Blog

How to build back better after a hurricane with the next one a few months away? | Achim Steiner and Irwin LaRocque

16 Nov 2017

image The number of severe hurricanes is projected to increase by 40 percent, if global temperatures rise by 2°C and up to 80 percent should they rise by 4°. Photo: Michael Atwood / UNDP

Imagine relocating the entire population of your country in the face of a colossal hurricane and two months later still not being able to get back home. Now imagine spending several nights in a shelter and taking a stroll the next morning only to find what you used to call community, city or country reduced to an apocalyptic scene. This is no fiction. Irma and Maria, two back-to-back category 5 hurricanes, the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic, swept across the Caribbean in September, cutting a swathe of destruction, taking lives, devastating infrastructure and severely damaging the economies of small climate-vulnerable countries. Entire islands were decimated, like Barbuda, the smaller of the two-island state of Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica, both Members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands were also devastated while The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands were severely affected. Haiti and St Kitts and Nevis also suffered damage. All of the islands are Members or Associate Members of CARICOM. The island of St Marten, divided between Sint Maarten, a constituent country of the Kingdom of Netherlands and St Martin, a dependency of France as well as Cuba and the Dominican Republic  Read More

Integrating disaster risk reduction and climate action for resilience | Matilde Mordt and Ronald Jackson

14 Nov 2017

image With a higher frequency of more intense storms, the 2017 hurricane season in the Caribbean is evidence of a warming climate. Photo: UNDP

Scientists have long advised that the peak intensity of severe storms would increase as temperatures rise, and in addition, the time taken to achieve these new peaks would be shortened. The 2017 hurricane season in the Caribbean is evidence of this, with a higher frequency of more intense hurricanes. The results have been tragic loss of life and widespread devastation, and within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), more than 160,000 people have been directly affected and countless others indirectly affected. The case of Dominica shows the overwhelming power of these storms, where losses in the key economic sectors of tourism and agriculture are calculated to be 100 percent. The impact of Hurricane Maria and Irma across all affected states is not merely an indicator that climate change is causing more powerful storms, but importantly it is a stark reminder of the existing vulnerability and risk exposure of the Caribbean that has remained unchecked. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) work together in the Caribbean to achieve greater resilience. UNDP and CDEMA recognize that key actions are required to develop appropriate conceptual frameworks for the harmonization of risk within a development context, where climate change is seen as a  Read More

Two in every 5 Latin Americans risk falling back into poverty. What can be done to prevent it? | George Gray Molina, Eduardo Ortiz-Juárez and Alejandro Pacheco

27 Oct 2017

image Right now, 40 percent of the regional population is vulnerable to falling into poverty. Photo: UNDP Haiti

Towards the end of the recent commodity boom four years ago, Latin America had achieved the lowest level of income inequality and poverty. The region added more than 90 million people to a rising middle class that in just ten years, reaching 35% of population. The economic growth was transcendental in those results, both because it promoted a real increase in wages, and because it facilitated a greater volume of social spending. In both cases, the main beneficiaries were low income women, men and children. With the recent regional economic slowdown and contraction, there was a generalized expectation that several of these achievements would reverse or, at least, slow down. Were these fears confirmed? Looking at the overall regional average, the answer is yes. After the boom, a new UNDP study shows that the proportion of people in poverty stagnated between 2013 and 2015—for the first time in more than a decade—and in absolute terms the incidence registered a marginal increase. Given the economic contraction and its influence on poverty, why was the result not as drastic as expected? This question can only be answered if we break down the regional aggregate. For example, a slight increase in poverty figures was only experienced  Read More

Climate action to tackle hurricanes | Mario Peiró

12 Oct 2017

image Recent hurricanes affected up to 20 thousand dwellings in Dominica, housing for approximately 80 percent of the country’s population. UNDP photo

