Our Perspective

      • A resilience-based reading of the impact of the Syrian crisis in Jordan | Ibrahim Saif

        09 Jan 2014

        image
        Syrian refugees at Zaatari Camp in Jordan. Photo: Areej Abu Qudairi/IRIN

        This month Jordan will take part in the international pledging conference for Syria in Kuwait and will present its National Resilience Plan, detailing how the country is addressing the challenges related to the impact of the massive influx of Syrian refugees on the host communities.  Close to 600,000, Syrians who took refuge in Jordan now account for nearly 10% of Jordan’s population. Most of them (80%) live in urban and rural host communities across the country and not in camps. Coming at a most challenging economic period for the Kingdom, the sheer volume of the numbers has placed a critical pressure on the country’s social, economic, institutional and natural resources. Increased competition for access to public utilities, schooling, health services, infrastructure, and jobs is not only straining the budget, government services, and families, but it poses threats to social cohesion and peace. This argument may not be new, but it is now well-supported by detailed assessments and analyses of the impacts of the spillover of the Syrian crisis on the Kingdom, document in the recently completed “Needs Assessment Review of the Impact of the Syrian Crisis on Jordan (NAR).” The NAR indicates that the impact of the Syrian crisis on  Read More

      • A clash of generations: How high percentages of young people can fuel conflicts | Henrik Urdal

        20 Dec 2013

        image
        Refugees from Syria's conflict. (Photo: UNHCR)

        In a time of unprecedented demographic change — there will be an estimated 9.6 billion people mainly concentrated in cities around the globe by 2050 — population structures play a significant role in the overall peace and stability of a country. My research focuses on the correlation between populations with burgeoning numbers of young people, which social scientists call "youth bulges," instability, and conflicts. Around the world, 68 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, and Yemen, have demographic pyramids heavily skewed towards younger populations. Many of these countries, where more than 30 percent of the adult population is between the ages of 15 and 24, are currently experiencing violence or social or political unrest. While youth bulges are not the only cause of violence, when combined with low education, a failing job market unable to employ high numbers of young workers, and an inaccessible political system excluding youth from participation, the risk of conflict increases. The current conflict in Syria is a case in point. In 2000, Syria had the third-largest youth bulge in the world, as well as one of the lowest rates of secondary education in the Middle East and North Africa. As in many other countries in the region,  Read More

      • Water More Important Than Oil for the Future of the Arab World | Sima Bahous

        28 Nov 2013

        image
        UNDP Lebanon

        Across the Arab world a consensus is emerging that the Arab peoples are facing a new transformation in their relation with the natural world.  If the last seventy years can be considered the era of oil in the Arab world, the years to come will be shaped to a much greater extent by how we make use of an even more precious resource: water. Today the Regional Bureau for Arab States of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is launching a new report on the future of water in the Arab region. Entitled the Arab Water Governance Report, the publication argues that the future will depend on whether the Arab countries can vastly improve the way water is managed. Oil and gas have allowed for significant modernization over recent decades including unprecedented improvement in human development, but continuing our progress requires us to treat our water with as much reverence as we have our energy resources – or even more. The report argues that the water challenges facing the Arab region are part-and-parcel of a much broader set of issues that are of paramount importance today.  From agricultural decline, to youth unemployment and indeed in many cases to civil unrest, most  Read More

      • Empowering youth as ‘the engine of transition’ in Yemen | Ismail Ould Cheick Ahmed

        22 Nov 2013

        image
        More than 73 percent of working-age youth in Yemen is jobless. Our Youth Economic Empowerment Project helps thousands of young men and women find employment and start small businesses. (Photo: UNDP in Yemen)

        Yemen is currently facing an explosive “youth bulge”: the country holds the world's record for fertility rate (5.4 children born per woman) and about a quarter of the population is aged 10 to 19, with 46 percent of them under 16.   In that context, it is hard to think of a successful transition in Yemen without the participation of the country’s youth, and their innovative contributions for the future. But Yemen’s investment in its human resources has been low — nearly 50 percent of Yemenis are illiterate in a mostly rural population of 25 million, more than 40 percent of the population is estimated to be “either hungry or on the edge of hunger", and 73.3 percent of working-age youth are jobless. A recent study assessing youth’s needs in this important phase for the country revealed that young Yemenis feel they do not get the attention they deserve and that they lack a creative environment and opportunities for scientific, cultural and technical talents.   Chronic poverty, inequity and lack of employment opportunities are also causes and triggers for conflict, internal wars and insurgencies. Young people deprived of opportunities can turn to activism or fall into despair, and the active presence  Read More

      • Women in conflict situations need justice | Roma Bhattacharjea

        18 Oct 2013

        image
        Sudanese women gather at workshop on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. (Photo: Soujoud Elgarrai/UNAMID)

