Voices from Eurasia

7 things we learned about tackling displacement in the Western Balkans

20 Jun 2017 by Susanna Dakash, Youth and Civic Engagement Consultant, UNDP Europe and Central Asia

A refugee family in fYR Macedonia. Photo: UNHCR
In 2015, 900,000 refugees and migrants crossed through Southeast Europe in the largest displacement of people since World War II. Many crossed from Greece to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia on their way to northern Europe. Most towns on that route were taken by surprise. Many didn’t have the doctors, food stocks, waste capacity, or sufficient housing to handle hundreds of thousands of additional people. Their whole approach to planning was suddenly upended. And many refugees ended up staying for months. Displacement in this region is not a new phenomenon. But over the last two years, we’ve learned a great deal about how to deal not just with the humanitarian side of displacement, but with the long-term impact. … Read more

Saving the Black Sea monster

06 Jun 2017 by Olena Marushevska, Communications, EMBLAS, UNDP Georgia/UNDP Ukraine

The Black Sea has always made my imagination go wild. Its darkness is unlike any other sea, so you can only imagine what is happening at the bottom of it. In my childhood, I believed a mythical deep-water creature lived in there, breathing with the waves, powerful and moody. The sea lit up in the dark. And when the monster’s mood turned, animals were sometimes thrown out of the water. Seeing now the latest scientific research from our environment project, I fear for this powerful monster. Our Black Sea is at risk. Its biodiversity will die a slow death if no actions are taken to protect it from human activity. Despite all recent efforts to clean up the Black Sea, wastewater is still pouring in from all coastal regions, according to a recent survey I was lucky enough to work on. Medical waste such as paracetamol, but also caffeine, sun lotion components, pesticides and flame retardants make up a deadly cocktail that’s been poisoning the fish, molluscs and algae. … Read more

Can parliaments transform societies?

22 May 2017 by Jonathan Murphy, Senior Advisor, Parliamentary Development, UNDP Ukraine

Parliaments are at the heart of many debates on how to make democracies work. Yet in many countries they rank near the bottom of all institutions trusted by the public. In only four of 15 established democracies in the Europe and Central Asia region did at least half of voters express trust in parliament. Parliaments are often the only national institutions directly elected by citizens. By definition, then, parliaments hold the heart of citizens’ hopes for representative, effective, transparent, democracies. Parliaments are the place where diverse views are expressed, and where decisions are reached collectively. They debate and vote state budgets, ensuring these are invested in the right areas, and spent effectively. … Read more

How can we promote respect for LGBTI rights in Albania?

21 Apr 2017 by Nora Kushti, Communication & Advocacy Expert, UNDP & UN Albania

Gay Pride Parade in Tirana. Photo: UNDP Albania
Since the political and social transformation of the ‘90s, Albania has been working to put in place a system to secure human rights for all. As a candidate country for EU membership, one of the five priorities set for Albania entails re-formulation of the Criminal Code provisions regarding hate speech, discrimination, as well as the amendment of the Family Code. Among measures undertaken to comply with EU requirements is the adoption by Parliament of a comprehensive non-discrimination law that includes the protection of sexual orientation and gender identity. But in my country, implementation of laws is always under constant need of improvement. … Read more

How do you inspire entrepreneurship in a conflict-affected region?

12 Apr 2017 by Janthomas Hiemstra, UNDP Ukraine Country Director and Sofiya Oshchebska, National Coordinator - Crowdfunding Academy, UNDP Ukraine

Pavlo, 71, is a, blacksmith from Lugansk and will open his new workshop in Kharkiv region. Photo: UNDP Ukraine
The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has not only disrupted everyday life in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, but also led to staggering unemployment. Out of 23 major enterprises in Luhansk region, 19 are currently not operating, while half of the enterprises in Donetsk region have lost about 950,000 jobs. Supporting employment is challenging in the best of circumstances, and far more so in conflict situations. How do you talk about the benefits of entrepreneurship to people who lost everything and, after being displaced, are just trying to find their place in a new community? At UNDP Ukraine’s Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, we have an ambitious goal: to promote entrepreneurship in Donbas, inspire people who worked all their life in mines and factories to step in the unsure path of entrepreneurship, and make them believe in themselves and their country again. So we decided to start by showing the joy of creating and developing your own business through the stories of ordinary people. Stories of people like us who, despite all the difficulties, have succeeded. … Read more

