Helen Clark: Anthony Crosland Memorial Lecture

19 Nov 2010

Remarks by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
on the occasion of the
Anthony Crosland Memorial Lecture
“The Challenge of World Development”19
Friday 19 November 2010, Grimsby, United Kingdom


It is an honour for me to be invited to deliver this year’s Anthony Crosland Memorial Lecture in Grimsby.

In an interview with me this week with the local newspaper, the reporter observed that I was the first non-Briton to give the lecture.

I responded that perhaps I was not so foreign – with one grandfather born in Accrington near Manchester, and another in Ulster. Indeed, almost every traceable forebear comes from some corner of the British Isles, from the Shetland Islands through Scotland down to Oxfordshire and Wales, reflecting the migration from here of so many seeking a better life in a new world.

But there’s another sense too in which I relate to this lecture. Anthony Crosland was a towering intellect whose work was of interest to those of us making our way in Labour politics far away.

The New Zealand Labour Party, of which I became the longest serving leader, from its beginnings maintained contact with its sister party here and an interest in its policies and directions.

Our equivalent of British Labour’s Clause Four on the nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange was dropped in the 1920s. Crosland still faced an uphill battle on that score in 1956 when The Future of Socialism was first published.

Yet, over the years, the distinction he made between means and ends and the emphasis he put on education as a critical driver of transformational change came to be mainstream.

Willy Brandt’s aphorism, “As much market as possible, as much regulation as necessary”, signaled German willingness to use the market as a tool for constructing a fairer society.

Lionel Jospin expressed similar sentiments as French Prime Minister in his phrase – “Yes to the market economy, no to the market society”.  The “Third Way” and “Neue Mitte” orientation of the British and German parties respectively in government of recent years sought a similar balance.

Now that those periods have run their course, the challenge is for the Tony Croslands of our time to help define the concepts which will reinvigorate social democracy in the 21st Century context – which is perhaps an even more challenging task than that of half a century ago.

That brings me to the broad brush title of this evening’s lecture - “The Challenge of World Development”. Indeed, we should talk about challenges in the plural as there are many.
But there is also room for optimism and hope that working together in a major international effort we can over time overcome the many factors which consign so many people still to lives wracked by poverty and hardship, disease and war, and a deteriorating or toxic environment.

Fundamentally, our world is riven with stark inequality – something Anthony Crosland was committed to tackling. He wrote about greater equality being important for reducing poverty, extending social justice, and diminishing the “collective discontent” which comes from great disparities of wealth.

The 2010 Human Development Report released recently shows that over the last four decades, there have been many development achievements, and that people today are on average healthier, wealthier, and better educated than ever before. Yet, far too many people around the world are being left behind, and poor people experience many deprivations at once. 

In the first few years of this century, we have seen how numerous crises have added to the woes already felt by the poorest and most vulnerable people.

Consider just this year the impact of the huge flooding in Pakistan, covering an area roughly the size of Britain and affecting the lives of some twenty million people, destroying homes, hopes, livelihoods, and infrastructure.

Consider Haiti’s horrific earthquake in January, which compounded the setbacks caused by the devastating hurricane of 2008, and now the fast spread of cholera.

The sharp fluctuations in food and fuel prices we witnessed in 2007-2008 caused hardship around the globe, and food prices remain high by historical standards.

Then there has been the global economic crisis, beginning in the markets on the North, and causing distress in counties rich and poor.

By the end of this year an estimated 64 million more people will have been left in extreme poverty by the economic crisis relative to what the numbers would have been without the recession. That is roughly the size Britain’s population. The total number of people living on less than $1.25 a day was around 1.4 billion in 2005.

The steady march of a changing climate will increasingly be felt from small atoll islands in the world’s oceans to the drylands of Africa and the delta nations like Bangladesh. The urgency of tackling climate change and supporting developing countries to adapt to the effects which are already inevitable must be recognized.

Last week I was in Bangladesh and had the opportunity to fly by helicopter from Dhaka to the edge of the delta. On a small island there, I saw a programme to plant coastal mangrove forests to give better protection against cyclones, trap sediment, and provide carbon sinks. If the worth of initiatives like these can be established they need to be rapidly scaled up around the more than 700 kilometres of Bangladesh’s coastline.

But none of this comes without a price tag. It has to be recognized that least developed countries have done the least to cause climate change, and cannot afford to bear the cost of action to adapt to and mitigate its impacts on their own. For development to be sustainable, it is widely acknowledged that developing countries will need support to build greater resilience to climate change, as well as to follow a low carbon route to development which does not do the damage of the conventional development path. We in developed countries need to play our full part in supporting that – and in reducing our own high carbon footprint.

