Istanbul Launch of UNDP 2019 Human Development Report hosted by Habitat Association

January 30, 2020

The 2019 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was launched on 15 January 2020 at Facebook Istasyon. The event hosted by Habitat Association featured discussions on the key findings and messages of the Report vis-à-vis current developments in Turkey and the world.

The 2019 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was launched on 15 January 2020 at Facebook Istasyon. The event hosted by Habitat Association started with an opening speech of Mr. Sezai Hazır, President of the Executive Board of Habitat Association. Then, Mr. Claudio Tomasi, UNDP Turkey Resident Representative, presented the “2019 Human Development Report”. The event also featured a keynote address by Ms. Ümit Boyner, President of the Executive Board of Business for Goals, and a panel moderated by Dr. Itır Akdoğan, TESEV Research Director.

At the panel, Assoc.Prof.Dr. Emel Memiş Parmaksız of Ankara University Department of Economics discussed “gender inequality”; Prof. Dr. Levent Kurnaz of Bosphorus University Department of Physics addressed “climate and inequalities”; and Prof. Dr. Cem Say of Bosphorus University Department of Computer Engineering treated “artificial intelligence and technological inequalities.”

In his opening remarks, Mr. Sezai Hazır, President of the Executive Board of Habitat Association, emphasised that:

“The 2019 Human Development Report released at the end of last year stands as a significant guide for the world to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. As Turkey graduates to the very high human development category ranking 59th among 189 countries, the Report notes that many people have been relieved of extreme poverty across the world. It is now a common point of discussion across the world that formal education, from elementary school through university, fails to prepare children and youth for the future, particularly the vocations of the future. This where the contribution of technology to disseminating and freeing knowledge offers a valuable opportunity for individuals to self-develop independent of formal education. Considering the educational dimension of inequalities, 42% of adults in low human development countries have completed primary education whereas 94% have in high human development ones. On a similar note, 3% of adults in the former hold higher education degrees, whereas 50% do in the latter.

The Human Development Report also provides a “Gender Inequality Index (GII)” which reflects gender-based inequalities in three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity, by which Turkey ranks 66th among 162 countries. Beyond these key issues, there are few joyful things in the progress. Two major developments, namely climate change and technological transformation, will shape the 21st century.

Climate change is already affecting the poorest, while technological advances such as machine learning and artificial intelligence can leave behind entire groups of people, even countries, creating the spectre of an uncertain future under these shifts.

The highest value that has been keeping Habitat Association so successful for 25 years is the fact that it has forged strong relations with the public sector, local governments and private sector and brought them together on a common goal through projects it has implemented to support sustainable development. We assume a significant role in enabling the Turkish society, including particularly the disadvantaged, to access education. In this context, in addition to awareness-raising training under our Digital Transformation programme, we implement projects through which training is provided so that individuals in Turkey should not only be users, but also producers of technology.”

Mr. Claudio Tomasi, UNDP Turkey Resident Representative, said in his address:

“The reason for UNDP focusing on inequalities in its 2019 Human Development Report is that young generations across the world stand against inequalities. 

We witnessed how a 16-year-old youth, Greta, could influence the politicians. The present standards and practices to measure inequalities are insufficient to inform societal debate and support decision-makers. To better understand current social and individual discontent and propose solutions to such problems, we must look “beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today” as does the Human Development Report. In this context, I would like to refer to the two major matters that will shape our future: climate change and gender inequality. Gender inequalities are at the top of all types of entrenched inequalities everywhere. As gender inequality affects more than half of the world, it is recognised as a major impediment to human development.

Looking at the human development landscape in the world, we may say that it is a glass half full, half empty. Indeed, taking 1990 as baseline, the world had significant progress in 28 years. Hunger, poverty, malnutrition went down; child mortality went down; primary school enrolment went up. These are of course important progress, but we still face significant inequalities. For example, there is a huge gap in educational level and means between most developed and least developed countries. We also observe that inequality does not arise ultimately at the wages received at work. It stars long before getting the job, even before being born. The Report explicitly concludes that inequality is far beyond mere income. The 2019 Human Development Report reveals two new major inequalities: climate crisis and inequalities caused by technological advances. Particularly, technology and climate change are the factors that shape inequalities in the world.”

Ms. Ümit Boyner, President of the Executive Board of Business for Goals, said in her keynote address:

“Not only our country, but also the entire world is going through challenging, critical times. We witnessed demonstrations around the world over the past decade, particularly last year.

The youth as lead demonstrators, expressed their anger, frustration and unmet needs. The notion that economic development will bring social development is now losing ground. The inequalities of 21st century cannot only be explained in terms of income and prosperity levels. Climate-induced disasters, mass migrations due to wars and regional equalities make us feel that humanity is moving towards an unpleasant finale. It is nevertheless promising to see that hopes for solution, humanitarian response and awareness are increasing in the face of growing global problems. As known, the Human Development Report examines countries by such indices as education, health, gender equality, gender inequality, technology and social aid. Various indices in the Report are based on the data provided by national statistical offices.

Turkey has for the first time graduated to the very high human development category. Access to services increased in Turkey, particularly in healthcare, education and social aid. We see that public investments have an impact if focused on human development. The number of institutions and facilities is on the rise everywhere in Turkey, but we are all discussing whether quality services are being delivered. Unfortunately, we cannot assert same schooling years or same quality of education. Turkey continues to score far below the OECD average in all dimensions of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The problem of [lacking] foreign language skills in Turkey is also striking. Social and affective learning methods are not common either; we see young people unable to express themselves. We must incorporate creative thinking in our education system to minimise the inequalities caused by technology and climate change, as the Report proposes.

Business for Goals Platform – Business for Goals. In 2015, 193 member states of the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. Human development is both a means and end to achieving those goals. They are not something that can be achieved by states alone, or NGOs or activists only. Today, the private sector in partnership with governments, civil society organisations and academia should play an important role in solving the problems. To that end, we founded the Business for Goals Platform jointly with TURKONFED, TUSIAD and UNDP. We bring together more than 40,000 companies small or large, more than 250 business associations and federations constituting the membership base of TUSIAD and TURKONFED, and UNDP’s extensive knowledge network.”