many civilians fear for their lives on a daily basis. Some 2.3 million are internally displaced, and 170 000 have fled to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and some Gulf countries. Many Yemenis I have spoken to are pinning their hopes on the UN brokered negotiations, which are due to commence on 15 December. One Yemeni activist told me yesterday: “We fear the worst if these negotiations do not succeed in reaching an agreement.” This year Human Rights Day has special  Read More

      • Ending violence against women: 3 ways to innovate

        07 Dec 2015

        Egyptian women participate in the "Reporting on Violence Against Women Innovation Camp" to share ideas on how to report violence against women. The camp was supported by UNDP, The National Council for Women, and Vodafone Egypt. Photo: Ezzat/UNDP Egypt

        In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on innovation in development practice. The status quo is unacceptable. Globally, one out of three women experiences violence in her lifetime. Both the Sustainable Development Goals and the World Humanitarian Summit Report call for innovation to end this global pandemic. Given the complexity of gender-based violence (GBV) and its main underlying cause of persisting gender inequalities - how can development and humanitarian actors innovate? As a starter, let’s put the emphasis on the changes we want to achieve and not the “solutions” we create. A new way of addressing a problem or a new product is not per se innovative. Innovation is a novel approach that adds value to the very people affected by the problem. Innovation in this context is less about creative ideas than about formulating a solid hypothesis that can be tested. Start with the end There is not sufficient evidence on what works in preventing and mitigating gender-based violence in low-income countries and crisis contexts. To improve policies and programmes in the future, the design of GBV initiatives has to incorporate data and impact assessments, which require funding. Several organizations are addressing this evidence  Read More

      • Lengthening crisis calls for long-term vision

        06 Nov 2015


        Senior officials from the governments of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey will gather at the Dead Sea in Jordan next week for the first Resilience Development Forum. Hosted by the Jordanian government and organized by the United Nations Development Program, the forum will bring together governments and representatives from donors, aid organizations, civil society and the private sector. The goal is ambitious and vital. It is to develop a shared vision for tackling the lengthening crisis of suffering, displacement and development reversal caused by the conflict in Syria. The conflict is now in its fifth year, with no end in sight. It has become entwined with conflict in Iraq, and it is threatening the stability and security of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The human impact has been catastrophic. Some 12 million Syrians have fled their homes. Of these, nearly 8 million are living displaced within Syria, and more than 4 million are living in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Faced with the struggle of rebuilding their lives, growing numbers have made the decision to travel on to other countries, hundreds of thousands making perilous journeys across the Mediterranean to Europe. Response The task of providing aid in response to this crisis  Read More

      • Those who risk everything to find safety deserve a sense of security

        05 Nov 2015

        A little boy looks on as Syrian refugees queue at the UN registration centre in Zahle, east of Beirut, Lebanon. Photo: UNDP Lebanon

        Earlier this year, I learned the story of a Syrian woman named Nour.* Nour, like many of those affected by the conflict in Syria, was forced to flee her home and take up residence in a neighboring country. But once there, Nour was involved in a serious accident in which another driver disobeyed traffic laws and crashed into her car. While Nour survived, her family was killed, and the heartache of having lost her home was now immensely compounded by losing her loved ones. Nour reported the incident to the police station and sought help from the authorities to bring those responsible for the accident to justice. But instead of being heard and assisted, Nour was met with resistance and was herself blamed for the wrongdoing. After all, she was the displaced, the refugee. The outsider. To date, Nour has yet to see those who killed her family held responsible. This is just one of the myriad of stories we are hearing from the people affected by the ongoing crisis in Syria. Millions have left their homes, livelihoods, and even families behind in search of safety, only to continue lacking effective protection wherever they find themselves. In some cases, the justice  Read More

      • 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

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