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UNDP Turns 50 Facing Huge Tasks Ahead

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By Rita Joshi | IDN-InDepthNews Report

BERLIN | NEW YORK (IDN) - As the UN Development Programme (UNDP) celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, the organisation is aware of the unfinished job, and is committed to “end poverty once and for all” – in Africa and Asia-Pacific where it has been present since the agency was created in 1966.

Reviewing its performance in Africa, UNDP says the continent has undoubtedly made “significant strides socially, politically and economically since the turn of the 21st century”.

Rapid democratic transitions are leading to more responsive and accountable governments. The frequency of armed conflicts seems to be on a downward trend. Steady economic growth and macroeconomic stability have returned. Expanded social policies are improving health and education services, including those targeting women and girls.

“And yet the vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa faces challenges. As countries in Africa are operating at different speeds, the region’s major struggle is to ensure these advances benefit the many,” notes the agency on its website.

Sources of concern to the organization are that poverty rates remain stubbornly high, while progress on health, sanitation and food security have been slow and uneven. Women and youth in particular continue to face joblessness and limited opportunities for participation in politics and business.

Also, climate change, natural and man-made disasters risk undoing years of hard-won development gains, and limited access to affordable and sustainable energy impedes productivity.

In line with Agenda 2030, UNDP is supporting Africa’s transformation by enhancing inclusive and sustainable growth, widening political participation, and developing responsive institutions. “We work with governments, businesses, communities and regional organizations, helping countries to develop capacity, share knowledge and mobilize funds for sustainable development.”

UNDP regional bureau for Africa, which was established in 1966, today services 46 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa through 45 country offices, the regional hub in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and additional offices in Senegal and Kenya.

In Asia and the Pacific too, UNDP has been working since the founding of the organization. Presently, it supports 36 countries and territories, through 24 offices in the region and the Bangkok regional hub.

UNDP notes that the Asia-Pacific region is home to some of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies, as well as some of its least developed countries; landlocked countries and Small Island Developing States; some of the most populous urban areas; two-thirds of the world’s working-age population; and rich biodiversity and natural resources.

“While the region has made huge strides in alleviating poverty, it struggles to combat inequality, create decent jobs, especially for youth, and meet great risks from natural disasters and climate change,” UNDP states.

Working closely with governments in the region, UNDP has advanced employment and livelihoods; helped conserve biodiversity over more than 46 million hectares; supported innovative initiatives such as electronic waste disposal in China; and helped communities recover from and build resilience to disasters; such as the quake in Nepal, the cyclone in Vanuatu, and typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

The agency is now assisting governments in planning, budgeting and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. It also helps governments fast-track those efforts through innovative projects on youth employment, technology transfer, climate adaptation and mitigation, and disaster preparedness.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, UNDP has in the past 50 years been working hand-in-hand with governments and people to support democratic transitions, governance, and sustainable development in the region that has more than 40 percent of the world’s biodiversity. In the process, it has helped governments lift millions of people out of poverty.

UNDP’s regional bureau on Latin America and the Caribbean (RBLAC) has 26 offices covering 42 countries and territories. “Each state has its own needs and strengths, but many share common challenges,” notes UNDP.

The majority are now middle-income countries, but Haiti is still the hemisphere’s poorest country. Small-island developing states in the Caribbean face debt, migration, and youth unemployment. The region as a whole is commodity-dependent and has high levels of inequality. And climate change undermines hard-won progress in the social, economic and environmental realms.

RBLAC has resources for governments and civil society groups facing these tough challenges. UNDP’s upcoming 2016 Regional Human Development Report on “Multidimensional Progress: Well-Being Beyond Income” will be a crucial entry point for policy-makers seeking to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

UNDP came into being in 1966 as the result of a merger of two predecessors: the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance, and the United Nations Special Fund. “Today, fifty years later, UNDP is as relevant as ever: leading the UN development system in nearly 170 countries and territories and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life,” notes the organisation..

To mark its 50th anniversary, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is hosting a ministerial meeting on February 24. Administrator Helen Clark expects all 193 member-states of the United Nations to attend.

According to the draft agenda, the ministerial meeting will look ahead to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Ministers will be given a platform for sharing with peers their vision for the successful implementation of Agenda 2030, and their views on UNDP’s role as a partner in achieving the SDGs.

Ministers will participate in high-level debates on how to translate the ambitious global commitments into action and results. The agenda will include both plenary and smaller thematic sessions on the following themes:

Eradicating poverty – leaving no one behind: How to put in place specific measures that lead to inclusive growth and eradicate poverty in all its dimensions?

Protecting planet, sustaining development: How to balance economic growth and improve livelihoods with the responsibility to protect the environment?

Preventing violent conflict, sustaining peaceful societies: How to ensure governance, peace and security are durable and benefit all parts of society?

Managing risk, building resilience: How to identify risks and take appropriate action to prepare for disasters and adapt to climate change?

UNDP expects the ministerial meeting “to generate a shared understanding of the greatest challenges and opportunities in carrying out Agenda 2030, and of UNDP’s role as a partner in implementing the SDGs”. UNDP will use the conclusions and recommendations that emerge from the discussions to guide its future work.

A write-up on the UNDP website says: “On the occasion of our 50th anniversary, UNDP is looking toward the future of people and planet. That future is uncertain. On the one hand, climate change, political turbulence, economic inequality, and other challenges. On the other hand, technological advances, tremendous economic growth, and an unprecedented global consensus about the best way forward.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 January 2016]

Photo credit: UNDP

2016 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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