Remarks by RR Walid Badawi at the Launch of the 9th Kenya National Human Development Report (KNHDR) Process

September 2, 2021

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·       Ms. Katherine Muoki, Economic Planning Secretary, Programme Director

·       Hon. Eric Simiyu Wafukho, Chief Administrative Secretary, National Treasury and Planning

·       Professor Paul K. Wainaina, Vice Chancellor, Kenyatta University;

·       Professor Mohammed … Dean representing Vice Chancellor, University of Nairobi;

·       Dr Stephen Jackson, UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya;

·       Mr. Waweru Kamau, Director, Social and Governance Directorate, State Department for Planning, The National Treasury and Planning;

·       Professor Winnie Mitullah, Institute of Development Studies, University of Nairobi,

·       Professor Michael Chege, Independent Consultant;

·       Mr. Steven Wanaina; Independent Consultant;

·       Development Partners;

·       Distinguished Guests;

It is an honor to represent UNDP at this important launch of the 9th Kenya National Human Development Report (KNHDR) Process – tentatively entitled “Human Development for COVID-19 Recovery: Envisaging COVID-19 Recovery in Kenya for Socio-economic Transformation.” Indeed, the 9th Kenya National Human Development Report theme is relevant now more than ever. COVID-19 has spread quickly around an interconnected world, taking root and thriving within the cracks of societies, exploiting and exacerbating myriad of inequalities in human development.

COVID-19 is already threatening a reversal in many fundamental aspects of human development and the ‘Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021’ highlights the impacts of COVID-19 on poverty. In a forward to the report, António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, notes the report’s findings that the global extreme poverty rate rose for the first time in over 20 years, 119 to 124 million people were pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020, and an additional 101 million children have fallen below the minimum reading proficiency level.

At the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, more than 160 countries mandated some form of school closures for at least 1.5 billion children and youth.  As noted by the World Bank, COVID-19’s effects on education may be felt for decades to come, not just causing a loss of learning in the short term, but also diminishing economic opportunities for this generation of students over the long term. Due to learning losses and increases in dropout rates, this generation of students stand to lose an estimated US$10 trillion in earnings, or almost 10% of global GDP, and countries will be driven even further off-track to achieving their Learning Poverty goals – potentially increasing its levels substantially to 63%, equivalent to an additional 72 million primary school children.

We continue to see the direct impact of COVID-19 on health indicators everyday with over 218 million people infected and over 4.5 million deaths so far. The 2021 SDG report on SDG 3 confirms that the pandemic has halted or reversed progress in health and shortened life expectancy.

The 3 critical measures of human development - income, education and health –have all been reversed and we have seen Human Development progress decline for the first time since measurement began in 1990.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Human Development Reports in Kenya have been used to shape and initiate new policy debates and dialogues, address recognized development challenges and advance human development. In addition, the human development concept has placed UNDP as a thought leader on development issues and these reports have become important development advocacy tools in almost all developing countries, including Kenya, where for example we have enabled the use of the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) in the revenue allocation formula to counties applied by the Commission on Revenue Allocation.

The theme of the 9th Kenya National Human Development Report (KNHDR), the process for which we are launching today, poses questions vital to Kenya’s development trajectory – what is next for human development?  How can we expand people’s choices – within planetary boundaries. How can we build resilience against shocks, many of which are recurrent and predictable like the drought. No country has got this right yet. No country has managed to achieve high human development with a light ecological and environmental footprint. Our current development pathways mean that countries are growing richer at the cost of the world’s ecological sustainability and future generations.

But that doesn’t mean that this is not possible. As the Secretary-General has said, “We are truly at a crossroads, with consequential choices before us.” Alternative futures are possible. The extraordinary disruption of Covid is an opportunity for transformation towards the kind of world defined by the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.

The NDCs, for example, have taken on new meaning in the context of the pandemic. The pledges under the Paris Agreement aren’t just about climate, they represent a national roadmap for investment across key sectors that can drive green recovery. With the Climate Promise, UNDP has been leveraging the NDC targets on energy, transport, resilience, protecting nature, food systems and more to help countries accelerate the transition toward the future’s economies. We commend Kenya for increasing its ambition under its NDC update to 32% emission reduction up from the previous 30%.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

The pandemic and its impacts are far from over. Yet by disrupting everything we considered normal, it also demonstrated the scope for choice in where the world goes from here. It ushered space to try new approaches and policies, like temporary basic incomes or emergency mass cash transfers. It showed human ingenuity and solidarity in action.  These are lessons we can use. This is a moment for Kenya to consider not just how to recover from Covid, but how to come out of this crisis by doing things differently.

UNDP remains dedicated to our core mission of eradicating poverty and supporting sustainable development for all. UNDP will work with Kenya to expand Kenyan people’s choices for a fairer, greener and more sustainable future.

To that end, UNDP’s new Strategic Plan aims to support three directions of change:

      i.          Structural transformation towards more inclusive, green and digital transitions.

    ii.          Leaving no-one behind, by focusing on a rights-based approach centered on human agency.

  iii.          Building resilience in the face of systemic uncertainty and risk.

This will be anchored on UNDP’s six signature solutions on poverty and inequality, governance, resilience, environment, energy and gender equality and powered by three enablers for scale and speed: strategic innovation, digitalization and development financing.

To make a difference to Kenyan lives at scale, we must examine the systems and structures that shape development – not just the immediate challenges. Like digital: is not just a tool for development, but a force changing the very context of development. Or the persistent structural causes of gender inequalities – these are what need to change to build more inclusive societies.

Kenya’s focus should be to look beyond COVID - 19 recovery, towards 2030, making choices and managing complexity and uncertainty in six main areas: governance, leaving no-one behind, building resilience, social protection, green economy, and digital disruption.

Thank you to the leadership of the State Department of Planning for hosting this launch and thank you to everyone who joined us here today both physically and virtually.

As I close, let me take this opportunity to introduce our high-powered UNDP Strategic Planning and Analysis Unit under the leadership of my esteemed colleague, “Principal Secretary” Bheki Bhembe and his able team Mr. Benson Kimani and Nicholas Kipyego. Mr. Bhembe replaces Rogers Dhliwayo who takes on his new role as Economic Adviser in UNDP South Africa and I wish to acknowledge his many contributions in the journey towards Human Development in Kenya over the last 4 years.

Thank You all.