Blog

Latin America at a Climate Crossroads | Susan McDade

17 Sep 2014

image Turbines at WindWatt Nevis Limited. In most countries of the region, the abundance of renewable resources creates an opportunity to increase reliance on domestic energy sources rather than imported oil and gas. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

World leaders gathered at the Climate Change Summit during the United Nations General Assembly on Sep. 23 will have a crucial opportunity to mobilize political will and advance solutions to climate change. They will also need to address its closely connected challenges of increasing access sustainable energy as a key tool to secure and advance gains in the social, economic and environmental realms. This is more important than ever for Latin America and the Caribbean. Even though the region is responsible for a relatively low share of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, 12 percent, according to U.N. figures, it will be one of the most severely affected by temperature spikes, according a World Bank Report.   For the Caribbean region in particular, reliance on imported fuels challenges balance of payments stability and increases the vulnerability of key ecosystems that underpin important productive sectors, including tourism. And the region faces new challenges. Demand for electricity is expected to double by 2030, as per capita income rises and countries become increasingly industrialized—and urban. Although the region has a clean electricity matrix, with nearly 60 percent generated from hydroelectric resources, the share of fossil fuel-based generation has increased substantially in the past 10 years, mainly from natural gas.  Read More

Boosting resilience in the Caribbean | Jessica Faieta

29 Aug 2014

Having lived and worked for more than a decade in four Caribbean countries I have witnessed firsthand how Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are extremely vulnerable to challenges ranging from debt and unemployment to climate change and sea level rise. Such aspects make their paths towards sustainable development probably more complex than non-SIDS countries. That was my experience, working closely with governments, civil society organizations and the people of Belize, Cuba, Guyana and Haiti – where I led the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) reconstruction efforts after the devastating January 2010 earthquake. That’s why the upcoming UN Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), taking place in Samoa, 1-4 September is so important. It will provide an opportunity to increase international cooperation and knowledge sharing between and within regions. And it takes place at a key moment, ahead of the Climate Change Summit at the UN General Assembly, to be held on 23 September. Climate change—and all natural hazards, in fact—hit Small Island Developing States hard, even though these countries haven’t historically contributed to the problem. Extreme exposure to disasters such as flooding, hurricanes, droughts, landslides and earthquakes place these countries at a particularly vulnerable position. In the Caribbean, two key sectors,  Read More

Can there be sustainable development without gender equality? | Leire Pajín

30 Jun 2014

image Photo: UNDP Uruguay

Whenever we analyze a development strategy, the inevitable question arises:  Should the approach to gender equality be comprehensive across all sectors or should it be a separate issue and agenda? Experience tells us that both approaches are desirable: A concrete goal for gender equality as well as fundamental indicators and targets that require creation of gender policies. These policies should contain specific measures to address half of the population's need for education, health care, access to land and energy, etc. To date, this has been the most common approach across various UN groups, reaffirming the idea that a comprehensive and transformative approach is urgently needed in order to address structural barriers to gender equality and to lay a solid foundation for the future. The key now is to draw lessons learned from the experience of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and strengthen the tools that advanced gender equality in the desired areas. But what has been achieved by the MDGs with regard to gender equality? The answer is mixed: Gender parity has been achieved in primary education, but only 2 of 130 countries have achieved this goal at all levels of education. Progress has been made in access to employment. Globally, 40 percent of paid  Read More

Consumption and well-being: What are we missing? | George Gray Molina

27 Jun 2014

image “THE CONSUMPTION BOOM” IS CONCENTRATED IN THE UPPER ECHELONS OF SOCIETY. PHOTO: MAURICIO MARTÍNEZ/ UNDP IN EL SALVADOR

