In Belize, local stewardship key to marine conservation | Leonel Requena

25 Apr 2017

image Local communities are at the forefront of marine resources management and their engagement in conservation and shared governance is crucial to ensuring sustainable use of ocean resources. Photo: Avelino Franco/Fragments of Hope

In the run up to the Ocean Conference in June, this blog series explores issues related to oceans, seas, marine resources and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, “Life below water”. The reef was in plain sight, a majestic view with sandy white beaches surrounding cayes with magnificent frigate birds and booby birds flying overhead at Halfmoon Caye Natural Monument. I was eager to put on my diving gear and see the wonders of the 186-mile-long Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Colorful coral reefs, whale sharks, turtles, and hundreds of cubera snappers aggregating three days before full moon at the Gladden Spit Spawning Aggregation Site in Belize.  It was May 2002, and I was participating along with a research team to collect data on Nassau Grouper abundance and distribution which would inform the declaration of eleven Nassau Grouper Spawning Aggregation Sites. Our ocean is rich in biodiversity and is a crucial carbon sink. Coastal wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs support a diverse array of marine life. According to a recent economic study of the Belize Barrier Reef, the estimated services derived for tourism and livelihoods is US$559 million per year with a population of 380,010 people. A healthy reef ensures healthy people and a resilient country. Two decades  Read More

A year after the Ecuador earthquake, we still have work to do | Nury Bermúdez

17 Apr 2017

image With UNDP support, 2,600 families have resumed agricultural production in rural areas of Manabí and Esmeraldas, generating average increases of 50 percent in sales. Photo: Gabriela Ullauri/UNDP

It only took 40 seconds to unleash decades of pent up vulnerability in Ecuador. Substandard buildings, additional stories built unofficially, shoddy building materials—they all took their toll on 16 April 2016. With 671 deaths and over 241,000 people affected, it was unquestionably one of Ecuador’s biggest emergencies in decades. The country’s emergency response capabilities were overwhelmed, making clear the need to strengthen preparedness, prevention and recovery for dealing with large-scale adverse events. In the face of this situation, a national and international solidarity network activated to provide aid and relief during the emergency. Government agencies responded on multiple fronts in regions needing immediate aid. Different protocols and mechanisms were created and put to the test during the emergency. Local governments set up temporary operations since many lost their facilities and were also affected. Civil society organizations were also on the ground in different areas, coordinating, managing and supporting those most in need. The humanitarian mandate to provide people with comprehensive care was fulfilled thanks to contributions and accumulated knowledge, where cooperation agencies played an important role and the Country Humanitarian Team was a hub of action that supplemented the Ecuadorian government’s efforts. UNDP aided the government on several fronts. In the  Read More

To fight Zika, fight poverty and inequality | Jessica Faieta and Magdy Martínez-Solimán

06 Apr 2017

image Beyond economic costs, the Zika virus has the potential to widen gender and health inequities. Photo: UNICEF

Marta and João live in a small town in the state of Paraiba, Brazil. Pregnant with their fifth child, Marta showed symptoms of Zika. Her pregnancy was otherwise uneventful, but an ultrasound at eight months picked up symptoms of microcephaly. Marta remembers: “The nurse and the doctor told me not to worry, that he would be normal. But I was worried.” When Luiz was born, their fear was realized. “We did not expect that this could happen from the bite of a mosquito. The shock is still huge”. At seven months, Luiz requires constant attention. Unsure if he will walk or talk in the future, Marta and João’s worries are compounded by financial woes. “I hope I can work again soon”, Marta laments. “We want to buy a stroller to put the baby in, because he can’t sit. That way I would have a little bit more freedom. But we don’t know how much it costs.” The couple is unable to make short-term plans to resume paid work, creating uncertainty about their financial stability despite the assistance they receive from the Government. Unfortunately, the struggles of Marta and João are not unique. Poor households, like Marta and Joao’s, are both more  Read More

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