Roma communities in Belgrade – how to improve quality of life?


Filed under: Human rights Poverty Roma Social inclusion

Belvil, Belgrade, Serbia, temporary housing for Roma families

Belvil, Belgrade, Serbia, temporary housing for Roma families

Last week I walked through Makis, a district in Belgrade, Serbia that is now home to approximately 60 Roma families who were resettled from Belvil a month ago (See: Respecting rights and dignity in Belgrade), and 37 other families who were resettled from beneath the nearby Gazella Bridge more than two years ago.

These two cohorts of families were resettled from equally deplorable circumstances, but now live in adjacent neighborhoods that are visibly different.

The differences in living circumstance between the two settlements struck me, and begged the question:

What can we do to bring the quality of life of Belvil-Makis families up to that of the earlier arrivals?

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Earthquake risks in Central Asia

by and

Filed under: Disaster response

Risk of seismic activity in Central Asia

Risk of seismic activity in Central Asia

A recent policy brief on natural disaster risks in Central Asia has shed some light on earthquake risks in Central Asia. (See full report - Natural disaster risks in Central Asia: A synthesis)

Central Asia is characterized by high seismic activity. Over the past sixty years many large earthquakes have caused large loss of life and significant property damage. There were more than 30 earthquakes with magnitudes above 6.5 on the Richter scale in the region during the twentieth century.

The main seismic regions in Central Asia include Pamir, Tien Shan, Iran-Caucasus-Anatolia and Central Kazakhstan. If we consider exposure to earthquakes, in some countries the majority of the population lives in areas of high or very high seismic hazard:

  • 99.9 percent of the population for Kyrgyzstan
  • 88.3 percent for Tajikistan
  • 80.4 percent for Uzbekistan

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The sound of my voice


Filed under: Gender equality

Sound of my voice image

At my university I took a class on rhetoric and one of our assignments was to prepare a speech on a subject we were interested in. Though it sounds easy, I must admit that it was very difficult to find a subject that would also be interesting for other people.

One of my classmates chose to talk about women’s rights and equality between men and women in Montenegro. She was convinced that her speech would make young people consider the possible change they could make in their behavior and in society in general.

She talked about political empowerment of women in Montenegro and tried to demonstrate how it is important for everyone to become aware of the inequalities between women and men in our society.

However, she was unheard. She tried hard to keep her speech going, but everyone seemed to have more important topics to talk about than listen to her. That was not the only part that bothered me. What drew my attention were the comments, mostly  from young men in the audience.

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Roma excluded from society: Q&A with Andrey Ivanov


Filed under: Human rights Poverty Roma Social inclusion

Roma family, Cserehat, Hungary

Roma family, Cserehat, Hungary. Photo: Laszlo Siroki

New survey data are helping to tell the story of Roma in Europe. We sat down with human development advisor Andrey Ivanov to get his perspective on the results.

Question: What are the most important findings of the survey?
Andrey Ivanov: Perhaps the most striking finding of the survey is that so many findings are striking. After so many initiatives, policies, strategies, talk – and funding – Roma communities are still the poorest of the poor and the most excluded among the excluded in the European Union (EU).

The second striking finding is that EU membership per se is no recipe for success. Roma are similarly excluded both in new and old Member States. Significant variations between countries exist but the difference between “successful” and “unsuccessful” doesn’t run along a new-old member states divide. The practical implication is clear: Roma inclusion is an EU-wide priority.

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3 reasons why you should care about good governance


Filed under: Governance

Good governance is such a widely used term that I feel the need to first clarify what I understand by good governance. If governance includes the exercise of authority in managing the resources of a country, then good governance is about making sure that this exercise of power helps improve quality of life enjoyed by all citizens.

If your government is not providing the quality of life that you think you and your fellow citizens deserve, it most likely has to do with good governance – or a lack thereof.

How to determine whether governance is good?

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Empowering women police officers in South East Europe


Filed under: Gender equality Governance Peace and security Social inclusion

It is now past midnight in Zlatibor, Serbia, and I have just said goodbye to members of the Women Police Officers Network in South East Europe. We spent the past two days working to improve advocacy skills.

These amazing women come from nine police services in eight different countries. What they have in common is a strong commitment to their police profession and the desire to ensure a safe and secure environment for their communities. What bonds them is working in a traditionally male profession and the daily challenge of stereotypes about their role as women in society.

