Our Perspective

      • Meeting Jane Goodall

        21 Nov 2014


        By Patrick Haverman - It was a pleasure and a privilege that this weekend I had the enormous honor to meet one of my personal heroes in life, Dr. Jane Goodall. In 2003 I was living in Tanzania when I undertook the journey to see where Dr. Goodall had lived for a couple of years conducting her research with the chimpanzees. I remember that the train was delayed by 6 hours before we even left the Dar es Salaam station on the first stage of the long journey towards Kigoma. However, after the train eventually arrived we took a short boat ride to Gombe National Park and a firm hike up into the hills, then suddenly heard the chimpanzees right there in the bushes. What an experience to meet the chimpanzees from a reasonably close distance, so close to nature that you realize how beautiful nature can be and feel more connected with and understanding of nature, as well as our human’s own place in it. Since then, after reading Dr. Goodall’s books and following a bit about what she was doing over the years, she was definitely in my list of top 10 most admired people. And so it was  Read More

      • Making APEC Blue Go Global

        16 Nov 2014


        By Hannah Ryder - This month, I had my first visitor to Beijing. My mother-in-law joined me for ten days. Luckily enough, we get on very well, so we had a great time. I prepared a packed itinerary covering her two weekends here, and she was very independent, so she was able to see the best the city has to offer. And she was gracious enough to show an interest in what I am doing in China so joined me for a few events that the UN and others in the diplomatic community were hosting. Though she was quite an important visitor for me, it was impossible to miss that Beijing was also hosting some other important visitors - the Leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Council (APEC). I say impossible because Beijing made some serious efforts to prepare for their arrival. "APEC Blue"  was what all Beijingers were calling the beautiful skies we saw last week, thanks to temporary regulations that cut traffic and shut down factories nearby and closed schools and government offices, combined with the general fact that Beijing winters are fairly dry. The vendor I often get my fruit from on the street on the way home  Read More

      • Prize Challenges to ‘Crowdsource’ Innovative Ideas for Development?

        12 Nov 2014


        By Patrick Haverman - Last month I opened a workshop alongside China's National Centre for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation (NCSC) and the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) on prize challenges for reductions in carbon emissions. The concept of Prize Challenges is an interesting one, as I’ve often wondered why it is we as civil servants (international ones from the UN as well as our national counterparts) are expected to have all the answers to today’s complex problems when there’s a whole nation of intelligent, informed and engaged people out there. With the UNDP China carefully exploring the area of prize challenges, we will be working with the Chinese Centre of Comparative Politics and Economics (CCCPE) on the China Social Innovation Prize for 2014. Currently all COSs in China are encouraged to submit proposals for this Social Innovation Prize when in December the jury will select 5 winners for a special UNDP prize category; we hope to select those CSOs whose proposals link well to our long-term ongoing projects with the Ministry of Civil Affairs in strengthening civil society. Ideally these new initiatives can be closely linked to those of the ministry and scaled up to  Read More

      • More Action-Oriented Development?

        28 Oct 2014


        By Patrick Haverman -  I read recently in a Dutch newspaper a story about the latest management book to be published: “Hell Week” by Erik Bertrand Larssen from Norway. The practices described in the book aim to make your life hell for one week and by doing so learn new things and gain new insights. Curious as I am I bought the book and started my own hell week, getting up every day at 5am and going to sleep at 10pm - except for Thursday night when there wasn’t any sleep at all… Every day has a theme: Monday’s is ‘break your habit’, Tuesday is ‘focus’, Wednesday is ‘time management’, Thursday is ‘out of the comfort zone’, Friday you can have ‘rest and recuperation’ and Saturday ‘internal dialogue’ with Sunday being given over to ‘perspective’. The fact that every day has a theme can put you to thinking seriously for 24 hours about a topic. Seeing as it’s a bit of theory and then actual practice for a whole 24 hours, this is much longer than any chapter in a management book! It also includes all the normal stuff: eat healthily, move, do sports, move again! Of course you have heard this  Read More

      • Training as if China isn’t a Country

        09 Oct 2014

        One continent, many countries: Credit: 玖巧仔, 2009

        By Hannah Ryder -  Africa isn’t a country.  It’s an obvious statement but a while back, even American Vice President Joe Bidden forgot it when he said: “There's no reason the nation of Africa cannot and should not join the ranks of the world's most prosperous nations”. Having worked in development for over ten years now, I think recognizing the wealth of diversity across the African continent - different languages, cultures, economics – is key.  There is no way you can understand the different problems facing the continent – and required solutions – unless you recognize its wealth of diversity. But working in China I now have the complete opposite problem: I now have to remind myself that while China is indeed a country, its scale and experience is not like that of any other country. China is almost a continent. For example, by 2015, China is projected to have 3000 kilometers of urban rail networks, and by 2020, 5000. That’s half the size of East Africa’s entire rail network – urban and rural, let alone just in cities.  Over the next 10-12 years, the population of rural to urban migrants within China is forecast to be almost the size of  Read More

