Filter +

Launch of the 2002 United Nations Development Program

UNDP Human Development Report (onshi/Flickr)

UNDP Human Development Report (onshi/Flickr)

Ms. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Lead Author and Director of the Human Development Report

Dr. Gita Sen, Professor of Economics, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India

Princess Basma Bint Talal, Chair of the Jordan Hashemite Fund for Human Development

Moderator: Dr. Mahnaz Ispahani, Senior Fellow for South & West Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations

Introduction by ROBERT W. RADTKE

My name is Robert Radtke and I am vice president of Policy and Business Programs here at the Asia Society and it is my pleasure to welcome you all here this evening. The Asia Society is honored to host the launch of the UNDP's 2002 Human Development Report entitled Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World. We are very pleased this evening to have a distinguished set of panelists for tonight's event: Her Royal Highness Princess Basma from Jordan, the chair of the Jordan Hashemite Fund for Human Development; Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Director of the Human Development Report; Professor Gita Sen, Professor of Economics at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore; and Dr. Mahnaz Ispahani, the Senior Fellow for South & West Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The 2002 Human Development Report is timely and of critical importance. Its contribution lies in examining the links between political participation and equitable growth and proposing a set of principles and core values by which marginalized people everywhere can engage in a democratic process in a meaningful way. So often we overlook social and economic development when we rate democracies in the world, simply concentrating on the occurrence of elections and alteration of power. Amartya Sen, Nobel prize laureate, argues in his path breaking book, Development as Freedom, "despite unprecedented increases in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedoms to vast numbers, perhaps even the majority, of people."

Tonight's panelists will argue why we need to pay attention to the mechanisms by which the voices of the disenfranchised can be heard and that good governance means national policies that are grounded in conducive political, social and economic environment. In individual human freedom lies the capacity for political participation, economic development and social progress. Now, without further ado, let me turn to Mahnaz Ispahani from the Council on Foreign Relations who will preside and moderate at tonight's panel. Thank you very much. Mahnaz?


Thank you, Robert. Can you hear me? Thank you. Let me join in extending my welcome to this New York launch of the Human Development Report 2002. It's really a privilege to be here. For those of you who've had a chance to even glance at it, it's quite an extraordinary report about a difficult subject. Its also an honor to be at the Asia Society which as you well know has been playing an increasingly important role in debating and creating a forum for dialogue on important social policy and social change issues, particularly as they pertain to that vast region we tend to call Asia.

I wanted to add to Rob Radtke's comments by saying that for many years now UNDP has really been an extraordinary innovator in both articulating the concept and helping to make real the notion of human development. This concept may have been around for centuries in different guises but it really took UNDP's work and the work of many civil society groups over years to give this sharpness and focus and make it the leading edge of a global development agenda. So now where as we seem to take this concept in many ways for granted, it really was an innovation and a very important one and UNDP deserves great credit for it. It lifted out the notion of development solely from the arena of economic growth, from the arena of technical expertise, into that of the kinds of choices human beings make, the kinds of ways in which most of us want to and are able to live lives that are of greater value, where we have access to knowledge, resources, where we can live lives of dignity. This was an extraordinary contribution and continues to be.

I think if you look at the current report Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World, you'll see that the UNDP colleagues who put it out have both made a very important argument that really democratic systems of governance, both at the national and the global level, are probably the most likely to create environments that are conducive to human development. But on the other hand I don't think they flinch from taking on some of the complexities and challenges of creating real democratic institutions, again as I said, either at the local, national or global level. And I think we will hear from our speakers today and I hope in the discussion we can talk about how you try to realize these goals, make them real and lived in different regions which have different political trajectories and different human development capabilities today.

Our expectation is that we will have a session that goes 'til about 8 o'clock and each of our very distinguished speakers will have about 12 to 15 minutes each. That should leave us about half an hour for what I hope will be a very lively and engaging conversation. So while you have their bios, let me just say a few very brief words about each of our speakers in the order that we will be hearing them.

Sakiko Fukuda-Parr is, as you probably know, the lead author of the Human Development Report 2002, Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World. She has been director of this UNDP publication since 1996 and has had a 25-year long career in this field where she has been an author of some very important studies. She is the editor of the Journal of Human Development and she has had work experience previously in North Africa and the Middle East.

Our second speaker will be Her Royal Highness Princess Basma Bint Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, who has had a 30 year career in this field, a very distinguished one, where her focus has been on human development, gender equity and the well-being and development of children, primarily. She chairs several prominent NGOs in Jordan, including the Hashemite Fund for Human Development, and she was the founder of the Jordanian National Commission for Women. Currently, Princess Basma is also Goodwill Ambassador for UNIFEM, UNFPA and Honorary Human Development Ambassador for UNDP. Thank you for being here.

And our third speaker is going to be Dr. Gita Sen who has had an extraordinary career as both an activist and an academic. I think many of you probably know her many publications and books. She is a professor of economics at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, in India, and also a research coordinator on alternative development frameworks at DAWN, which is a network of women activists and researchers which she helped found and which has pioneered some new ways of thinking about research and activism. So without further ado, let me turn to Sakiko.

Thank you very much and I am really very pleased and honored to be invited to present our 2002 Human Development Report to you this evening. Much, in fact, this whole report can be summarized by just looking at the cover design because you see these hands which symbolize the search and the victory of peoples' freedom in the world. And you see these birds flying, which shows the flourishing of that freedom. But then as is our tradition we also like to look at data and you see this curve is a graph actually of the number of countries that have become democratic. So you see this increasing number of countries becoming democratic in the world and today of course we have more countries that have democratic regimes than ever before in human history.

And yet the real challenge of our world today is in fact to deepen that democracy. That is why the title of this report is Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World. And "deepening democracy" really means making it real for people. And why us that a challenge for everybody, not just for the people who live in non-democratic countries? It is because it is a challenge in all countries of the world, both new and old democracies, but also particularly important because we are living under this cloud of growing divides, growing political, economic, social divides and divides in which basically the anti-globalization movement, the terrorism are in fact a dominant social phenomena today. So as we are living in this very fragmented world, we absolutely desperately need a kind of political order that can make peoples' participation more meaningful.