A new opportunity for human rights in Europe and CIS


Filed under: Human rights

As mentioned in my previous post, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a process which involves a review of the human rights record of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. The second review round will commence in May 2012. It will last 4.5 years and will focus on “inter alia, the implementation of the accepted recommendations and the developments of the human rights situation in the State under Review”.

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Energy efficiency begins at the kindergarten!


Filed under: Climate change Development Environment

I’ve just returned from the launch of the first ever energy efficient kindergarten in our country. It’s days like this – when the result of our efforts become ever so tangible – that I particularly love this work.

I am proud that it took less than five months for our team to completely refurbish a 50 year-old Skopje building that was in a pretty bad shape. We changed the windows, the façades, the roof and we installed a hot water solar system – using approaches that will minimize the payback period (yours truly along with the ‘green team’ also planted a few flowers for the latest spruce up!). Our estimates are that the energy savings of the kindergarten will amount to almost 60%!

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From “big Rio” to “my Rio” – making the sustainable development dialogue relevant for ordinary citizens in Montenegro


Filed under: Climate change Environment Governance

Green future for Montenegro infographic at visual.ly

On April 24-25, the National Council for Sustainable Development in Montenegro and UNDP will organize a 2-day meeting on sustainable development in Kolasin (tip for the would-be tourist: around this northern city there are a number of hidden gems worth exploring).

The event is Montenegro’s contribution to a global dialogue on sustainability and an opportunity for the country to consolidate the platform it will present at the global Sustainable Development Conference, the Rio+ meeting in June.

There are several dominant themes of the meeting:

  • How does Montenegro deal with the legacies of its economic past- energy intensive industries and heavy reliance on foreign direct investment- in a resource-constrained world?
  • Can green economy deliver on a promise of social equity, in addition to competitiveness and low emissions?
  • How can tourism and agriculture reduce regional economic imbalances?
  • Where are the most immediate opportunities for renewable energy and energy efficiency in Montenegro?

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Healthy schools, healthy kids


Filed under: Health Social inclusion

Educating young people to be healthy has always been a top priority for educational institutions, but it’s even more important for health promoting schools.

A health promoting school strives to be a healthy example for living, learning and working, like school №4  in Novograd-Volynskiy of the Zhytomyr region.

A school building itself influences the health of students and teachers, and school №4 was built 30 years ago, and as it often happens, the infrastructure of the building hasn’t been upgraded since. When you use something for such a long time without repairing it (especially sewage systems), problems appear. Some toilets stopped working, there were long lines for the restrooms during breaks, and around lunchtime, a bad smell started to spread in the corridors.

The school principal’s Valentyna Silvertyuk said it had a negative impact on the students’ physical and mental health.

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Fighting for gender equality on the battlefield


Filed under: Gender equality

Central Army Hall in Belgrade, gender equality in the Balkans

March 22 was an exciting day for me.  For the first time in my life, I was seated in the Central Army Hall in Belgrade, shoulder to shoulder (well, almost) with Generals, Colonels and Lieutenants from a number of countries in the region.  Military attachés from various embassies based in Belgrade were also among those seated around me.

I was attending the opening event of UNDP’s new project that aims to support gender equality in the military in the Western Balkans. I was impressed with the professionalism of the women and men behind the launch of the new – and necessary – initiative.

I was struck by what one participant said:

“The character of war has changed in time….the way we fight wars today has changed.”

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Want to run a social innovation camp?


Filed under: Development 2.0

Armenia held its social innovation camp, Mardamej, in November 2011, and they made this video for others who are interested in organizing similar events. Mardamej brought together techies and engaged citizens from all across the country to come up with six projects that use web 2.0 technologies, enhance digital literacy of participants and involve specialists across various sectors – all in just 48 hours.

Are you interested in organizing a social innovation camp? Have you participated in one, and want to share your experience? Do you have any questions for the organizers of Mardamej?


Belarus: Does economic growth mean life is better for vulnerable groups?

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Filed under: Governance Poverty Social inclusion

Year on year change in prices

Source: Senior Economist Office – Belarus vulnerability database

The financial and economic crisis which hit Belarus in 2011 had a serious negative impact on the overall economic situation in the country, affecting the wellbeing of the population, especially in the second half of 2011.

Since December 2011, the Government has been able to stem the tide of widening macroeconomic and external imbalances that were threatening sizable economic disruption.

For the time being, improved fiscal and monetary policies have brought progress in lowering the inflation rate and external imbalances. Our March Belarus analysis shows that these improvements came at a significant cost, and do not constitute a sustainable resolution. As a matter of fact, plugging the gaping financing gap required a combination of drastic fiscal and monetary tightening, large-scale sales of strategic assets, and a rapid rise in external debt, leaving the Government entirely dependent on external support, mainly from Russia and China.

The main macroeconomic indicators available as of the beginning of 2012 show signs of improvement. Preliminary data for 2012 reveal that gross domestic product (GDP) has started recovering in January 2012 on a year-on-year basis, recording 3.6 percent growththat continued in February, albeit at a slower pace.

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The right to health care: A myth for illegal migrant workers?

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Filed under: Health Human rights Migration and remittances Poverty Social inclusion

Migrant workers on the move

Our last blog post on Russian quotas for foreign workers started a conversation – in particular with Alexandre Lefebvre, Senior Research Officer with the International Centre for Migration, Health and Development. Mr. Lefebvre posed some questions about the impact of the quota system on the health of migrant workers.

We’d like to open up the discussion.

According to an agreement of countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to cooperate on labour migration and social protection of migrant workers (from 1994), medical services in the host country are provided to migrant workers at the expense of the employer.

Migrant workers working in the informal sector or those with informal job are not included in this agreement because they don’t have a regular employment contract; employers hire them informally and as a consequence do not pay for their medical insurance. Therefore informally employed migrant workers  don’t have access to healthcare benefits when they are working in Russia or in any other CIS country.

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Women’s work


Filed under: Gender equality Social inclusion

Despite diminishing resistance inside our office towards equality between women and men (See: Confessions of a gender specialist), changing people’s mindsets is still a big part of our work. This kind of change doesn’t happen overnight either.

We can talk and explain, convince and provide rational arguments and proof, but we also decided to harness the power of photography. As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” (See how the discussion on Facebook took off after we shared a photo of women digging a ditch.)

We wanted to show real women and men working in non-traditional, unusual jobs that break stereotypes and inspire younger generation, and we also wanted to encourage young women to become professional photographers.

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