Helen Clark: Statement on Global Launch of the 2013 Human Development Report

Mar 14, 2013

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark
Global Launch of the 2013 Human Development Report
“The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World”



I am delighted to be in Mexico City for the launch of the 2013 global Human Development Report, “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World” - the 22nd report in this global series.

The development landscape is very different today from when the first Human Development Report was launched 23 years ago.  A significant number of developing countries have transformed themselves into dynamic emerging economies with growing geopolitical influence. In turn, these countries are having a significant positive impact on human development progress around the world.

Mexico is one of these dynamic nations.  It has also long been a committed multilateralist, playing a key role at the United Nations and in other global structures. It is a strong proponent of sustainable and inclusive development, and of South-South co-operation and experience-sharing.

As such, Mexico is a highly appropriate country in which to launch the 2013 Human Development Report.  UNDP greatly values the presence today of the President of Mexico, His Excellency Enrique Peña Nieto.

The rise of the South

For the first time in recent history, the South as a whole is driving global economic growth and societal change. Around the world, the living conditions and prospects of hundreds of millions of people have already been lifted by transformation in the South. By 2020, according to projections developed for this Human Development Report, the combined economic output in 1990 purchasing power parity dollars, of three key emerging economies alone– China, India, and Brazil – will surpass that of the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Canada combined.  

Much of the dynamism of the emerging economies is being driven by trade, foreign direct investment, and technology partnerships within the South itself.

Developing countries nearly doubled their share of world merchandise trade from 25 per cent to 47 per cent between 1980 and 2010.  Trade within the South was the biggest factor in that expansion, increasing from less than ten per cent to more than 25 per cent in the last thirty years.

Innovation and entrepreneurship is impressive, and solutions to development challenges are increasingly being found within the South itself.  The rapid spread and take up of technologies, including information and communication technologies, is enabling greater numbers of people to interact across borders, and providing them with a means to influence decisions which impact on their lives. Mobile phones, for example, are now found in a great many households across Asia and Latin America, and in much of Africa as well. India, Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico each have more Facebook users than any country other than the United States of America.

Understanding trends to accelerate progress across countries

Yet it is not enough simply to describe the rise of the South and observe its emergence. The challenge is to understand what drives the acceleration of economic and human development, and to share insights into what has succeeded.

The Report explores the achievements of more than forty high achieving countries which performed better than predicted between 1990 and 2012 based on previous trends, both in terms of the income and non-income dimensions of human development.  It then reviews the policies of eighteen countries for which detailed information was available to ascertain what enabled them to perform particularly well.  
The Report identifies three key factors or ‘drivers’ contributing to the fast progress of these countries – namely that most:  
•    have had a strong, proactive, developmental state;
•    have both successfully tapped global markets and pursued inclusive growth; and
•    have benefited from innovative social policies.

The analysis of the success of these high-achievers presented in the Report, confirms a key message found across past Human Development Reports: that economic growth does not automatically translate into human development progress.  Significant investments in people’s capabilities – including in education and skills, and nutrition and health, are vital. Pragmatic policies, focused on job creation, gradual integration into global markets, and improving service delivery are also important.

Sustaining the Momentum into the Future
Looking to the future, the Report warns that if global human development is to continue to rise, emerging challenges related to demographic shifts, environmental degradation, and political and social exclusion, will need to be tackled.   It argues that an inclusive and sustainable path must be followed.

The Report suggests four key areas to help sustain the pace of progress in human development in the South, namely:
-    enhancing equity, including between men and women;
-    enabling greater participation of citizens, including youth;
-    confronting environmental pressures; and
-    managing demographic change,

Let me comment further on two of these: enhancing equity and confronting environmental pressures.     

Promoting greater equity is not only an important goal in its own right: it is also central to lifting human development. One of the most powerful policy instruments for promoting equity lies in education.  The Report projects that targeted investments in girls’ education in particular, will have significant impacts on human development, including in the reduction of future child mortality which has a relationship to the level of education women have received.
Innovative social protection programmes in the South, including the cash transfer programs of  Mexico and Brazil, have helped improve conditions for poor and marginalized groups, and narrowed gaps in income, health, and education.

Slow global action on the major environmental threat of climate change, however, has the potential to halt or even reverse human development gains which have been made in the countries of the South with the least capacity to adapt, and for the poorest people within them.  

The Report calls for greater global ambition on and commitment to tackling environmental degradation. Innovative policies and programmes for achieving environmental sustainability, including new climate-friendly technologies developed in the South, can help ensure that the development paths of the future are sustainable.  

The rise of the South and global structures and development

Moving beyond policy recommendations at the country level, a clear message of the Report is that the rise of the South has implications for global governance and decision making, as well as for how development is financed.  

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected – through trade, migration, information and communications technologies, more co-ordinated action and greater co-operation between North and South is required.  

For this to happen, global governance arrangements are needed which are more legitimate, accountable, and transparent, and which recognize the changing geopolitics of our times by giving greater voice to countries of the South.

The Report argues that the South itself will be an increasingly powerful force in global development. Countries in the developing world are not only major trade and investment partners for other developing countries, but are also significant partners in development co-operation. The South also has substantial capital reserves, holding up to two-thirds of the world’s $10.2 trillion foreign exchange reserves and some three-quarters of the $4.3 trillion in assets controlled by sovereign wealth funds.


In conclusion, much can be learned from the success of the emerging economies of the South, which have used their growing economic strength to lift human development.  

The challenge now is to carry that progress forward, share the experiences, and enlist the growing influence of the South to move our world onto a sustainable and inclusive development path for all. The balance of influence in our world is visibly changing. The contribution of the South – intellectual, economic, social, environmental, and political – will play a significant part in building a better future for us all.  

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