A historic day in Colombia | Martín Santiago

26 Sep 2016

image The Peace Agreement by the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP that will be signed today is of great significance for Colombia and for the world. Photo: UNDP Colombia

Betsaida and her family abandoned their home and a small business in the port of Tumaco, in the Pacific of Colombia, and were forced to follow the road that more than 7 million displaced Colombians have as a result of the armed conflict. Their story, and that of millions of victims of the war, is at the heart of what the United Nations Organization is and does.  Seventy-one years after its creation, the universal aspiration to end war, reaffirm the fundamental human rights and promote social progress is latent and more crucial than ever.     Despite the progress we have made in the last quarter of the century, in which we achieved a significant reduction of armed conflicts, we have witnessed serious setbacks in the last four years: the number of civil wars and attacks by governments and armed groups against civilians have increased for the first time since 2005.   More than fifty million people, the highest number recorded in history, have been uprooted from their homes around the world as a result of armed conflicts. In the face of adversity by human tragedies, the Peace Agreement by the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP that will be signed today is  Read More

Caribbean: Rethinking progress in the sustainable development era | Jessica Faieta

19 Sep 2016

image For the Caribbean “multidimensional progress” entails not only adapting to shocks. Photo: Carolina Azevedo / UNDP

Caribbean countries make a special case for development. The high and increasing exposure to hazards, combined with very open and trade-dependent economies with limited diversification and competitiveness portray a structurally and environmentally vulnerable region, composed, in the most part, of middle income countries. As these countries start implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) we are calling for a new notion of progress. Our UN Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report for the Caribbean titled “Multidimensional Progress: human resilience beyond income”, launched this week in Barbados with top regional authorities makes the case for a new generation of public policies to boost resilience and increase gains in the economic, social and environmental fronts, including peace and justice. For the Caribbean this “multidimensional progress” entails not only adapting to shocks. It means breaking through structural obstacles that hinder growth and people’s well-being—beyond the traditional measurements of living above or below a poverty line. Nothing that reduces the rights of people and communities or threatens the environment can be considered progress. This holistic approach is crucial, especially for the Caribbean. After decades of persistent and volatile low growth, human vulnerability has increased. Most CARICOM countries’ Human Development  Read More

2030 Agenda: Recognition for indigenous peoples, a challenge for governments | Álvaro Pop

09 Aug 2016

image According to figures from ECLAC, there are more than 800 indigenous peoples in Latin America, with a population of about 45 million. Photo: UNDP Guatemala

We cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without recognizing that we live in multicultural societies. With this in mind, upholding the rights of indigenous peoples becomes a necessary imperative. Respect for indigenous peoples’ rights opens the door to enormous opportunities for advancing the SDGs. Their capacity to further develop their own systems of education, health, justice and traditional food will strengthen each country’s efforts and investments. There are more than 300 million indigenous people in the world, speaking more than five thousand languages and keeping their heritage alive. This is the true wealth of humankind. Indigenous peoples have suffered and survived holocausts over the past 500 years and more. They are the guardians of knowledge about the plants and animals that surround us; they have understood the cycles of nature in constant, mutually-respectful dialogue with Mother Earth. They have cared for more than 60 percent of the world’s water-producing forests. Today, from the core of our communities, we call on everyone to work for new and better ways of producing wealth for the benefit of all. The SDGs are the agenda of the present, safeguarding the future of humanity. Indigenous peoples take pride that their age-old struggle is reflected in it. Thus, an  Read More

Opportunity in tragedy: A reflection on the Ecuador earthquake | Jeannette Fernandez

14 Jul 2016

image For all its devastating impacts, the recent earthquake could open up opportunities for Ecuador's most vulnerable communities. Photo: Jeannette Fernandez Castro