As New Zealand Prime Minister, I promoted policies aimed at achieving a carbon neutral nation over time. We need high levels of ambition on this across the developed world, including in the negotiations for a new international climate agreement.

My overall message today is that this is not a time for despair about global challenges – there is a lot of progress, but, as always, we need more, and we need it faster.

Take, for example, the work being done on the Millennium Development Goals, launched in 2000 at the UN’s Millennium Summit in New York. I went to the Summit and signed up to its Millennium Declaration and its vision for a better world.

The MDGs address extreme poverty and hunger; access to education and health services, and to clean water and sanitation; gender equality; environmental degradation; and the deadly diseases of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Important also, they call for greater global partnerships for development.

These are not just general goals – they contain specific, measurable, and time bound targets which if met will transform the lives of many hundreds of millions of people.

Two months ago leaders from nations around the world came back to New York to assess progress on the Goals and recommit themselves to meeting the 2015 targets.

UNDP’s message to the MDG Summit was a simple and positive one - the Goals can be met.

We are seeing dramatic advances, including in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Despite the series of crises of the first decade of this century, the developing world as a whole remains on track to achieve the MDG poverty reduction target. That means halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty from 1990 levels by 2015.

Huge progress has been made on getting all children into school, improving access to clean water, and turning back the tide on HIV/AIDS and malaria.

Deaths of children under-five have been reduced from 12.5 million in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2008 – a huge achievement when one considers the growing world population.

Yet, the number of deaths is still high. Millions of children are dying from malnutrition and from diseases which we have known how to prevent and treat for decades.

In some countries, one woman in eight dies in childbirth. Maternal mortality rates have remained stubbornly high, and we are far from achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health services.

The goal on clean sanitation is also slow to progress – as is that on maintaining biodiversity.

As well, the scourge of hunger refuses to go away – the numbers of hungry people in our world are estimated to have peaked at around one billion in the past year, and are slightly down since then.

Yet, all these problems have known solutions. The priority for me as head of the UN development Programme and Chair of the UN Development Group is how can we best support countries to adapt the strategies and policies which will speed up achievement of the MDGs.

Around the world, we can support governments and UN Country Teams to tackle what have been intractable problems.

Take Togo, in West Africa, where the government identified the lack of access to fertilisers, improved seeds and advisory services for farmers as a major obstacle to progress.

Our team of agencies in recent months has worked with Togo’s government to bring together a range of partners to identify the best solutions from within Togo and from other countries facing similar challenges. They included introducing revolving loans and vouchers to help small farmers buy those fertilisers and improved seeds; increasing support for skills training to small farmers, especially women; and adapting extension services to the needs of small producers.

We are supporting similar efforts to break through roadblocks to progress elsewhere too. In Ghana and Uganda, the focus is on reducing maternal deaths; in Belize it is on increasing access to clean water and sanitation; in Jordan, Tanzania and Niger it is on enhancing food and nutrition security; and in Tajikistan it is on increasing access to small scale, low cost, and renewable energy production in rural areas.

These are a few examples of how UNDP and its sister agencies work around the world : helping countries to identify tried and tested policies, adapt them to national contexts, and support the leadership, capacity, and the fundraising to implement them.

We do this not only in relation to lifting living standards. Development challenges are multi-faceted and interlinked.

It is easier to keep children in school, for example, if they are not hungry or are not required to work. It is easier to halt the spread of HIV if we empower women and reverse laws which are discriminatory. It is easier to reduce hunger and improve social well-being if people have access to decent work. It is easier to maintain development progress over time if it is climate-resilient and disaster-proof.

Underlying all this is the need for strong leadership, vision, institutions, and capacity.

That can be summed up in the phrase “national ownership” – a critical factor in driving forward on the MDGs.

UNDP identified eight such factors in an International Assessment we prepared for this year’s MDG Summit – and they are well reflected in the Outcome Document from the Summit, giving us a good platform on which to move forward.

The other factors include:

  • Building inclusive growth which contributes to poverty reduction and job creation;
  • Widening access to affordable energy;
  • Underpinning sustained development with effective social protection;
  • Investing heavily in opportunities for women and girls as a good thing in its own right and because of the multiplier effects across generations and communities;
  • Continued targeted investments in health and education;
  • Supporting countries to grow their own funding base; and
  • Building stronger global partnerships for development.

