UNDP Around the world

Our Perspectives

Communities can be role models for sustainable development

18 Sep 2017 by Nik Sekhran, Director for Sustainable Development, UNDP

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner presents a certificate to Equator Prize winners during an awards ceremony in New York. Photo: Arnaldo Vargas
The United Nations, governments, civil society, business, thought leaders and media gathered in New York on 17 September to celebrate the winners of the Equator Prize 2017. The 15 prize winning communities successfully advance innovative solutions for poverty, environment, and climate challenges. The Equator Prize 2017 winners will join a prestigious group of 208 previous Equator Prize winners that have been recognized by the UNDP Equator Initiative partnership since its inception in 2002. Together, these prize winners tell a compelling story about the power of local action. This year, among the winners is the Federación de Tribus Indígenas Pech de Honduras, a cooperative that sells an essential ingredient in the international fragrance and flavor industry. Across the Atlantic, the Mali Elephant Project works in a region torn asunder by violent extremism to protect the endangered African elephant and advance local development priorities. Moving further east, in Indonesia, Raja Ampat Homestay Association has created an innovative, community-run web platform for ecotourism, garnering over 600 new jobs for the community and catalyzing the creation of 84 community businesses, all while conserving fragile marine ecosystems. The stories of these groups are not simply colorful reminders that people can live in harmony with nature. They illustrate how community action is essential to achieve sustainable development. … Read more

Reinventing the wheel

15 Sep 2017 by Boaz Paldi, Engagement Manager, UNDP

Video: United Nations Foundation
People usually don’t like to reinvent the wheel. When they find something that works, they’re not inclined to tinker with it. But at the eighth annual Social Good Summit this weekend, we’ll actually be reinventing a wheel, the Sustainable Development Goals wheel. Over the next week, we’ll erect a giant 2-metre by 2-metre SDG colour wheel constructed of Legos outside the United Nations General Assembly Hall. It sounds crazy, but our inspiration is that people, including world leaders, celebrities, and influencers, will help build this wheel to signify their commitment to the SDGs. That’s one of the things I love about the Social Good Summit: its ability to bring people together to act in innovative ways to build better tomorrows for everyone, everywhere, by 2030. There’s other things I love about the event: that it serves as a Peoples’ Summit during UN Week, that it’s dedicated to fomenting open, transparent dialogue, that it harnesses technology and new media to tackle some of the greatest challenges of our world. These attributes, of working to make our world better by 2030, are the heart and soul of the Social Good Summit. … Read more

The pros and cons of ethical debt instruments

12 Sep 2017 by Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist, Development Finance, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

A man stands in front of a damaged house and a large fallen tree in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Dominican Republic.Ethical financing tools include "state-contingent" debt instruments that allow servicing payments to fall when times are bad, for example, when a natural disaster strikes. Photo: UNDP in Latin America and the Caribbean
In May, the World Bank issued the world’s first bond linked explicitly to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Labelling them “SDG bonds”, the bank raised 163 million euros from institutional investors in France and Italy with the proceeds to be channelled into projects that aim to eliminate extreme poverty, in line with Goal 1 of the SDGs. The initiative — which aims to capitalize on a rising number of investors interested in positive social and environmental impacts, in addition to financial returns — has been heralded an innovation in investment products and can be added to a growing list of innovative debt instruments that are marketed as “ethical” or socially and environmentally responsible. Other examples include: green bonds, a multibillion dollar market in which the proceeds of a bond issue are tied to environmentally friendly investments such as renewable energy and clean transportation; blue bonds, a newer debt instrument championed by the Seychelles to fund investments in sustainable ocean industries; vaccine bonds, where funds are raised from international capital markets for immunization programs in developing countries with bondholders repaid by future streams of donor development aid; and social and development impact bonds, where impact investors provide upfront financing for social or development interventions and are repaid by governments and/or donors when specified results are achieved). … Read more

From the eyes of an early responder in Sierra Leone

28 Aug 2017 by Tanzila Watta Sankoh, Programme Specialist, UNDP Sierra Leone

A man speaking into a megaphone Realizing that the lack of basic tools was hampering relief efforts, UNDP provided shovels, megaphones and pickaxes to help with the search and rescue. Photo: Alpha Sesay/UNDP Sierra LeoneRealizing that the lack of basic tools was hampering relief efforts, UNDP provided shovels, megaphones and pickaxes to help with search and rescue. Photo: Alpha Sesay/UNDP in SIerra Leone
On 14 August, my phone starting ringing … It was my mother. She resides at Regent, a community on the slopes of Mount Sugar Loaf, the conical peak overlooking Freetown. Being at the epicentre of the catastrophic flash flood and landslides, she saw the disaster unfold and immediately called me, confirming my foreboding about receiving early morning calls from my mother. When I arrived at the scene with UNDP colleagues in charge of disaster management and a few staff members from the Office of National Security (ONS), I was utterly shocked by the scene of devastation. It was raining incessantly. The sky was gloomy, and one of Freetown’s highest mountains looked like it had been cracked in two. The landslides had claimed the lives of more than 400 people, leaving over 2,000 homeless and an estimated 600 still trapped in the debris. I had never seen such desolation in my entire life. As we moved on, we saw ambulances carrying corpses and youth volunteers desperately working in the hope of rescuing survivors. We also saw people's resilience, of the kind we had already witnessed during the Ebola epidemic. They dug through the mud with bare hands to rescue their loved ones. … Read more

UNDP’S new Strategic Plan is a chance to rethink and refocus

28 Aug 2017 by Joseph D’Cruz, Senior Advisor on Strategy and Planning, UNDP

Workers from several UN agenciesThe new Strategic Plan will lay out how UNDP will work with sister UN agencies, governments and other partners to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Photo: Devaka Seneviratne/UN Sri Lanka
On a Wednesday morning in late June, I got an email from HQ requesting that come to New York from Bangkok to help with the drafting of UNDP’s new Strategic Plan. I said yes, of course. The email was followed by a phone call asking if I could come as soon as possible. The span of time between my receiving the email and boarding a plane was four days. I keep this in mind as I work with the team crafting the document that will guide UNDP’s work over the next four years. There are many instances when UNDP is called on respond quickly to problems and challenges our clients face. It is part of our DNA that we do so whenever and wherever we are needed. This was demonstrated again when we asked staff all over the world to share their thoughts on our future direction. Without missing a beat, they’ve stepped up to the challenge of helping to quickly rethink our vision and strategy for the organization. … Read more

Who is Latin America and the Caribbean leaving behind?

