Although poverty is declining overall, almost 800 million people are at risk of falling back into poverty if setbacks occur. Nearly 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries are living in poverty with overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards. And according to income-based measures of poverty, 1.2 billion people still live with $1.25 or less a day.
The 2014 Human Development Report, released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), comes at a critical time as attention turns to the creation of a new development agenda following the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
India is ranked at 135, among the ‘medium development’ countries like Egypt, South Africa, Mongolia, Philippines and Indonesia. Among India’s neighbours, Bhutan and Bangladesh too figure in this category. Pakistan (ranked 146) and Nepal (145) are in the ‘low development’ category, while Sri Lanka (73) is in the ‘high development’ category.
Unless persistent vulnerability that threatens human development is systematically tackled by policies and social norms, progress will be neither equitable nor sustainable. This is the core premise of the 2014 Report. “By addressing vulnerabilities, all people may share in development progress, and human development will become increasingly equitable and sustainable,” stated UNDP Administrator Helen Clark today.
The report points to a slowdown in human development growth across all regions, as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI). It notes that threats such as financial crises, fluctuations in food prices, natural disasters and violent conflict significantly impede progress.
“Eliminating extreme poverty is not just about ‘getting to zero’; it is also about staying there”, the Report states.
The Report also introduces the idea of life cycle vulnerabilities, the sensitive points in life where shocks can have greater impact. They include the first 1,000 days of life, and the transitions from school to work, and from work to retirement. For example, in one study cited by the Report, poor children in Ecuador were shown to be already at a vocabulary disadvantage by the age of six. Timely interventions—such as investments in early childhood development—are therefore critical, the Report states.
Poor countries can afford universal provision of basic social services
The Report advocates for the universal provision of basic social services to enhance resilience, refuting the notion that only wealthy countries can afford to do this. Countries mentioned include not only the usual suspects such as Denmark, Norway and Sweden, but also fast-growing economies such as the Republic of Korea and developing countries such as Costa Rica.
“These countries started putting in place measures of social insurance when their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita was lower than India’s and Pakistan’s now,” the Report observes.
Collective effort, coordinated action needed at a global level
The Report also calls for stronger collective action, as well as better global coordination and commitment to shoring up resilience, in response to vulnerabilities that are increasingly global in origin and impact. Take the case of Niger, which has faced severe food and nutrition crises brought on by a series of droughts. At the same time, Niger had to cope with an influx of refugees fleeing conflict in neighbouring Mali.
Threats ranging from financial crises to climate change to conflicts are trans-national in nature, but the effects are experienced locally and nationally – and often overlap.
(Courtesy: United Nations )