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Despite the fact that Belarus has one of the lowest poverty rates of the post-Soviet states, poverty, though not extreme, threatens the welfare of her people. Only 1% of Belarusians are living on less than $1 a day, but a more concerning 27.1% are below the poverty line, with 17.8% living below the minimum subsistence level. The “minimum subsistence level” is defined per the Czech Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs as “a minimum level of income, which is considered to be necessary to ensure sustenance and other basic personal needs at a level allowing the individual to survive.” The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Belarus identifies the “rural population, children, and single-parent households” as the most vulnerable victims of poverty.

Fortunately, the UNDP is executing a poverty reduction plan in Belarus that fosters the development of small businesses and, therefore, encourages a vibrant private sector. The plan is spearheaded by multiple players, from the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank to the Belarusian government and small rural Belarusian businesses. The UNDP hopes that the installation of an agricultural business sector will rejuvenate rural Belarus and bring an end to poverty in the Eastern European country.

Rural initiatives are especially necessary in former Soviet territories where local economies have declined due to the rocky transition from collective to private farming that occurred after the fall of the USSR in the early 1990’s. Agricultural workers were completely unprepared to grow crops on their own. This resulted in a situation in which uneducated farmers with limited resources in a now free-market economy were unable to maximize the productivity of their land.

Part of the UNDP’s strategy has included the establishment of the Rural Business Development Center outside of Minsk, the nation’s capital. The Center is the legal hub for the development of former Soviet collective farms into efficient private enterprises. The director of the Center, Alla Voitekhovich, describes the day-to-day activities of the Center as including the “registration of small enterprises, the conducting of market surveys, (and) the facilitation of job creation,” among other efforts. The RBDC also holds workshops for small business owners and entrepreneurs and has recently begun to encourage local farmers to exploit agro-tourism as a means of job creation in the region.

The UNDP says that rural poverty has been significantly reduced in Belarus in the last decade, stating “From 2000 to 2009, the share of poor households dropped by 7.4 times in rural areas.” Surely, the UNDP has made great strides in Belarus, breathing new life into an agricultural system that only a short time ago seemed irreparably broken. The success of the UNDP in rural Belarus is truly a testament to the resourcefulness and efficiency of the United Nations.

Josh Forgét

Sources: UNDP Belarus, CIA World Factbook, Czech Republic Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs
Photo: Spotlight

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Women from rural and marginalized communities can play a key role in ending corruption. Developing countries often have the reputation for corrupt governments which in turn prolong their impoverished condition. It is usually grassroots women, the vulnerable and least empowered in these countries, who suffer the most. The irony is that it is women who are the key to ending poverty in these countries. Decision makers should not neglect to involve women when forming anti-corruption strategies – it would be counter-productive to their development not to.

On June 13th, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at her husband’s Global Initiative activism event. Her speech advocated for the advancement of women and girls, and improving the economic condition in developing countries. “When women participate in politics, the effects ripple out across society,” said Clinton. She explained that when women are educated and economically empowered, her family benefits and more get educated, grow healthier, and become even more empowered. Further, when women are involved in decision-making, the world becomes a safer place. Women are the primary caretakers of their households and communities, and as such, enabling women empowerment is a key strategy for lifting a majority out of poverty. Similarly, when women participate in politics, the world becomes a safer place.

Between 2011 and 2012, the UNDP–along with other development groups–conducted a research study on the gendered impact of corruption in poor communities. The research covered 11 communities across 8 countries – interviewing 392 women and 79 men about the grassroots women’s perceptions and lived experiences of corruption in developing countries. The findings and recommendations were published in a 2012 UNDP document titled, “Seeing Beyond the State: Grassroots Women’s Perspectives on Corruption and Anti-Corruption.”

The results?

Comprehensive anti-corruption efforts require the combined efforts of international agencies, national and local governments, and–more importantly–the women and communities who are directly affected. The state has an instrumental role to play in the creation of an enabling environment in the form of gender-sensitive policies, legislations and mechanisms to combat corruption. International agencies should focus on facilitating a supportive environment for women and men to organize around and fight corruption, including the gender dimensions of corruption. To ensure that programming and policies are relevant and effective for poor communities and women especially, grassroots women should be involved at all stages of anti-corruption interventions, including design, implementation, and evaluation.