Being intersex is hard, our silence makes it harder

07 Apr 2017 by Seda Karaca and John Macauley

The global silence around intersex lives reflects negatively on the mental health of intersex individuals and communities. A few weeks ago, during our sub-regional dialogue on #BeingLGBTI, we met Kris, an intersex and a trans person and an activist from Serbia, working actively on LGBTI rights issues. Kris has an intimate understanding of issues faced by intersex people and their families both through his personal experiences and professional work. One of the biggest obstacles for Kris has been to find people who are not traumatized enough to open up and talk about their experiences. In Kristian’s experience, there have been virtually no social support groups that would help him and other intersex individuals feel less isolated. That’s why these days he is part of an organisation providing support for LGBTI people. … Read more

20 years of mine action progress, but not yet in the clear

03 Apr 2017 by Olaf Juergensen, Mine Action and Development Specialist, UNDP Eurasia

deminers in Bosnia Deminers at work in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo: UNDP Bosnia and Herzegovina
My earliest personal encounter with landmines occurred in Mozambique in 1994, shortly after its brutal 17-year civil war came to end. I was conducting research in a remote district of Tete Province, close to the Malawi border, to learn how communities remaining in the country coped with the daily threats of violence and deprivation. The war created 2 million refugees and 5 million internally displaced persons. With the peace agreement holding, people slowly returned home to begin the difficult work of rebuilding their lives. But they were greeted by an estimated 2 million landmines. I travelled many of same routes as the returnees and often wondered about the presence of mines, but lacking awareness, I didn’t alter my routine or attitude to the risks. After an accident involving a truck in a WFP convoy that struck an anti-vehicle mine only 100 metres from a food distribution point, I realized the risks. … Read more

When it comes to the lives of LGBTI people, dialogue can save lives

21 Mar 2017 by Seda Karaca and John Macauley

gay pride tiranaEven though progress is on its way, many LGBTI members suffer discrimination across the region. Photo: Albinfo/Wikipedia
It is not news that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people face discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity around the world. The situation is no better in Eastern Europe. Opinion survey from Western Balkans conducted in 2015 reveals staggering results: 50 percent of the respondents think “a child cannot become gay in normal families”;25 percent of the surveyed say “gay people are no better than criminals”; More than 50 percent perceive homosexuality as a sickness; Around 30 percent admit that they would stop communication after discovering a friend to be LGBTI. There have been several attacks against gay men in Prishtina. In 2016, 5 attacks happened in a row in Belgrade against LGBTI persons, including a prominent activist. It’s worth noting that only two of these attacks were reported to the police. This raises the issue of lack of trust in authorities among LGBTI communities. … Read more

Can we track disasters before they happen?

17 Mar 2017 by Aida Hadzic-Hurem, UNDP BiH, Disaster Risk Reduction Project Manager

disaster mitigation - BiHHave you tried DRAS? Check it out and let us know what you think in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.
In May 2014, Bosnia and Herzegovina was hit by devastating floods causing loss of human life, and damages and losses of 2 billion EUR. In the midst of the tragedy, all of us were proud of the exceptional assistance that UNDP provided to the ones that needed it the most. Our staff worked tirelessly and efficiently to deliver much needed relief, putting in place recovery programs worth close to 80 million USD. As UNDP, we also used the momentum to start creating awareness that poor development decisions can worsen the impact of disasters. Disaster Risk Analysis System (DRAS) was hence born out of the understanding that disaster risk management cannot happen with civil protection measures alone. … Read more

Eating an elephant in Bosnia & Herzegovina

02 Mar 2017 by Envesa Hodzic-Kovac, Development Research and M&E Specialist, UNDP Bosnia and Herzegovina

Eating an elephant - BiHThe Little Prince knew a thing or two about how elephants get eaten.
  “How do you eat an elephant? One spoonful at a time.” So the joke goes. With any undertaking whose size and proportions are immense, where to start can be daunting. Like the Sustainable Development Goals — an ambitious set of goals agreed to by UN Members States that establishes milestones of growth & equality for our planet. No poverty. Zero hunger. Reduced inequalities. Sustainable cities, climate action, decent work. All by 2030. All ambitious. Demanding that different entities of the UN work together in new ways. How do you prioritise different aspects of human development – all urgent, all long-term issues that cannot be solved with short-fixes? You need to have a plan. You need to know where to start. You need to inspire individual action, communal action, citizen action. But how do you exactly get people on board for a complex agenda like this one? And in my case, how do you do it in a complex administrative set-up such as that of Bosnia and Herzegovina? One spoonful at a time: Use strategic foresight In Bosnia and Herzegovina, to start getting our heads around the 2030 Agenda, we needed a participatory planning process. We needed a forward-looking approach that … Read more