Our Perspective

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

In high-risk areas, UNDP-Japan partnership delivers on human security

26 May 2016

image Japanese Ambassador for Palestinian Affairs Takeshi Okubo attended the Tokyo League table tennis championships in Gaza. The league uses sports to encourage Palestinian youth in the face of conflict and other hardships. Photo: Shareef Sarhan/UNDP PAPP

I’ll never forget watching the final match of the Tokyo League volleyball tournament. It was heart-warming to see the students, wearing their scarves known as Hijab, playing the game with delight, their eyes shining with joy. It seemed like a memorable experience also for the team, who have no opportunity to explore the world beyond the wall. As you might have guessed by now, the Tokyo League doesn’t play in Japan. The league, which began as an initiative of the Japanese Ambassador for Palestinian Affairs, Takeshi Okubo, competes 9,000 miles away in Gaza. The project also includes a female table tennis league and a football league for boys. I decided to visit the Middle East for my first mission as the head of the Japan Unit at UNDP in order to take stock of the impact of Japanese funding in this complex region. As part of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, the Japan Unit’s role is to raise and manage funding from Japan, but also to deepen the policy coherence between UNDP and Japan. Our work in the Middle East is a prime example of this partnership, which centres on realizing human security on the ground. During my mission,  Read More

Building a better future for Syrians in Turkey

23 May 2016

image Syrian Kurdish refugees cross into Turkey from Syria, near the town of Kobani. The war that erupted in Syria in 2011 has propelled it into becoming the world’s single largest driver of displacement. Photo: I. Prickett/UNHCR

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. As thousands leave Syria for safer lands, images of white tents and perilous boat journeys have flooded the world’s media. But there’s another side to this story. In Turkey, the host of this week’s World Humanitarian Summit, only about 10 percent of the approximately 2.75 million displaced people from Syria live in refugee camps. The rest live in towns and cities like many of us. Across the country’s southeast, Syrians are silently trying to make a living and blend in. Imagine this: you have new neighbours that you would like to know, but the language barrier and customs make it difficult to reach out. Or you want to find short-term employment, but until recently obtaining a work permit was nearly impossible. These are real-life situations faced by hundreds of thousands of ordinary men and women. Syrians now represent more than 50 percent of the population of Kilis and 22.5 percent of the population of Gaziantep. Over the last five years, more than 150,000 babies of Syrian parents displaced by the conflict were born in Turkey. As the crisis on the  Read More

Somalia Diaries: “We came to teach, but instead learned so much”

04 May 2016

image Image copyright: UN Photo / Tobin Jones

Bilan Awdal Organization from Somaliland is one of the three winners of the OFID-UNDP Cross Regional Grants Competition. In December 2015, they committed to transforming the lives of people in the Baki District of Somaliland by implementing a water solution. In the context of the sever drought that hit the region recently, their work became essential to the survival of their community. Yet their road to success hasn’t been without its challenges. Below, Suad Osman, one of the five members of the team, tells their story. Nov 7th, 2015 Things have been difficult. Yet our hardships are temporary considering the grave struggles of many in this region. Where we are staying, winter used to be the only dry season. Nowadays, the climate has changed so drastically that the dry season seems to last forever: it only rains four months per year and some years even less. The community we are visiting has seen its share of problems brought on by climate change. The farmers went from living in productive, self-sustained communities to being poor and desperate. A lot of young adults have run away to cities in search of better lives where a majority of them end up homeless. People tell  Read More

In Egypt, Poor People Get Free Legal Aid

17 Mar 2016

image UNDP/Dylan Lowthian Description: A Legal Aid Office Specialist providing assistance to a woman who came seeking legal advice at the legal aid office in Cairo, Egypt.

Every year about one million cases are filed in Family Courts across the country to seek justice on issues that range from domestic violence and custody disputes to alimony and inheritance litigation. Close to 80 percent are filed by women. Since 2008, UNDP has worked with the Ministry of Justice to provide free legal advice to poor people to resolve legal disputes and overcome bureaucratic barriers. To-date, 35 Legal Aid Offices have been opened in ten governorates. They handle all such family cases that do not require the hiring of an attorney, which most poor and vulnerable people cannot afford. Today we met Marwa (not her real name), a young mother of two who has come to the Legal Aid Office in the Heliopolis Family Court to seek help with custody over her children. She heard about free legal assistance through Facebook and is pleased to see that the team is friendly and ready to support her with her claim. Another woman came to file a case against her husband for violence and abuse. “Her case is typical of many vulnerable women, often poor and illiterate, who come here to seek help”, said Nesrine Hossam El-Din, the Legal Specialist at the  Read More

Since 1966, UNDP has worked for a more fair and prosperous world for all

23 Feb 2016


Fifty years ago, one in every three people around the world was living in poverty.  It was against that backdrop that the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, was founded in 1966.  Ever since, UNDP has been a leader in working for a more fair and prosperous world for all. We have worked with governments, civil society, the private sector, and philanthropy to empower people and build resilient nations. As UNDP begins its second half century, the numbers of people in poverty have decreased to around one in eight.  UNDP is proud to have worked with many partners committed to poverty eradication.  Indeed, for fifty years UNDP has been at the forefront of work to eradicate poverty, hunger and disease, create jobs and livelihoods, empower women, support recovery from disasters and other crises, protect the environment, and more.   Most of the work happens because of our dedicated staff and the thousands of organizations we partner with around the world who do the daily work of development.  I am proud to lead an organization that has transformed so many lives for the better, offering them opportunity, hope, and dignity. But there remains much work to do.  The world is not yet rid of poverty and hunger and a  Read More

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

image 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

image 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