“To deny climate change is to deny a truth we have just lived.” With these words, delivered at the UN General Assembly on 23 September, the Prime Minister of Dominica alluded to the situation in his country in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and María. Four hurricanes rated category 3 or higher, including Irma, with maximum winds of up to 295 km per hour, have travelled the Atlantic in as little as six weeks, and experts warn of the possibility of more such events during this cyclone season. These hurricanes left a tremendous impact on the Caribbean islands. Recent analyses indicate that the impact on Puerto Rico's GDP per capita over the next 15 years may reach 21 percent; 100,000 homes were affected in Cuba; and between 17 thousand and 20 thousand dwellings were affected in Dominica, housing for approximately 80 percent of the country’s population. The infrastructure that was affected reached 92 percent in Sint Maarteen, 90 percent in Dominica and 75 percent in Barbuda, with severe damage also occurring in St. Barts, Anguilla, Saint Martin and the British Virgin Islands. In the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Irma put 24 provinces (a full 75 percent of the country) on red alert.  Read More

The subtle flutter of peace | Pablo Ruiz

04 Oct 2017

image Photo: UNDP Colombia

Recently I was invited by the Government of Colombia to an event in Cesar, in the north of the country, in a beautiful place called La Paz. In the presence of President Juan Manuel Santos, a woman victim of the conflict pointed out some improvements in her community, so subtle, she said, like the flutter of butterflies. I want to briefly outline some of those improvements, inspired by one of the many survivors of the armed conflict. First, Colombia has become a reference for a convulsive world, with thousands of lives saved since the beginning of the peace negotiations. After decades of conflict with the FARC-EP, and indescribable pain, the country has begun to close that chapter of its history. On 15 August, we attended the UN-certified FARC-EP laying down of arms, and on 4 September we celebrated the agreement reached between the Government of Colombia and the National Liberation Army (ELN) to implement a bilateral and temporary ceasefire. How not to contrast this episode with the tragedy of Syria, a country that years ago I visited several times, where the dark side of mankind continues to be on display with terrible consequences. The historic steps in Colombia are triggering a  Read More

Who is Latin America and the Caribbean leaving behind? | Jessica Faieta

14 Aug 2017

image Being a young person, a woman, afro-descendant, indigenous, LGBTI or a person with disabilities affects the opportunities and possibilities of social and economic advancement and access to services in Latin America and the Caribbean, a recent UNDP study shows. Photo: UNDP Peru

Last month at the High Level Political Forum in New York, more than 40 countries - 11 from Latin America and the Caribbean - shared their progress in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), within the new 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The meeting has made evident the region’s political will to adopt and accomplish this universal agenda. Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru and Uruguay presented their progress, along with Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela that shared their reports in 2016. The SDGs recognize the virtue of inclusive, sustainable economic growth that respects the environment and strengthens institutional and regulatory frameworks. The agenda seeks to "leave no one behind," and admits that the market alone does not solve all problems. This is fundamental for our region, the most unequal in the world. During the Forum, the Secretary-General presented his global report on the SDGs, which also shows progress and challenges for Latin America and the Caribbean. Over the past two decades, the region has accomplished extraordinary achievements: the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty (or on less than $ 1.90 per day) fell from 13.9 percent (1999) to 5.4 percent (2013). In addition,  Read More

Every day is our day | Myrna Cunningham

09 Aug 2017

image 9 August is a date to make visible the different realities, histories and struggles of over 370 million men and women from some 5,000 indigenous peoples in the world. Photo: UNDP Peru

When 9 August approaches, as an indigenous woman, I tend to ask myself, what does it mean for there to be an International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on the calendar? If 9 August is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, then what are all the other days? As with many of these celebrations, those of us who belong to the peoples, groups or sectors referred to by these days cannot help but ask this question, whether it is 8 March (International Women’s Day), 1 May (Workers’ Day), or many others. But for indigenous women, every day is our day, because our status as women and as indigenous is permanent. For the men and women of indigenous communities, every day is our day. 9 August is a day about us, but it is particularly relevant for those who still do not see us or do not want to see us, and who refuse to consider us as peoples with all the rights and potential to build a better, just and sustainable world. It is a date to make visible the different realities, histories and struggles of over 370 million men and women from some 5,000 indigenous peoples in the world. 9 August 1982  Read More