With a risk-informed approach to earthquake recovery, two of Ecuador’s vulnerable and exposed regions can not only protect against future disasters, but ensure progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. I took this picture in Muisne, one of the most beautiful towns in Ecuador, my home country.  Muisne is in the Province of Esmeraldas, in the northwest of the country and is, I feel, home to our best soccer players, the best “marimba” music, the best dancers and the best seafood. For all of its promise, however, the region is challenged by poverty and is exposed to natural hazards, vulnerabilities that hold back social and economic growth. This vulnerability was evident in April 2016 when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit this province as well as five others (including Manabí, where the biggest impact occurred), producing large-scale devastation. Housing and infrastructure were the most affected, with over 30,000 homes and 875 schools lost across all six provinces. While understandable, this loss of infrastructure – and related loss of lives and livelihoods – should not occur in the future. We have the ability to build better and stronger. This is especially important in earthquake zones and even more so in regions going through recovery.  Read More

The Rule of Law and sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict contexts | Thelma Esperanza Aldana

30 Jun 2016

image While progress has been made in the implementation of the Peace Agenda, one of the groups whose rights are still lagging behind is women. Photo: UNDP in Guatemala

Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala suffered an internal armed conflict during which gross human rights violations were committed systematically. The United Nations backed Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH) registered a total of 200,000 victims of human rights violations, 83% of which belonged to Maya indigenous peoples. The CEH determined that, in addition to all forms of human rights violations, women suffered specific forms of gender violence.  The most common form of violence was sexual.  Indigenous girls and women from the rural areas were the most abused.  According to the CEH, 88.7 percent of rape victims belonged to Maya indigenous peoples; 62 percent were aged 18 to 60; 35 percent were young girls and three percent were elderly women.  Peace was signed in Guatemala on December 29, 1996. While progress has been made in the implementation of the Peace Agenda, one of the groups whose rights are still lagging behind is women. Around the world, thousands of women have been victims of sexual violence in armed conflict situations.  Rape in these contexts is conceived as an instrument to strip victims of their sexual identity and as a form of violence against the community by damaging its most intimate sphere. In war, the  Read More

Social protection renews optimism for sustainable development | Romulo Paes de Sousa and Lebogang Montlana

22 Jun 2016

image Worker at the Warrap State Hospital, South Sudan. Photo: UN/JC Mcllwaine

The media often supplements talks of the Global South with illustrations of humanitarian tragedies and persistent development bottlenecks. However, this traditional news coverage overlooks a very positive and impactful transformation taking place in Africa and the bigger South: the impressive growth in social protection systems, the establishment of new foundations for advancing sustainable development and for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Social protection programmes are among the most successful development experiences the world has seen in recent years. They have proven to be key in developing countries' efforts to fight poverty and hunger, as demonstrated by the substantial progress made in poverty reduction through the adoption and expansion of social protection schemes in countries such as Brazil, Ethiopia and Senegal. Making the transformation towards sustainable development by 2030 will require substantial changes in development practices. The steady increase in the number and quality of social protection systems throughout the Global South brings renewed hope and one of the most positive changes the world has witnessed in recent decades. In Africa only, 48 countries have established flagship programmes, with more than 120 different initiatives being implemented. Seizing this positive change as a catalytic force to advance sustainable development is a must. As an  Read More

Latin America and the Caribbean: What does it take to prevent people from falling back into poverty | Jessica Faieta

15 Jun 2016

image To achieve the ambitious goals laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we need to take a multidimensional perspective, to build sustainable and holistic well-being – beyond income aspects alone. Photo: Javier Sagredo / UNDP

Latin America and the Caribbean countries have experienced historic economic and social transformation in recent years. This has led to a considerable reduction in poverty and inequality and to advances in closing gender, labor and education gaps. These achievements are the result of a favorable economic environment as well as proactive social inclusion policies. Despite this, 25 million to 30 million people risk falling back into poverty—a third of all those who left poverty behind during the last decade. The most vulnerable are the newly employed, women and workers in the informal sectors of the economy. Many face social exclusion that cannot be resolved with higher income, such as discrimination due to ethnic or racial group, skin color, sexual identity, migrant status or disability. Last week the UN Development Programme (UNDP) launched its flagship regional publication, the Human Development Report for Latin America and the Caribbean. The report, Multidimensional Progress: Well-being beyond income, proposes new metrics and new ways to act now to protect the social and economic achievements of the past decade and remove barriers that prevent lifting more people from poverty. This includes what we call “hard exclusions”, which go beyond income to factors like gender, race, ethnic group, sexual orientation and disability. How do  Read More

