Our Perspective

The “bagong bayani” of the Philippines

30 Dec 2016

By Titon Mitra Sit at any airport in the Philippines and you can palpably feel the pulse of Filipino migration.  Overseas workers saying goodbye to their loved ones or returning home to be greeted by an ecstatic family.  Every year since 2010, the number of Filipinos leaving the Philippines to work abroad has increased – from 1.4 million in 2010 to 1.8 million in 2015.  Today, approximately 10.2 million Filipinos are living and working in more than 200 countries and territories.   With remittances expected to reach USD 28 billion (P1.4 trillion) for 2016, the equivalent of 10% of GDP, the contribution of overseas Filipinos to the Philippine economy is unquestionable.  About 20% of all households in the Philippines receive these remittances.  Migration has brought immense benefits.  One does not have to look far to see the family being supported through remittances that meet their daily needs, pay for their education and health costs, build their houses and provide for the capital to start small businesses.    Filipino migrants also make a considerable contribution to the social and economic landscape in their host countries.  They are the thousands of skilled nurses and medical personnel who support the national health services in  Read More

The privilege of observing South-South at a junction

18 Nov 2016


By Enrico Gaveglia Deputy Country Director, UNDP Philippines   As I walk out of my meeting with a delegation of high-level representatives from the Cambodian National League of Local Councils and the National Association of Capital and Provincial Councils that recently visited the Philippines to meet their counterparts, I was again reminded why South-South cooperation remains relevant – even more so perhaps – these days. The exchange between the Philippines and Cambodia was aiming to trigger the sharing of best practices, exchange of ideas for resolving practical development issues and offer valuable peer to peer experience between two southern countries. UNDP is privileged to be able to connect and facilitate roles to steering South-South cooperation initiatives. For this visit of Cambodian delegates, UNDP has assisted local civil servants to elevate their daily, at times inward looking work, to an international platform of dialogue. With the support of the European Union, UNDP in Cambodia is implementing the Associations of Councils Enhanced Services Project and the initiative is attempting to turn the Cambodian associations of sub-national councils into effective organizations able to efficiently represent the interests of their members and provide services to them. As I am plunging into the Philippines context, I  Read More

Courage of Conviction

28 Sep 2016

  By: Titon Mitra   This week, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and rebel leader Timochenko inked a peace deal that potentially has brought the last of the major Cold War conflicts to an end.  It was perhaps the one positive in otherwise a largely desultory year for world peace.  It underlined that long running conflicts can be resolved if there is courage of conviction.   In the Philippines, arguably, the prospects for peace following decades of conflict is perhaps closer than ever before, precisely because there is courage of conviction.  A President from Mindanao with a deep understanding of centuries of injustice, an affinity and empathy borne out of blood ties to the Moros, the political will, and the means to deliver by virtue of a super majority in the legislature, gives cause for great optimism.  He has set out a clear road map to close the deal on the various peace processes – with the Communist and Moro insurgents. There is indeed a palpable sense of urgency and momentum in the air.    As in Colombia however, closing denotes not the end of the endeavor but rather the beginning of another critical phase.  President Santos remarked that the signing  Read More

Investing in biodiversity is investing in our future

20 May 2016


By: Titon Mitra As presumptive President Duterte’s agenda is progressively developed, International Biodiversity Day offers a timely reminder of the importance of effective management of a country’s natural wealth. Few places in the world are as rich in biodiversity as the Philippines: considered as one of 18 mega-biodiverse countries, harboring more diversity of life per hectare than any other country in the world. This immense natural wealth (and it is a remarkable asset) is however at significant risk. Over exploitation and unsustainable practices, encroachment in forested areas, pollution, over-fishing, poor land management practices, and natural disasters exacerbated by climate change are contributing significantly to an alarming rate of biodiversity loss. So what’s at stake? Some 52,000 recorded plant and animal species (the Philippines ranks fifth globally in the number of plant species). A total of 464 reef-building coral species or nearly half of all known coral species in the world. An estimated 10,000 aquatic species or approximately one fifth of all known species globally. In fact, the country’s marine waters are seen as the epicenter of marine biodiversity on earth.   Worryingly, this natural abundance is now on a watch-list of biodiversity hot spots.  The Philippines has at least 700 species  Read More

Decent Work Opportunities Central to Achieving Inclusive Growth in Asia and the Pacific

18 Jan 2016


By Selim Jahan, Director of the Human Development Report Office and lead author of the 2015 Human Development Report The 2015 Human Development Report (HDR) considers major changes in the world of work, affecting when, how, and where people work. Technological progress, deepening globalization, aging societies and environmental challenges are transforming work, posing challenges to all societies and with deep implications for human development. The report urges societies  to act now to prevent widening inequalities, emanating from these challenges. For Asia and the Pacific, a region that is home to two-thirds of the world’s working-age population, the availability and quality of work becomes central to ensuring the human development progress. In fact, as the report highlights, the region may have been experiencing fast growth and rapid human development, but not necessarily fast job creation. Unless action is taken, many people, particularly those already marginalized, might be left behind. A closer look at the region’s human development and work-related indicators reveals significant diversities from country to country. For instance, the 2015 Report shows that at the global level East Asia and the Pacific has the third highest Human Development Index (HDI) , while South Asia is second from bottom. And youth unemployment ranges  Read More

