• Ultimate goal of development? Expand peoples’ choices

    02 Nov 2011

    Human Development Report 2011: Investments in access to renewable energy, clean water, and improved sanitation will advance equity, sustainability, and human development. PHOTO: ©UNDP/ARANTXA CEDILLO

    Finding ways to make human development progress truly sustainable for the seven billion people who now live on our planet and for generations to come is a central challenge of the 21st century. The international community must find pathways to development which maintain ecosystem balance and reduce inequalities.

    This year’s Human Development Report asks whether we can expect the positive trends of the last forty years to continue and improvements to be sustained for the people who will live on this planet over the next four decades. The report warns that some 1.7 billion people in 109 countries are living in ‘multidimensional’ poverty. According to the report, escalating environmental hazards threaten to slow or reverse the notable progress in human development of previous decades.

    The impact in the worst case scenario is projected to be worse for countries which are low on the Human Development Index (HDI), leading to widening inequalities between high HDI and low HDI countries. 

    Key Messages of the Human Development Report

    1 The most vulnerable suffer a double burden: They are more affected by environmental degradation and are less resilient towards its resulting threats such as unclean water, indoor air pollution from unhealthy cooking and poor sanitation.

    2 Patterns of inequity and unsustainability are shaped by disparities in power at the global and national levels.  For example, at the global level the voice of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) must work hard to be heard in climate change negotiations even though they are among the most affected.

    3 Financing for environmental and social protection needs to increase. New public financing mechanisms such as a currency transaction tax could generate substantial revenues for development – just 0.005 per cent imposed on currency trading would yield some $40 billion annually. 

    This year’s Report offers new insights on how to move human development forward and overcome the inequity and unsustainability which currently constrain its advance. It highlights the positive synergies which exist between greater equity and sustainability and which offer win-win-win solutions for achieving both.  For example, investments in access to renewable energy, clean water, and improved sanitation will advance equity, sustainability, and human development.  Stronger accountability and democratic processes can also improve outcomes.  Successful approaches rely on community management of natural resources, inclusive institutions which pay attention to disadvantaged groups, and cross-cutting approaches which co-ordinate budgets and mechanisms across government agencies and development partners.

    It also reminds us again that tackling poverty and advancing human development is about more than lifting income. 

    Talk to us: How can we make human development more sustainable & equal for everyone?


About the Author
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Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme in April 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. She is also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all UN funds, programmes and departments working on development issues.

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