Our Perspective

      • When it is safe to speak, the whole world benefits / Auke Lootsma (Blog)

        03 May 2013

        Journalist in Rwanda (photo: Archives/UNDP in Rwanda)

        Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a cornerstone of good governance, sustainable development, and lasting peace and security. The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media”, highlights the need for action to upholding the right of journalists to carry out their vital work. From traditional media platforms such as radio, print and television, to newer and more and more popular social media, blogs and citizen-led reporting, journalists are increasingly at risk. Over the past decade, more than 600 journalists have been killed – at least 120 in the past year alone. Hundreds more have been detained. In response, the United Nations system has established a Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The plan aims to raise awareness and to support practical steps to create a free and safe working environment for journalists.  Action must encompass both traditional media and the digital world, where news is increasingly produced and consumed. Bloggers, citizen reporters and social media producers, as well as their sources, face increasing threats to their safety. In  Read More

      • Water cooperation is key to poverty eradication, gender equality and environmental sustainability / Auke Lootsma (Blog)

        22 Mar 2013

        Decentralization and Environmental Management Project phase two - DEMPII. (Photo: Gisele Nyampinga/UNDP)

        World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The fulfilment of basic human needs, our environment, socio economic development and poverty reduction are all heavily dependent on water. Rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change threathen the resource while demands for water are increasing in order to satisfy the needs of a growing world population for food, energy, industrial and domestic uses. In designating 2013 as the UN International Year of Water Cooperation the UN recognized that cooperation is essential to deal with these challenges. Promoting water cooperation implies an inter-disciplinary approach bringing in cultural, educational, and scientific factors, as well as religious, ethical, social, political, legal institutional and economic dimensions. Here are the facts: ·       85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet. ·       783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. ·       6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases. ·       Water availability is expected to decrease in many regions. Yet future global  Read More

      • Everyone’s voice counts / Lamin Manneh (Op-ed)

        10 Dec 2012

        Every year the International Human Rights Day is observed around the world on 10thDecember. This date has been chosen to honor the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 10th December 1948. When the General Assembly adopted the Declaration it was proclaimed as a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations", towards which individuals and societies should "strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance". Importantly, the Declaration with its broad range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights is not a binding document, but it has inspired more than 60 human rights instruments which together constitute an international standard of human rights. Today, the principles of the Universal Declaration are part and parcel of our daily lives supported by the general consent of all the United Nations member states. It is notable that the United Nations places high priority on the promotion of, and/or respect for, human rights not only for ethical and moral reasons but also because systematic denial of human rights for sections of population of any country or society could provoke conflicts and social unrests, which tend to impede  Read More

      • International Volunteer Day / Lamin Manneh (Op-ed)

        07 Dec 2012

        I am a VOLUNTEER because my actions count (Photo:UNDP/Elena Ganan)

        Today, 5 December 2012, Rwanda and the world mark International Volunteer Day for Social and Economic Development (IVD). This is the day when we celebrate the commitment and impact of the spirit of volunteerism that is in the process of making the world a better place. It is a day for all the volunteers across the globe to take pride in what they do and to promote the contributions of volunteering to others. It is a day when volunteers, volunteer-involving organizations and their work in support of peace and sustainable development are recognised and applauded. At the same time, we also celebrate the values that sustain volunteerism – striving for the common good out of free will and without necessarily expecting any material reward, in a spirit of solidarity, reciprocity, mutual trust and belonging. These values are universal and transcend the boundaries of culture, language and geography: every year, hundreds of millions of people around the world volunteer to help others. In fact, a recent study showed that 16% of people worldwide volunteer their time and skills to a cause. This means that, if they were a nation, these volunteers would form the 10th largest country in the world in terms  Read More

      • Rwanda: Gains made against poverty, a lesson for others / Auke Lootsma (Blog)

        15 Oct 2012

        Rwanda’s latest data release this month shows enormous improvement in the living standards of citizens over the past five years, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight internationally-agreed goals aimed at reducing poverty and improving education, health, gender equality and environmental sustainability by 2015. Over the past half a decade, Rwanda has posted an average annual growth of real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 8.4 percent, driven mainly by higher productivity in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Critically, the poor have benefited from this growth spurt. Rwandans have developed their own homegrown initiatives in order to tackle poverty at the most local level. The “one-cow-per-family” programme, just to name one, provides families with milk for consumption and what is left over is sold for profit, improving nutrition and income at the household level. Through government-led efforts the poverty rate fell from 56.7 percent in 2006 to 44.9 percent in 2011. If maintained over the longer term, this annual poverty reduction rate of 2.4 percent could put Rwanda in the company of Asian Tiger economies such as China, Vietnam and Thailand that have been able over many years to lift millions out of poverty while sustaining growth. There has also  Read More

