Helen Clark on the occasion of the Mahbub ul Haq Lecture

19 Mar 2010

Remarks by Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme
On the occasion of the Mahbub ul Haq Lecture
Friday 19 March, 2010, New York

It is my pleasure to welcome Professor Frances Stewart to the UN this evening.

This lecture has been organized as a sequel to the UNDP global human development awards ceremony held in Busan, Korea last year, at which Professor Stewart received the Mahbub ul Haq Award for her outstanding commitment to advancing human development.

The award was established in 2002 to honor Mahbub ul Haq, a leading development thinker who pioneered the human development paradigm and founded the global Human Development Report, UNDP’s flagship publication.

As this well-informed audience knows, human development is about placing people at the centre of development, enlarging their capabilities, and expanding their opportunities and freedom to lead lives which they value.

This approach provides the conceptual foundation for UNDP’s work.

Our policy advice, technical assistance, and advocacy are all aimed at bringing about real improvement in people’s lives through an expansion of their freedoms and choices.

Since her work as a lecturer on economics and development in Nairobi in the late 1960s, Professor Stewart’s long standing efforts to research, promote, and expand the empirical and policy foundations of the human development approach have been very influential and greatly admired around the world.

Professor Stewart has published widely over the years on poverty, inequality, sources of conflict, and human development.

It was at the World Bank in the late 1970s when she first collaborated with Mahbub ul Haq on questions related to the basic needs of poor people. That partnership was to last for many more years, and continued until Mahbub ul Haq’s untimely passing in 1998.

Professor Stewart is also well recognized for her groundbreaking work a few years later with UNICEF on “Adjustment with a Human Face”, an important precursor for the human development approach.

This work helped change the nature of the debate on structural adjustment, leading to the reinstatement of a focus on people and poverty reduction on the international agenda in the 1990s.

France Stewart obtained her PhD from Oxford University, and she spent many years there as a Fellow. During her illustrious career she has led Oxford’s Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity.

She continues to contribute actively to global policy discourse as a member of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy in New York. That Committee provides inputs and independent advice to ECOSOC on emerging, cross-sectoral development issues.

As well, as President of the Human Development and Capabilities Association, Frances Stewart continues to inspire a new generation of development thinkers and practitioners.

Professor Stewart remains a greatly valued adviser to and supporter of the Human Development Report. She worked with Mahbub ul Haq on the first ever report, for which I understand Amartya Sen contributed the first chapter, and she the second.

This year marks twenty years since that first report as published.

In these past twenty years, the global Report has been reinforced by around 700 regional, national and sub-national reports.

These reports have helped to shift development discourse, and provided innovative analysis on subjects ranging from gender and poverty to globalization, climate change, and, most recently, migration.

The twentieth anniversary global Human Development Report, currently being drafted by UNDP’s team with the help and advice of many, will reflect on how to take the human development approach forward in light of the experience and knowledge gained since 1990.

It aims to set forth an agenda for maintaining the continued relevance of the human development concept in our changing world.

Earlier this month, I launched UNDP’s Asia-Pacific Human Development Report on gender equality.

This was just the latest of so many hundreds of human development reports issued since 1990, when Mahbub ul Haq with his team, including Professor Stewart, set out on their bold effort to define a new development paradigm.

We have come a long way since 1990 in advancing human development. But,  as Professor Stewart will shortly explain in more detail, there is still a long way to go to ensure that people around the world can realize their full potential.

The commitment to fighting poverty, the intellectual insights, and ideas about development put forward by Professor Stewart over the course of her career continue to inspire us as we strive to advance human development everywhere.

Once again, thank you Professor Stewart for your many contributions to human development, and to the work of UNDP.

Without further ado, I give you the floor.