UNDP chief launches 2013 Human Development Report

14 Mar 2013

Mexico City — UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark today launched UNDP’s 2013 Human Development Report, which charts the unprecedented rise of developing countries to create a new “global middle class.”

“The development landscape is very different today from when the first Human Development Report was launched 23 years ago,” Helen Clark said, releasing UNDP’s 22nd flagship Report, “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World,” alongside Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto at Mexico’s Presidential Palace.

“A significant number of developing countries have transformed themselves into dynamic emerging economies with growing geopolitical influence…and significant positive impact on human development progress around the world,” she said. “Mexico is one of these dynamic nations. It has long been a committed multilateralist, playing a key role at the United Nations and in other global structures.”

"I am very pleased that at this time  the Human Development Report is drawing attention to a profound shift in global dynamics, by which I mean the rise of developing countries like Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Turkey and, of course, Mexico. They are emerging nations that are transforming today’s reality through active social policies that are improving living conditions for the most vulnerable groups," said Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Mexico is a longtime proponent of sustainable and inclusive development as well as cooperation among developing and emerging countries, Helen Clark said, adding: “Mexico is a highly appropriate country in which to launch the 2013 Human Development Report.”

“Countries in the developing world are not only major trade and investment partners for other developing countries but are also significant partners in development cooperation. The South also has substantial capital reserves,” Helen Clark said.

“The challenge now is to carry that progress forward, share the experiences, and enlist the growing influence of the South to move our world onto a sustainable and inclusive development path for all. The balance of influence in our world is visibly changing. The contribution of the South—intellectual, economic, social, environmental, and political—will play a significant part in building a better future for us all.”

"The world today has greater awareness of the poverty and inequality gaps that divide the inhabitants of this planet. To a great extent, this is due to  the work of the United Nations Development Programme," said President Peña Nieto.

‘Countries cannot rely on growth alone’

UNDP pioneered the concept of human development with its first Human Development Report (HDR) and Human Development Index (HDI) in 1990, which it put forward as an alternative to GDP in gauging a country’s progress.

The 2013 Report analyses more than 40 developing countries that have made rapid human development gains in recent years through sustained investment in education, health, and other social services as well as strategic engagement with the world economy. It notably cites Mexico, Algeria, and Brazil among the top 15 countries in reducing HDI shortfalls, although their growth in income per capita averaged only 1–2 percent annually from 1990–2012.  

“There is a lesson here: Countries cannot rely on growth alone,” the Report says, adding that these examples illustrate the primacy of state investment in people’s capabilities—especially health, education, and nutrition—and in building resilience to economic, environmental, and other threats and shocks.

Mexico recently enacted the world’s first comprehensive climate change law, aiming to cut emissions and build the renewable energy sector. Its federal conditional cash transfer programme, Oportunidades, further provided a model for New York City’sOpportunity NYC: Family Rewards programme, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg notes in a contribution to the Report.

Inequality, climate change still major threats

The Report identifies three key rivers of rapid progress in these countries: a strong, proactive, developmental state; successful integration in global markets and pursuits of inclusive growth; and innovative social policies. It also calls for enhanced equity, expanded citizen participation, and scaled-up efforts to confront environmental and demographic challenges to sustain such progress.

“Promoting greater equity is not only an important goal in its own right. It is also central to lifting human development,” Helen Clark said, adding that education is a proven and powerful policy instrument for promoting equity. “Innovative social protection programmes in the South, including the cash transfer programs of Mexico and Brazil, have helped improve conditions for poor and marginalized groups, and narrowed gaps in income, health, and education.”

But slow global action on the major environmental threat of climate change could halt or even reverse human development gains in countries of the South with the least capacity to adapt, particularly for their poorest citizens, she added.