      • Media sector reform and the power of social media in Rwanda / Auke Lootsma (Blog)

        15 Oct 2012

        Media plays a critical role in shaping national, regional, and global politics, economics and diplomacy. Professional media will hold both government and citizens to account, promote core values, good governance and democracy. Faced with the horrendous legacy of the 1994 genocide, Rwanda is still haunted by the demons of hate media, and media sector reform is still a work in progress. One of the most notorious media outlets was Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM) which outdid others in hate propaganda. The Rwanda Tribunal in Arusha found the RTLM leadership gulty of genocide, incitement to genocide and crimes against humanity. Today, when the current government speaks about professional and responsible media, it explains their rationale  to prevent another catastrophe orchestrated by the media. President Paul Kagame is keen on media sector reform: “In Rwanda, we regard the media as an important partner in our country’s development. That is why we have made reform of the media a priority”. As part of the overall reform effort, UNDP Rwanda works with the Rwanda Governance Board to measure progress through the annual Media Barometer study and advance self-regulation of the media. The era of fast-evolving social media presents immense opportunities for far-reaching instant  Read More

      • International Day of Democracy / Lamin Manneh (Op-Ed)

        15 Sep 2012

        On 8 November 2007, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 15 September as the International Day of Democracy, inviting Member States, the United Nations System and other regional, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to commemorate this day each year. Today we look back on yet another year of remarkable events in the story of democracy – a story that continues to be written by people who yearn for dignity and human rights, for an end to corruption, for a say in their future, for jobs, justice and fair share of political power. The” Arab Spring” is the most recent example of youth, women, and men from all social strata demanding greater space for civic engagement in decision making. These calls for transformational change were not so much about elections but rather a popular cry for choice, participation, transparency and respect for people’s legitimate quest for democratic space. These events have reaffirmed the pivotal importance of democratic governance as a system premised on inclusion, participation, non-discrimination and accountability. Democracies are not born overnight, nor are they constructed by holding one or two elections. Democracies are about acceptance and respect for the principles of equity, participation, transparency and accountability. It is also about the respect  Read More

      • Disaster Risk Reduction: Global Lessons for Rwanda / Auke Lootsma (Blog)

        10 Jul 2012

        Recently, the World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction was held on 2-4 July in Sendai City, Japan.   The Conference was about how to build resilient societies and to mainstream disaster risk reduction at the local, national, and regional levels. It is also an opportunity to be part of the consultation process, initiated in March by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), to shape the agenda for disaster risk reduction beyond the Hyogo Framework for Action, which expires in 2015. The Conference highlighted the need to build resilient nations and communities to address their vulnerability to disasters. It also provided a platform to share lessons learnt from large- scale  disasters  and to shape  the agenda for disaster  risk reduction beyond the Hyogo Framework  for Action which expires in 2015. The latter was adopted by 168 countries, including Rwanda, in 2005 to make the world safer by putting in place national disaster risk reduction policies and strategies. Development challenge Disaster Risk Reduction is a serious development challenge. While no country is immune to disasters associated with natural hazards, we are all well aware that there is much which can be done to reduce their impact by better preparing  Read More

      • Getting data used/ Rajiv Ranjan (Blog)

        04 Jun 2012

        In late 2003, when I was looking for contents and services for the telecentres (or ICT Kiosks) in Orissa-India, one of things that kept on coming up in discussions within our team was, ensuring their usage. And that meant, among many other things, making certain that the content or services provided are relevant to the community, which the telecentre is intended to serve. Usage was the key driving force! It shaped our work around the telecentres. And there were many aspects identified as obstacles to it (some coming from demand side and some coming from supply side). Our efforts were concentrated to mitigate them – as much as possible. Today, almost a decade later, while working with official statistics, my one of the concerns is to ensure its wider reach and development impact – and I’m faced with the same question – how to ensure its usage? Recently, I read an article in The Guardian (online): about how a student used open data to beat national rail enquiries at its own game. The story is about a graduate student who created a user friendly service of rail enquiry, based on the data made open recently by the Association of Train Operating  Read More