Blog

Guatemala: Proud to be a Mayan | Juan de Dios

04 Oct 2013

image Victims' memorial museum in Guatemala City. Photo: UNDP Guatemala

I am a Mayan from Guatemala. Though I am proud to be an indigenous person, discrimination against us is a serious problem. Especially in the private sector and in the government, we rarely reach high-level positions and are often seen as a source of cheap labour. I come from a family of people who were displaced by conflict. When I was nine or 10 years old, my father was persecuted and tortured by the military during Guatemala’s civil war, which lasted between 1960 and 1996 and destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom were indigenous Mayans. During the war, 45,000 Mayans were abducted by security forces and “disappeared,” 200,000 families were displaced and 2.5 million children became orphans. After my father was tortured, my family, including my seven brothers and sisters, was forced to move to a new region. However, our troubles were not over. We were thrown out of our new home once again because the government planned to build a hydroelectric plant. When we resisted leaving our homes, the government labeled us enemies of the State and began organizing massacres of women, children and newborns, which nearly wiped out our communities in 1981 and  Read More

Colombia: Still a long way from home | Debora Barros

04 Oct 2013

image Like the Wayuu, the Tule people of Colombia also deal with discrimination and violation of human rights, an experience shared by many indigenous people. Photo: B. Heger, UNHCR

When rebel forces killed the women in my community, our lives changed forever. In my culture, as an indigenous Wayuu in Colombia, women are sacred. We are the ones who transmit our language, traditions and lineage to future generations. To kill a mother is to kill the culture and the life of a community. As a child, I grew up without fear. I played in the desert with my cousins without any feeling of danger. It was a wonderful time. I became a happy, smart and organized woman and was chosen by my community to study law at university. When I came back during vacation, I would explain western music and traditions to the members of my community. But on 18 April 2004, rebels came and attacked my village. They raped, beheaded and killed the women by making grenades explode in their faces. It is too horrible to speak about. When we return to our destroyed village, we cry as if it had happened yesterday. Nine years later, we still don't know why this happened. But the 102 families in community have remained strong and united. With help in advocating for our rights from organizations like UNDP, we have convinced mayors  Read More

The art of the possible: listening to the real experts | Gonzalo Pizarro

01 Oct 2013

image Foto: PNUD Perú

Several years ago I was taking part in a conference on the roots of the conflict in Darfur, and potential ways out of it.  After many of us so-called experts had presented our varied research findings and our different ideas, a representative from the Darfur pastoralists stood up and asked a simple question: what they were supposed to do, as many of us had contradicted each other with our suggestions. This gave us pause for thought. After several convoluted answers, a wise man told him: ‘The best thing you can do is stop listening to the experts and outsiders’. I witnessed that advice being used to good effect a few years later. I was in Belize at a consultation meeting with stakeholders to support the Government in the roll-out of the MDG Acceleration Framework on water and sanitation. As a group of international experts on the subject and a local consultant, we thought we had a pretty good idea of what the problems, and potential solutions, would be. All the relevant stakeholders were in the room: from the water company, to the different ministries in charge of water and sanitation aspects, to the representatives of water councils and villagers associations, most of them Mayans.  Read More

The time is right to place governance and anti-corruption at center stage | Rebeca Grynspan

30 Sep 2013

image STUDENTS IN EASTERN SUDAN PARTICIPATE IN ARTISTIC COMPETITION ON THE OCCASION OF THE INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY, 2012.(PHOTO: UNDP IN SUDAN)

