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Launch of the 2002 United Nations Development Program

UNDP Human Development Report (onshi/Flickr)

UNDP Human Development Report (onshi/Flickr)

So that is the one-minute explanation of this report. But let me go on for the next ten minutes and tell you a little bit more. I think that the real issue that we are grappling with here is this relationship between political regimes and what we think of as economic and social development. But of course first, our starting point, is that in fact as the chairperson said, the whole idea of human development was really to refocus the whole idea of economic growth and development on the ultimate purpose of people and their well being. And then recognizing that if development is about improving the well being of people and expanding peoples' choices, then how can you do that without taking account of civil and political freedoms, freedom of speech and the political regimes that you need to assure those freedoms. So human development really brings the political dimension into development, development which is conventionally thought of as economic or social processes, expansion of economic opportunities, expansion of social opportunities, but this year we are really emphasizing the fact that political freedom is an important part of human well-being and expanding the choices people have to lead the lives they wish to lead.

Now what we have today is a situation where we have lived through the 1980s and 1990s when there was this wave of democratization, people call it the Third Wave. And more than 80 countries took steps towards democratization. However this took place at the same time as when in fact there was not a consistent improvement in economic and social conditions under which people were living. And so actually people are now beginning to question whether democracy is of any use or not because it doesn't bring all of these benefits that they were really looking for. And so this is perhaps one of the biggest challenges of democracy today, particularly in the new democracies in developing countries of Latin America, of Africa, the new democracies of Eastern Central Europe, where the experience of economic and social progress of the 1990s was anything but consistently positive.

For many in the world in fact the 1990s was, of course, a great decade of leaps, of progress. I think that those of us living in New York know we are the primary beneficiaries of those leaps of progress in terms of expansion of economic markets, technological progress, even though we seem to be having difficult. Sometimes technological progress complicates our life.

But just as we have seen in the New York Times quite recently that poverty has begun to grow in the last year or so in the United States, well, for many in other parts of the world, the whole of the 1990s was not a very positive decade. In fact in the human development index, which we use to measure human progress that combines expansion of economic and social opportunities such as education and health, there was in fact a decline in 21 countries. In fact this is rather unusual because over the 1960s and 70s, we never saw such a decline. In fact there was a steady improvement in virtually all countries of the world.

Do we really realize that child immunization rates, that improved enormously in the 1980s, actually declined since the mid 1990s in Africa and South Asia - in a country like India that actually registered improvements in economic growth? Developing countries as a whole, I am sure many of you have read, have registered a very good economic expansion in that period of the 1990s, grew at a higher rate than the OECD countries. But actually more than 60 countries ended the decade poorer than its beginnings. That is to say the GDP per capita in 60 countries in 2000 was lower than what it was in 1990.

As far as the number of people living in extreme poverty was concerned, the total numbers declined quite a lot in Asia, halved in Asia, but in all other regions, Africa, Latin America, Eastern and Central Europe, former Soviet Union, Arab states, the numbers actually increased.

And this was also at a time when aid to developing countries fell and I think in the aid community, those of us who work with organizations like UNDP, UNICEF, World Bank and bilateral donors like USAID, we focus our attention on the proportion of developed country GDP that has also declined but actually in terms of the recipient countries, aid received per capita in Africa is half today than what it was in 1990. So at a time when there was increasing prosperity in the developed world and declines in many of the developing countries, not all of them, certainly not all of them, but in many of them, in fact support to these countries actually declined in a fairly dramatic way.

Let me then go on to the trends in democracy. Of the 81 that embraced democracy in the 1980s and early 90s, only 47 today are considered to be fully functioning. I think these overall global trends are extremely troubling. Globalization is forging greater interdependence and yet the world is actually much more fragmented. And I think that fragmentation is not just this sort of distance between material wealth between those who have a lot of money, wealth, assets and the poor, but also a distance between the powerful and the powerless, those who believe that the new global economy is full of wonderful opportunities for their lives and those who do not.

And that is what is really the reason why the biggest social movement of our times is the anti-globalization movement. And in many respects I think that political tensions that exist in the world have something to do with all of these divides and these political tensions… you certainly do not want to say that poverty breeds terrorism but certainly there is enough that is going on out there in terms of those who feel that the new world is really something that they can benefit from and those that feel it is something that is rejecting them and their dignity-- that actually provides an environment in which there will be sympathizers to terrorists in many countries of the world.