From gender equality to human rights, climate change to economic empowerment, we covered a lot of ground this year. But of course one topic was on everyone’s mind: the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s a clear indicator of how the pandemic and its impacts spread across all of our work here at UNDP.

Here’s a look back at our thoughts on Covid-19 and its relationship to everything from biodiversity to innovation.

12. The coronavirus pandemic has created a “perfect storm” for core government functions
by Irakli Kotetishvili, Anti-corruption and public administration policy specialist

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11. Is the climate crisis partly responsible for the coronavirus outbreak?
Armen Grigoryan, Team Leader, Climate change and disaster risk reduction; Cansu Demir, Climate change and disaster risk reduction…


by Ainura Bekkoenova, Zana Idrizi

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The pandemic has worsened inequalities across the globe. Photo: UNDP Eurasia / Danil Usmanov

The severe impact of the pandemic across the globe has exposed flaws of social, economic and political models, challenged our societies, tested our collective humanity, and aggravated inequalities. As the lack of social protection measures persisted, pre-existing inequalities, injustices and gaps in human rights protection have become more pronounced.

As the pandemic rages on, here are four areas of growing concern for human rights.

1. Weakening democratic practices

The often strong measures imposed to control the spread of COVID-19, such as movement restrictions and states of emergency, raised serious challenges regarding the functioning of good government, its relationship with its citizenry, as well as the protection of fundamental freedoms. …


by Kristina Jazinka Nikolic, Head of Experimentation at the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Serbia

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The StartIT co-working space in Belgrade, Serbia. Photo courtesy StartIT

Digital nomads are people who choose where they live and work, since their employment is mainly virtual, changing locations often. Their jobs cover a wide range from graphic design, digital marketing and writing to blockchain, e-commerce and programming.

At UNDP Serbia’s Accelerator Lab, we became interested in digital nomads because we have been working on understanding the topic of depopulation in Serbia for a while.

Depopulation is a global issue affecting a range of countries across the globe, some aspects of which are low birth rate, high emigration and no immigration. As a complex and multidimensional challenge, it can’t be solved with a single solution but needs a package of cross-cutting tools and answers.


5 key areas to pay close attention in the 2020 Kyrgyz elections

by Louise Chamberlain, UNDP Resident Representative to the Kyrgyz Republic

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A woman votes in the 2017 Kyrgyz presidential elections. Photos: UNDP Kyrgyzstan

Boasting a reputation as the only parliamentary democracy in Central Asia and a country with considerable freedom of speech, Kyrgyzstan is approaching its next elections on 4 October. The campaign period leading up to the polls on is dynamic, and competition among the 16 registered parties intense.

With only three decades since independence, Kyrgyzstan does not have a long democratic tradition. The early years post independence involved a period of turmoil and complex social, economic and political changes, leading to revolutions in 2005 and 2010 to a second revolution and tragic events of ethnic violence. …


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UNDP Kyrgyzstan’s Aid for Trade program is working to develop a tourism industry in places like Alatay Lake. Photo: UNDP Kyrgyzstan.

Over the last few years, Kyrgyzstan has been working on making itself a destination sought after by travelers. The idea is to appeal to adventure seekers, not just those interested in a trip around the countryside. The natural environment is stunning, and the landscapes provide spectacular and intense hiking, rafting and mountaineering possibilities. They have not been promoted the way other more popular “adventure” destinations have been, but throw in historical caravanserai, equestrian traditions and a unique cuisine and you have quite a destination.

Tourism’s share of the country’s 2019 GDP was 5 percent: the export of services amounted to US$613 million, imports of $379 million. …


by Dafina Gercheva, Resident Representative at UNDP Ukraine

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Animation: Sera Sezer / UNDP

Editor’s note: As we move from immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic to talking about recovery, we are given a chance to return with a greener, more sustainable future — one that will require all hands on deck, from the citizen to the business to the government. UNDP Ukraine has been working on just such an initiative for renewable energy and it can serve as a lesson for others to take as they start looking towards post-crisis response.

New inequalities are being triggered by technology and climate change, and they are increasingly determining people’s opportunities in the 21st century. These two seismic shifts, if left without a response, could undermine democracy and jeopardize sustainable development. …


Hong Kong graffitti: ‘There can be no return to normal, because normal was a problem in the first place’

by Millie Begovic, Global Innovation Advisor a.i. at UNDP, and Lejla Sadiku, Innovation Specialist at UNDP

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This is the dawn of a new era, one of radical uncertainty where control doesn’t exist. Can the development sector reform itself fast enough to turn the pandemic response into more resilient systems? Can we leverage new capabilities to decrease likelihood of and exposure to similar shocks?

The COVID-19 is evolving into a long-term emergency, unlike any other that the modern world has experienced before (even though it was an entirely predicted and fully ignored — a ‘white swan’ event). Its effects will manifest differently relative to countries’ ability to cope.

Those reliant on remittances, export of primary resources and foreign investments, SMEs and service sectors coupled with high degrees of informality, weak public services and limited fiscal space are likely to suffer a confluence of factors leading to a deep recession and devastating development effects . The UN has called on a $2.5 …


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Photo: Mahmut Serdar ALAKUŞ / UNDP Turkey

The first three minutes are critical in responding to forest fires.

An effective response is affected by the distance of units, changes in the wind, efficiency of helicopters, the water levels in the pools and maybe most importantly, the preparedness of the response team.

Roughly 28 percent of Turkey’s surface is covered with forests, and people live and work in them. These forests are valuable and in danger of seasonal and human-made forest fires. Raising awareness, decreasing response time to fires, capacity building — all of these are important in creating an efficient plan to combat fires. …


by Gerd Trogemann, Manager of UNDP’s Istanbul Regional Hub, and Lejla Sadiku, Innovation Specialist for UNDP Eurasia

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A highly-instagrammed street in Istanbul stands shuttered and empty.

In ”The Plague”, Camus asks if suffering can exist not in individuals but as a shared experience in the public. Crisis, he writes, upends existing social order and induces paradigm shifts.

This pandemic is a global paradigm shift . A shift that impacts all aspects of societies globally and all dimensions of sustainable development, a shift that exposes systemic interconnectedness for everyone to see and that bursts silos and boundaries — sectoral, institutional or even national. Much like climate change.

But this pandemic brings an immediate, direct and personal sense of urgency to everyone. …


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Photos: Ion Buga / UNDP Moldova

Angela Radita’s first encounter with discrimination was sudden and stinging. An avid student who stayed up late to read by candlelight before she had electricity, she had finished college and applied for a librarian’s post but was rejected because she belongs to the Roma minority.

“If something new comes up, I’ll let you know,’ the hiring manager told her. “But now we have no available places.”

“To this day, I’ve never worked as a librarian. I had studied and worked hard, but it wasn’t enough,” says Angela (49), local councillor, community mediator and social activist. “I just cried. …

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