Thirteen years ago, when the MDGs were formulated, governance-related goals or targets were not included, mainly for political reasons, but what we learned from that experience is that deficits in governance — such as corruption, elite capture of key resources, and low capacity of government institutions — hinder inclusive growth by squandering resources badly needed for development. I was pleasantly surprised that more than 1 million people, who voted through the MYWorld global survey, expressed their opinion that “an honest and responsive governance” should be one of the top priorities in the post-2015 development framework. It is reassuring that both the High-Level Panel Report and the Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly  corroborated many of the views expressed by citizens on holding their governments transparent, accountable and responsive. According to data from the World Bank, each year US $1 trillion is paid in bribes and it is estimated that corruption can cost a country up to 17 percent of its GDP. Imagine the impact of reversing this! A recent UNDP study found that 76 percent of women surveyed think corruption has prevented them from accessing public goods and services. To counter this, we are promoting and supporting specific anti-corruption measures integrated into basic service delivery systems. Momentum is shifting  Read More

Peace and stability must be at the heart of the global development agenda | Helen Clark

26 Sep 2013

image THOUSANDS OF FANS ATTENDED A LIVE CONCERT IN BAUCAU, TIMOR LESTE ON 9 OCTOBER 2013, PART OF A SERIES OF EVENTS ORGANIZED BY MTV EXIT’S NATIONWIDE CAMPAIGN AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING. PHOTO: MARTINE PERRET/UN PHOTO

This week, world leaders gather at the UN headquarters in New York to discuss, among other topics, a new global development agenda. The body's eight millennium development goals, which include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, expire in 2015, giving UN member states the opportunity to shape the future of development. They also have the chance to position peace and stability at the centre of the debate. In countries marred by conflict and disaster, development tends to focus on promoting economic growth and progress in specific social sectors such as health and education. Fundamental issues for lasting peace and stability – rule of law and justice, good governance, social cohesion, economic and environmental sustainability – are often left at the margins. To my surprise, I often hear arguments against including peace and stability in a new global development agenda. One of the most common of these arguments is that building long-term peace and stability is separate from the work of long-term human development. In fact, peace and stability do not fall outside of the boundaries of development. The two must go hand in hand. Violence not only claims lives, but also unravels the very fabric of society, leaving schools and  Read More

On the jobs crisis, people want to see action now | Selim Jahan

22 Sep 2013

image Beneficiaries of Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, the largest cash transfer programme in the world. (Photo: Bruno Spada/Brazil Ministry of Social Development)

Sustainable and inclusive development will not be possible unless economic growth is combined with the creation of decent jobs. The International Labour Organization has warned that 470 million new jobs are needed for new entrants into the labour market between 2016 and 2030, in addition to jobs for 202 million currently unemployed people. Tackling the global jobs crisis is not an easy task; it will require bold national policies, private-sector dynamism and an enabling global framework. The discussions on the new post-2015 development agenda represent a unique opportunity to put job creation in the center of the new framework. “Growth and employment” was one of 11 themes at the heart of consultations we organized with nearly 1 million people, asking them what should replace the Millennium Development Goals after they reach their 2015 deadline. This global outreach helped us to better understand the concerns people have regarding employment; it also helped us combine and present their main recommendations to UN Member States and to the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, which are taking the lead in the post-2015 planning processes. And what are these recommendations from people all over the globe? Six key messages from the new report on  Read More

Women can be the best agents of peace — if we let them | Roma Bhattacharjea

20 Sep 2013

image A WOMAN WHO MANAGES A MILK-CHILLING CENTRE IN INDIA. A GREATER ROLE FOR WOMEN IN BUSINESS HELPS PROMOTE LONG-TERM PEACE AND STABILITY. (PHOTO: GRAHAM CROUCH/UNDP)

It is 21 September 2013 and the buzzword is peace. But when we talk about peace, we often think of men laying down weapons, signing treaties and rebuilding countries. On this International Day of Peace, however, we need to remember the fundamental role of women in countries affected by conflict. Remember women not as hapless victims, but as agents of change who invest in their families and communities and who have the potential to build peaceful and prosperous societies. The international community can do more to support women in accessing employment, property, markets and new skills. Supporting their financial independence may go a long way towards giving women a voice and the power to negotiate when it comes to making decisions within families and communities in even the most remote, war-torn corners of the Earth. Improving women's access to education, capital, jobs and markets promotes balanced and inclusive growth. The Asia-Pacific region loses $42 billion to $47 billion per year because of restrictions on women’s access to employment opportunities. This hurts social cohesion, stability and trust in institutions, which are fundamental for long-term peace. Women with jobs are also far more likely than men to invest their income in food, education and health care  Read More