        When conflict causes a breakdown in social order and the rule of law, inequalities increase and women bear the brunt of the violence. We should, however, not view women as mere victims, as they play a vital role in ensuring sustainable peace. On October 18 the UN Security Council will discuss this role, and reaffirm the right of women to access the rule of law and seek redress for human rights abuses during conflicts. More than a decade after Security Council Resolution 1325 was drafted, which, among other things, committed countries to protecting women and girls in conflict situations, women's voice, leadership and participation, safety, economic security, and access to justice are still distant goals. If all goes well, the Security Council will agree to a new resolution that recommits countries to changing this situation. Sexual and gender-based violence happen wherever there is armed conflict, even after peace treaties have been signed. Reducing violence against women and girls, however, allows girls to go to school, avoid early marriages, and helps decrease human trafficking. It allows women and girls to contribute to just and equal societies, which do not relapse into armed conflict. When the Security Council meets this week, the international  Read More

      • No democracy without diversity | Heba El-Kholy

        19 Sep 2013

        image
        Libyan women proudly show their inked fingers after voting in the general national congress elections on 7 July 2012. Photo @ Samia Mahgoub / UNDP

        Some say history repeats itself. In 2004, UNDP issued what I believe is one of the best of its global Human Development Reports, Managing Cultural Diversity. The report argued that managing cultural diversity is one of the central challenges of our time and that policy choices about recognizing diverse ethnicities, religions, languages and values “are an inescapable feature of the landscape of politics in the 21st century.” But we still need to debunk powerful myths, including the one that some cultures have inherent democratic values and are more likely to make progress than others. In 2004, as now, the UNDP HDR report showed there was no evidence to support the trade-off between accommodating certain cultures and promoting democracy. Yet sadly, many people still believe this, arguing that the “Arab Spring” is freezing into an “Islamic winter.” Over the years, I have seen that democracy cannot exist without diversity. My work with civil society and with the UN has convinced me that addressing diversity in its broadest sense remains one of the core challenges of the democracy and development agenda. This is one lesson from the wave of revolutions in the Arab region that took the world by surprise, toppling authoritarian regimes  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

      • Nothing threatens the future as much as the debt of the past | Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

        15 Jul 2013

        image
        The Police Training and Development Unit of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) conducting a two-week training programme in criminal investigation at General Kaahiye Police Academy. (Credit: Tobin Jones/UN Photo)

        The "complementarity" principle embedded in the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court gives national criminal justice systems primacy in prosecuting serious international crimes. Whenever possible, international crimes should be tried by domestic courts, since this strengthens national ownership, legitimacy and confidence in the justice system. Transitional  justice is not a special kind of justice, but an approach to achieving justice in times of transition from conflict and/or state repression. I spoke recently at UNDP’s Annual Meeting on Strengthening the Rule of Law in Crisis-Affected and Fragile Situations about complementarity and the challenge for development actors (PDF) to effectively embed these efforts within transitional justice processes, rule of law assistance and the broader development framework. Holding perpetrators to account for serious violations is a complex and sensitive issue, which must be driven by the national society to be successful. Working with partners such as Denmark, South Africa and the International Centre for Transitional Justice, we can build and capitalize on the solid policy and knowledge base already developed. For example, UNDP and other UN agencies supported regional consultations in 2011 and 2012 in the Arab States, bringing together Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen to help national actors  Read More

      • Using laws to help tackle HIV/AIDS resonates widely | Helen Clark

        09 Jul 2013

        Laws which safeguard dignity, health and justice are essential to effective HIV responses. This was one of the main messages of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, an independent panel of eminent legal, political and public health experts convened by UNDP on behalf of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS. The Commission’s landmark report, HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health, which provides a compelling evidence base and recommendations on how the law can be used to protect people living with and most vulnerable to HIV, was launched at the United Nations on 9 July 2012. One year later, the understanding that laws, based on evidence and grounded in human rights principles, are a relatively low-cost way of controlling HIV and reducing stigma, is taking root. National dialogues on issues of HIV, human rights and law in 20 countries have brought people living with and affected by HIV together with those who shape, interpret and enforce laws. Judicial sensitization, parliamentary development and strengthening national human rights institutions are also important elements of taking forward the Commission’s recommendations. Overall, the Commission’s report has become an important legal and policy tool. For example, debates in the United Kingdom’s House of  Read More

      • Let’s follow Aqaba’s lead on urbanization and disaster risk reduction | Jo Scheuer

        03 Jul 2013

        image
        City of Aqaba, Jordan

        For the first time in history, a majority of the global population is urban, and this number is expected to rise. This isn’t necessarily bad — great cities can offer many benefits, especially when urban planning is prioritized. But cities present challenges when urban growth is fast, unplanned and unmanaged. These challenges include high population density, unregulated and unsafe construction methods, environmental degradation, and inadequate water and drainage systems. Lack of planning can create weaknesses, exposing dense populations to worse impacts from disasters associated to natural events. When a city doesn’t enforce building codes, for example, it runs the risk of high losses from earthquakes; poor and inadequate drainage systems can cause flooding and disease; disregarding shorelines and ignoring climate change can expose the populace to severe weather events. Only a few months ago in Bangladesh, more than 1,000 people were killed during the collapse of a single, improperly constructed building. What will happen then when there are hundreds of poorly constructed buildings and an earthquake occurs? The Aqaba Declaration notes that more than 56 percent of the Arab population lives in urban areas. In an urbanizing region, ensuring that cities are more resilient to natural hazards must be a priority.  Read More