HDR 2016 – Human Development for Everyone

When it first came out in 1990, the Human Development Report (HDR) laid down a whole new way of thinking about deprivation – it identified poverty not by what a person has or doesn’t have; but what he can or cannot do. This approach to development spoke of humanity’s very basic capabilities – to simply stay alive a reasonable length of time, to be able to read and write, and to earn enough to provide a life of decency for families and communities… The concept of human rather than economic development was to electrify all stakeholders, as they thought of new means of tackling deprivation in their countries – other than government hand-outs, subsidies and the ‘trickle down’ effect.

As the HDR 2016 proudly states:

The human development approach shifted the development discourse from pursuing material opulence to enhancing human well-being, from maximizing income to expanding capabilities, from optimizing growth to enlarging freedoms. It focused on the richness of human lives rather than on simply the richness of economies, and doing so changed the lens for viewing development results.

The HDR 2016 rightfully gives credit to its progenitor (UNDP) for making it possible for diverse countries to adopt the Millennium Development Goals in 1995, for putting the onus of poverty reduction on national governments, and achieving quite substantial results by 2015. But sadly, the MDGs were viewed by the developed world with benign tolerance, and as an acceptable means of channeling donor funds to the poor and deserving in Asia, Africa and Latin America… Nothing more.

However in the last few years, the Left-Right divide has sharpened in Europe and North America, discrimination has become legitimised through travel bans, the 1% are being increasingly resented, every G20 summit takes place amid violent protests, and multilateralism has come under attack everywhere. Add to this the growing awareness of climate change, global pandemics and environmental damage, and the developed world can no longer stand apart as a mere spectator and reluctant benefactor.

Thus, when the 8 MDGs gave way to 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the issues of sustainability moved centre-stage, then every country – rich and poor – had to perforce become part of a global multilateral project. Human development, if it is to be achieved must be achieved everywhere – in the refugee camps of Italy, the war fields of Syria, among the indigenous populations of Australasia and North and South America, the Dalits of India, and the minority enclaves in China. Hence, the theme of the latest HDR – Human Development for everyone.

Essentially, the Report conveys five basic messages:

Universalism is key to human development, and human development for everyone is attainable
• Various groups of people still suffer from basic deprivations and face substantial barriers to overcoming them
• Human development for everyone calls for refocusing some analytical issues and assessment perspectives
Policy options exist and, if implemented, would contribute to achieving human development for everyone
• A reformed global governance, with fairer multilateralism, would help attain human development for everyone

Of course the Report dwells especially on the heightened barriers to development placed in the path of indigenous groups, religious and ethnic minorities, women and girls, migrants and refugees, the elderly, disabled, and the differently inclined. These are the disadvantaged, universally acknowledged. What I find more disturbing though, is the almost universal marginalization of the poor because they are poor and without choice or voice – be it reduced health support in the US, or cut in allocations to primary education in India. It’s as if the world has decided to simply write off its bottom 10%, the hungry and the homeless, as being beyond help…

And in this darkening scenario of Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ the slogan of development for everyone seems rather idealistic, although the UNDP claims that it is possible through the right policies and actions by national governments, and the strengthening of the multilateral framework of global governance.

The Report’s prescription for national governments are summarised beautifully in this diagram:

And the Report ends with an appeal to strengthen the multilateral framework of global governance, so grievously undermined by nationalistic rhetoric, growing insecurity leading to an unending arms race, religious hatred and ethnic conflict.

Its formula for strengthening the multilateral framework is:

• Stabilizing the global economy
• Applying fair trade and investment rules
• Adopting a fair system of migration
• Assuring greater equity and legitimacy of multilateral institutions
• Coordinating taxes and monitoring finance globally
• Making the global economy sustainable
• Ensuring well-funded multilateralism and cooperation
• Globally defending people’s security
• Promoting greater and better participation of global civil society


So there you have it… A blueprint for a better world? Perhaps.
A voice to be listened to? Definitely.

 

Beyond the Millennium Development Goals

In developing countries, 2015 is a year of particular interest because it is the deadline for achieving the various targets under the Millennium Development Goals. To recap, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) saw a new hope for global action in the dawn of a new millennium, and this took the shape of the 8 Millennium Development Goals, which have shaped the development policies of many a nation for the last decade and a half.

The original Millennium Development Goals, and their targets, were:

GOAL 1: ERADICATE EXTREME POVERTY AND HUNGER

Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 a day

Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people

Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

GOAL 2: ACHIEVE UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION

Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling

GOAL 3: PROMOTE GENDER EQUALITY AND EMPOWER WOMEN

Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

GOAL 4: REDUCE CHILD MORTALITY

Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate

GOAL 5: IMPROVE MATERNAL HEALTH

Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio

Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health

GOAL 6: COMBAT HIV/AIDS, MALARIA AND OTHER DISEASES

Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS

Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it

Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases

GOAL 7: ENSURE ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources

Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss

Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

Achieve, by 2020, a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

GOAL 8: DEVELOP A GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT

Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system

Address the special needs of least developed countries

Address the special needs of landlocked developing countries and small island developing States

Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries

In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications


As almost all the MDGs deal with different dimensions of poverty, the question to be asked here is how well (or badly) have the two demographic giants on the planet fared? Because the MDG targets basically dealt with halving this or that indicator, the expectation never was that poverty would indeed be eradicated in 15 years. It has been tackled with vigour in both India and China, and yet they have a long, long way to go:

Poverty pie chart MDG post

While China has largely secluded its poor in the countryside, India’s poor are everywhere – on street corners in the big metros; among the ill-educated and underemployed of the small towns, living lives of quiet desperation; amidst the small and marginal farmers with an anxious eye on the next monsoon which could spell the difference between choosing to live and choosing to die; and the poorest of the poor in the tribal districts of the country, with no private land to till, and all community resources lost to the greedy contractor.

Many, like this blogger, have been trying to get the present government to look at the state of the nation’s poor, rather than posturing abroad to gain foreign direct investment – but to no avail. Well, if they don’t listen to us, they may perhaps listen to the 7.3 million people worldwide who are saying precisely the same thing. This was the number polled by UNDP in setting the goals for the next 15 years for all the countries in the world.

Given the global concerns with issues like growing carbon footprints, climate change, and unsustainable development, the new goals targeted for 2030 are known as the Sustainable Development Goals, and are more than twice as many as the original MDGs. They are:

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
  9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation
  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

Lest we forget…

The Indian electorate does have a proclivity for throwing out governments which contemptuously ignore the poor – at the State level, and the Centre. Smart cities and busy expressways just don’t cut it with the village mother whose child has to trudge 10 kilometers to school – through rain and shine…