Young women and men say no to kidnapping (a.k.a. “bridenapping”)

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Filed under: Central Asia Development 2.0 Gender equality Human rights and rule of law Peace and security

Young man holds up sign in Kyrgyz: "I'm a feminist because I want a society free from oppressive prejudice."

“I’m a feminist because I want a society free from oppressive prejudice.”

I want to talk about the suicide of three Kyrgyz young women, Venera, age 20, Nurzat, 19, and Yrys, also 19.

After they were kidnapped (or “bridenapped” as it’s known when a young woman is kidnapped for marriage), Venera hanged herself in December 2010, Nurzat hanged herself in March 2011, and Yrys committed suicide in June 2012.

These three girls are just a few of the victims of this tradition in Kyrgyz society. Every day approximately 32 girls are kidnapped and six are raped.

That’s more than 11,000 young women who are kidnapped each year, and 2,000 rapes. Only one out of 700 are investigated as crimes, and only one in 1,500 is prosecuted.

Since 2008, women’s organizations have been advocating for “bridenapping” to be treated as a crime in the criminal code – the same as kidnapping. The existing punishment for bridenapping in article 155 of the Criminal Code is incarceration for three years. Stealing cattle will get you ten years.

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When the Swedish armed forces have designs on gender equality

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Filed under: Gender equality Peace and security

Question: How do you know when gender equality is truly embedded in your country’s armed forces?

Answer: When a high-ranking male officer serves coffee to a delegation at an official meeting.

This is what happened during a study visit to the Swedish armed forces and the Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations, organized for representatives of the ministries of defence in the Western Balkans.

All the participants at the meeting commented positively on the gesture of our host, although they admitted that this is not general practice in their working environment. Serving coffee is traditionally done by women.

The common understanding is that gender sensitivity is the norm in Sweden. The question is, how did an army that is just as male dominated as armies in other countries become gender sensitive?

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What does security mean to you?

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Filed under: Human rights and rule of law Peace and security Poverty Roma Social inclusion

Kids from mixed school (Roma and non Roma) dancing together, Serbia

Dancing together

The UN Country Team in Serbia just started a new human security project in Novi Pazar, Serbia. We launched the project during a very busy United Nations week with a round-table discussion on human security, an open dialogue with beneficiaries from the local communities, a visit to the Roma settlement near the town, and a theatre play for kids of a mixed community school.

The two year project will bring more than $2.8 million to local communities, especially marginalized groups in six municipalities in south-west Serbia, through:

  1. Construction of a formal recycling centre and cooperative,
  2. Improved access to public and health services, and
  3. Increased participation of children and young people in interethnic and intercultural dialogue.

We also kicked off a campaign that asks people: what does security mean to you? We’re asking this question to bring issues of human security in everyday life into the spotlight. (See: Mayor of Novi Pazar, spearheading new brand of human security) Read more »

Will social media transform governments?

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Filed under: Development 2.0 Governance Social inclusion

Government of Croatia leading the way with online communication between government and citizens - excerpts from online blogs, facebook, news

Croatia leading the way with online communication between government and citizens

It was pretty cool to take part in the recently held 1st South Eastern European Government Communication Conference. There was a fair amount of hype building up to the conference, and rightly so, due to the intention to adopt a declaration on government communications, a historic feat by all means.

For someone who is an Open Government Partnership enthusiast, a certified geek and an internet junkie, the blend of conference topics, presenters and participants was just right. I will not do justice to the two-and-a-half days of discussion in this post, but it would be good to at least mention some of the key points (and some myths which were busted).

We kicked off with the opening remarks and it was immediately obvious we were in for a treat: Igor Luksic, the Prime Minister of Montenegro, was adamant about the fact that new technologies and social media were prime tools for direct communication between governments and citizens, communication which is inevitably two-way and real time.

“This is the era of information, where information dominates all other currencies.”

Rastislav Vrbensky, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Montenegro

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A conversation with Joachim Spangenberg on sustainable development and social change

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Filed under: Anticorruption Development Governance Social innovation

Over coffee on a warm and windy day, Albert Soer and I talked with Joachim Spangenberg, Vice President of the Sustainable Europe Research Institute, on how to unpack sustainable development so these abstract ideas can transform how we govern our societies.

The overall orientation of our governance structures and unsustainable consumption and production patterns is entwined with each nation’s history and culture.

Development agencies are not used to stimulating debate on these fundamental levels. Typically, our assistance aims to strengthen organizations and improve the mechanisms by which decisions are taken  While these are valid and needed forms of assistance, what can be achieved will be limited without the accompanying social change.

The upcoming national level discussions on sustainable development goals are a rare opportunity to think about the social change needed to achieve sustainable development.

To begin a discussion on a sustainable development strategy, we might begin by identifying the most unsustainable trends – sources of vulnerability – for a country (or jurisdiction). This isn’t typical scenario building on business as usual.

Not only should scenarios consider various shocks – manmade, natural disaster or combinations such as climate change; the main change is the strong likelihood of shocks.

So the sustainable development strategy moves from aspirational and environmental niceties to preserving natural and human capital, core elements of quality of life, by reducing vulnerability of society to shock.

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Does open communication lead to open government?

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Filed under: Development 2.0 Governance

Participants at the South Eastern European Government Communication Conference
Participants at the South Eastern European Government Communication Conference

The Open Government Partnership is all about people and empowering individuals to fulfill their role in society. The 1st South Eastern European Government Communication Conference (SEECOM) was a way for top government communicators in South Eastern Europe to acknowledge their social responsibility and embrace the new exciting era of communication and policy making.

