Our Perspective

How do we meet the urgent needs of 11 million Syrians fleeing conflict?

21 Jan 2017

image UNDP Syria

In March it will be six years since the start of Syria’s descent into ruinous conflict. We can hope that the latest ceasefire and talks generate progress towards ending the war. But we must also be realistic about how long it will take to reach effective peace. Meanwhile, the millions of men, women and children whose lives have been uprooted by the conflict need to find ways to live and pursue their ambitions and aspirations. They require housing, jobs, education and healthcare – and the communities and countries that are hosting them need support to make this possible. On 24 January, international donors and aid organisations will meet in Helsinki to discuss the latest plans for aid in response to the war in Syria and its impact on neighbouring countries. On the agenda are a response plan for 2017, and the humanitarian and resilience priorities inside Syria for 2017-18. The numbers remain daunting. Inside Syria 6.3 million people are displaced, and in neighbouring countries at least 4.8m Syrians are living as refugees, most of them in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Securing funding to help those affected by the war is an ongoing priority. Since last year, international donors such as Britain,  Read More

A global partnership builds resilience and renews hope of Yemenis

18 Jan 2017

image Through a partnership with the World Bank, UNDP is implementing a $110 million cash-for-work project to improve public service delivery and repair critical infrastructure. Photo: UNDP Yemen

Yemen is facing an unprecedented political, humanitarian, and development crisis. Long the poorest country in the Arab region, over half its population was living below the poverty line before the current conflict worsened. That number has risen steeply, with over 21.5 million people needing humanitarian assistance now—close to 80% of the country’s 28 million people. Yemen’s political transition unraveled into full-blown war in March 2015. It has had a catastrophic impact: We in the United Nations estimate it’s already resulted in over 10,000 civilian injuries and deaths. Over 3 million people are displaced. About US$19 billion in damage to infrastructure and in other economic losses have been caused so far. The conflict has further impoverished the Yemeni population and increased their vulnerability. At least 8 million people are severely food insecure, with over 460,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition. The remarkable resilience of the Yemeni population is being tested to its limits. The war has pushed vulnerable members of the Yemeni population to the brink of famine. The increased lack of food, medicine, electricity, and jobs has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation. The high proportion of Yemenis in need of humanitarian assistance is putting a severe strain on under-funded humanitarian  Read More

#inno4dev in Iraq: Doing more, lots more, with less

30 Dec 2016

image The #inno4dev programme provides hands-on learning events for hundreds of budding entrepreneurs and promotes a sense of social cohesion among youth from all parts of Iraq. Photo:UNDP

Innovation is alive and well in Iraq as evidenced by the energy, creativity and "grit" of the 175 young entrepreneurs I had the privilege of spending four days with in an #inno4dev (innovation for development) workshop in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq last weekend. The workshop is part of a UNDP Iraq multi-year #inno4dev programme that promotes innovative approaches to solving development challenges. These 175 youths were selected from among 500 women and men who participated in six #inno4dev gatherings earlier this year. At the workshop, they were put through their paces, learning about approaches and tools, such as design thinking, lean startup, and business model canvas, as they developed ideas for ventures ranging from a health data surveillance system to educational zones for kids.  From these, about two dozen teams will be selected to participate in an #inno4dev forum in the first quarter of 2017, where they will have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to potential investors. So, how does the UNDP #inno4dev team, a team of one, manage these activities with all these moving parts: hundreds of youth coming from all around the country, speaking different languages, having different skills and levels of experience, with different areas of interest? Innovatively, of course.  Read More

The nexus of climate change and conflict in the Arab region

12 Oct 2016

image Conflict and climate change are major drivers of displacement in Syria and elsewhere in the Arab region. UNHCR photo

In this blog series, UNDP experts share their perspectives in the lead-up to the next climate summit, COP22, taking place in November in Marrakech, Morocco. Alongside the daily barrage of rockets and gunfire facing the Arab region is a more insidious but perhaps no less important foe – climate change. Climate change and conflict both have serious consequences and their convergence, particularly in fragile states, that has now arisen as a major concern. Leading UNDP’s climate change action in the Arab region, I see first-hand how this convergence is creating new forms of social vulnerability and reshaping the prospects for peace. The Arab region was the birthplace of agricultural civilization and for thousands of years has been able to cope with risks from climatic hazards. But climate change is now happening at a pace unlike anything before, stretching the ability of societies and governments to cope. The evidence shows that the region may well be in the midst of a 25-year climate change-induced mega drought, equal in strength only to historic droughts one thousand years ago that led to major civilizational shifts. Already the world’s most water insecure region, climate change is expected to see temperatures rise faster here than the  Read More

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

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