Our Perspective

Collecting stories from chaos

02 Oct 2015

image A Sensemaker survey taker collect data in Sana'a.

In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on innovation in development practice. The war here in Yemen has caused over 4,000 civilians deaths and 1.4 million Yemenis to be internally displaced since March. To examine the impact of this war, UNDP Yemen turned to citizens to hear their daily hardships and identify opportunities to restore livelihoods. But the survey we’re conducting is very different from traditional assessments and our respondents are interested and curious. We’re using Sensemaker, a software suite that discovers patterns among people’s stories. Because of the need to adapt programs to respond to emerging needs, it is important to understand dynamic contexts and a diversity of perspectives. This software focuses on values and people’s experiences, which is quantified quickly without the built-in prejudices some decision makers may bring to the table. Sensemaker is being conducted in partnership with the UNDP Innovation Team and Cognitive Edge across six priority governorates. So far, 200 micro-narratives have been collected in the capital city Sana’a with support from the Youth Leadership Development Foundation (YLDF). It will not be easy to access all locations as the conflict moves rapidly, but collecting these stories now, capturing the personal  Read More

Amidst crisis, helping mothers and newborn to embrace life

15 Sep 2015

image A future midwife is training in filling out assessment forms as part of a national midwife association training on community mapping. Photo: Rasha Alshargabi/UNDP Yemen

Four-year-old Mohammed caught my eye with his innocent looks and the great amount of happiness that housed his little body. I was amused watching him play with other children in the open ground in his village in Alsilw district, Taizz. Only later did I learn that his mother died during labor due to the lack of health care services. I thought of how the world would be for a little child without a mother taking care of him. Sadly, Mohammed’s case is not accidental.  According to official reports, eight women die giving birth every day in Yemen. Almost 84 percent of all births in Yemen take place at home, and only 20 percent of these births have trained attendants present, according to UNFPA. Of the mothers who die during labor, 75 percent could be saved by the presence of skilled birth attendants and access to health centers. These challenges are now exacerbated by the ongoing armed conflict, since the mounting lack of access to health systems are resulting in more deaths amongst children and women. UNDP Yemen has launched the Private Business Midwifery Project, aiming to empower unemployed midwives by developing their businesses, harnessing their untapped midwifery skills, and establishing clinics  Read More

Refugee crisis requires step change in international response

08 Sep 2015

image Photo:UNDP in Syria

The refugee crisis is not just defying the existing aid architecture — evidenced by the severe financial shortfall of the Syria regional response — but also our capacities to prevent and mitigate crises. The unprecedented refugee influx is a dramatic call to the development community to review existing crisis prevention frameworks and tools, to make resilience building a major force in preserving the lives and futures of generations, and to support institutions to cope, recover and transform to confront the crisis. More than ever, a whole-of-government response is needed. Support is required to effectively address the simultaneous and overlapping security, development and humanitarian challenges in the subregion at once. As highlighted by the surge in refugees risking their lives to flee to Europe, the crisis knows no borders, and the time of financial and conceptual silos must come to an end. When we launched the Regional Refugee and Resilience Response Plan, or 3RP, jointly with the five countries most affected by the Syria crisis, those five nations on the front lines of this emergency, we offered the international community a comprehensive and nationally owned response to an unprecedented demographic shock in the region. The rationale was to gather the capacities and  Read More

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

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