Specific strategies that were recommended include (but are not limited to):

  • Establishing anonymous and safe spaces for women to report corruption with clear channels for redressing incidents
  • Forming women-led community monitoring groups
  • Raising awareness about bribery’s different impact on men’s and women’s everyday lives by using media, public hearings, theatre and art, and other communication vehicles
  • Hosting public, but safe, dialogue forums with local government so women can discuss and report corruption, thus ensuring that elected leaders understand local contexts and develop constituencies among grassroots groups
  • Organizing public registration days for births, marriage certificates, etc., a strategy that increases the openness and transparency of what were previously private transactions vulnerable to briberies
  • Allowing a free and independent press that is enabled to investigate, report, and publish on corruption.

– Maria Caluag

Sources: CGI, UNDP
Photo: Guardian

Development and the Environment

A new project, initiated by UNDP with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has been launched in Cambodia in order to better integrate biodiversity conservation into tourism, forestry, agriculture, fishing, and hunting.

Currently, In the northern plains of Cambodia, biodiversity faces threats from overexploitation, in particular from uncontrolled commercial hunting, logging, and destructive fishing practices. Rural communities depend on ecosystem goods and services as a means for financial sustenance, and as biodiversity comes under threat from the overexploitation, the survival and well-being of the communities are left at risk.

In partnership with the Royal Government of Cambodia and Wildlife Conservation Society (WSC), the UNDP and the GEF are utilizing the project to promote eco-tourism initiatives that generate income for local communities. One project that is part of the initiative is the Tmatboey project, which focuses on a community-managed approach to eco-tourism. The northern plains of Cambodia play host to a community of large mammals and wetland birds that are found nowhere else in the world. By using the endangered and extremely rare giant and White-shouldered ibis birds as a tourist attraction, the program has established a local tourism enterprise that is using the revenue as an incentive for the local community to protect the wildlife.

WCS drew up land-use guidelines. Locals agreed not to hunt the birds, and in return, they would receive assistance with developing tourism. Yin Sary, a former poacher who now works as a tour guide in the Tmatboey project, said, “Eating a bird, I can only fill my family’s stomach once, but guiding tourists to see the bird I get $5 each time. Our community is earning thousands of dollars showing the same birds over and over again.”

With the Tmatboey project, WCS and local NGO partners established a training program for community members that taught them how to work as a tour guide and maintain accommodations. As tourism bookings increased more than 25% annually over the first four years, there were major reductions in the hunting and trade of wildlife species. The income that the village has received from tourism has benefitted the entire community, through investments in community development projects, agricultural support, road improvements and the construction of new wells.

As a result of its huge success, the Tmatboey Ibis project won the Wild Asia Foundation’s prize as the best community-based eco-tourism initiative. Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment has subsequently requested that another six sites be sourced and developed for nature-based tourism.

– Chloe Isacke

Sources: UNDP, WCS
Photo: The Richest

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Rano Isaeva, a healthcare worker in Uzbekistan, took time off of work to attend a training session that teaches her how to provide palliative, or relief focused care, to those living with HIV.

“Patronage nurses bring relief to patients and educate relatives to provide care and support. Often they turn into family members and counselors, trusted and relied upon.” she says.

The main goal of UNDP’s HIV project in Uzbekistan is to provide relief and comfort to families as well as patients. UNDP has trained over 2,000 nurses in several different regions of Uzbekistan. To reach as many nurses as possible the training sessions are offered in Uzbek as well as Russian. During the training, the nurses improve their knowledge about HIV infection, the effects on the body, stages of the disease, signs, symptomatic treatment and pain relief therapy. So far over 35,000 people in all regions of Uzbekistan have been reached by HIV-prevention services.

By the end of 2013 over 5,100 nurses should be trained and able to spread their knowledge in their respective communities.

“Many people in the community ask questions on HIV. Now I am able to answer any questions on prevention measures, how the virus is transmitted and not transmitted, what the consequences may be, and whether it can be treated.,” says Zarifa Jonova, a local community nurse. “Thus, I will make my input in wellbeing of my community,” she says.