Costa Rica paves the way to end single-use plastics | Edgar Gutiérrez, María Esther Anchía and Alice Shackelford

14 Jul 2017

image In Costa Rica, 20 percent of the 4,000 tonnes of solid waste produced daily are not collected. Photo: UNDP

Costa Rica has ambitious and innovative plans to boost gains on the economic and social fronts while protecting the environment. Just a decade ago the country announced that by 2021 it would be carbon neutral. It now announces another goal for the next four years: to be the first country in the world with a comprehensive national strategy to eliminate single-use plastics. It's a win-win for all: Costa Rica, the people and the planet. Although the country has been an example to the world by reversing deforestation and doubling its forest cover from 26 percent in 1984 to more than 52 percent this year, today one fifth of the 4,000 tonnes of solid waste produced daily is not collected and ends up as part of the Costa Rican landscape, also polluting rivers and beaches. Single-use plastics are a problem not only for Costa Rica but also for the whole world. It is estimated that if the current consumption pattern continues, by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish - measured by weight. For this reason, we began our journey to turn Costa Rica into a single-use plastic-free zone. On 5 June, World Environment Day, the country officially  Read More

Why we need to save our ocean now—not later | José Troya

05 Jun 2017

image Latin America and the Caribbean have 746 marine protected areas covering 300,000 km2 and several countries have committed to expanding them. Photo: UNDP Dominican Republic.

What if the blue fades away as seawaters become brown and coral reefs become white as marine grasslands wither and life below water vanishes? This is already happening at a staggering rate. It’s a lose-lose for all: people and planet. Fish stocks are declining. Around 80 percent of fishing is either collapsing or just fully exploited. The ocean is also being polluted at an alarming rate. Fertilizer run-off and 10 to 20 million metric tons of plastic debris enter the oceans each year and destroy biodiversity and ecosystems. At this rate the number of dead zones will increase and by the year 2050 the oceans could contain more plastic than fish, measured by weight. If we don’t take action now this trend may become irreversible. Recognizing this urgency, country representatives will gather at the Ocean Conference, 5 to 9 June at the UN headquarters in New York to address marine pollution, declining fisheries, loss of coastal and marine habitat and the vanishing life below water. The Conference will focus will be on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. This SDG along with 16 others compose the sustainable development agenda globally  Read More

Tobacco: a threat to our oceans | Roy Small

31 May 2017

image Cigarette filters are comprised of thousands of chemical ingredients, including arsenic, lead, nicotine and ethyl phenol, all of which leak into aquatic environments. Photo: flickr.com/photos/aceofknaves/

In the run up to the Ocean Conference in June, this blog series explores issues related to oceans, seas, marine resources and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life below water. Ask the person behind you what the public health enemy number one is. Chances are the answer will be tobacco. And for good reasons. Smoking, including secondhand smoke, kills more than 7 million people each year, most in the prime of their lives. Less well-known are tobacco’s negative impacts on sustainable development, including on oceanic systems. Yes, you read that right – tobacco is a significant threat to our oceans. Each year, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide, by far the most littered item, with a significant percentage finding their way into our oceans and onto our shores. The problem is only likely to get worse, particularly as smoking rates continue to escalate in many low- and middle-income countries. This “last socially acceptable form of littering” is far more than just an unpleasant aesthetic. Cigarette filters are comprised of thousands of chemical ingredients, including arsenic, lead, nicotine and ethyl phenol, all of which leak into aquatic environments. In one lab study, the leachate from just one cigarette butt, placed into no more than one litre of water,  Read More

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