Disaster risk reduction and sustainable development, two sides of the same coin | Matilde Mordt

16 Mar 2017

image Cash transfers is a great tool to help the most vulnerable populations during the early recovery process in Latin America and the Caribbean. Photo: UNDP Ecuador

Disaster risk reduction is an intrinsic part of sustainable development. This message came out forcefully during the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas, held last week in Montreal, Canada, in which delegates debated the connections between disaster, climate change and sustainable development.  One way of looking at this is by adopting the so-called “integrated risk management” approach. This is a conceptual and practical approach that today replaces traditional concepts about emergency or disaster management, which focus on the immediate response to an event and the subsequent recovery process.  Integrated risk management requires a more thorough knowledge and understanding of the scenarios of risk. The notion of the "social construction of risk" is central, which points to the existence of chronic risk due to poverty (as expressed in unemployment, low income, malnutrition, etc.), environmental degradation and governance challenges. These drivers of risk reflect the structural conditions of unsustainable development models.  In Central America for instance, El Niño is an event that adds stress to already existing environmental, climatic and vulnerability conditions. Thus, the causes of crisis in the agricultural, health or water sectors are more related to human actions, such as overexploitation of resources, poor land use planning  Read More

Rethink progress in Latin America and the Caribbean | Jessica Faieta

10 Mar 2017

image Latin America and the Caribbean are home to 10 of the world’s 15 most unequal countries. Photo: Antonio Escalante / UNDP Peru

Latin America and the Caribbean have made notable progress on development in recent decades. By 2015, the region had met most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a historical feat, especially with regard to poverty reduction, access to safe drinking water and primary education. From 2002 to 2013, close to 72 million people left poverty and some 94 million rose to the middle class. Even so, inequality continues to be a characteristic of the region. Latin America and the Caribbean are home to 10 of the world’s 15 most unequal countries. According to our Human Development Report for the region, 220 million people (38 percent, almost two in every five Latin Americans) are economically vulnerable today. Officially they are not poor, but neither have they managed to make it to the middle class. Among these, 25 to 30 million are at risk of falling back into poverty. It is precisely in this time of economic slowdown that we need a new generation of public policies to strengthen the four factors that prevent setbacks: social protection, care systems, physical and financial assets (such as owning a car, a home, savings or bank accounts that act as ‘cushions’ when crisis hits) and labour  Read More

A need of a “grown-up” approach to address challenges posed by El Niño in LAC | Ruben Vargas and Luis Gamarra

09 Mar 2017

image Through the project, UNDP has monitored governmental and non-governmental interventions to address the impacts of El Niño in 2016. Photo: UNDP Honduras

During the last three years, the media channels have informed about the presence of El Niño phenomenon in the region. First on the imminence of the event and its potential effects and then on the diversity of impacts on the communities and development sectors at national and local level. The message still seems to be that El Niño/La Niña events are the main cause to explain the "extreme droughts and floods" affecting our countries from time to time. Significant progress has been developed in last decades regarding climate observation and monitoring at global, national and local levels. Thanks to this information flow, political and technical actors have the possibility to make timely decisions to cope with adverse effects and/or sometimes to seize opportunities. In case of events like El Niño, these advances are of vital importance. However, this knowledge should orient a clear understanding on the impact over development – e.g. the proposed SDGs -, and particularly a thorough analysis of the social, economic and institutional underlying causes. Through the implementation of the project "El Niño Response and Recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean", UNDP has monitored governmental and non-governmental interventions to address the impacts of El Niño in 2016.  Read More

El Niño in LAC: building capacities in disaster risk management and recovery | Ruben Vargas

24 Feb 2017

image The 2014-2016 El Niño is considered one of the strongest in the course of the last decades. Photo: UNDP Chile

My first memories of El Niño and its impacts take me back to 1992, when I lived in Medellin. The memories were partly pleasant: along some of the main streets, electric bulbs were replaced by oil lamps that were lit in an almost ritual act by street performers every day. This ritual continued for about 10 months due to the "energy-and-water-consumption-rationing law” - better known as “the blackout” - imposed by the government to deal with the crisis. During this period, supply outages persisted for up to nine hours a day. The crisis was attributed to the drought caused by El Niño that, although not classified as severe, affected the country's hydroelectric power generation capacity drastically. The impacts on development were significant - between 2 and 2.5% of GDP for the period, an equivalent to 5-6 billion USD. In the early 1990s, the major cause of "disasters" and the observed impacts were directly attributed to the "unexpectedness" and "intensity" of the phenomenon. At that time, little attention was paid to the country's lack of capacity to foresee potential risks and, accordingly, design appropriate and timely management strategies. How can this situation be compared with the 2014-2016 El Niño? The 2014-2016 El  Read More

Three months after Hurricane Matthew, seven years after the earthquake | Yvonne Helle

11 Jan 2017

image The road to recovery is a long one, UNDP provides conditions for long-term recovery, resilience and sustainable development. Photo: UNDP Haiti

Hurricane Matthew was the first Category 4 storm to landfall in Haiti in 52 years, creating the worst humanitarian crisis in the country since the 2010 earthquake. At least 546 people died and the lives of 2.2 million people were affected. Of course, key infrastructure was damaged: in some areas, 90 per cent of homes were destroyed. Farming, fishing and small scale commercial activities were severely hit, depriving people of livelihoods and income. For instance, the Grand’Anse and Sud departments have seen 70 and 100 per cent of crops being destroyed. Three months after the disaster, people in the most affected areas still need immediate help to meet their basic needs, and, not less urgently, access to new opportunities to make a sustainable living. While the humanitarian response is still gathering pace, rehabilitation and recovery must also start immediately to reduce dependence on relief. Drawing on the lessons of the 2010 earthquake, our post-Matthew response was designed and is being implemented in close partnership with national and local authorities. Here is a snapshot of what UNDP has done since October: Our disaster risk reduction efforts - which started prior to the Hurricane - demonstrated their usefulness. For example, in Dame Marie  Read More

