Back to School: Who spends their holidays learning about human development?


Filed under: Development Social inclusion

>> Watch to learn about teaching human development in Uzbekistan

The human development approach has shaped our development thinking for the past 20 years. Just as The Guardian recently praised the influential work of Amartya Sen on development as individual freedom, UNDP helps to organize a world that works for everyone, and not just the few.

The only sustainable way of achieving that is investing in the young generation. That’s why “Teaching Human Development” – originally a marginal area of support for UNDP – gradually evolved into a major field of support for countries in the region.

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Towards a data driven policy for Roma inclusion


Filed under: Poverty Roma Social inclusion

[slideshare id=15518576&doc=thechallengesofromainclusion-121206083340-phpapp01]

Can we help move the policy debate on Roma beyond myths and ground it in data?

This is the challenge that I set myself as I put together this presentation which summarizes the best evidence we have available on the issue of Roma inclusion.

In it, I try to tackle some of the recurring themes that have emerged through the Decade of Roma Inclusion, including, among others:

  • Who are the Roma? (it’s not as simple as you might think)
  • Why, after massive investment in Roma inclusion in the last decade, so many Roma prefer to leave their country of origin and move westwards?
  • Can we claim that we made progress based on the evidence available?
  • Three myths about Roma data (we don’t need it, we don’t have it, we can’t have it)

A presentation on a topic so complex is by definition a work in progress. I welcome comments and suggestions that can help build a strong, evidence-based case for Roma inclusion.

It is needed to inform the policy debate and move it forward for real change – as well as monitor and assess that change (or hold governments accountable when it is not there).


Taghinfo – news from your neighbourhood


Filed under: Development 2.0 Guest posts Social inclusion Social innovation

A little over a year ago I attended Mardamej with an idea. One year on I was presenting the highs and lows of life as a social entrepreneur to Mardamej: Reload… this is the story of Taghinfo.

The itch

As a journalist and fellow at the International Academy of Journalism (Intajour), I attended a training workshop in Hamburg along with other journalists from around the world. There, a young woman presented a new citizen journalism project, which encouraged the young people of Hamburg to report on issues facing their community.

I decided to plant this idea in Armenian soil. Shortly after returning home, Mardamej Social Innovation Camp announced its first call for ideas. Sixty-six ideas were submitted, but mine was one of the lucky six projects chosen.

After presenting my idea to the entire Mardamej group on the first night of the camp, I was joined on my project by a group of journalists, marketing and public relations specialists, programmers, designers, and social innovation experts. Read more »

Renewables, energy efficiency, and quality of life in Europe and Central Asia #SE4ALL


Filed under: Central Asia Development Environment Poverty

Kyrgyz boys and girls around a table in their kindergarten

Energy and the everyday: Kindergarten with new heating supply, Naryn Province, Kyrgyzstan. See more UNDP work related to energy

Imagine going to school and it’s five degrees Celsius in your classroom. Brrr! I learned from my colleague Martin Krause that the average classroom in Central Asia ranges from 4.3 to 6.9 degrees.

This was during a discussion on sustainable energy in countries in the region, organized by the Turkish Permanent mission in New York and UNDP.

We decided to convene the meeting to ensure that our region is fully engaged in the global Sustainable Energy for All initiative.

Louis Gomez Echeverri, the United Nations Secretary-General’s special advisor for the Sustainable Energy for All initiative presented the global energy landscape that will help move dialogue forward and mobilize countries to help realize the initiative’s global goals:

  1. Ensuring universal access to modern energy services
  2. Doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
  3. Doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix

Read more »

What? I can’t hear you!?


Filed under: Environment Health Human rights and rule of law

This post was originally published on the UNDP site in Montenegro

noise pollution - airplane flying over houses

Noise pollution – how does it affect your health?

How often have you had to close the window in your office or home because of loud traffic, or hammering from a nearby construction site? How often have you been kept awake due to loud music coming from a pub in your neighbourhood?

Environmental noise is perceived as a major environmental problem in the European Union (EU) and studies from the European Environment Agency are discussing the impact of noise exposure and potential effects to human health.

In the European Union alone around 20 percent of its population (close to 80 million people) suffer from noise levels that scientists and health experts consider to be unacceptable.

Noise is an important part of the EU environmental acquis. For Montenegro, a candidate for EU membership, it is a development issue for two reasons:

  1.  The EU Progress Report 2012 for Montenegro specifically mentions noise: “… some progress was made in the area of noise through the adoption of a rulebook on limit values for noise in the environment.”
  2. Excessive noise remains the most often cited tourist complaint (in Montenegrin) in the country, especially on the coast.

