The bitter truth behind the Roma question – why no progress so far (part 2)


Filed under: Poverty Roma Social inclusion

So far, inclusion efforts have failed to achieve their noble goals. A major reason for this is ‘sticking to a single dimension’ in a complex challenge. This approach is appealing because of its simplicity, but produces irrelevant (and potentially disastrous) results.

There are three dominating extremes when it comes to approaching the Roma issue. One is “exclusion is cultural” – attributing Roma status to cultural specifics of different groups. Indeed, culture matters (any anthropologist would agree) but, when driven to the extreme, this approach says “it’s all about race.” Any extremist party loves that. The second extreme says “it’s about discrimination” – attributing everything to human rights violations. Indeed, discrimination matters (any human rights activist would agree) but when driven to the extreme, this approach boils down to litigation procedure – and lawyers love that. The third extreme says “it’s about qualification and educational deficits” – attributing everything to capacity gaps. Narrow-minded market extremists love that – provide people with equal access to resources and capital and the market will do the rest.

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Are you a web (nerd) expert? A digital schmoozer? A jargon-slayer? We’re looking for you!


Filed under: Development 2.0

I think you will agree with me, our current web site design served us well in the past but needs a face lift. Time to become cool again!

Just kidding – if there’s one thing I’m serious about, it’s the importance of online communication for UNDP – making sure we communicate what we do, and that our website helps us achieve our goals (Currently gathering inspiration from: 10 Keys to Effective Non-Profit Organization Websites).

We recently advertised two posts and an internship – all connected to efforts already underway to make sure that our web site and online social media platforms support UNDP goals and that people have an informative, useful and engaging experience when they interact with us online.

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Tackling corruption: from Bratislava to Tunis?


Filed under: Anticorruption Governance

Stop corruption sign

Much has been written recently connecting events in the Arab world and the transition experience of countries in the former Soviet bloc (see What does the Arab Spring Mean for Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus? from the Center for Strategic International Studies, as well our blog posts: Arab Spring – 4 lessons from the ‘North’ and From Arab spring to democracy for all seasons). Having joined UNDP’s Bratislava office from Iraq, I follow these discussions with great interest.

I just came back from the Tunis conference on anti-corruption in the education, health and water sectors (pdf) in Arab countries. I thought it would be worthwhile to share my thoughts on the connection between the transitional experiences between the two regions in these sectors in particular.

I had not participated in the Arab region discussion on anticorruption in two years and it was interesting to see how much progress has been made. Much work has been done, and almost all of the countries in the region were participating. Most countries have also established anticorruption institutions, parliamentary committees and are now focusing on sector related challenges. Many countries are still working on assessment tools and methodologies but, collectively, the region has the professional resources needed to support national institutions.

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The Roma question: scratch the surface of the racist protest and you’ll find… (part 1)


Filed under: Poverty Roma Social inclusion

A fascist-leaning marginalized people? A racist society with nefarious institutions? I don’t see it that way. I see the failure to share the benefits of transition with the whole of society, and a lack of confidence in institutions and political representation. I see fatigue from more than two decades of transformation that has benefited few but excluded the rest. I see inequalities when it comes to opportunities, participation and benefits. Then comes the ethnic spin, recasting deep social rifts defined in racist terms.

It’s a fundamental misunderstanding to interpret recent clashes in Bulgaria as primarily ethnic. In my view, this is the classic case of a conflict fueled by social and economic despair disguised as ethnic. Indeed, many people are facing discrimination based on ethnicity, but if we go deeper, we find frustrated people excluded from society whose emotions have been manipulated for political reasons.

Many commentators rushed to voice their concerns, drawing parallels between this current conflict and fascist times. The narrative is dominated almost entirely by the ethnic and discriminatory dimensions of the problem, disregarding the systemic issues related to social exclusion. The effect that the economic crisis and social exclusion has on a people’s psyche is overlooked, as is the resulting receptiveness to extremism. Above all, the clashes reveal a high level of social exclusion in Bulgarian society – which translates into ethnic tension, not the other way around. It’s the slogans shouted at rallies that receive the attention, diverting attention from the fundamental causes of the disease (social exclusion) and instead focusing on its symptoms (ethnic intolerance).

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Women underrepresented in public decision-making. Can quotas help?


Filed under: Gender equality

I was excited when I learned about the recent adoption of legislated quotas in Montenegro.

After Poland, this is yet another country in the region that’s introduced legislated quotas for women in the last twelve months. It is no secret that women are underrepresented in public decision making all over the globe – in parliaments, political parties, electoral management bodies and in public administration generally.

In countries in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States are no exception: 16 countries in the region fail to reach the global average of 19 percent representation in national parliaments.