The program will also begin to focus on spreading awareness to at-risk populations in the area, including young women, drug users, commercial sex workers, and homosexual men. The program has already offered 10,000 information sessions on treatment as well as prevention.

– Catherine Ulrich

Source: UNDP
Photo: Facebook

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The UN and other aid organizations are working to address food security in the world’s poorest countries. According to the UN Development Program’s (UNDP) African Human Development Report, food security is key to improving the lives of many of the world’s poorest people.

At the heart of eradicating extreme poverty is addressing the widespread hunger and malnutrition that kills hundreds of children every day. Food production is a determining factor in the achievement of other human development goals such as education and health care. Without adequate nutrition, people lack energy to pursue economic activities.

A productive approach to addressing food security is more complex than simply growing more food. The chief economist for the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, Pedro Conceicao, argued that economic growth does not necessarily reduce poverty and food insecurity. This suggests that accessibility, empowerment, and purchasing power drive change, and that a strategic, interdisciplinary approach is necessary to address food security. The Report focused on four ways to address food security:

  • Food production: investments in agricultural research, infrastructure, and inputs will increase food production. This will improve food security, especially for agricultural communities.
  • Adequate nutrition: improving food security does not necessarily improve nutrition. Efforts to alleviate malnutrition should be coordinated with developments in sanitation, clean water, and health services.
  • Resilience: building resilience is key to decreasing the need for emergency aid. Systems such as crop insurance and employment guarantees strengthen communities and reduce vulnerability.
  • Empowerment: gender equality, access to good land, technology, and information on good agricultural practices are necessary for achieving food security.

Sustainable progress does not happen overnight. As the Millennium Development Goals demonstrate, long-term coordinated efforts in multiple sectors are needed to improve food security. In order to achieve sustainable rather than short-term food security, development organizations also need to address environmental conservation, natural resource management, and the often opposing influences of big agribusiness and local ecology.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN News
Photo: Security and Sustainability Forum

UN's Conversation on Millennium Development GoalsThe United Nations recently released a report entitled “The Global Conversation Begins,” which serves to illustrate progress towards the universal understanding of and support for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Almost a quarter of a million people from nearly 200 countries were contacted, all in a variety of ways which included conferences, mobile apps, and paper surveys. This project focused on communicating with those groups who normally do not have the means to make their voices heard, such as native tribes and the disabled. By developing more diverse lines of communication, the UN hopes to fine-tune its strategies for achieving its MDGs.

The Millennium Development Goals have served as an overarching global framework for improving the lives of the billions who do not benefit from (and sometimes are actively harmed by) today’s globalized economy. Several categories have benchmarks designed to measure and improve the factors which contribute to poverty and development traps, like poor maternal health, a lack of education, and preventable diseases. Projects all over the world are ongoing every day to help bring everyone forward, even if it is only a little bit at a time.

“The Global Conversation Begins” report will be distributed to over 100 Member States, which take part in the negotiations which cover the creation and implementation of these goals. Major findings called for an acceleration of progress, while also pointing to the desire of people all around the world to help oversee and implement programs that work towards the MDGs. John Hendra, Co-Chair of the MDG Taskforce, explains that he sees “huge energy and appetite to engage in these global consultations,” and for that reason, many at the UN are optimistic about humanity’s ability to coalesce around development goals for the benefit of our common future.

Jake Simon

Source: UNDP

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Yesterday, the United Nation published its 2013 Human Development Report. Among the most encouraging signs of development are the percentage increases in some of the countries with the lowest Human Development Indices (HDI). Gains have been seen in every single country with complete data since 2000; no country is worse off than 13 years ago by the standards of the HDI report.

This metric measures statistics like infant mortality, per capita income growth, and school attendance in order to give an accurate picture of how a country’s development is proceeding. Some of the countries which have had notoriously low HDIs have seen “impressive” gains of more than 2% per year, including Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Liberia. Niger and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have seen these gains as well, and despite having the lowest overall scores in the world, they are “among the countries that made the greatest strides in HDI improvement since 2000.”