Slavoj Zizek tells a joke that was popular in Eastern Europe in the sixties. A man enters a grocery store and yells, “Surely you don’t have any soap, right?” The shopkeeper replied halfheartedly: “No, sir, we’re the shopwith no toilet paper; the shop with no soap is further ahead.” In Latin America, something similar is happening in discussions on progress and development, and we usually think we are the society that is “missing something”, or is “incomplete”. We are interested in exploring the particularities of what’s desperately needed, the necessary data that will enable us to better visualize our unsustainable pattern of consumption. In other words, to examine the aspects of multidimensional poverty that we still have not been able to define. A couple of weeks ago, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean published new data on consumption, spending and borrowing. The initial findings are as follows: “The consumption boom” is concentrated in the upper echelons of society. The richest 20 percent of Latin Americans accounted for roughly 50 percent of all household spending. The poorest 20 percent accounted for about 7 percent of total household spending. Furthermore, the findings show a transition in the nature of spending. Households that once allocated  Read More

How can we ‘walk the talk’ towards sustainable energy for all | Arun Kashyap

05 Jun 2014

image UNDP AND OTHER SISTER UN AGENCIES IN JAMAICA ARE USING SOLAR POWER FOR A GREEN ENERGY ENVIRONMENT. PHOTO: UNDP JAMAICA

Jamaica is an inefficient user of electricity, according to a recent Worldwatch Institute report. High energy costs, including electricity at $0.42 per kilowatt-hour, are increasingly becoming a burden for Jamaicans, directly affecting the country’s development. Jamaican citizens as well as the Government, are demanding and encouraging lower energy costs through new alliances with businesses and institutions to implement energy conservation measures while boosting the use of alternative energy sources. We’re in this together. UNDP has supported the Government’s Energy Policy roadmap 2009-2030 to transform the sector through energy efficiency and diversification. It commits to a minimum target of 30 percent renewable energy in its portfolio by 2030, in line with the UN Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative.  We have also supported the National Energy Action Plan to improve energy efficiency and conservation. Energy affects us all, including our own UNDP bills. In line with what we preach, our office decided to “walk the talk” and pursue a clean energy path. This included applying a ‘cool roof’ technology in our UNDP Kingston office. Nearly 464 square metres of metal sheet roof were treated to cool down office temperatures by 5-10 degrees—greatly reducing the use of air conditioning. Additionally, over 600  Read More

Boosting indigenous peoples' political representation is an urgent debt for our democracies | Alvaro Pop

04 Jun 2014

image Indigenous communities can be adversely affected by local and global development processes, since their distinct visions, concerns and ways of life can be ignored by policy makers. Photo: UNDP in Peru

In recent times, indigenous peoples have questioned current development models and democracies in Latin America and beyond. The main tool for measuring progress remains Gross Domestic Product, which distorts the true meaning of progress and wellbeing. The damage to ecosystems and loss of biodiversity, not to mention the erosion of cultural and linguistic diversity, have all been excluded from this general assessment. What’s more, the low representation of indigenous peoples in politics and as part of our human development -- below national averages -- is a clear indication that Latin American democracies and the development model have not fully served their purpose. However, many indigenous peoples have taken steps to become more involved in current political affairs and question our societies, accusing the latter of being exclusive, racist, and unaware of their history (for example, they often deny the existence of indigenous genocide) while stifling the diversity and existence of social issues based on a different culture and world view. Paying close attention to such issues and implementing initiatives to enact real change is the challenge faced by democracies. I would like to urge the adoption of a new and rejuvenating approach to issues related to indigenous peoples and their values.  Read More

The nightmare of violence against women, seen up close | Neus Bernabeu

28 May 2014

Nothing is more powereful to raise awareness abour violence against women than experiencing this nightmare first-hand. We always think such things only happen to others, but current data shows that violence against women is horridly common, albeit in different forms and degrees of cruelty. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), one in every four women in the region experiences some form of violence from her partner. This is also the leading cause of death worldwide for women aged 15 to 49 -- killing more women than cancer, malaria, traffic and war-related incidents. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, known as “Convention of Belem do Pará.” How much have we advanced in the past two decades? Less than one third of countries in the region (28 percent) have a specific national plan to respond to this issue, and most (78 percent) approach it tangentially in other plans or national security policies. This is corroborated by our UNDP analysis  carried out in 32 countries in the region, which led to the study “States' Commitment: plans and policies to eradicate violence against women in Latin  Read More

