Rebeca Grynspan: Presentation in Denmark on the Launch of the 2013 Human Development Report

Mar 14, 2013

Presentation by
Rebeca Grynspan
UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator

On the
Launch of the 2013 Human Development Report
The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World

Copenhagen, Denmark



Thank you Minister Bach, Camilla, distinguished guests.

I am delighted to be here in Copenhagen to launch the 2013 Human Development Report  – The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World.  This Report examines our fast-changing world – in terms of new actors and trends – and the implications for development.  

Denmark, as a longtime and significant supporter of UNDP and of the human development approach both domestically and internationally, is an appropriate venue to launch this Report.  I salute Minister Bach personally for the role he has played in promoting the human development paradigm, including as a former editor of our human development journal.  

This Report, the 22nd in the Human Development global series, has two key messages I want to focus on:
•  First, that the transformation of many developing countries into dynamic major economies with growing political influence and innovative social policies, is having a significant positive impact on human development progress around the world; and,
•  Second, that this positive trend and impact will be difficult to sustain without new thinking, particularly around sustainability and equity, and global governance arrangements.


The rise of the South

We stand at a tipping point in global history.   For the first time in 150 years the combined economic output of the three major economies from the South – Brazil, China, and India – is now about equal to that of the big six from the North.  

By 2020, according to projections developed for the Report, the combined economic output of these three leading developing countries will surpass the aggregate production of the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Canada. And by 2050 those same three countries are predicted to have double the output of their 6 northern counterparts.

A significant amount of this dynamism is being driven by trade, foreign direct investment, and technology partnerships within the South itself.


The South–South share of world trade, for example, has increased from less than eight per cent in 1980 to more than twenty five per cent in 2011, with particularly remarkable growth happening in the last decade.

Innovation and entrepreneurship in the South is also expanding as the Report notes.  Solutions to development challenges are coming from within the South itself.

But these changes go well beyond changes to economies. They encompass genuine human development. Across every continent, living conditions and the prospects of millions of people have been lifted.

As standards of living have risen worldwide, the global middle class has grown. By 2030, today’s developing countries will be home to more than four-fifths of the world’s middle class. And a growing middle class means a growing number who expect better education and health care, better services, and who demand more accountable government.

As this slide shows, the Asia-Pacific region is leading the charge. By 2020 it will be home to about half of the world’s middle class.  By 2030 two in three middle class people will live in the region.  

Simultaneously, rapid technology diffusion, including information and communication technologies, is enabling much greater numbers of people to interact across borders, and share their expectations with the rest of the world.  


Rapid human development progress

It is not enough simply to describe the Rise of the South and observe these trends, however. The challenge is to understand the drivers of what is happening in order to accelerate human development progress in more countries.  The 2013 Report contributes to this by:
• documenting the current status of human development progress, including persisting inequalities which reduce the pace of human development; and
• reviewing the experiences of countries which made stronger progress than expected in their HDI scores between 1990 and 2012, to inform policy choices elsewhere.

The Report finds that over the last decade all countries have lifted human development according to the Human Development Index (HDI). This reflects advances in education, health, and income.

Indeed, no country – at least no country for which data is available - had a lower HDI value in 2012 than in 2000.  We should celebrate this. But progress has also been uneven, and gross inequities persist.   For instance, the Report shows that:
• Average Gross National Income in the group of very high HDI countries is more than twenty times that of low HDI countries;  
• Life expectancy is more than a third longer in the very high HDI countries than in the low HDI countries (more than 80 years compared to fewer than 60); and
• A child  in a high HDI country can expect to spend almost twice as long in school as one from a low HDI country;

Yet, the story of the Rise of the South told in this Report is one of optimism.  It not just about Brazil, China, and India, but about more than forty countries which made stronger progress than expected in their HDI scores between 1990 and 2012, and about how more countries can accelerate progress into the future.

The Report pays particular attention to the eighteen countries shown on this graph to describe their diverse paths to success, demonstrating that rapid people-centered development can take root in many places – in countries with very different histories; with very different starting points; and with different natural resources.  

By looking in depth at these countries, the Report identifies three key factors contributing to fast progress, namely that most:
• have a strong, proactive, state focused on development;
• have successfully tapped global markets while simultaneously pursued inclusive growth; and
• have benefited from innovative social policies.

Our analysis confirms a message found in every Human Development Report: economic growth does not automatically translate into human development. Significant investments in people - in education and skills, and in nutrition and health, are vital. I say “investments” because spending money in this way should be seen as an investment, not as a cost.

