Environmental trends and deep inequalities threaten progress for the poor

04 Nov 2011

imageEnvironmental trends and deep inequalities threaten progress for the poor

The new UNDP Human Development Report, “Equity and Sustainability: A Better Future for All,” was launched today by Hon’ble Deependra Bahadur Kshetry,Vice Chairman of the National Planning Commission. The report places Nepal 157th out of 187 countries with an increase in the Human Development Index from 0.428 in 2010 to 0.458 in 2011. Nepal ranked 138 out of 169 countries in 2010.

 

The report states, “Development progress in the world’s poorest countries could be halted or even reversed by mid-century unless bold steps are taken now to slow climate change, prevent further environmental damage, and reduce deep inequalities within and among nations”.

 

While Norway, Australia and the Netherlands lead the world in the 2011 Human Development Index (HDI), the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and Burundi are at the bottom of the Human Development Report’s annual rankings of national achievement in health, education and income.

The United States, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Germany and Sweden round out the top 10 countries in the 2011 HDI, but when the Index is adjusted for internal inequalities in health, education and income, some of the wealthiest nations drop out of the HDI’s top 20: for example, the United States falls from #4 to #23, the Republic of Korea from #15 to #32, and Israel from #17 to #25 indicatingthat income distribution has worsened in many countries of the world.

 

In the new report, the Gender Inequality Index focuses on women's participation in political decision-making, highlighting that women lag behind men across the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Arab States. This has important implications for sustainability and equity. Because women often shoulder the heaviest burden for resource collection and are the most exposed to indoor air pollution, they are often more affected than men by decisions related to natural resources. The most disadvantaged people continue to bear the repercussions of environmental deterioration, even though they are contributing little to the problem.

 

The frequency of high intensity tropical cyclones and associated precipitation is predicted to rise 20 percent by 2100. The growing incidence of natural disasters does not affect everyone equally - not only because the damage wrought by the average natural disaster may change but also because the capacity of societies to respond and protect themselves also varies. In recent years South Asia experienced the largest number, an average of almost six a year per country. Low HDI countries, while often vulnerable to drought, tend to have fewer disasters than medium HDI countries, partly because many are land-locked.

 

Nepal has begun to see the direct impact of climate changes in the form of increased floods, melting glaciers and shifting seasons. Therefore, it is critical that equity is integrated into development policies, programs and approaches at global, regional, national and community levels so that already excluded and deprived communities and individuals are not left farther behind.

 

The importance of understanding the links between sustainability and equity is especially relevant to Nepal which has seen increases in inequality even when poverty reduction has been significant. The development gains that Nepal has experienced in the past decade have not benefitted all Nepalese equitably as some social groups continue to fall far behind the national average. The most recent National Living Standard Survey results have shown that the percentage of poor among Dalits is 42 percent as compared to 23 percent among the non-Dalits for example.

 

At the launch, Robert Piper, UNDP Resident Representative for Nepal noted that “The Report’s emphasis on the benefits of integrating sustainability and equity for promoting human development  reminds us forcefully of the need to putequality in outcomes at the center of the development debate. With today’s welcome emphasis on results-based development, our focus must be not only on the means, i.e. equity, but also the outcome of development work, i.e. equality, that we want to achieve, for all”.

 

The new Human Development Report makes an effort to show the close nexus between sustainability and equity and will hopefully contribute to the ongoing efforts to broaden development frameworks in order to maximize current and future human freedoms, capabilities, and opportunities for all.