Op-ed: Paris and its climate legacy for future generations

29 Nov 2015


By: Titon Mitra* As world leaders converge on Paris from 30 November to 11 December, the importance of arriving at an ambitious yet implementable agreement on climate change action has been graphically underlined by the fact that, based on UK Met Office data for 2015, for the first time, global mean temperature at the Earth's surface will have reached 1°C above pre-industrial levels (data from January to September shows 2015 global mean temperature at 1.02 °C [±0.11°C] above pre-industrial levels). We are already experiencing the adverse impacts of a warming climate: 14 of the hottest summers since 2000; rising sea levels; changing rainfall patterns; increased droughts; and more erratic and destructive storms. Only those who choose to willfully ignore the ample scientific evidence available – and the disturbing news coverage we see regularly - can deny that climate change induced by human actions is happening and its consequences are indeed very dangerous. The Paris agreement will require compromise and importantly a recognition that the burden to take action will fall disproportionately between the developed and developing world. The key principle that has to be adopted with genuine commitment is that of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”.  This means that  Read More

A Historic Opportunity for Lasting Peace I Ola Almgren

18 Sep 2015

image School children in the ‘School of Peace’ in Manila de Bugabos, Agusan del Norte are taught about peace. (Photo: MP Duran/ UNDP Philippines)

The Philippines faces a historical moment. Legislation can be passed that will put the Philippines on the path to sustained peace and inclusive development ending decades of conflict and marginalization in the proposed Bangsamoro. The Constitution of the Philippines mandates a unitary state to drive development in the interests of all Filipinos. At the same time, the Constitution holds out the promise of meaningful autonomy for Muslim Mindanao and for the Cordilleras. In doing so, it seeks to balance the prerogatives of a unitary state with historical aspirations of unique identity groups who form part of the diverse mosaic of Filipino society.  It is not an easy balance to find, and many countries—both developed and developing—are still grappling with the challenge. However, there is ample experience of successful efforts to achieve lasting peace and inclusive development through autonomy, including as seen in the Northern Ireland, Aceh and Bouganville peace agreements.  Autonomy granted in such diverse situations as Quebec (Canada), Scotland (United Kingdom) and Catalonia (Spain) offer further pointers. First, autonomy can be meaningful. Autonomous regional governments exist that consolidate and re-allocate the powers and resources of all sub-units within their territory. Without this power, they cannot reflect the voice and aspirations  Read More

Where are we with the Yolanda Recovery?

10 Aug 2015

image UNDP is helping communities in Yolanda-affected areas restore mangrove forests as a disaster risk reduction effort.

By Titon Mitra*   There is an enduring adage that ‘the whole is only the sum of its parts’. Recent Press and commentary on the statement of Professor Beyani, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, underlines the problems with highlighting certain issues in the absence of the whole.  Beyani was complementary about the Yolanda recovery and rehabilitation efforts.  He commended the institutional and policy structures and frameworks that have been put in place, noting that the Philippines has much valuable experience that should be shared internationally.  This is a view UNDP shares. Our then Senior Recovery Coordinator said that from his experience in many different disasters, he had never seen a recovery happen so quickly and so effectively. But there is no question that significant challenges remain to be resolved in areas affected by Yolanda.  This is neither surprising nor unusual.  Remember that 2 years following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was in far worse shape.  Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, 230,000 people today are still in temporary shelters.  Clearly the baseline in the Visayas (and for that matter nationally) relating to economic development, infrastructure, local capacity, financial resources, systems and processes for emergency and  Read More

What needs to happen now? | Interview with Sanny Jegillos

18 Dec 2013

image A UNDP cash-for-work crew clears debris from Tacloban's Barangay (village) 88. UNDP operates cash-for-work projects focused on removing debris and restoring livelihoods. These employment schemes bridge the transition between the humanitarian phase and reconstruction. (Photo: OCHA/Jose Reyna)

Q: What needs to happen now in the areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)? A: We have to keep in mind that humanitarian needs persist, even as recovery efforts proceed in many locations. To get lives back on track, the means of livelihoods and family incomes must be restored, houses rebuilt, local infrastructure fixed. So, shelter and livelihoods remain a significant priority for the humanitarian community to get people back on their feet. Challenges over the coming months will involve reopening damaged schools and public buildings, and restoring services. Farmers will need seeds and other support in order to replant rice crops before the rains begin. There is much work to be done and the road to recovery will also need to be a road to building resilience. Q: Can you give me examples of resilience measures? A: Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction start at understanding the nature of the hazards that pose danger and the shocks that affect the recovery of the affected population. It is important that UNDP supports risk assessments that can provide evidence on building codes, on safe locations of important and critical infrastructure, and on government policy, such as “No Build Zones”. While risk assessments  Read More

1,000 days to MDGs deadline; options for PH | Luiza Carvalho

26 Apr 2013

image The Philippines must now focus on accelerating and intensifying efforts to reduce maternal mortality, one of the MDGs least likely to be achieved. The country must also increase access to universal primary education, reduce income poverty and vulnerable employment by half, and reverse the rising trend of HIV/AIDS. (Photo: UNICEF Philippines)

The countdown to the last 1,000 days to the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has begun. On April 5, the world marked the beginning of the critical last mile of the MDGs.  Launched in 2000 with the signing of the Millennium Declaration by 189 UN member-countries, the MDGs became the global agenda for development at the start of the new century. Being time-bound and measurable, the MDGs have made a difference and changed the way of achieving development objectives.  The 8 MDGs are: the halving of extreme poverty and hunger, universal primary education, gender equality, reduction of child mortality, improved women's health, stoppage and reversal of the spread of TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability, and global partnerships for aid, trade and debt relief. The MDGs are measured against 18 targets and 60 indicators. Twelve years hence, the MDGs have shown successes in mobilizing the global community into achieving its targets. As of the 2012 Global MDGs Progress Report, 4 targets have been achieved. First, the global target of halving extreme poverty from its 1990 level has been reached, equivalent to 600 million people.  The 2012 progress report notes that for the first time since poverty trends began  Read More