Our Perspective

Renewed hope in Lebanon

28 Mar 2017

image A Syrian family fleeing the besieged city of Yabrud, Syria arrives in Arsal, Lebanon. Lebanon is now home to the largest number of Syrian refugees: one out of five people in the country is a refugee. Photo: UNHCR/A. McConnell

The ramifications of the Syrian crisis are far reaching in all its neighbouring countries, but are especially felt in Lebanon, a country still recovering from the scars of its own civil war. The crisis has affected Lebanon in many ways: slowing down economic growth, amplifying social divisions along confessional lines and spawning political paralysis. The most dramatic impact is the influx of over a million Syrian refugees, who now constitute around a quarter of the population. Lebanon now has the highest per-capita concentration of refugees in the world. Such combined shocks have greatly reduced Lebanon’s chances of meeting its development targets. Even before the outset of the Syrian crisis, Lebanon had a mixed performance on the Millennium Development Goals, registering good progress in nutrition, health and education, but lagging behind in key goals such as poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. The crisis has further exacerbated these gaps – particularly as almost 90 per cent of Lebanon’s Syrian refugees live within the poorest Lebanese communities. The exceptional magnitude of the crisis has prompted the UN to mount one of the largest and most complex response operations in the world. This is to meet the needs of both the Syrian refugees and –  Read More

Human development means realizing the full potential of every life

21 Mar 2017

image The Human Development Report 2016 emphasizes that poor, marginalized and vulnerable groups—including ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, refugees and migrants—are being left furthest behind. Photo: UNDP

Human development is all about human freedoms: freedom to realize the full potential of every human life, not just of a few, nor of most, but of all lives in every corner of the world—now and in the future. Such universalism gives the human development approach its uniqueness. However, the principle of universalism is one thing; translating it into practice is another. Over the past quarter-century there has been impressive progress on many fronts in human development, with people living longer, more people rising out of extreme poverty and fewer people being malnourished. Human development has enriched human lives—but unfortunately not all to the same extent, and even worse, not every life. It is thus not by chance but by choice that world leaders in 2015 committed to a development journey that leaves no one out—a central premise of the 2030 Agenda. Mirroring that universal aspiration, it is timely that the 2016 Human Development Report is devoted to the theme of human development for everyone. The Report begins by using a broad brush to paint a picture of the challenges the world faces and the hopes humanity has for a better future. Some challenges are lingering (deprivations), some are deepening (inequalities)  Read More

Lessons from a year of post-ISIL stabilization in Iraq

07 Mar 2017

image The Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization project is designed to support early recovery in liberated towns and motivate millions of displaced Iraqis to return to their communities. Photo: UNDP

In Mosul a battle is raging to take back the city from ISIL. As the fighting ends, essential work is ramping up to make sure that people who have been displaced by occupation and war can return to their homes as fast as possible - and stay there. Already in the past year, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in close cooperation with the Iraqi government, the provincial authorities and the international coalition, has helped to re-boot social and economic recovery in 18 locations that have been liberated from ISIL, including Falluja and Tikrit. Our US$1.17 billion Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization (FFIS) project is designed to support the early recovery effort in liberated towns through a three-month, high-impact programme to motivate millions of displaced Iraqis to return to their communities from camps and informal settlements across the country. UNDP is making sure that people get services like water, clinics, schools, police stations, markets and government buildings. Families are receiving help to rebuild damaged homes, public infrastructure is being rehabilitated and small businesses are being supported with cash grants to get started again. These actions are essential to ensure those who were forced to flee are able to return and stay  Read More

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

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

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

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