Preventing social conflicts is a commitment to sustainable development | Gastón Aín

19 May 2016

image Dealing constructively with social conflicts, preventing and resolving them peacefully are essential elements for a new generation of policies, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Photo: UNDP El Salvador

The new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development incorporates under goal 16 the massive challenge of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, facilitating  access to justice and creating responsive institutions at all levels. Goal 16  is definitely inspired by the infrastructures for peace (I4P) concept firstly introduced by former General Secretary Kofi Annan in 2006: “Essentially,  the  aim  should  be  the  creation  of  a  sustainable   national   infrastructure   for   peace   that   allows   societies   and   their   governments  to  resolve  conflicts  internally  and  with  their  own  skills,  institutions  and resources. The elements of such an infrastructure are sketched out below”. Infrastructures for peace have been defined as dynamic interdependent nets consisting of structures, mechanism, resources, values and skills which, through dialogue and consultation, contribute to preventing conflicts and peacebuilding in a society. One example of these infrastructures are the early warning and response systems (EWRS). The EWRS are mechanisms for preventing and addressing conflicts that focus on the systematic collection, processing and analysis of information (quantitative or qualitative) about conflict situations for the purpose of warning decision-makers so that they can take measures or implement actions that will avoid the emergence or escalation of conflict. In Latin America and the Caribbean region, demands behind social conflicts combine  Read More

Despite global climate pledge, indigenous activists are under attack | Laurence Klein

16 May 2016

image Historically indigenous peoples have assumed an important role in the sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems. Photo: UNDP Venezuela

Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres was the main promoter of the campaign against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in Honduras. In 2015, her work won her the Goldman Environmental Prize, the highest international recognition for environmental advocates. On 3 March 2016, her dedication to her people and the environment likely got her killed. In a recent report entitled “How many more?” Global Witness analyzes 116 murders of environmentalists in 2014 and confirms that three-quarters occurred in Latin America. The report states that Honduras is the most dangerous country per capita for environmental activists, with 101 killed between 2010 and 2014. Equally disturbing is that the percentage of indigenous victims like Berta rose to 40 percent in 2015. Among the deadliest occupations are fighting the hydroelectric industry, mining companies and agribusinesses. These numbers illustrate a serious paradox. 177 countries have signed the Paris Climate Agreement in which they commit to reducing carbon emissions and curbing climate change. Yet those who are leading the fight to protect the environment are being killed almost on a daily basis. This contradiction exists because the number of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that depend on natural resources for their economic and social development is growing. And this  Read More

UNGASS on Drugs: expectations, coherence and sustainable development | Javier Sagredo

04 May 2016

image The interpretation of the international drug conventions through national policies and legal frameworks, many of them hooked on social representations of fear, disease, deviation and crime, has done, in many cases, more harm than good. Photo: Javier Sagredo / UNDP

Conventional wisdom states that the one of the secrets of happiness in life is to manage our expectations to avoid unnecessary disappointments, while striving to change those aspects of reality that we dislike. The 2016 special session of the United Nations General Assembly on drugs (UNGASS) was convened in New York during the past month of April, and like the previous ones, has delivered an outcome document that perfectly corresponds with the limited possibilities of reaching a meaningful universal consensus on an issue as complex as life itself. A “decaffeinated” end-product based on the lowest common denominator cannot leave everyone satisfied, especially those who had high hopes for either a major or even a modest reform of the international drug control framework. Many of the actors who have actively participated in the discussion process towards UNGASS agree that the most important results lie in the process of the debate itself and in the active participation of new stakeholders, mainly those communities, groups and populations most affected by the implementation of drug policies emanating from the international regime. Moreover, this debate has allowed for the growing emergence of evidence and increased awareness and preoccupation about the negative consequences (“unintended” is not a  Read More

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