South-South Cooperation Award: from Latin America and the Caribbean to the world | Fernando Galindo

23 Dec 2016

image Photo: UNDP

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires the collaboration of governments, the private sector, civil society and citizens to ensure a better planet for future generations. In this context, South-South Cooperation (SSC) becomes one of the main tools for achieving these objectives, as it facilitates the transfer of successful experiences from countries with similar development conditions facing common challenges in multiple areas. At the international level, Latin America and the Caribbean is an increasingly important player in SSC and Triangular Cooperation. Countries in our region, of bigger or smaller sizes, are positioning themselves as donors and recipients through various modalities (funds, donations, technical exchanges), which confirms the great accumulated knowledge and immense potential for a joint development underpinned by cooperation. From UNDP we accompany a series of initiatives - national, regional and global - with the intention of giving greater visibility to SSC, systematizing processes and promoting more and better exchanges. An example of this and as part of our efforts to promote, facilitate and support SSC activities in the region, UNDP held the first regional SSC competition: the S3award. This is our first regional competition on the subject, in which we highlight initiatives that are underway and solutions for development  Read More

Resilient people and institutions: Ecuador’s post-earthquake challenge | Carlo Ruiz

08 Dec 2016

image Narcisa and her husband, owners of an affected house. Their fellow community members helped clear rubbles through the program Cash for Work coordinated by UNDP. Photo: UNDP Ecuador

No one is really prepared for an emergency until they’ve had to live through one. And the 16 April earthquake in Ecuador put us to the test. With the drawdown in the humanitarian response phase that is providing relief to survivors and victims, the hustle and bustle is dying down. Remnants of the disaster can be seen everywhere, and an idea of what the near future will bring and people’s resilience – their capacity to cope – is taking shape. During tours of the affected areas, I saw that people have, to a greater or lesser extent, a natural conviction that pushes them to overcome the situation they are in. Shortly after a catastrophe hits, whether from the need to survive or from attempts to recover the normality that has been ripped from them, men and women begin to help each other out. They get together and cook, and they care for, console and support each other. In places such as Pedernales, one of the hardest hit areas, just days following the tragedy, people had set up cooking hearths and places to prepare food to sell outside destroyed businesses. They organized games of ecuavoley (Ecuadorian-style volleyball) in streets where rubble was  Read More

Opportunities for youth volunteers in the implementation of the SDGs: a perspective from Latin America

05 Dec 2016

image Photo: Isabela Barriga

"Young people can change the world!" These words spoken by a youth representative from the Municipal Volunteer Network in Cuenca, Ecuador, made me think. In general, young people are told that they have the power to make a difference and create a better world, but this is often just left in words. How can youth really contribute to the development of their societies? My name is Isabela, I am of American and Ecuadorian nationality. I left the United States in July of 2016 through the United Nations Volunteers programme (UNV) to explore how youth are contributing to the development of my second home, Ecuador, This is how I got to participate in the First Regional Meeting of Youth Volunteer Networks in Cuenca, where I had the opportunity to interact with young volunteers from Latin America and learn how volunteering contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region. I spoke with young people from different volunteer networks in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela, and I learned that volunteer networks provide spaces for dialogue in which youth can exchange experiences and put their ideas into practice. This allows youth to not only share their knowledge  Read More

Business for Gender Equality | Susan McDade

21 Nov 2016

image Photo: UNDP Panama

The 2030 Agenda gives us a road map to build the world we want, leaving no one behind. Gender equality is crucial to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as a fundamental human right driving progress for all the other goals. Empowering women and girls has a multiplier effect and that contributes to promoting economic growth and development around the world. In partnership with the private sector and governments, we must work together to close gender gaps and eliminate structural barriers that impede women’s empowerment. There have already been some extraordinary advances. However, we still have a long way to go. Despite the increasing number of women engaging in paid work, on average, they earn 24 percent less than men. Women are also less likely to have access to decent work, property and formal credit. Labour force participation is also lower for women than for men. In 2015, 72 percent of working-age (15 and older) men were employed, compared with only 47 percent of women. Globally, women hold only 22 percent of senior leadership positions, and 32 percent of businesses have no female senior managers. The situation in Latin America and the Caribbean is not far from this reality. Women do 75  Read More

Engaging the private sector in advancing gender equality at work | Helen Clark

18 Nov 2016

image Photo: UNDP

Globally, young women and men entering the labour force today have nearly the same level of educational qualifications. But they often don't face equal opportunities in the world of work. Women earn, on average, 24 percent less than men. In S&P 500 companies, women hold only 4.6 percent of CEO positions and take under 20 percent of board seats. Yet research suggests that increasing the proportion of women on boards of directors is linked to better financial results and higher levels of corporate philanthropy. In rich and poor countries alike, women carry a disproportionate burden of unpaid work – for example, caring for young, elderly, sick and/or disabled family members; and in obtaining and preparing food. These tasks not only demand substantial time and energy but also can prevent women from fulfilling their aspirations and deprive economies of women’s full talents and contributions. Women’s equality in the workplace is a critical component of gender equality and sustainable development. It would not only improve the prospects of millions of women, but would also have a profound impact on the development of countries. The World Economic Forum’s recently released Gender Gap Report 2016 called for businesses to “prioritize gender equality as a critical talent and moral imperative”.  Read More