      • UNDP China - Walk the Walk on Climate Change Mitigation

        07 Oct 2014


        By Patrick Haverman - Protecting the environment is one of UNDP China’s priority areas.  We have an impressive project portfolio ranging from climate change mitigation and adaptation, to biodiversity protection and green consumption.  Our Green Consumption campaign video for world environmental day was seen by millions of people. We are truly committed to our planet and environment!  UNDP China is proud to proclaim that we aren’t just talking the talk about our projects, but are actively walking the walk! UNDP China has an active and committed voluntary-based Green Team, and has recently implemented an array of green consumption and energy reduction (climate change mitigation) initiatives including recycling (paper, plastic, printer-cartridge), proper waste disposal (CLF bulbs, batteries), LED lamp replacement, solar panel installation, and provision of green transportation – bicycles!  UNDP China is in the process of installing 30kWh rooftop solar panel systems, which will reduce its current fossil-fuel based electricity demand by more than 40% from 70kWh.  We are the first among the diplomatic communities to take such initiative, and plan to share our success story to motivate more green actions.    For most offices, lighting is the second highest energy consuming equipment next to the HVAC (heating-ventilation-cooling) system.  This summer,  Read More

      • The Same, but Different

        18 Sep 2014

        How to get a McDonalds in Beijing? Get on a bike! Photo: Augapfel, 2007

        By Hannah Ryder - I’m entering into my fourth week here in Beijing, and one of the experiments I tried last weekend was to order a takeaway. I was tired from a very hectic week of meetings – that was my excuse anyway!  But it turns out the process of getting a takeaway in Beijing is quite different from getting a takeaway in London or Nairobi – two other big cities I’ve lived in.  In London or Nairobi in order to get a takeaway you usually need to phone the restaurant directly, and if they don’t offer a takeaway service then you either have to collect the food yourself or you have to try another restaurant.  In contrast, here in Beijing, restaurants don’t generally offer takeaway services themselves. Instead, customers need to phone – and pay – a special company set up simply for the purpose of takeaway to pick up the order and deliver it to your home.  That’s right in the language of economists Chinese restaurants effectively “outsource” their takeaway services.  But it’s the same outcome or result wherever you live – a lovely takeaway delivered to your door, but just a different process.  Thinking about it as an  Read More

      • As Print Media Fades: All Eyes on Social Media

        18 Sep 2014


        By Yumna Rathore - Every morning I wake up to the sounds of my iPhone. With instant news updates from every corner of the world, my phone with its various social media apps is my primary news source. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, or Google Alerts, I know exactly what I need to know about any given problem or country the minute I wake up. Every week I see a stack of newspapers and magazines on my doorstep that are later recycled. I pick up the newspaper and toss it into a news rack, where it stays untouched the entire week.  I think we all can agree that gone are those days where we drink our morning tea while reading the morning newspaper. Gone are those days where we actually wait to watch the 10 o’clock news. While the demise of print media and spread of social media may seem like a great leap forward, very few understand the risk of social media today. Specific newspapers certainly have their own biases and perspectives, but social media outlets can often be even more bias and inaccurate than our traditional news source! I saw a picture of a wounded child go viral  Read More

      • A Ride to Prospect

        04 Sep 2014


        By Carsten Germer -   Do you like the smell of a new car? Do you like the look of a new car? Well do you like cars? I do not particularly like cars. Cars is something that get you from point A to B, keeps you dry when it rains and most importantly it provides you with your private space where you can sing along to old pop tunes unnoticed while moving along the endless network of roads now covering our cities. As you might have guessed, I do not know much (or care much) about cars their make, their 0-100 km stat’s and similar things which normally get a car enthusiast up of their seats. I nonetheless was quite excited when I opened the door to the exhibition model, which was about to started its tour around China. One reason why I was excited was that I normally drive stick shift so getting into a car with automatic gearshift was a bit of a conceptual challenge (which lasted less than five seconds). However, the real excitement was that I was about to enter the realm of driving a fuel cell vehicle – it all seems a bit futuristic. The  Read More

      • Defying Stereotypes in China

        29 Aug 2014

        Photo: Curtis Gregory Perry, 2014

        By Hannah Ryder -   A few days ago I arrived in Beijing to begin a new job as deputy country director for UNDP China.  In this job, I’ll be heading a team that advises the Chinese government and other Chinese counterparts such as businesses how to cooperate effectively with other countries and further develop their international positions on issues such as climate change and what comes after the Millennium Development Goals. It’s my first week so I’m obviously still learning a lot about what my job will entail, but one thing is crystal clear… It will involve defying stereotypes. The mere mention of China tends to invoke a lot of stereotypes. For example, typical blogs by people who visit China for the first time, from America to Jamaica – are often about how different Chinese food and culture is.  The stereotype of Kenyans coming to China – such as myself – is that we’re coming to do business.  And the stereotype of people coming to China who have worked in OECD aid agencies – again like myself – is that we are here to tell Chinese counterparts how to deliver aid "properly". But China is a country that defies stereotypes.   Read More