At the same time successful countries have recognized that growth must be inclusive if it is to be sustained. We see again and again a virtuous circle of growth, job creation and reducing inequality. Excess inequality is bad not just for the poor.  It is bad for everyone.  

This is something I know that Minister Bach and the Danish government recognizes too. Indeed, last month the Government of Denmark co-hosted the UNDG Global Thematic Consultation on Addressing Inequalities in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, with the Government of Ghana, here in Copenhagen. That meeting recognized that inequalities are found in economic, political, social, and environmental domains, that they are often intertwined, and need to be tackled systematically to address their structural causes.   And, as the Report notes, even where human development progress has been rapid, on average, inequalities often persist and therefore should be explicitly addressed.

Innovative social protection programs, including cash-transfer programs such as Oportunidades in Mexico and Bolsa Familiar in Brazil have helped improve conditions for poor and marginalized groups, narrowing gaps in income, health, and education and therefore reducing inequalities in some domains.

The Report focuses heavily on the importance of social policies noting a range of success stories.  Ghana and Indonesia invested in high quality education systems. Mexico and Rwanda boosted healthcare. And Brazil, India and China built broad-based systems to boost social cohesion through development.

Sustaining the momentum

But past successes are no guarantee for the future.  The key question for the globe now, both North and South, is how can we sustain human development for generations to come?

The report deals with a range of challenges, and suggests four priority areas for sustaining the momentum, namely:
• managing demographic change;
• confronting environmental pressures;
• promoting equity, including between men and women; and,
• enabling greater voice and participation of citizens, including youth.

Allow me to briefly touch on each of these.

In countries with rapidly growing populations, pressure on infrastructure, resources, and ecosystems must be managed.  In other countries whose populations are rapidly aging, challenges include finding the resources needed to care for the elderly.  But, as the Report argues, demography is not destiny. Countries can benefit from a so-called “demographic dividend” as their share of working-age population rises. For this, good education and labor policies are critical to ensure young people entering the labour force can find decent work.

The Report also recognizes the risks to global development from environmental threats. These risks impact on us all, but are greater for those countries with the least capacity to adapt, and for the poorest within them.  Climate change is already intensifying environmental threats and impacting on people’s livelihoods.

The Report points to the high cost of inaction: it predicts that an additional 3 billion people could live in extreme poverty by 2050 if the worst environmental scenario materializes.  It therefore calls for greater ambition and commitment to tackling environmental degradation.

Third, the Report argues that promoting greater equity is not only an important goal in its own right: it is also central to lifting human development.  It is vital for stability and sustainability. Indeed, an analysis of 132 developed and developing countries for this Report, finds an inverse relationship between inequality and improvement in human development.  In other words, inequality slows development.

Finally, the Report argues that Governments which do not respond to citizens’ needs or widen opportunities for political participation, risk losing their legitimacy.    

The Rise of the South and Global Structures and Development

Moving beyond policy recommendations at the country level, a clear message of the Report is that the Rise of the South has implications for global governance and decision making, as well as for how development is financed.  

It argues that as the planet becomes increasingly interconnected – through trade, migration, information and communications technologies, and more – and emerging development challenges cross national boundaries, coordinated action and greater co-operation between North and South is required to tackle them successfully.  

For this, the 2013 Report argues that global governance arrangements must be updated.  Arrangements are needed which are legitimate, accountable, and transparent, which recognize changing geopolitics and so give greater voice to countries of the South.


Equally, the Report argues that the South itself can be a powerful force in global development, as countries in the developing world are not only major trade and investment partners for other developing countries, but are increasingly also becoming significant development co-operation partners.  

Very substantial foreign exchange reserves are held by developing countries for example.  Some two-thirds of the world’s $10.2 trillion – and about three-quarters of the $4.3 trillion in assets controlled by sovereign wealth funds worldwide - are in the South. Prudent investment of these resources can make a considerable contribution to human development.



This Report on the Rise of the South comes at the very time when the international community is considering what the post-2015 global development agenda might look like. And as I already mentioned, Denmark is showing global leadership in that conversation with the leading role you are playing in the process to consider how equity should feature in the Post 2015 development goal setting process.

I hope you will find this Report valuable, as it refreshes our understanding of the current state of global development and demonstrates how much can be learned from the successes of the South.  

So Minister Bach, distinguished guests… the challenge now – for UNDP, for Denmark, for everyone - is to maintain progress, but to do so within the boundaries set by nature. We must capitalize on the growing influence of the South to propel our world onto a sustainable and inclusive development path for all.

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