Our Perspective

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

Ending violence against women: 3 ways to innovate

07 Dec 2015

image 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

Saving lives, preserving dignity and securing the future in Syria

05 Nov 2015

image 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

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

05 Nov 2015

image 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

Climate Change, Peace and Security in the Arab Region

04 Nov 2015

image 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

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