UNDP RR's speech at the national launch of the 2014 Human Development Report

13 Aug 2014

imageMs. Gita Welch delivers her speech at the national launch of the 2014 Human Development Report

Honourable Minister, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Development Partners, Members of Ghanaian Nation, Institutions, Heads of UN Agencies, Colleagues, all protocol observed.

I am very pleased to welcome you all to the launch of UNDP’s 2014 Human Development Report in Ghana. In particular, it gives me great pleasure, to have the minister of gender, children, and social protection be the one to represent the Government and officially launch the report. The ministry, while relatively new, has been at the forefront of providing leadership on a number of critical issues; it has also been scaling-up many key programmes relevant to this discussion, such as the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP) Program, which is a social cash-transfer program, which provides cash and health insurance to the extremely poor.

Let me begin by providing a brief background on the global human development reports – which are a flagship publication for UNDP. I will then follow it up with some remarks on the subject of the report itself.

The Global Human Development Reports (HDRs) have been commissioned and published by UNDP since 1990 as “an intellectually independent, empirically grounded analysis of development issues, trends, progress and policies.
The goal of the HDRs is to help advance human development and this involves placing emphasis on health, education, and the expansion of human freedoms, as much as on economic growth.

There are other reasons why this report on vulnerability is so timely. It points out that the “scope and scale of connectivity and related insecurities are accelerating, as are the threats of contagion and exposure to natural disasters and violent conflict. In an increasingly interconnected world, what was once local is often now global…disruptions at one point of the chain, can trigger serious problems elsewhere”. There are many examples that we can all think of which bring this point home.

Further the report points out that the national policy space to enhance the ability to face up to challenges is becoming more constrained as globalization deepens. Public goods, at national and global levels, needed to build long-term coping capabilities and resilient societies are in short supply.

It is important to note that the recovery of the human development indicators takes much longer than would be predicted by economic indicators used to describe recovery. Employment in particular takes much longer to recover and that is the main source of earnings for the majority of people.

This report refers back to the Asian crisis. At the time, GDP contracted, on average, by 7.7% in the 5 hardest-hit countries. Reports from ILO indicated that it took GDP between 2-7 years to recover to pre-crisis levels, and formal employment rates that fell by 3.1% took between 5-10 years to return to pre-1997 levels.
We know that growth does not automatically translate into jobs and well-being, and that the role of policies in the areas of social development are absolutely vital, as are appropriate rights frameworks when it comes to gender and other social inequities.

The theme of this report is “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience”. It concerns the vital importance of the sustainability of human progress.

The report seeks to draw lessons from the recent global crisis, the slow recovery and the implications for how to mitigate impacts on human development. It is also forward looking. As we launch it discussions are taking place on the continent and globally to fashion the global development agenda which will succeed the MDGs post-2015.

The 2014 report seeks to demonstrate that the concept of human development, by its very nature, needs to consider the dimensions of human vulnerability and resilience. For example, the report points out that it is not enough to reduce poverty, but we need to ensure that those people are able to stay out of poverty; we also need to consider those who are not on the threshold of poverty and could easily descend into poverty as a results of personal, environmental or political crisis.   

The report also explores the role of inequality in reducing the impact of significant growth rates and investments and in weakening social cohesion. In spite of significant progress on the MDGs, Sub-Saharan Africa faces huge challenges and continues to be the most unequal region in the world, according to UNDP’s Coefficient on Human Inequality. The report finds that around “585 million people, the equivalent of 72 percent of the region’s population, are either living in multidimensional poverty – with overlapping deprivations in education, health and living standards – or at risk of falling back into poverty”.

It points out that “these groups often do not experience improvements in their standard of living because they have limited political participation, livelihood options and access to basic social services.

Ghana just recently hosted a Pan-African Conference on tackling inequalities in the context of structural transformation, for which the UN system was delighted to partner with the Government. The remarks of H.E. the President and various ministers who took part – including Minister Lithur, who stayed and engaged in an interactive panel – demonstrated that Ghana is well aware of this potential threat which can impact the hard won gains that Ghana has had in reducing poverty and achieving many of the other MDGs.

The report focuses on resilience, and the importance of strengthening it at the individual, community, institutional levels through national policies as well as through collective action at national and global levels to focus on issues of governance and the provision of public goods.

We will hear more about each of these themes in the technical presentations and our panelists. We will also hear about the implications for Ghana. For now, I would like once again to welcome you all.

I thank you.