Although sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest average HDI of all global regions, its growth since 2000 has outpaced all but Southeast Asia. However, national and regional averages can actually make the data seem to represent realities which are more nuanced. When taking into account countries’ internal variations of human development, the rankings can look different. For example, the United States would be ranked 16th instead of 3rd. This data goes to show that our preconceptions of development can often be quite skewed. Areas where many think there is no progress being made are actually improving quite drastically, whereas countries that are seen as well-off have distinct problems in ensuring better circumstances for their poorest citizens.

Jake Simon

Source: UNDP
Photo: UNDP

Human Development Report Has Good News

After the longest time of a Northern-dominated global economy, the Global South seems to be catching up. This year’s United Nations Development Program’s annual report has some incredible news: lots of livelihoods have improved and are continuing to move in the right direction in terms of development. The Human Development Report suggests that 40 countries are doing better economically and socially. According to The Yemen Times, these improving nations aren’t solely the “economic tigers” of the world, such as China, and Brazil; they also include Turkey, Mexico, South Africa and several more.

The good news is that countries that were once considered “backward” are rising up to the plate, demanding that their voices be heard. Such a shift in global development and human well-being tips the scale for the dominating countries, mainly the United States, member nations of the European Union, and Japan, which have always set and controlled policies.

The UNDP collected measurements of income, literacy levels, gender rights, and longevity to form this year’s rankings, and the results evinced sustainable success and growth: “a fifth of the nations surveyed – all in the developing world – did better than expected.” Although sub-Saharan African countries did not do so well as to be included in this “rise of the South” phenomena, and there is clearly much more to be done, this year’s results are evidence that much good is being generated nonetheless. There is hope that more work will continue to result in greater improvements.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: Yemen Times
Photo: Static

Shyamola Begum And Her Two Daughters
A story of poverty reduction in Bangladesh has come in second place in an annual U.N. Development Programme Competition. The purpose of the competition was to capture the result of transformative development in a story. “These stories highlight UNDP’s critical work on poverty reduction, democratic governance, crisis prevention and recovery and the environment and sustainable development,” said UNDP chief Helen Clark.

The story involves Shyamola Begum of Dhaka and how she managed to support herself and her two children after her husband left her. Shyamola’s situation is not uncommon in Dhaka. Every year, tens of thousands of women are left by their husbands who have given up hope in the face of poverty and lack of employment opportunities. However, after receiving an entrepreneur grant of roughly $30 from the UK’s Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction fund, Shyamola was able to open a tea stall. In just a few months, she had more than doubled her investment.

“Until I became destitute, I had never imagined I could run a business, that I could do accounts, that I could be successful,” said Shyamola.

Her success is also not uncommon. Over the past five years, 55,000 families like Shyamola’s all across Bangladesh have received similar assistance from UPPR, the largest urban poverty reduction initiative in Bangladesh. Over the past decade, Bangladesh’s poverty has decreased by half, 90 percent of young girls are enrolled in schools and child mortality has gone down by 60 percent.

Regarding the UNDP stories, Clark said, “They remind us that people are and always will be the center of UNDP’s work.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: The Daily StarUNDP

 

 

Rebuilding Haiti's RubbleIn 2010, a vicious earthquake rocked the nation of Haiti. Thousands were killed, and untold destruction was wrought upon countless homes and families. Despite its representation of the rampant destruction that once occurred, the remaining rubble is now re-purposed to provide a pathway forward for those who need it most. This is a crucial and hopeful step for the Haitian government to accept help from the United Nations (UN), to focus on rebuilding Haiti’s rubble of the 2010 earthquake.

Thus far, over 80 percent of the rubble is off the streets. Over 20 percent of what has been cleared has been recycled to provide materials for reconstruction. Essentials like stairs and tiles are created with the help of over 20,000 temporary UN and Haitian government workers and Haitian government workers. Construction is focused on making homes that have the capacity to withstand future disasters, including flooding and additional earthquakes.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has provided Haitian citizens grants to purchase repairs and construction materials through monetary transfers via mobile networks. UNDP has trained thousands of Haitians on subjects ranging from home repair to urban planning.

As these projects go on, the Haitian government continues to pursue its “16/6” program, which seeks to close six camps of Internally Displaced Persons and have those people rehabilitate 16 neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. Recently, over ten thousand families have returned to their homes.

– Jake Simon

Source: UNDP
Photo Source: Christian Science Monitor