Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Launch of the 2002 United Nations Development Program

UNDP Human Development Report (onshi/Flickr)

UNDP Human Development Report (onshi/Flickr)

Similar things have happened in Porto Alegre in Brazil for example. There is a whole movement for women to look at budgets to see that they are gender-sensitive and that they benefit women and do not neglect their needs.

So politics matters for human development, these political processes, political institutions and an important agenda for human development is political reform. Thank you.

MAHNAZ ISPAHANI

Thank you very much. Princess Basma?

PRINCESS BASMA

It really is an enormous pleasure to take part in this panel that marks the New York launch of the 2002 Human Development Report. The increased recognition of the UNDP Human Development Reports over the past years has indeed been dramatic, as we have witnessed the growing impact of the Reports and the different themes they have highlighted. Each Report in turn has been a groundbreaking and very credible and valuable tool for policy makers and practitioners. This panel graciously hosted by the Asia Society pays tribute to what the Human Development Reports have come to signify.

The themes of democracy, good governance and freedoms discussed in both the Global and the Arab Human Development Reports for 2002 compel me to touch on such themes in relation to developing countries as they pursue the human development of their people, while I focus on the Arab region in general and more specifically on my own country, Jordan.

The Human Development Report notes that the Arab region has been slower to democratize than other parts of the world. The Arab Human Development Report further attests that there is a substantial lag between Arab countries and other regions in terms of participatory governance. It states moreover that there is a freedom deficit in the Arab world which undermines human development and is one of the most painful manifestations of lagging political development.

As the Arab Human Development Report explains, one of the most pervasive obstacles to security and progress in the region in geographical, temporal and developmental terms is Israel's occupation of Arab lands. As the Report also notes, occupation is freezing growth, prosperity and freedom in the Arab world. Hence the circumstances to which these findings refer in fact lend credence to the fact that democratic processes are characterized by the specific historical, political, social and cultural conditions under which they emerge.

If one looks at the situation of Jordan since it embarked on the process of political liberalization in 1989, one finds that it vividly illustrates some of the issues to which the Global Human Development Report calls attention. The Report indicates, and I quote, that "the democracy a nation chooses to develop depends on its history and circumstances. Countries will necessarily be differently democratic." This statement largely evokes the homegrown model of Jordanian efforts to foster participation and political liberalization -- a process which has in fact been shaped by a set of significant factors which have often been beyond the country's control.

A major factor is the economic structure of Jordan which is characterized by serious resource constraints that over the years have obliged the country to depend primarily on external aid as well as remittances from expatriates working abroad. To a great extent the country's foreign policy was designed to maximize these returns. However such economic dependency could not be sustained indefinitely and in the late 1980s the government was forced to embark on a strict program of structural adjustment.

The other factor that has not only impacted Jordan's domestic and foreign policies but also the very lives of its citizens has been the volatile climate of the region. Throughout its history, Jordan has had to contend with the severe repercussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including taking in large numbers of Palestinian refugees at different critical junctures. More recently the First and Second Intifada and the impact of the ongoing crisis in the Palestinian occupied territories are gravely affecting the people in Jordan. While the Gulf War took a serious toll on the country, today the situation in Iraq poses a serious threat to the stability of the entire region, including Jordan.