A sole woman at the negotiating table for peace

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Shadia Marhaban, President of the Aceh Women’s League (LINA), speaks to reporters after participating in a closed, informal (known as “Arria Formula”) meeting of the Security Council commemorating International Women’s Day, on the role of women in mediation and conflict resolution. 8 March 2012. Photo: United Nations

Dialogue, mediation and negotiation are elegant words to describe ways to resolve conflicts. I was part of such a peace process that produced an agreement to end a 30 year bloody conflict between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). That was almost ten years ago. Then and now, women are rarely seen in this peace negotiation arena, often because they are not typically part of the parties in conflict. They are also not perceived as adequately prepared for tackling "tough" issues like peace and security. Despite recent international obligations to include women in peace processes, reality has not kept pace with rhetoric. My own presence, as a lone woman among "tough" men who had been at the helm of the struggle for independence for decades was unique. As a woman, and a mother of two children, one of whom is severely autistic; I did not push to go to Helsinki for the peace talks, as it meant leaving my two small children. As fate would have it, the official negotiators were arrested on the way to the airport and sentenced to jail and exiled to the prison island of Nusakambangan off Java. By default,... Read more

Building a culture of peace in the Philippines

  "We have to teach peace to build a culture of peace. We have to build a culture of peace to create different generations of peace builders toward our goal of a just and peaceful society starting from the formative years of a child." This has always been my belief to be able to break the vicious cycle of a conflict. I am a Muslim from Lanao del Sur with underlying roots from Bulacan from the Philippines, because of my mother. Her side of the family are all Christians, while my father's side are all Muslims. My sister and I have lived our lives studying and learning about both religions and our families' culture, tradition and diverse backgrounds. I belong to a family with one of my uncles being part of the Moro National Liberation Front (MLNF), fighting for peace and development for the Bangsamoro People and a family of peace mediators who have always been trusted by the community to resolve issues and reach peaceful settlements. But my formative years were spent far from here, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Yet, I could not escape conflict and violence. All of us have our own nightmares and dark stories to tell. Mine... Read more

Why women matter for peace

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Committed to the improvement of women’s rights in Nepal at all levels, Shashi Kumary Adhikary (centre in the photo) organized awareness and legal education programs at the village level.

"It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern wars." These are not the words of a woman who has faced the violence and ferocity of conflict, but words of Major General Patrick Cammaert, who served as the Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The nature of modern conflicts has changed: almost 90 percent of casualties are civilian, of which the most vulnerable are women. As witnesses and victims to conflict, they are overlooked as participants to peace processes. They are too often sidelined in dialogues and negotiations on peace and security, arenas still seen by much of the world as the domain of men, with the association of guns, money and power. What is often disregarded is how much women know about conflict, and therefore how much they can contribute to peace. Women experience war differently than men. They are victims of sexual violence, often used as a systematic tool of war, which has lasting impact on their lives and the lives of their families and communities long after the war is over. Women can bring new understanding of a conflict, and with it, insights... Read more

How citizen-led data is supporting policies in Viet Nam

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Provinces across Viet Nam are now starting to shape their policies in response to priorities and experiences that citizens report in UNDP Annual PAPI Survey. Photo: UNDP

The relationship between governments and citizens has undergone a sea-change in most developing countries in the last decade, riding a tide of economic aspirations that are swelling the ranks of the middle class. Viet Nam is no exception. There seems to be a general rule of thumb: the more prosperous and educated citizens become, the more they want efficient and accountable governments.   Citizen-led monitoring and accountability are emerging as key features of the new Post-2015 development agenda as a means of enabling citizens to define the issues they believe should be prioritized in the development process. They are also vital if governments, both local and central, are to be held to account. With Viet Nam’s entry into the club of middle-income countries, citizens are increasingly demanding a public administration system that promotes equitable development, and spreads the dividends of prosperity across an ever-widening sphere. Citizens expect greater participation in the decision-making processes of public policies, as well as in their implementation and monitoring. It was in this context of increasing demands for greater citizens’ voice in government affairs that UNDP Viet Nam and its national partners looked for innovative ways for the government and citizens to better communicate with each other.... Read more

How can mega-cities innovate to reduce traffic congestion?

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Infrastructure can't keep up as the number of cars on the streets of the Bangladeshi capital increase at breakneck speed, slowing traffic to a crawl. Photo: Mohammad Asad/UNDP

How do the 15 million residents of the Bangladeshi capital get to work? ‘Slowly’ is the answer. It’s common for a short commute across Dhaka (let’s say 7km) to take longer than an hour through perpetually gridlocked traffic. Transport is a big problem for anyone who needs to move about in this mega-city and it affects all residents rich and poor alike, stealing their time and exposing them to unnecessary pollution and stress everyday. Dhaka’s now infamous traffic jams keeps people from their families and has been equated to a loss of 3.86BUSD in productivity each year. That’s 3.3 percent of 2012 GDP!  So we thought us boffins at the UNDP should look into doing something about it. Now we’re avid (sometimes fanatical) supporters of public transport and cycling here at the UNDP. In fact in the last few years, cycling’s caught on massively among young people! So the solution to us was clear, let’s install bus and bike lanes. Easy, jobs done we can all go home! Right? WRONG! If that’s all it took to fix Dhaka’s choked transport system it would have been done long ago. We quickly recognized that other organizations and people, many smarter than us, have... Read more