Helen Clark: Speech at Awards Ceremony for Excellence in Human Development Reporting

Dec 6, 2016

Our Human Development Reports place people at the centre of analysis to examine how people can be enabled to live lives they value. Credit: UNDP

I am delighted to be here today to present the seventh round of awards for Excellence in Human Development Reporting. These awards recognize outstanding regional and national human development reports published by UNDP over the past four years. They have been written by teams comprised of individuals from inside and outside UNDP. 

Some 800 regional and national human development reports covering more than 135 countries have been produced over the past 25 years. Global Human Development Reports have been produced for the past 26 years, and are a flagship UNDP contribution to development thinking and policymaking. 

Regional and national reports have covered many topics: from happiness to human security, and from competitiveness to climate change. Each report approaches a topic in a unique way, but most reports share common characteristics.

First, each report explores a topic through a human development lens. That means that people are put at the center of the analysis, and the issues are examined in terms of how people can be enabled to live lives they value. 

Second, national reports should be evidence-based, country-owned, country-led, and country-driven.  They should promote policy dialogue and build capacity among government and development partners, including civil society. 

Third, reports should reflect the views of many stakeholders, not just a few. This is vital. One cannot report accurately on the hopes and aspirations of women, youth, the poor, and other groupings in society without engaging fully with them. It is perhaps this characteristic more than any other which transforms a report on development into a human development report. 

Ultimately, the reports are written to have impact. Even a report based on solid evidence and well-reasoned arguments is of little impact unless it is used. That is why broad outreach is so important, which, in turn, is why our panel of judges paid particular attention to each report’s outreach and engagement when selecting the winners.

This round of awards celebrates regional and national human development reports released over the past four years. The competition was, as always, very stiff, and the judges’ task was difficult.

Nearly thirty excellent — and very different — reports were nominated for an award, and from them four were selected. Each winning report team excelled in how it engaged society when developing the report, and/or in how it promoted the report so that it remained relevant long after its release. Allow me to describe briefly the four winning reports and the impacts they have had.

Chile’s 2012 groundbreaking report on subjective wellbeing, or happiness explored the links between people’s happiness and the development goals of the country. The report has had impact across the country, including in unanticipated ways. The Ministry of Education, for example, has incorporated perspectives from human development and subjective wellbeing into the design of a new curriculum for Year 10 and Year 11 students. If approved and implemented as part of the new curriculum, these perspectives will help young Chileans think not just about the kind of job they want, but also about the kind of life they want to lead – and how to chart a path to get there. This 2012 Report, which we honor with an award today, is part of a well-established tradition of National Human Development Reports in Chile. These are widely respected and widely read. Chile has released eleven such reports since 1996.

Montenegro wins an award for its 2013 report on human capital. The country has been active on human development reporting, releasing its seventh national human development report this year. The 2013 report put discussion on human development and its links to human capital firmly on the national agenda, and engaged citizens in discussions about major development issues. The human development report team persuaded a television station to produce a series about the report called “I have an opinion”. Each of the 28 episodes featured eight Montenegrins from across society discussing human development questions like ‘what values do we want our children to develop’ and ‘is equality between men and women important’.

In 2014, Sri Lanka released a national human development report on Youth and Development. This was the country’s third HDR. It looked at how to engage young people in conversations about development, and explored the opportunities, constraints, and freedoms available to Sri Lankan youth. It is a good example of how to give people a voice in shaping their future. Young people were closely involved in the report’s production, and in taking the recommendations forward. The report prompted UNDP to initiate Sri Lanka’s first blog on youth and development themes, to which dozens of young Sri Lankans now contribute. The blog has gone from strength to strength and is published in a national newspaper.

Finally, last year’s report from Uganda – the eighth there since 1996 – is about unlocking the development potential of the northern part of the country which is still recovering from a violent past. Lives and livelihoods there were destroyed. Massive numbers of people fled their homes. This report, based on inclusiveness and consultation, generated baseline data on the region and its human development challenges. It has had a tangible impact on the shape of government and development partners’ policies and programming, with donors such as the EU, Ireland, the UK, and the USA increasing development support to the region. 

On behalf of UNDP, I congratulate all the team members who worked on the reports we celebrate here today. Your work is an inspiration to all those who work on human development. 

I now have the honor of passing the floor to UNDP’s Good Will Ambassador, His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway. 

Prince Haakon has shown great interest in human development over many years. This is not the first time he has taken part in an awards ceremony for human development reporting, and we greatly appreciate his joining us today to celebrate these winning reports.

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