Until recently, in South East Europe, women enjoyed very limited access to the police profession. As a result, by 2009, uniformed police services in our region counted on average only about 3.5 to 7.5 percent of women in their ranks.

The need to address this problem spurred the South East Europe Police Chiefs Association to request the assistance of UNDP’s weapons control project to establish a network for women police officers in South East Europe, an initiative to help police services advance gender equality in their ranks and in policing practices.

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$100,000 for poverty alleviation using 3D printing technology


Filed under: Development 2.0 Guest posts Social innovation

3D printing technology has been around for a long time, but it is getting cheaper, more reliable, and easier to use than ever. Its uses are many and varied – from prototyping to addressing supply chains: Imagine if a design for a prosthetic limb created anywhere in the world could be printed out on the other side of the world with just a few pieces of core equipment.

Techfortrade is an NGO which helps support national and international market access for small producers in developing countries.

They are currently launching a global competition aimed at people who have ideas about how 3D printing can be used for social benefit in the developing world but who need extra funding and technical support to turn this idea into reality.

Techfortrade, along with Econolyst and Makerbot will provide $100,000 and technical support for the winner of the competition and various other benefits for runners up.

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Call me crazy: from environmental hotspot to eco-tourism


Filed under: Development Environment Health Poverty Social inclusion

Have you ever been to Mojkovac? If you’re not from Montenegro, you probably haven’t. But up until a few years ago, most people in Montenegro would have said the same. Mojkovac used to be an environmental hot spot – due to a huge mining waste dump in the very centre of the town, only around 15 metres away from the Tara River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Europe’s deepest canyon.

This is even more regrettable because Mojkovac is home to two national parks (Biogradska Lake and Durmitor) and features impressive beauty of the surrounding mountains of Bjelasica and Sinjajevina. Together with the striking canyon of the Tara river, this area is one of the most beautiful in Montenegro. But it hasn’t been looked at this way because of its reputation as an environmental hot spot.

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Social economy angels


Filed under: Poverty Social inclusion

The way to develop the social economy in Poland is by getting the private sector to help social enterprises become more professional.

Social enterprises often need to improve their business skills, and knowledge of the terms and conditions of business in the open market. That’s why our office in Poland is setting up a network of social economy angels (similar to the concept of business angels).

People who responded to our challenge so far are supporting social enterprises with their knowledge, experience, and skills to help them market and promote products and services, and to advocate for corporate social responsibility (CSR).

We’re looking for experienced managers, who are not afraid of risk, willing to devote their time and money to prove that it is possible to develop a social economy in Poland, and create sustainable social enterprises that will fill a niche in the market and fulfill social expectations.

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Innovation for development: demystifying the buzzword


Filed under: Development Development 2.0 Social innovation

Turner, J. M. W. - The Fighting Téméraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken

As the Tales from the Hood blog noted, innovation is en vogue in the development sector. UNICEF’s Executive Board opened last February with a statement on the importance of innovation. USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures is in full steam and the World Bank’s Innovation Practice is often making headlines with initiatives such as open data or Apps for Climate Change.

Challenges such as 3D printing for development are becoming increasingly common practice. Judith Rodin, CEO of the Rockfeller Foundation recently declared to Forbes magazine that we are entering “the third phase of philanthropy,” marked by the effort to “seek out innovation on the ground – sourcing ideas from the crowd – and … scale them as often as we look to create them.” And these are only few examples.

So is innovation just the latest buzzword (fad?) in the development discourse (hold off clicking on the yes button, skeptics out there), or is it something we should embrace in an era of dwindling resources? If the latter, how do we move beyond generic aspirations to walking the talk? (As Duncan Green ironically pointed out “has anyone ever asked you to be less innovative?”)

If we are to take the raging debate over open data as an indicator, implementation challenges – once one moves beyond the buzzwords –  are often non-trivial. For instance, should development organizations follow the stand-alone, skunk works model of innovation (which seems to be the favourite mode so far) or opt for approaches that encourage a closer link to operations? Or, what are effective tactics to embed in the organizational culture an appetite for prototyping, away from the comfort of pilots? What are the criteria to judge whether, say, a challenge or a crowdsourcing initiative successful?

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