Can Small Island Developing States wait for global development goals to be set? | Gonzalo Pizarro

14 May 2014

image THE UNDP DOMINICAN REPUBLIC OFFICE WORKS TOWARDS REDUCING RISK AND VULNERABILITY AND INCREASING CAPACITY TO REDUCE THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF DISASTERS AND ENSURE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. PHOTO: R. D. EMILIANO LARIZZA FOR UNDP.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have been, and still are, facing major challenges in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs):  low growth, high unemployment, aging population, brain drain, high debt levels, small carrying capacities and extreme exposure to the effects of climate change. One example is Saint Maarten, a small island in the Dutch Antilles, which every week welcomes more tourists arriving on cruise ships than it has inhabitants. As Saint Maarten is highly dependent on tourism, maintaining and protecting the natural environment is essential to its socio-economic wellbeing. The tourist industry accounts for 80 percent of the island’s GDP. Reef tourism and fishing are important attractions. But the development world’s attention is now being set on the post-2015 agenda and the proposal for a new set of global goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will emerge with their accompanying targets this September at the UN General Assembly. This new agenda is anchored on the understanding that you can’t have development without simultaneously caring for its social, economic and environmental dimensions.   For Saint Maarten, sustainable development is not just a matter of negotiations at UN Headquarters, it is a matter of immediate action.  The country, aware of this challenge,  Read More

Friendly clinics for sexual diversity | Manuel Irizar

06 May 2014

image LBGT PEOPLE ASPIRE TO RECEIVE THE SAME HEALTH, EDUCATION, OR EMPLOYMENT SERVICES AS ALL OF US. PHOTO: UNDP IN COLOMBIA

In recent years, Argentinian society has made significant progress as relates to the full exercise of citizens’ rights. However, sexually diverse groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LBGT) people still face discriminatory situations affecting dramatically their quality of life. Access to free public health services for LGBTs has always been problematic in Argentina. At UNDP, we consider that the system’s shortcomings must be countered by concrete initiatives - such as theFriendly Clinics for Sexual Diversity. Financed by our Regional Office, the project involves setting up dedicated areas for LGBTs as part of the public health service. These areas are supervised through joint action by social organizations, local HIV programs and Public Hospital Services. A joint task force involving civil society organizations and a health team working at the Public Hospital has been established to raise awareness of the Friendly Clinics, and to encourage and accompany regular visits by members of the diversity groups accessing health care. The health team provides services such as medical care, counseling   and diagnosis of HIV and other STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), psychosocial support and schedules specific treatments required by the patients. To get this proposal off the ground,we surveyed 11 provinces across the country to  Read More

From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals | Leire Pajín

05 May 2014

image THE UN HAS LED CONSULTATIONS ON A NEW DEVELOPMENT AGENDA THAT TAKES VOICES FROM ALL ITS MEMBER STATES INTO CONSIDERATION. (PHOTO: UNDP THAILAND)

  The world has undergone significant change since the launching of the Millennium Declaration – a declaration capable of galvanizing political will and enabling agreement on the international development agenda as defined by eight objectives. The time has now come to examine and renew true political commitments. As part of this process, the UN has led reflection and debate to define a new agenda for the “Future We Want for All"  initiative based on two guiding principles: to accelerate and fulfill of the Millennium Declaration’s tasks, and also to incorporate the new challenges posed by our unique and complex world based on lessons learnt during the past 14 years. What role can the international community play within this context? Finish what has been started. If we take stock of what has happened during these 14 years, much progress has been made, particularly in reducing extreme poverty, creating universal access to primary education, fighting malaria and improving access to drinking water. As various UN reports have highlighted, several countries have made significant strides forward on the MDGs, and some of the most important successes in recent years have occurred in the poorest countries. However, new challenges appear on the horizon. We need a new agenda for a different  Read More

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