Development in an age of economic uncertainty

17 Oct 2011

 3 factory worker in Port-au-Prince at work Sewing machine operators work at the "Multiwear" Factory at Sonapi Industrial Park, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo: Eskinder Debebe/UN.

Today, the world economy is more volatile than ever, endangering recent progress in developing countries.

The adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 marked a significant moment in history that addressed issues of universal human importance. It was a hopeful moment in which there was a global conviction that human deprivation could be alleviated through the coordinated and sustained effort of the world's nations.

Nearly twelve years later, many countries have made impressive strides towards achieving the MDGs. However, we also now live in a more uncertain and integrated world where economic and financial shocks are more likely than ever, and their impact can be more broadly devastating. With such an environment come different and profound challenges for human development. To be clear, vulnerability to shocks directly impacts how well households meet basic needs, how many people live in poverty, the access children have to schooling, and the ability of men and women to find meaningful and productive employment.

Therefore, fostering human development now demands that we effectively leverage recent lessons about how such crises affect developing countries and the world's most vulnerable populations. Only then can we develop and promote policies and programmes that successfully manage vulnerability, build resilience, and thus promote the human development of all people.

Our new report “Towards Human Resilience: Sustaining MDG Progress in an Age of Economic Uncertainty” provides us and policymakers around the world with an extensive account of lessons taken from the experience of developing countries over the past 15 years. Here are some of its concrete policy recommendations for governments:

• Promote economic and export diversification to reduce extreme dependence on a narrow range of primary commodities.

• Adopt income stabilization measures such as national revenue funds and insurance instruments to help commodity producers secure more predictable incomes.

• Develop rapid response systems to monitor private capital flow related shocks.

• Mobilize domestic revenues to enhance fiscal capacity and for investments needed to secure MDG progress.

Talks to Us: In your opinion, how can the global community keep up the progress on the MDGs?

Selim Jahan is the Director of the Poverty Group at the United Nations Development Programme in New York.