Read more »

Air quality egg


Filed under: Development 2.0 Environment Health Social inclusion

*This post was originally published on the UNDP site in Montenegro

Air Quality Egg early prototype

Air Quality Egg early prototype

As you gaze through your window, do you ever wonder what the air quality is outside? And not at the place where the measuring station checks it – I mean right there, on your balcony?

I’m an environmental monitoring geek, so this is one of the questions that keeps me amused: how can we harness modern technology in order to let people know about the air quality right where they are located, about noise levels, or how clean the sea is when they go on vacation?

For example, can you imagine yourself dipping your smartphone in the water at your favorite beach to double check whether the PH levels are just right?

Amazingly enough, this isn’t a tech question. A new study finds that the impact of pollution on health is at the same level as malaria and tuberculosis.

In a September 2012 study, the European Environment Agency notes that despite significant improvements, the concentration of air pollutants in the European Union remains high. From the perspective of engagement, the environmental chapter of the acquis is fully in line with the Aarhus Convention. These two horizontal pieces of legislation call for increasing awareness and participation of citizens in environmental decision making. In short, better data makes for better decisions, and better decisions make for better lives.

Read more »

We are hiring… and it is not your run-of-the-mill position!


Filed under: Development 2.0 Social innovation

Yes yes, we are a bureaucracy. And no, you won’t get to slide to your office Google-style, but we still think we have a fun working opportunity if you are into social media and innovation.

Our team helps colleagues develop the next generation of services for our national partners (primarily governments). What this means is that we spend quite a lot of time scouting the development and private sector for emerging trends and innovative solutions that can help deliver better results in the areas of governance, environment and poverty reduction, among others. We then adapt those solutions to our context and help colleagues test them out, following agile development principles. If they prove to be successful, we assist others in taking them up.

So the most important quality we will be looking for in our new team member is a great deal of curiosity, the ability to conduct independent research and build partnerships with external organizations. You can expect to be involved in very diverse projects ranging from applying complexity theory for better monitoring of results to challenges to solve intractable development problems, from political risk analysis based on big data to organizing social innovation events. And we hope you’ll push us to explore areas that we cannot even imagine right now, provided they bring tangible benefits to our partners. Read more »

Kurash: Wrestling to eliminate violence against women?


Filed under: Central Asia Gender equality Human rights and rule of law

Two female kurash champions hold up their medals

There is no place for violence in a house where there is sport

Have you ever heard of kurash? No? Surprise surprise! Kurash is considered one of the most ancient wrestling sports that exist in the world. The exact age of this picturesque sport is not known, but it’s estimated to be at least a 3,500 year old tradition.

“Kurash” is an Uzbek word that means “achieving a goal by just means.” The technique, traditions, rules and philosophy of kurash were passed on from generation to generation, from fathers to children.

Over time, kurash became a favourite and valued tradition of nations who lived on the current territory of Uzbekistan. Kurash competitions were organized during festivities, weddings, and big bazaars.

The International Kurash Association was created back in 1998 and the first world championship of kurash took place in Uzbekistan in 1999. It quickly caught up – today the Association unites 117 national kurash federations in Asia, Europe, Pan America, Africa and Oceania, and the number of member states is growing every year.

Why would UNDP partner with the  International Kurash Association and especially for advocating non-violence? Read more »

Development data still needs its Captain Kirk Picard


Filed under: Development Development 2.0

Data from Star Trek :O)


So often when I work on development projects data is in the centre of the discussions. ‘We do not really know this’, ‘We have no real evidence for this or that’. Most of the time, however, I have difficulties imagining what data looks like and what it actually can do. Millennia ago Star Trek found a solution. Here he is:

He is quite smart. Dressed impeccably. Most of all, he has this understanding look – almost human. According to Wikipedia he even became a sex symbol.

Data is good, solves any problem, draws logical conclusions and he’s infinitely faster than present day computers, seems almost right from the beginning, until Captain Kirk decides otherwise….

Although we often feel we do not have the data we need, we want a lot of it. It helps us come to terms with our actions, logically reason how our actions will lead to results, and with hindsight explain why things worked, or not.

Until not so long ago, data needed to be collected, analysed and subsequently translated into policy recommendations – the traditional time consuming and often tedious process. Read more »

Mardamej: reflections from Armenia’s social innovation camp


Filed under: Development 2.0 Social inclusion Social innovation

Mardamej Reload - second social innovation camp in Armenia - room with people sitting in rows, everyone with a laptop

Mardamej Reload – second social innovation camp in Armenia

Much like last year’s Social Innovation Camp, I returned home on Sunday night both shattered and elated by the experience.

The event saw all six teams compete furiously for two awards… one picked by the jury, the other by the participants.

It was a very close run contest.  The jury had a difficult choice… Read more »