Chile's 9/11 shows political freedom is crucial for development | Heraldo Muñoz

11 Sep 2013

image Portrait of a child taken in the Juan Pablo II camp in Santiago, Chile. Photo: Nicolas Pinto Tironi / UNDP

Forty years after Chile’s 9/11, when General Augusto Pinochet overthrew democratically elected President Salvador Allende, many people still ask me: Wasn’t he responsible for the economic miracle that made Chile a success story? After the coup in Egypt in July, a Wall Street Journal editorial argued that "Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile's Augusto Pinochet," who, it said, "took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy." Indeed, Pinochet personified a disturbing contradiction. He won praise for transforming the economy into one of the most prosperous in Latin America. The main problem for Pinochet's apologists was his brutality and corruption. If only he had modernized Chile's economy without assassinating, torturing and exiling tens of thousands of dissidents and getting caught hiding offshore bank accounts. But the groundwork for Pinochet's economic modernization was laid by his predecessors—under democratic rule. Land reform in the 1960s and early '70s allowed the military regime to boost agroindustry and an export-oriented economy. By 1970 the illiteracy rate was below 10 percent, malnutrition and infant mortality had been declining for decades and Chile had several solid state institutions. The return  Read More

Why should companies care about human rights? | Heraldo Muñoz

06 Sep 2013

image Businesses must work together with governments and civil society to take protect human rights as they promote economic growth. Above, miners in Brazil. (Photo: Sebastiao Barbosa/UN Photo)

What led more than 400 representatives of national and multinational companies, governments, trade unions, civil society and indigenous peoples’ organizations to gather to discuss the impact of business on human rights? I asked myself this question as I opened the first Regional Forum for Latin America and the Caribbean on the Business Impact of Human Rights in Medellin, Colombia this August. Hundreds of top executives from the mining, energy, oil, food, beverage, banking/finance and agriculture sectors held an open dialogue with local communities, including campesinos and indigenous peoples, NGOs and public sector officials. Certainly the region has grown in recent years, but investments, especially related to extractive industries and land tenure, tend to spark social conflicts. And that's a challenge we all have to tackle together for truly sustainable development in the economic, social and environmental spheres. The United Nations Program for Development (UNDP) recognizes human rights as a central component of human development. And of course, human development is linked to the universal rights to equality, non-discrimination, participation and accountability. So we convened this forum in partnership with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (supported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) and  Read More

Conflict has changed, and this needs to be reflected in the future development agenda | Jordan Ryan

02 Aug 2013

image Camp residents in Somaliland displaced due to drought or conflict. (Photo: Stuart Price/UN Photo)

Ever since the creation of the United Nations in 1945, the global community has focused on addressing the challenges of inter-state conflicts. But in 2013, the face of conflict is changing. Today armed conflicts that cause 1,000 or more deaths per year have declined dramatically. More than 526,000 people still die violently every year, but the majority of conflict deaths occur during internal clashes, as opposed to during wars between states. New forms of violent conflict have emerged to take the place of traditional wars. These include inter-community violence, as in the DRC, Somalia and Syria, and violence linked to crime, as in many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. Today, for every death from a recognized war, there are nine casualties from gang violence and crime. This violence stunts efforts to lift people out of poverty, scars communities and makes women and girls more vulnerable to abuse. As world leaders prepare to discuss the new global agenda that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals from 2015 onward, recognizing the changing nature of conflict and addressing armed violence as a barrier to development have become top priorities. This will demand the building of institutions able to respond effectively to the  Read More