How can local governments increase their fiscal autonomy?

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Filed under: Governance Social inclusion

Municipalities in Southeast Europe share a similar problem: a lack of financial resources and fiscal autonomy. This affects their ability to deliver public services to citizens.

This is an important problem because in the region, local government investments are the engine in the catch-up game of providing modern infrastructure such as water and sewer systems, solid waste management, street lighting and roads.

One way to measure local government financial autonomy is to compare its own revenues as a share of its total budget.

While municipalities in Montenegro “own” the largest share of their revenues with 79 percent and non-conditional grants, conditional (non-discretionary) grants make up 57 percent of revenues in FYR Macedonia and 65 percent in Moldova, according to the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe. (See: Fiscal Decentralization for Southeast Europe (pdf))

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Ideas wanted: Environmentally-friendly cold storage with fast pay-back period

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Filed under: Development 2.0 Environment Poverty

During our work with small-scale entrepreneurs and farmers, we keep coming across the problem of cold storage. Finding good solutions for cold storage can have a tremendous positive impact on communities. For example, with appropriate cold storage fruit will no longer waste away quickly in the heat, or vegetables can be stored so that they can be sold when prices are higher.

The main challenges with cold storage in countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Western Balkans are the initial cost of investment, operating costs, and reliable access to energy.

We want to identify solutions that address all three challenges. Despite the higher investment cost, we are currently looking into cooling units that use heat pumps, as these can be used (with some alterations) for cooling in summer and heating in winter, thus improving the operating costs.

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7 facts about our forest adaptation project in Armenia

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Filed under: Climate change Environment Governance

For those of you interested in climate change adaptation, our forest adaptation project in Armenia decided to join the blogosphere to share information and knowledge. For our first blog, we wanted to present our project – and in as few points as possible.

  1. Our project promotes adaptation to the impacts of climate change on mountain forest ecosystems in Armenia. The project is about three quarters down the line and will be wrapped in 2013. Although the project has stayed well on schedule and several project successes have already been posted on our web site, now is the time to get the last, and maybe the biggest, things done. Read more »

Landslide risks in Central Asia

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Filed under: Climate change Disaster response Environment

Last week’s policy brief, Natural Disaster Risks in Central Asia, based on a UNDP review of available risks assessments, has provided some interesting information on landslides in Central Asia.

Landslides are one of the main natural hazards facing Central Asia. Their triggers vary, but they include the steepness of slopes – which has been continuously increasing due to seismic events, mining, increased torrential rainfall as well as rising water tables and continued degradation.

As shown in the map below, landslide risks differ among Central Asian countries and are most pronounced in the mountainous areas of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Currently, Tajikistan has around 50,000 landslide sites, of which 1,200 directly affect settlements. Read more »

Minimizing the threat of small arms and light weapons in the Western Balkans

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Filed under: Peace and security

Weapons destruction in Serbia, 2010

Weapons destruction in Serbia, 2010

What do places like Sevelievo (Bulgaria), Padjane (Croatia) and Evangelos – Florakis, (Cyprus) have in common? They are among the many ammunition storage sites where an accident took place in 2011, causing the death of over 440 people, injury to approximately 2,000 individuals, and leaving long-term environmental and infrastructure damage (See: Small Arms Survey report).

In 2011, the rate of accidents at munitions storage sites rose to unprecedented levels – 3.8 incidents per month. According to UN International Ammunition Technical Guidelines, Eastern Europe and Africa are areas of particular concern because countries in these regions possess significant surpluses, much of which are well past their safe storage life.

Given the sensitive nature of the materials, storage facilities require proper management by trained personnel, adequate conditions for storage and constant surveillance for security reasons. In many instances, the government or private owners of the facilities are unable to meet these requirements.

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Peace on the island: Civil society in Cyprus

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Filed under: Peace and security Social inclusion

Young Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots organize street festivals to promote peace and tolerance

Young Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots organize street festivals to promote peace and tolerance

Citizens have been behind much of the progress in the Cyprus conflict and the building of a positive relationship between the two communities. Cypriot civil society has forged a network called Peace it Together, supported by UNDP, which has accumulated a wealth of knowledge on the role of citizens in peace building and reconciliation (See: the Peace Exchange).

The future role of Cypriot civil society in pushing for peace on the island will depend on the ability to sustain a pluralistic political narrative and press for progress in both national and international fora.

A chance for this will come this month (15 May 2012) when representatives of civil society organizations supported by UNDP will speak at the British Parliament in a public debate.

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48 hours in the Innovation Lab

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Filed under: Development 2.0 Environment Governance Social inclusion Social innovation

Recycling in Ukraine

Citizens promote recycling in Ukraine

I fell in love with the idea of social innovation last year after hearing about the experience of our colleagues from UNDP in Armenia. So I was really happy when we established a partnership with Internews Network   to organize a similar event in Ukraine – the Innovation Lab.

After 48 hours participating in the Innovation Lab, I can say with certainty that it is one of the most exciting, unpredictable and productive experiences in my professional life. In the course of two days a group of absolutely different people came up with prototypes for solutions to specific social issues they are trying to solve. It really works!

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Happiness – can we measure it, and then what?

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Filed under: Development Health Social inclusion

Pankisi, Georgia

Defining and tracking the meaning of progress is an old challenge. From time immemorial people have been aware that money is merely a means – and not a goal of its own.

We know that apart from income, other important parts of life provide meaning for people. Some are difficult to quantify, but this does not make them any less relevant. Unfortunately, people tend to forget the obvious. For decades mainstream policy thinking was hijacked by a different paradigm – one built around the assumption material gain translated into human development and happiness. Read more »

A day in the life: UNDP health and safety expert, Cyprus

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Filed under: Health Peace and security

To mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work, we accompanied Fatma Terlik, health and safety focal point for the UNDP Partnership for the Future Programme in Cyprus, as she toured various on-going construction sites.

With more than 55 civil works contracts awarded in the past five years – ranging from 10,000 to 25 million euros each – and approximately 800 workers employed – health and safety quickly became a priority issue for UNDP in Cyprus. Fatma’s site inspections are all-encompassing, as she inspects personal protection equipment, scaffolding, emergency situation plans, first aid, manual handling and tools to make sure they meet standards.

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Live tweeting and streaming from Helen Clark, Tarja Halonen lecture on Rio+20

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Filed under: Development

Helen Clark and Tarja Halonen

Is it time to reset the global development agenda? Will world leaders
be bold enough to agree on new sustainable development goals?

Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland and Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator will discuss those and other questions ahead of the Rio+20 summit at the Kapuscinski development lecture in Helsinki on Monday, 7 May 2012.

I will be tweeting live from the lecture via @undplive and @UNDP_Europe_CIS. Join the conversation with @helenclarkundp & @tarjahalonen on #rioplus20 and use #undplive in your tweets! Feel free to ask questions too.

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