So, does open communication lead to open government? Well, government communicators in this region of Europe seem determined to find out!

Top government communication officials from nine countries in South Eastern Europe met for the first time in Budva, Montenegro, last month, to assert their commitment to the principles and values of the Open Government Partnership, including:

  • Government transparency
  • Free and easy access to information
  • Use of new technology
  • Greater public participation in policy making.

The conference, which was co-hosted by the Government of Montenegro, UNDP in Montenegro and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica, is part of Montenegro’s Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership.

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Taking the Open Government Partnership to the next level in Ukraine: come and help us!

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Filed under: Anticorruption Development 2.0 Governance Social inclusion Social innovation

Open ideas for Ukraine hackathon logo

You might think November in Kyiv is rather freezing, but from where I sit, it’s going to be a month hot with action! The Open Government Partnership initiative in Ukraine will make a bold jump forward thanks to the ideas and energy of its young citizens.

OpenIdeas4UA is a new format for us at UNDP in Ukraine, but follows the example of our sister offices in the region (notably, Armenia and Cyprus) and such initiatives as TechCamp Kyiv (Kyiv), SocialBoost Conference and Hackathon (Kyiv), and TI + RHOK hackathon (Moscow). And then of course there is the Open Ideas for Slovakia, which gave us the inspiration for our name.

The main protagonists of the event will be, on the one hand, social activists that work in areas of increasing transparency, widening access to public information and promoting open governance solutions, and dynamic and socially-oriented technology experts and designers, on the other.

We know that there are plenty of opportunities to be explored at the intersection of these two worlds and we hope that the event will get plenty of creative sparks going.

To this aim, we are very proud to have gathered a fairly eclectic group of partners that bring very different sets of skills to the table. Just think of the prospect of the likes of the National Center for Electronic Governance, Microsoft, Ciklum, Dell, Life :), Coca Cola Hellenic, TI Ukraine, IREX-Bibliomist and AIESEC joining forces and you can imagine why we are already so hyped up!

So what can you expect if you join us on 9 and 10 November in Kyiv? Read more »

We’re looking to the future with hope

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Filed under: Peace and security Poverty

Orolbek Kazakbaev, 61, Chairperson, association of damaged businesses owners Jalal-Abad Koldo - shaking hands with another entrepreneur

Orolbek Kazakbaev, 61, Chairperson, association of damaged businesses owners Jalal-Abad Koldo

About 1,500 small and medium businesses were damaged in 2010 during inter-ethnic conflict and unrest in Jalal-Abad province. Entrepreneurs were at a loss for more than half a year, and we needed financial and psychological support.

Most of us did not have funds to restore our businesses or even support our families, and we had loans to pay. Eventually, the most active entrepreneurs joined together to address our common challenges. About 150 entrepreneurs from Djalal-Abad city became members of our Association.

Today, two years after these tragic events, we recovered our businesses, and some are doing better than ever, and now we’re providing support to give a hand to even more businesses, assist them to restore their documents and get financial and other help. In other words, we are back to ordinary life. The entrepreneurs in our city helped create conditions for reconciliation.

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Day of urban inspiration

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Filed under: Development 2.0 Governance Social inclusion

This post was originally published on Olena’s blog.

Me and Iryna

Me and Iryna

When you go somewhere on the weekend, it means that you really like devoting your time to it. On 13 October, Iryna and I participated in TEDx City2.0 in Kyiv – the Day of Urban Inspiration. UNDP was the information partner of this wonderful event which brought together about 150 people interested in finding inspiring thoughts and ideas for fostering city development. The organizers presented our newly launched crowdsourcing platform “The Future We Want” which will help determine the topic of Ukraine’s next National Human Development Report.

If you haven’t ever heard what TED is, you’d be interested to know that this nonprofit is devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading and was started in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three spheres – Technology, Entertainment, Design, and has become ever broader. Videos are made when thinkers and doers give their talks (in 18 minutes or less); they are uploaded to the web-site and widely disseminated.

I discovered this community several years ago and was delighted to see that TEDx Conferences were also held in Ukraine – in Kyiv, Donetsk, L’viv, Kharkiv, Vinnytsya and Odesa. So, we couldn’t miss the event when we found out that this year TEDx Kyiv would be held in “Art-Prichal” Gallery focusing on inspiring ideas for urban development – as if it was specially selected for our UNDP-implemented project “Municipal Governance and Sustainable Development Programme.” Read more »

Power of One – turning ideas into action

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Filed under: Peace and security Social inclusion Social innovation

Advocating for peace at the Power of One conference. Photo: Emad.karim

Helena Puig Larrauri’s recent blog post from the Power of One inter-regional learning exchange has already provided insight to this event dedicated to citizen-led innovation and social change. I am grateful for having the opportunity to participate. Why? Because it has not only allowed me to meet and network with participants from Cyprus, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, but it also changed the way I think about conferences and large-scale meetings in general. (See: videos from participants)

Not your garden-variety event

The three-day conference (or rather “unconference”) was held in the United Nations buffer zone, and hosted by Peace it Together, a Cypriot civil society network working closely with UNDP’s peacebuilding programme – Act for Cooperation and Trust.

The unresolved and divided status of the area as well as the peace building and reconciliation efforts by the hosts and organizers influenced the event – from introductory remarks and brainstorming through generation of project ideas to building inter-regional coalitions.

What was distinct about the Power of One? Certainly the lack of discussions where panelists would present and stick to their own points of view and interests instead of engaging in real, in-depth discussions. Read more »