Interestingly enough, there are considerable variations, with women’s representation ranging from 6.5 percent to 31.8 percent. In many countries women are also under-represented in decision-making levels in most areas of public administration.

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Carbon consumption, transition and developing economies: Sinners or sinned against?


Filed under: Climate change Development

Should national contributions to climate change be measured as greenhouse gases emitted by the countries in which they are produced? Or should they be “charged against” the countries in which the goods and services that generate these emissions are consumed?

This issue was highlighted by a new study (See: Growth in emission transfers via international trade from 1990 to 2008) that measures the “consumption” of greenhouse gas emissions by examining “virtual carbon trade” flows (i.e., greenhouse gas emissions associated with the export and import of goods and services), and then subtracting this “carbon trade balance” from countries’ reported emissions.

The study gives new impetus to questions like: If a share of Country A’s greenhouse gas emissions can be accounted for by exports that are destined for consumption in Country B, shouldn’t these emissions be ascribed to Country B?

On a similar note, The Guardian’s Duncan Clark argues that, when the emissions data are recalculated in terms of national carbon consumption rather than production, they show “a massive transfer of carbon from the poor world to the rich world.” According to this argument, “the rich world has been ‘offshoring’ or ‘outsourcing’ its emissions” to developing countries—exploiting a loophole in the Kyoto Protocol to reduce reported emissions by exporting them to poorer countries.

Do such arguments stand up? Is the rich world “gaming” the Kyoto system and frustrating global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

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The day Tajik apricots will reach global markets… and how to get there


Filed under: Poverty

Apricot farmers and entrepreneurs in Tajikistan - women and kids

Tajikistan recently celebrated its 20th anniversary of independence with great fanfare, plenty of new buildings inaugurated, and a new record: the tallest flag pole on earth!

As a result, when strolling the streets of Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital city, it is easy to forget that 47 percent of Tajiks live on less than $2 a day (World Bank). However, as soon as you get out of the capital, and into the provinces, the lack of infrastructure becomes obvious.

The Sughd region in the North of the country is a case in point. The region, home to over two million people (more than a quarter of the total population), is connected to Dushanbe by a road which is often closed in winter due to weather conditions. Villages and cities experience harsh power rationing every winter, as the mostly hydroelectric-powered country is unable to cope with the demands for energy due to water freezing (see: Energy and Communal Services in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan for recent data). Irrigation channels require constant repair and are unable to fully satisfy the demand from agriculture – the most important economic sector of the country after aluminum production. Currently product yields and quality are low, making it difficult to get good prices in wholesale markets and to establish contracts with processors – which would make a world of difference to farmers.

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Panama finishes with unexpected progress – advancing us towards Durban

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Filed under: Climate change Environment


In the final two days of climate talks in Panama, delegates managed to produce all the texts needed for Durban – with some more advanced than others. The most advanced issues were related to agreement on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), a Climate Technology Centre, and agriculture.

Some texts are still just a compilation of all the positions of the countries and will need much more work in Durban. But there are texts going to Durban. Delegates all but exhausted the technical issues, and the next steps will be political – to be carried forward by ministers in Durban. These will have to be awfully big steps in order to reach a much needed global climate change agreement.

Parties were encouraged to use the time between now and Durban to find a solution on the remaining areas of disagreement and to work on streamlining the texts.

* See Daniela and Gabriela’s previous posts from Panama:

Country expectations on the table at Panama climate talks

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Filed under: Climate change

2010 earth heat map

2010 – warmest year on record in last 131 years

With one day left to go, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done in preparation for COP17 in Durban. Thankfully, a couple issues have moved forward. Countries are now close to a common understanding of what should be supported to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+): There is a general agreement that money should come from a broad range of sources: private and public sources, market and non-market mechanisms, as well as multilateral and bilateral funds. Some also suggested that a special window for REDD+ be created under the currently unfolding Green Climate Fund.

Another area that’s moving fast is the Climate Technology Centre and Network. So far, countries have agreed to bring this to Durban, and are sharing many ideas, but not worrying about the text just yet. Those who have followed climate change negotiations over the years know that drafting is a first step, and a sign of progress.

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What’s the link between reducing poverty and protecting the environment?


Filed under: Development Environment Poverty

Reporting back from the Astana ‘Environment for Europe’ Ministerial Conference

Tajik women discuss links between poverty and environment

Tajik women discuss links between poverty and environment

According to the 2010 Millennium Development Goals report for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, in 2009, 36  percent of the population in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, or about 160 million people, were considered poor or at risk of poverty, living on less than $5 per day.

In addition, UNDP’s regional human development report estimated that 35 percent of people in our region are excluded from society – from economic life, social services, and social networks and civic participation.

How people live in harmony (or not) with the environment and natural resources also plays a role in addressing social exclusion and reducing poverty.

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