Press Conference on 2013 Human Development Report

14 March 2013

Press Conference on 2013 Human Development Report

12 March 2013
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on 2013 Human Development Report


Unprecedented human development gains across the developing world were radically reshaping the international power balance and making the global North and South increasingly interdependent, according to this year’s Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), presented at a Headquarters news conference and ahead of its official launch in Mexico City on 14 March.

Rapid, dramatic improvements in the living conditions and economic prospects of millions of people in 40 developing countries spanning Latin America, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa — the so-called South — in the last decade were driving global economic growth and societal change for the first time in centuries, according to the 202-page report titled The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World.

By 2030, more than 80 per cent the world’s middle class would live in the South and account for 70 per cent of total consumption expenditure.

That growth — due to Governments’ sustained public investment in health care, education, social programmes and strategic engagement in the world economy — underscored the importance of social inclusion and a responsible role for States, according to the report’s authors.

“A much broader approach to individual capabilities and to social competencies is needed to really understand that investing in people is investing in economies for the future,” said Khalid Malik, the report’s Director and lead author, who was joined at the press conference by William Orme, Chief of Communications and Publishing, Human Development Report Office.

The experiences in some developing countries that had successfully managed a rapid transition, notably in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, were instructive for other less successful economies, Mr. Malik said. 

But, sustaining successes in the South was also dependent on economic recovery in the United States and Europe, he said, warning that hard-won gains in human development would be more difficult to protect if global cooperation failed and difficult decisions were postponed.

The report also argued that leading developing countries, as well as civil society, needed better representation in global institutions in order to tackle major global challenges, such as worsening climate change and growing social unrest.

Using a PowerPoint slide-show, Mr. Malik discussed the UNDP report’s highlights, and he shed light on successes and challenges to human development in individual countries and regions.

Asked why countries of the North were obsessed with overall income growth in the South, but not their alarming levels of social inequalities, he said the report focused not just on income growth, but also on broader human development, measured in such terms as poverty reduction. 

Asked if the report took into account robust economic growth in rural areas of Pakistan and other South Asian countries, he said the report did not provide national data, but it pointed to progress in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan in health care and education, and common features in the socioeconomic policies of South Asian nations.

As to whether the report’s findings could influence Western, capitalist Governments to replace austerity-driven policies with ones that set up social protection floors, he said the first chapter of the report commented on austerity in Europe and elsewhere.  It warned that policies that impacted health, education and social protection reduced choices for future generations, and that history had shown that budgets cuts did not lead to prosperity. 

Asked how turmoil and instability in Africa and the Near East would impact human development in those areas, he said the report highlighted that the nature of the citizen-State relationship was changing.  The document stressed the need to give citizens a voice and make Governments more accountable to them.  As citizens were better educated and more exposed, they had higher expectations for jobs and dignified treatment.  State leadership to that effect was vital.

As to how the amassing of wealth by a select few would impact human development, he said the report made reference to the global elites, which were present in all countries, and to the need for equality to achieve sustained development.

Asked if the report made mention of recent quasi free-trade arms agreements, such as the “everything but arms agreement” in the European Union, he said it addressed the relationship between reducing defence expenditures and increasing human development. 

As to why the report touted public-private partnerships when they had failed in India, he said in many instances such partnerships had worked quite well and that the report focused on such successes. 

Concerning the effect of ageing populations on developing countries, he said the report included demographic projections.  The ageing population was a challenge for Europe and some East Asian countries.  The demographic dividends were potentially big boosts for South Asia and Africa, but managing that required education, skills enhancement and job creation.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.