MAHBUB ul Haq, pioneer of the Human Development Report (HDR), opined in the first report titled ‘Concept and Measurement of Human Development’, “People are the real wealth of a nation”. Since then the concept of human development flourished with the view to create an enabling environment for the people of a nation within which they can lead an improved life backed up by their interests and choices. The current paradigm of the concept encompasses Human Development Index (HDI), Inequality-adjusted HDI, Gender Inequality Index and Multidimensional Poverty Index; whereas the heart of the HDR the HDI focuses on three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, educational attainment and command over the resources needed for decent living.
Since 1990 UNDP has been annually publishing an evidence-based and impartially grounded analytical report on human development with particular focus on the issues, trends and policies related to the growth of human development globally. There have, however, been some rare exceptions, for instance, for 2007 and 2008 there had been published one report title ‘Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World’, and in the year 2012 no report was published. The 2013 HDR, however, is tailored based on the 2012 HDI. In fact, 2013 Human Development Report is unique of its nature, which presents HDI values and ranks for 187 countries along with the Inequality-adjusted HDI for 132 countries, the Gender Inequality Index for 148 countries, and the Multidimensional Poverty Index for 104 countries.
Recently published Human Development Report 2013 title ‘The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World’ focuses on the emerging issues of the South including the realities behind the rise of the southern countries, their adopted policies and management rules that would have impact on human development progress, and more importantly the impact of the rise to the global governance and leadership. According to the HDR 2013, more than 40 developing countries have done better than expected in human development in recent decades and some of them have remarkably been carried out the trend of steady progress in human development throughout the last decade. Among the countries, noteworthy are the names of Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, Bangladesh, Chile, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda, Thailand and Tunisia.
Indeed the cumulative economic productivity of three southern countries (China, India and Brazil) is about to reach the collective gross domestic product of six northern economic forces (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States). Given the projections developed for this report, this trend is steadily growing in favor of the South. The report also identifies that each of the notable countries in human development progress in the South has its own history, identity, culture and strategies towards economic, social and human development. On one hand, these countries have achieved success in creating state regulatory and management system alongside the interconnected cooperation, whereas on the other, they have carefully as well strategically neglected the controversial Washington doctrine. Although some of the southern countries are still experiencing slow economic growth, the South-South cooperation in trade, investment, technological exchange and financing has been gradually benefiting them. Yet the southern countries are facing many of the same challenges which help them become more interconnected and interdependent. And they are increasingly demanding to be heard and to have spaces in the global governance, and seeking improved stakes, transparency and accountability in the global leadership and international institutions.
According to the HDR 2013 and UNDP, Bangladesh’s HDI value for 2012 is 0.515, which falls the country in the low human development category as usual. But the situation now here is better than ever before. The country ranks 146 out of 187 countries in HDI 2012, whereas it ranked 147 in HDI 2011. Between 1980 and 2012, Bangladesh’s life expectancy at birth increased by 14.0 years, mean years of schooling increased by 2.8 years, expected years of schooling increased by 3.7 years and GNI per capita increased by about 175 percent. Figure below shows the trends in Bangladesh’s HDI component indices since 1980:
It is also noted here that Bangladesh’s 2012 HDI of 0.515 is above the average of 0.466 for countries in the low human development group and below the average of 0.558 for countries in South Asia (Source: HDR 2013 and UNDP). Moreover, in the context of Indian Sub-continent, it can be seen from the report that Bangladesh and India have managed to keep a steady growth with the HDI over the span of three decades, whereas in the case of Pakistan inconsistency and fluctuations are strongly evident with the same. Despite the facts stated above, Bangladesh and Pakistan have jointly gained 146 ranking out of 187 countries in the 2012 HDI. Figure below shows Indian Sub-continent’s HDI trends within the last three decades:
Helen Clark, Administrator at UNDP, given the review of the HDR 2013 points out in the Foreword of the same that a key message contained in this and previous Human Development Reports is that economic growth alone does not automatically translate into human development progress. Pro-poor policies and significant investments in people’s capabilities — through a focus on education, nutrition and health, and employment skills — can expand access to decent work and provide for sustained progress. She also observes that the report identifies four specific areas of focus for sustaining development momentum: enhancing equity, including on the gender dimension; enabling greater voice and participation of citizens, including youth; confronting environmental pressures; and managing demographic change.
The report also analyses the contemporary global context and trends, and crafts a path for policymakers and global citizens towards increasing interconnectedness of the world. It also shows glimpse on how to face collectively the growing global challenges. Importantly, the report identifies the South needs the North, and increasingly North needs the South.
Finally, the report also focuses on a broader context that every individual should have the right to lead his life on his own norms. It is not fair on an individual to force lead a difficult life for being a citizen of a wrong mass population or country. Such kind of discrimination will limit or even impede the progress of human development.
At the end, the write-up recalls Amartya Sen’s kind contribution in the HDR 2013. Dr. Sen points out only the wearer may know where the shoe pinches, but pinch-avoiding arrangement can not be effectively undertaken without giving voice to the people and giving them extensive opportunities for public discussion. He opines that the dialogue responsibilities when properly appreciated across the lines of governance, must also include representing the interest of the people who are not here to express their concerns in their own voice. He also states that the human development approach is a major advance in the difficult exercise of understanding the success and deprivations of human lives, and in appreciating the importance of reflection and dialogue, and through that advancing fairness and justice in the world.
The writers are Senior Programme Manager and Research Assistant at the Institute of Governance Studies (IGS), BRAC University, respectively.