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Launch of the 2002 United Nations Development Program

UNDP Human Development Report (onshi/Flickr)

UNDP Human Development Report (onshi/Flickr)

The work done by JOHUD to promote sustainable development initiatives is carried out primarily through a network established by the organization of 50 community development centers, which are spread throughout the country. At JOHUD centers, local level planning processes are bringing community people together to put forward their priority needs, to accept shared responsibility for local development and to exercise their rights as citizens. Increasingly, NGOs like JOHUD have the capacity to act as local level auditing mechanisms. However, realizing that to play such a role it needed itself to become more transparent and more accountable to local people, JOHUD has been undergoing its own process of decentralization and internal reform. Beyond demonstrating the vital role that NGOs can play in promoting democratic practices, JOHUD's ever increasing emphasis on grassroots participation is creating steady change in democratic processes at the local level.

Based on this, its direct involvement in the field and the experience it has gained in the 25 years since its establishment, JOHUD has been selected by the government in Jordan as a viable mechanism to take on the task of preparing Jordan's second National Human Development Report. And it was extremely interesting for me in this light today to be part of a judging panel for awarding national development reports' recognition through a new approach by UNDP based on awards. And certainly the whole process of assessing and evaluating other reports was a very important learning experience for me. So I hope that in years to come, Jordan's second National Development Report or third or fourth might be received by UNDP and given some consideration.

Active advocacy by JOHUD has been key to deciding the theme of our second National Human Development Report, and this centers on poverty alleviation, as many others have done, but it uses an approach based on sustainable livelihoods or the sustainable livelihoods approach. It's an approach really that provides new insights into old problems. It's a positive approach because it builds on assets and capabilities without compromising the future. It's about self-reliance and respect for autonomy at national, community and individual levels.

In particular, this approach recognizes that policies, institutions and processes condition the environment within which people operate, thus playing a major role in assisting or hindering people in overcoming their poverty. The sustainable livelihood approach places poor people at the center or at the heart of the picture, which with its strong involvement at the grassroots level is where JOHUD started.

Extensive field research has been carried out which looks in depth at the lives of the poor in Jordan. The research shows how people experience poverty as well as the coping strategies which they adopt. Focusing on their own views of how their lives can be improved, many of the messages and recommendations for action in the second NHDR will come from the poor themselves. Their stories are being built into every chapter of the report. Their accounts overlap and they interlink and they share common themes. Such stories we hope will demonstrate from the perspective of the poor and vulnerable in Jordan that there are complex factors and influences at play.

So what kind of stories do we hear and what can we learn? Above all, we learn that poor people know what they want. And that their opinions can help to formulate better policies. For example, poor Jordanians place a strong emphasis on education as a means for their children to get opportunities for a better life. Jordan's record on access to education is commendable, already meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals. In the field research carried out for the NHDR, people talked substantially about the benefits that education has brought them, especially education for girls.

However, poor Jordanians are not just interested in access, they are also concerned with quality outcomes. Commenting on the new municipal system established by a provision of law, poor people generally recognize that they are steadily getting better services, which are being allocated on merit, not on the basis of power or connections. They can see standards being set for new kinds of representation. The fundamentals of governance and democracy are being increasingly addressed through municipalities that are increasingly accountable, with transparent decisions that are subject to scrutiny both locally and from the national level. Local people are noting the changes and on the whole they seem to like them.

Development in Jordan today depends on our being able to draw connections, parallels and linkages in areas we haven't thought of in the past. This implies being willing and able to consider the links between macro policies and the way they can impact on individual and household lives at the micro level. Because change is taking place rapidly, it is vital to monitor them through a regular presence in the field in order to assess how positive impact can be maximized and negative impact can be reduced.

So I am going to skip some of these details because I am told I better get a move on. But what I would like to say is that, in finishing, while we hope and we can see that the 2002 Human Development Report has sought and will seek to further democracy in the world and we hope that our own second National Human Development Report will be a similar tool in addressing such processes and meeting such challenges, what I would like to end by saying is that all these issues are so connected to context, to situations, to circumstances and that more than any other region in the world, the theme of the global human development report, Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World, is singularly relevant to depicting the situation of the Middle East, which for far too long has been fragmented due to an absence of peace and security. And it's now up to the countries of the region, with the collective backing of the international community, to work together to ensure that peace, freedom and development are the right of all groups and all individuals and all peoples of our region. Thank you very much.

Thank you, Princess Basma. (Introduces Dr. Gita Sen)


Good evening and I'd like to join my co-panelists in expressing gratitude to the Asia Society for holding an evening like this. It is fascinating that the New York launch of the Global Human Development Report actually is happening at the Asia Society, with a focus on different parts of Asia. And I think that in many ways, and I may be a little bit of an Asia chauvinist in saying this, current directions and events in Asia, across the spectrum of Asia, probably have a great many lessons and possibly a number of pointers for the directions that the world is likely to go in, in the next few decades at least.

I'd like in the remarks I have to make today to focus on one old question and one new one about the relationship between political democracy and economic processes.

There is a traditional question here and it is a traditional question that has been much debated in Asia, particularly in the last two or three decades. The traditional question is this: is political democracy, understood as elections, the process of political parties, the give and tumble of democratic electoral politics as we usually know it, is political democracy in that sense necessary for economic growth or poverty alleviation?