The truth is that the challenges of today exceed the capacity of any single developing country, UN agency or other development actors to respond to on their own.

So let me come now to the issue of partnerships for development.

There are many committed partners, in whose ranks Britain looms large.

I commend this country for keeping the commitments it has made on development spending despite the difficult circumstances it currently faces itself.

As a former politician, I can well understand why people in cities from Grimsby to Brighton might question the need to maintain development spending when budgets for local services are being cut. Times are tough in Britain and many people are hurting.

But if people keep hurting on a global scale at the present levels, it will hurt us a lot more.

Our world simply cannot grow sustainably or be at peace with itself when so many of our fellow human beings continue to live in extreme poverty, severely constrained in their efforts to build a better life for themselves and their families and to contribute to their societies.

Over the long term, we all benefit if developing countries have vibrant economies, are well governed and peaceful, have educated and healthy populations and can support the fight against climate change.

We need to see the potential of developing countries to contribute to solutions of the world’s problems and help us all secure a better, more peaceful future.

Right now we see developing country economies leading the global recovery. We are most aware of trends in Brazil, China and India, but it is noteworthy that Sub-Saharan Africa was the second fastest growing region in the world in 2009, and will be the third fastest this year.  That’s important to developed countries because it creates new opportunities for exports of goods and services.

The geopolitical weight of the global South is growing exponentially – and that is reflected in development co-operation too.

South-South Co-operation takes many forms – from grants, loans, and technical assistance to fast growing trade and investment flows.

There is a lot of interest in these new partnerships for development, and in how to tap into them and share the experience of what has worked.

Two weeks ago I was in Addis Ababa where UNDP, the Government of Ethiopia, and Beijing’s International Poverty Reduction Centre hosted a conference on poverty reduction. China, after all, is the most successful country in history in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Without wanting to replace the Washington Consensus with a Beijing Consensus, it is clear that there are lessons to share.

The same can be said about the vast social protection initiatives in Latin America, the world’s largest job creation scheme in India, bringing work to 46 million households, Digital Bangladesh which has rolled out ICT hubs to every rural district as a platform for development, and much more.

It is officially acknowledged in China that its rapid economic growth has come at a high environmental price – and it is seeking a new balance between the two.

Its search now for sustainable energy solutions and its new policy on low carbon pilot cities, are of international interest. Last year China swept past the rest of the world to become the largest manufacturer of wind turbines.

So today’s partnerships for development extend beyond the traditional North-South ones to encompass much activity within the South itself.

As well, there is the rise of the non-state actors – the global NGOs, the mega-philanthropic funds like the Gates Foundation, the civil society organizations of the North and the South, and the private sector wherein many examples of leadership for development can be found.

Gordon Brown, for example, helped UNDP and others launch the Business Call to Action, as part of which companies commit to building inclusive business models. They might, for example, create opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries to become part of their procurement and supply chains.

Tackling the multiple challenges our world faces today also requires the active engagement of all citizens – like all of you gathered here tonight.

This can take the form of contributing time or money to worthy causes here or abroad, advocating for development, calling on governments to fulfill their pledges, and holding them to account.

Today’s world is not the bipolar world Anthony Crosland knew, divided by a Cold War between East and West.

Now we see our increasingly multi-polar world struggling to address the complex issues it confronts, in the face of divergent interests and abundant rivalries.

Many of our global institutions persist in a time warp, reflecting the realities of a post-World War Two world more than those of today.

We need now a reinvigorated multilateral system which is more attuned to today’s geopolitical realities, is backed by the strong will of political leaders, and is based on governance structures which promote inclusive, legitimate, and effective agreements.

Development needs to stay at the top of the multilateral agenda, and be underpinned by progress on climate and trade negotiations. Official Development Assistance can’t do the job alone. The rules of the game need to be rewritten too.

In development itself we need to make the best use of scarce resources. We need to focus on what works, and seek to spread best practice.  We need stronger global partnerships to speed up progress and offer a better life to billions of people across the globe.

When thinking about this speech I found myself wondering about the “what ifs”. What if Anthony Crosland had become Prime Minister ? What would he have done in response to today’s world and social challenges, replete with their inequalities? How would he have applied his extraordinary intellect to these times ?

We cannot know the answers to these questions. But we can take inspiration from Anthony Crosland’s commitment to a more equal society, and strive to make the world a better place for all its inhabitants. It is that spirit of solidarity we can draw on as we seek to make a difference for the better in the fight against poverty and to overcome the development challenges of the 21st Century.