25 Aug 2017 by Jessica Faieta, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean

An elderly woman seated in a wheelchairBeing a young person, a woman, afro-descendant, indigenous, LGBTI or a person with disabilities affects the opportunities and possibilities of social and economic advancement and access to services in Latin America and the Caribbean, a recent UNDP study shows. Credit: Javier Sagredo / UNDP
Last month, at the High Level Political Forum in New York, more than 40 countries – 11 from Latin America and the Caribbean – shared their progress in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), within the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The meeting has made evident the region’s political will to adopt and accomplish this universal agenda. Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru and Uruguay presented their progress, along with Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela who shared their reports in 2016. The SDGs recognize the virtue of inclusive and sustainable economic growth that respects the environment and strengthens institutional and regulatory frameworks. The agenda seeks to “leave no one behind,” and admits that the market alone does not solve all problems. This is fundamental for our region, the most unequal in the world. During the Forum, the Secretary-General presented his global report on the SDGs, which also shows progress and challenges for Latin America and the Caribbean. … Read more

More than philanthropy: SDGs are a $12 trillion opportunity for the private sector

25 Aug 2017 by Nazila Vali, Programme Analyst Private Sector, UNDP

African woman carrying waterUK-based micro-insurance specialist MicroEnsure, a member of Business Call to Action (BCtA) since 2012, has made an ambitious pledge to insure 5 million additional low-income customers by 2020. Photo: MicroEnsure
Inclusive business practices can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals while opening up new market opportunities for companies The vast majority of the reports, papers or articles about development starts with the numerous complex issues and challenges yet to be solved. Our work - as well as how it is perceived - could change drastically if, instead, we chose to focus on the incredible opportunities yet to be seized. According to the Better Business Better World report by the Business & Sustainable Development Commission, achieving the Global Goals could open up an estimated US$12 trillion in market opportunities in four economic systems: food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and well-being. They represent around 60 percent of the real economy and are critical to delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). … Read more

Making “women’s work” count

22 Aug 2017 by Bharati Sadasivam, Regional Gender Adviser, UNDP in Europe and Central Asia

The “gender chore gap” limits women’s choices, as it impedes their ability to obtain formal education, secure good jobs, and achieve equal pay. Photo: UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and Central Asia
Over the next few months, the 12,000 employees based at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California will complete their move to an extravagant new campus. The “spaceship,” covering 2.8 million square feet, includes a two-story yoga studio, running paths, and even revolutionary pizza boxes that keep slices crisp. One thing it does not have, however, is day-care. When it comes to ignoring the importance of childcare for working parents, Apple is far from unique. And that omission places a powerful drag on parents’ ability to achieve their economic potential, with women suffering the most. … Read more

Powering west Mosul’s water plants

16 Aug 2017 by Hugo de Vries, Stabilization Specialist, Funding Facility for Stabilization, UNDP Iraq

Working with the Government of Iraq, UNDP is contracting local companies and workers to rebuild areas liberated from Islamic State control, including restoring the water plant that supplies half of west Mosul.
Mosul was one of the last major holdouts in Iraq of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who took control of the city in mid-2014. The military campaign to liberate the city started in October 2016 and continued for 10 months. Nearly one million civilians were evacuated during one of the largest managed evacuations in modern history. Mosul was declared fully liberated by the Prime Minister of Iraq in early July, and the difficult work of rebuilding has begun. More than 700,000 civilians are still away from their homes – waiting to restart their lives. Through its Funding Facility for Stabilization, UNDP has been implementing projects in Mosul in close proximity to the front line since late 2016. More than 300 are already under way and hundreds more are starting in coming weeks. In support of the Government of Iraq, the Facility focuses on speed and functionality and is designed to help jumpstart local economies once the fighting stops. Ninety-five percent of all stabilization initiatives are contracted through the local Iraqi private sector. This lowers costs, ensures high levels of local ownership and produces jobs in the areas where they are needed the most. … Read more

Business models that improve lives while protecting the environment: Lessons from the Philippines

14 Aug 2017 by Sahba Sobhani, UNDP Private Sector Programme Advisor and Markus Dietrich, Director, Asian Social Enterprise Incubator

Inclusive agroforestry business models can unlock significant potential to achieve positive social and environmental impacts. UNDP photo
To date, many business actors involved in poverty alleviation and environmental protection have operated in silos, largely disconnected from each other. Both sectors follow ecosystem approaches, but in poverty reduction circles, impact is seen as positive and desirable, while environmentalists see impact as negative and to be minimized. However, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now provide a common and holistic language, integrating frameworks and related policies that development and environmental protection actors can unite under. A new report from UNDP, the Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development and Business Call to Action examines inclusive business models at the nexus of poverty and environment. The report focuses on three inclusive businesses that challenge our understanding of business impact by integrating social and environmental frameworks. It highlights that scaling up inclusive business models leads to both positive social and environmental impact. … Read more