Statement delivered by Mr. Matthew Kahane, UNDP Resident Representative on the occasion of the launch of the Nepal Readings in Human Development

25 Aug 2006

Statement delivered by Mr. Matthew Kahane, UNDP Resident Representative on the occasion of the launch of the Nepal Readings in Human Development
25 August, 2006

Hon’ble Minister for Education and Sports Prof. Mangal Siddhi Manandhar,
Secretary for Education and Sports, Mr. Balananda Paudyal,
Vice Chancellor of Kathmandu University, Prof. Suresh Raj Sharma,
Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Science, at Tribhuvan
University, Prof. Ramesh Kunwar,
Other distinguished guests, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen

Good afternoon.

Human development is among the most powerful ideas to emerge in recent times. Like most good ideas, this one is deceptively simple. Instead of focusing on reducing poverty only by boosting GDP—which really represents an aggregate of citizens’ wealth, and fails to reflect possible disparities between the rich and the poor—the human development approach seeks to empower people by focusing on their freedoms, wellbeing and capabilities. Once empowered, people have the potential to pull themselves out of poverty.

When it was first talked about in the early 1980s there was no doubt that, in theory, human development was an inspirational concept. But few could see how this academic idea could be practically used to spur progress in the world’s poorest countries.

It took the work of brilliant economist, Amartya Sen, the visionary leadership of Mahbub ul Huq, and the institutional capacity of UNDP to transform this idea into a practical and popular tool for more sustainable development.

Today, human development provides a framework for UN institutions and governments to change policies and take concrete steps towards putting people at the centre of progress. By focusing on empowering people we see that poverty reduction is made much more sustainable and can be targeted more effectively towards benefiting the very poor.

The Government of Nepal has started to adopt this framework by firmly anchoring human development goals in the Tenth Plan. But much, much more needs to be done before we can confidently say that people, all people, have the opportunity to develop their capabilities and participate fully in Nepalese society.

In fact, the biggest development challenge facing Nepal today is how to include those traditionally left out. Women, Dalits, Janajatis and members of religious minority groups still have less opportunity to participate in decision-making. They still have less access than others to opportunities for education, health and employment. And, they constitute half of Nepal’s population. No country can afford to let half its human capacity wither away.

The human development approach is key to overcoming exclusion and realizing sustainable progress in Nepal. This was the conclusion UNDP reached while putting together the 2004 Human Development Report. This third National Human Development Report explores the link between empowerment and poverty reduction, and constituted an important step towards realizing a comprehensive human development approach in the country.

Today I am pleased that we are taking another step in that direction by introducing the Nepal Reading in Human Development. This valuable new publication will serve as an important reference tool for students undertaking Masters level courses in a number of different disciplines. But I hope this publication will do more than that.

I hope it will also inspire students, teachers and researchers to take what is already known about the human development approach and build on it, improve it, and grasp even better ways for ensuring that all Nepalese areable to participate and contribute towards development in Nepal.

Thank you.