Our Perspective

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

20 Jul 2015

image 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

image 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

image 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

image 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

New momentum in response to the Syria crisis – we must seize the moment

31 Mar 2015

image Za'atari village - Syrian refugees have been taken in by their Jordanian relatives, who have helped them construct makeshift housing on their land, and support them. Photo: Alessandra Blasi/UNDP

We are entering the fifth year of crisis in Syria, with no end in sight. Instability is threatening neighboring countries and indeed the whole region. A political solution that could put an end to this unprecedented crisis remains on a distant horizon. Thus far, the crisis has profoundly scarred the lives of more than 12 million people. Homes have been destroyed, hospitals and schools wiped out, and jobs and livelihoods lost. Data on Syria shows that development has been rolled back by four decades; poverty now prevails among 75% of the population - 4.4 million live in extreme poverty. And the economic and social situation in neighboring countries is deteriorating every day. The conflict has caused the largest population displacement in recent times – 3.8 million people have fled to countries neighboring Syria, increasing pressure on host communities, on national service delivery systems, and on social relations, beyond the carrying capacity of those countries. Traditional responses approaches challenged As the crisis continues, it not only challenges traditional conflict resolution approaches and humanitarian responses, but also standard aid response mechanisms. The crisis has gone beyond the typical humanitarian scope of providing food, shelter, and basic services to internally displaced and refugee groups.  Read More

Building Resilience in the face of mounting risks in the Arab Region

16 Mar 2015

image droughts and floods in North Lebanon

Much has been said about the rolling back of development results and vulnerability of communities in parts of the Arab region because of violent conflicts, but less has been said about the converging driver of change that communities face from natural disasters and the risks from climate change. Debates at the recent World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan highlighted that in the 21st century, development will need to be increasingly resilient to shocks and crises, and address the multi-dimensional nature of risk. This holds special relevance to the Arab region, as the most food-import dependent and water-insecure region on the planet today. Many communities face the convergence of, on the one hand conflict and one of the largest mass movements of forced migrants and refugees in modern history, and on the other more frequent and severe droughts, land degradation and food and water insecurity. Added to this is the exacerbating force of climate change. Out of a population of 357 million about 150 million in the region are exposed to drought risks. The drought and famine in the Horn of Africa demonstrated the serious impact upon societies. In Somalia, the famine killed between 50,000-100,000 people and displaced 4  Read More

Against all odds: Egypt's fight against Climate Change

26 Nov 2014

image Residents of Alexandria enjoy the seaside in Egypt. Photo credit: Dylan Lowthian/UNDP

It’s less than a week to COP20, the UN climate change summit where nearly 200 governments will meet in Lima, Peru. This is an important opportunity for the global community to make progress on a universal and meaningful global climate change agreement, to be agreed in Paris in 2015. Reaching an agreement is often a hard process, but if everyone is committed to it we can break through. Egypt is one example. The Nile delta is the richest farmland in Egypt. It is fascinating that, while it covers only 5% of the total area of the country, it is home to 95% of its population. But this beautiful area dotted with tourist sights and industries faces a harsh reality: Coastal erosion caused by sea-level rise threatens low lying lands and has a direct and critical impact on the country’s entire economy. In 2010, we started working on coastal protection, with a grant from the Special Climate Change Fund.  Our project promotes the idea that we should work with the sea rather than trying to fight nature. “Living with the Sea” became our strategy, as we aimed to strike a balance between protective, hard, infrastructure such as seawalls, and reinforcing the protection  Read More

A rural community calls for an end to FGM

23 Nov 2014

image Girls from Beir Anbar (Qena) where the whole community has joined forces to end FGM. Photo: Jose Sanchez/UNDP

I recently visited the village of Beir Anbar in the district of Koft, Qena governorate, and listened to the powerful statement this community is conveying to the rest of the country to put an end to the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).   The whole village, from young schoolchildren to village elders came together to denounce FGM as "violent", "wrong" and "harmful". Even today, many girls and young women are subjected to genital mutilation in the name of ‘tradition’.   According to the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, at least 91 percent of Egyptian women between the ages of 15-49 have undergone genital mutilation.  The people of Beir Anbar made it clear that Egyptian girls and women deserve a new tradition – a tradition of protecting and safeguarding their rights. But the joint efforts of families, community activists, authorities, development agencies and media are gradually making a difference to phase out this traditional harmful practice.   Let us be clear:  there is no justification – moral, religious, cultural, medical or otherwise for this practice.  ‘Cutting’ demeans, dehumanizes and injures.  It is a human rights violation that must be actively opposed until it is ended. As we gathered inside the community centre, a group  Read More

Innovation is Imperative to Address the Syria Crisis | Gustavo Gonzalez

23 Nov 2014

As the Syria Crisis is well into its fourth year and affecting a sub-region, which has a middle-income context and has made strides in development with significant investments in home-grown human capital and technical and technological infrastructures, I believe that seeking innovative solutions in our resilience-based response is not more an option, but an imperative. We, at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), should be taking the lead in this and tap into this wealth of existing resources and harness their powers for more effective and sustainable responses to the crisis. We must be able to do things differently; as such, an unprecedented crisis requires unprecedented responses. Saying this, we observe that the Syrian Crisis has already triggered innovative solutions from key humanitarian and development actors as few other crises before, such as the use of e-vouchers for food items, iris-scanning for refugee registration, digital mapping, and 3-D printing for the provision of prosthetics. And there are many more examples! In all of these cases, innovation clearly comprised much more than technological injection, but was rather employed as a dynamic process of readapting and optimizing already existing capacities, resources and knowledge, which then resulted in greater efficiency, effectiveness, quality and impact  Read More

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