Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All
4 November 2011
Honourable Vice Chair of the National Planning Commission, Mr. Deependra Bahadur Kshetry,
Former Vice Chair Dr. Jagdish Pokharel, key note speaker for this program Dr. Seira Tamang,
Colleagues and friends,
I would like to welcome you to this program today where we are launching our flagship publication: the global Human Development Report 2011. This Report’s thematic focus - on Sustainability and Equity - is as always, critical and timely not only for the global community but also for Nepal.
We will be hearing about the major findings and recommendations of this report in a short while. I will therefore touch on just two key messages which stand-out:
The first - that promoting human development requires an equitable and sustainable approach to expanding people’s freedoms, opportunities, and capabilities to lead lives they value. The most disadvantaged people continue to bear the repercussions of environmental deterioration, even though they may be contributing little to the problem. For example, Low Human Development Index countries have contributed the least to global climate change but have experienced the greatest loss as a result of changing weather patterns. This has a direct implication for agriculture, livelihoods and the replenishment of groundwater. Nepal has begun to see the direct impact of climate change in the form of increased floods, melting glaciers and shifting seasons. The Report argues forcefully, that it is critical therefore that equity finds its way into development policies, programs and approaches at the global, regional, national and community levels so that already excluded and deprived communities and individuals are not left even further behind.
The importance of understanding the links between sustainability and equity is highly relevant to Nepal’s context. Here too, we have seen an increase in inequality alongside overall progress on poverty reduction. Development gains in Nepal continue to fail to reach all communities equitably, with the Dalit community still falling far behind national averages. The most recent National Living Standard Survey results for example, have shown that the percentage of poor among the Dalits is 42 percent as compared to 23 percent among non-Dalits. The quality of Nepal’s development trajectory matters.
The second key message - that sustainability is not only an environmental issue but also about being conscious of the impact of our work on the rest of the world, and ensuring that we create better living conditions for the future generations. This is particularly pertinent in today’s context when the global community is preparing for Rio+20 summit and a post-MDG development framework is under discussion. I hope that this Human Development Report’s effort to show the close nexus between sustainability and equity, will contribute to the ongoing efforts to broaden our development framework with a strong focus on maximizing current and future human freedoms, capabilities, and opportunities. This will lead to better human development outcomes for all.
Issues of sustainable development, equity and people’s empowerment have been discussed in previous global human development reports and even Nepal’s National Human Development Reports. The Report’s emphasis on the benefits of integrating sustainability and equity for promoting human development reminds us forcefully of the need to put equality 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 Report reminds us that the question of who gets what, how and when is critical to how development agendas, policies, priorities, and approaches are defined, and how funds are allocated. All gains in human development may be reversed or reduced if sustainable and equitable approaches are not applied. It is clear that unsustainable development leads to inequality and inequality leads to higher chances of environmental degradation. We simply cannot afford to lose the achievements we have made in human development both at the global and national levels.
The overall HDI index shows that HDI for Nepal remains more or less unchanged from recent years. While still relatively low, I take this opportunity, in closing, to remind everyone again of the fact that Nepal nevertheless made faster progress than any other country in the world in its improvement of HDI between 1980 and 2010. This extraordinary achievement is little known and little discussed. The components that contributed to this faster growth in HDI were relating primarily to health and education indicators. There are two key messages for us in this overall result which we should not lose sight of either. First, some things have been going very well in Nepal, in the education and health fields in particular, even during times of conflict and post-conflict instability. Starting with Government leadership, equitable policies and programs, donor coordination and generosity in both sectors, to the extraordinary work of community health volunteers throughout the country.
Nepal needs to learn from its successes in health and education and apply the same determination and political will to tackle the areas in which it is still lagging behind. Second, there is an urgent need to unlock the economic potential of this country so that we can see an even greater acceleration in this HDI progress and we can be assured of its sustainability. Here, sustained progress in the peace process may hold the key. Nepal needs peace to create the necessary conditions to attract investment. To allow investors to invest. To allow entrepreneurs to follow their instincts. To create jobs. Once this critical component of the HDI starts to catch up with the social sectors will we start to see sustained and even more rapid progress. With the good news on the peace process this week, there is reason to hope that a corner will soon be turned on this missing piece of the Human Development jigsaw.
Thank you very much for your presence. And welcome again, to this launch.