Disaster risk reduction: How the media can and should help


Filed under: Central Asia Disaster response

Question-and-answer session highlighted the importance of journalist participation in pre-disaster preparedness activities

Question-and-answer session highlighted the importance of journalist participation in pre-disaster preparedness activities

We rely on newspapers and television to keep us informed. But the media play a vital role not only in the reporting of ongoing crises, but also at every stage of disaster management: from before a disaster strikes, through the heart of the crisis, and during the post-disaster recovery phase.

The media can provide much needed impetus in risk mitigation and disaster preparedness in any society, in any country around the globe.

Contributions made by the media can save lives and reduce economic losses to a considerable extent. To have such a lasting impact, however, the media need to appreciate their social responsibilities in disaster risk reduction. Read more »

Help us with our research agenda for Uzbekistan


Filed under: Central Asia Development

Buffer zone residents, Surkhan Nature Reserve Uzbekistan (father holding little girl)

Buffer zone residents, Surkhan Nature Reserve, Uzbekistan

It’s time to formulate the research agenda for the Center for Economic Research for 2013.

We’re in the process of collecting opinions from entrepreneurs, academics, state employees and international organizations, to determine contemporary and relevant research trends in economic and social policies, and institutional and administrative reforms.

We want your input too:  

Which areas of research are of current interest for the socio-economic development of the country?

Read more »

How I turned a disability into an opportunity to help others


Filed under: Guest posts Human rights and rule of law Poverty Social inclusion

Rakhmanberdiyev Murodyl, Chairman of the Public Association of people with disabilities

Rakhmanberdiyev Murodyl

A terrible car accident changed my life. My new disabilities made me think: “For what sins is God punishing me?”

Then I realized that I can help those like me –  people who society considers useless.

A few of us established Zhany-Turmush Umut (New life – Hope), a public association that assists people with disabilities. It was the first organization in the city to think about our rights and opportunities. So far it represents 66 people. I am its chairperson. Read more »

I paid a bribe, so what? An experience from Kosovo*


Filed under: Anticorruption Development 2.0 Governance Social inclusion

Over on the Democracy Spot blog, Tiago Peixoto started a thought-provoking conversation about the impact of websites like I paid a bribe that encourage citizens to report cases of corruption (both the blog post and the comments are well worth a read). How can we assess whether these sites make a difference?

I thought it might be useful to add my (admittedly, biased!) two cents to the debate based on my experience working on Kallxo.com, a project that encourages citizens to report cases of corruption in Kosovo via a Ushahidi-based platform.

Kallxo is still at too early a stage of development for a thorough assessment of its impact, (after four months, over 300 cases reported, more than 36,200 page views, and 3,600 “Likes” on Facebook) but, to Tiago’s point, I like to think that we had a theory of change in mind when we set out to develop the project together with our partners. Here are some of its tenets:

1. Complex problems benefit from a variety of skills

Kallxo is implemented by a consortium of civil society organizations, media and private sector representatives. This has allowed us to draw on the specific expertise of each partner organization – an important prerequisite to tackle a complex issue such as corruption.

Each of the members of the consortium is a recognized leading institution in its field in Kosovo, whether it is developing information technology (IT) solutions, performing investigative journalism, conducting baseline and perception surveys, publishing politically sensitive articles or collaborating with key stakeholders. Read more »

Crowdsourcing and networking: growing sustainable businesses in northern Montenegro


Filed under: Environment Poverty Social inclusion

Hiking in Durmitor

Hiking in Durmitor – the north of Montenegro is ripe for tourism. Photo: davduf

About two months ago I wrote about an idea of applying social network theory to growing small businesses. There is plenty of evidence showing that the diversity of an individual’s relationships is strongly correlated with the economic development of community, so our idea was to apply this thinking to small businesses.

Our hunch is that the underdevelopment in northern Montenegro may come in part due to positional inequality – where some people are better off because of who they know and where they’re located in their network of contacts.

A wealthy person may attract other wealthy friends, thus becoming wealthier by being close to a source of good information, business opportunities and influential people, and vice versa.

Following this logic, we could help small businesses in the north by connecting them with better performing companies from developed regions – companies that have access to better performing markets. This might open up new demand, ideas and knowledge that could flow through a new network.

Our thinking was that a prize-based challenge might be the best way to provide incentives for north-south connections. We asked at least three businesses to form a team and design a new product (or improve an existing product) for one region – Durmitor National Park.

Read more »

iYerevan goes live: Citizens in Yerevan get new online voice


Filed under: Development 2.0 Governance Social inclusion

i.yerevan.am: a new site where citizens and the city can collaborate

i.yerevan.am: a new site where citizens and the city can collaborate

I’m excited to announce the launch of a new site where citizens living in Yerevan can flag issues in their city, map them, suggest their own solutions and get feedback. The site provides the opportunity for real-time communication between citizens and the respective departments of the Yerevan Municipality.

The site was launched yesterday by the Municipality of Yerevan, with city officials keen to have a new tool for direct and open dialogue with citizens. They also want to share their own ideas and projects with citizens and get direct feedback.

These types of online platforms for citizens are usually started by NGOs or activists, and that’s why this project makes me so proud of our Municipal partners, who have thoroughly embraced the concept. They deserve a big congratulations for breaking new ground.

Read more »

Judo for development? A report from an unusual event in an unusual space


Filed under: Development Development 2.0 Social innovation

Judo match at SIBOS conference

A judo approach to development?

This Monday I saw a Japanese woman – not much more than 160 centimetres tall – throw a 190 centimetre /90 kilogram solid Chief Financial Officer to the floor not only once, or twice, but some 20 times. After which she did it ten more times – with a crowd of some 500 bankers and financial sector specialists – and me – counting down until he was finally released from his plight.

This was in Osaka, Japan, at the SIBOS conference, an annual event organized by SWIFT, an international outfit that ensures that money can be sent around the world.

The event attracted more than 6,000 participants, and ran for four days (see Petervan’s Blog and SibosTV for more perspectives from the conference). The small, agile woman throwing the big guy around was Japan’s World Judo Champion, and the big guy was a very proficient judo practitioner. So no faking there!

The judo demonstration – and impressive it was – illustrated four classical judo principles, which were used to introduce innovation, and speakers addressed each of them in their talks:

  1. Maximize efficiency with minimum effort
  2. Train safe
  3. Sudden death
  4. Learn from competing

Read more »

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


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.

Read more »

When the Swedish armed forces have designs on gender equality


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?

Read more »

What does security mean to you?


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 »