Speech by UNDP Resident Representative- Launch of HDR 2014

Jul 24, 2014

Welcome to the launch of the 2014 Human Development Report. The 23rd edition of in the series of Human Development reports published by UNDP since 1990.


Profound thanks to H.E. Ato Belete Tafere for gracing this launching with his presence. And heartfelt appreciation to our distinguished panelists for today’s event.

·      H.E. Ato Getachew Adem

·      Dr. Rahel Kassahun

·      Dr.  Assefa Bequele


We live in an age of unprecedented change. 


If we look back to 2008, we can see with startling clarity how crises borne in one part of the world – whether related to subprime mortgages, natural disasters, oil shocks, commodity price fluctuations or terrorist attacks – can and do lead to lasting impacts across the world.

Over the last decade, we are seeing how the emergence of new powers from the South is transforming traditional geopolitics: by 2020, the combined economic output 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 in purchasing power parity terms.  Two weeks ago the BRICS launched a $100 billion new development bank.


The pace of technological innovation and its impact on our everyday lives is simply staggering. It is accompanied by profound changes in the distribution of power between states, markets, and citizens, with greater tools than ever before for finding solutions to common problems, for pooling knowledge, for sharing experiences and for holding leaders to account.


Indeed, since UNDP launched the first Human Development Report in 1990, most countries have achieved significant progress in human development.


The Report we are launching today, Sustaining human progress: reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience, shows that overall global human development trends remain positive and that progress is continuing.  Advances in technology, education, and incomes are promising longer, healthier, and more secure lives for millions of people.


The Human Development Index assesses long-term progress along three basic dimensions of development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living.


This year, Ethiopia ranks 173 out of 187 countries. But, as all of us who work here do know, this ranking does not tell the full picture of the tremendous human development gains which the country has recorded over the last 15 years.


Between 2000 and 2013, Ethiopia’s Human Development Index value increased by over fifty percent. Between 1980 and 2013, Ethiopia’s life expectancy at birth increased by nearly 20 years and expected years of schooling increased by 5.3 years. GNI per capita increased by over 100 percent between 1990 and 2013. 


The Report points to challenges with which practitioners in Ethiopia would be familiar. These relate to inequalities; high rates of multi-dimensional poverty and gender inequality. Ethiopia ranks 120 out of 149 countries on the Report’s Gender Inequality Index.

Yet, across the world, the Report shows that despite progress on human development, there is a widespread sense of instability: in livelihoods, in personal security, in the state of our environment, and in global politics.


2.2 billion people- or more than 15 percent of the global population - remain vulnerable to multidimensional poverty. 80 percent of people lack comprehensive social protection, 12 percent suffer from chronic hunger. 1.5 billion workers are in informal or precarious employment.


Gains in health, nutrition, and economic growth can quickly be eroded by food or economic crises, by floods, typhoons, or droughts.  Corruption and unresponsive state institutions worsen the plight of those in need without any safety net to fall on in times of need.


We live in a world of abundant risks, but also a world where those least able to manage these risks and cope with shocks when they do arise are often those who are also the most vulnerable to them.


We therefore cannot take for granted that development progress can continue to be plotted more or less along a straight line pointing to a better future for millions of people. The risks to development gains are real. Hard-won gains can be reversed. Now is the time to secure gains and prevent setbacks to the upward trajectories of progress we have seen in recent decades.


That is why in Ethiopia, and around the world, the idea of “resilience” is increasingly shaping development planning and interventions, and how shorter term emergency responses can support longer-term results. At its core, the notion of resilience is simple and compelling: how do we help people and communities “bounce back” from adversity?  How do we help men and women become less vulnerable so that they can cope with shocks and not slip into poverty?


As this edition of the Human Development Report makes clear, such setbacks are not inevitable.   Preparing people for a less vulnerable future requires shoring up the intrinsic resilience of countries and communities.


To help policymakers do that, the Report systematically identifies those groups of people who are more vulnerable than others to shocks, maybe because of their unique history, culture, or because of unequal treatment by others in society. These vulnerabilities may be connected with gender, age, ethnicity, or geographic location, though in many cases vulnerable people face more than one vulnerability.


The Report also highlights that vulnerabilities shift over the course of a person’s lifetime. Children, youth, and the elderly all face different risks, each requiring tailor-made responses. 


The report makes a number of hard-hitting recommendations for building resilience to future shocks. 


First, it calls for universal access to basic social services, with a strong focus on health, education, and water and sanitation. This can be a powerful force for equalizing opportunities and outcomes, and heling people live lives that they value.  For example, universal high-quality public education can counteract the gaps in education received by children from rich and poor households.


Second, it calls for tackling the different vulnerabilities people face at different times of their life with appropriate measures.  For example, the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are especially important, during which time specific care, nutrition, and medical support are required. Young people finishing university and looking to enter the job market need different kinds of support if they are not to join the ranks of unemployed, as do those who are looking to retire, look after sick relatives, move to the city, or change jobs.


Third, the Report calls for stronger social protection, including unemployment insurance and pensions.  Strong social protection polices not only improve individual resilience. They also bolster the resilience of the economy as a whole.


Fourth, it calls for decision-makers to prioritize full employment. This is not only about giving people incomes, but about giving them dignity and opportunities to provide for themselves and their families too. 


Fifth, the Report stresses the need for public institutions which are responsive, accountable, transparent, and fair. Such institutions which adopt measures to reduce inequality among groups can build social cohesion, limiting the potential for conflict to erupt. 


Sixth, even the best policies cannot avoid crises altogether, so the Report calls for enhanced national capacities and planning for disaster preparedness and response.  This way, when disaster strikes, communities can be well-positioned to weather the storm.


We have seen the benefits of this approach here in Ethiopia, through programmes aimed at building productive safety nets; strengthening governance institutions and capacities for disaster risk management; building climate resilience; and promoting equity and livelihoods in Developing Regional States.  



Lastly, some shocks and risks are global in nature, and require collective action to address them. This means not only showing greater international commitment to fighting challenges like climate change, but reforming our global governance systems to best meet the needs and reflect the realities of the 21st century.


This Report makes it abundantly clear that until such time that we are addressing people’s distinct vulnerabilities adequately, development results will be neither equitable nor sustainable.


Success is not automatic in development, and development gains are not permanent. We need to shield achievements against vulnerabilities and shocks, and deepen resilience.


This Report, Sustaining human progress: reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience, provides an excellent road map for achieving that goal.


I hope that the Report will be read widely here in Ethiopia, and that its important messages and recommendations will stimulate a lively debate and be appropriately reflected in the actions and national priorities outlined in the successor to the Growth and Transformation Plan.

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