Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

United Nations Development Programme Press Release: May 25, 1993

Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

United Nations Development Programme Press Release: May 25, 1993

Article excerpt

NINETY PERCENT OF THE WORLD'S PEOPLE have no control over their lives, in spite of recent changes around the world favouring market economies, multi-party democracies and grass roots activities, says the Human Development Report 1993.

"Many of today's struggles are more than struggles for access to political power," says William H. Draper III, UNDP Administrator, in a foreword to the report. "They are struggles for access to the ordinary opportunities of life--land, water, work, living space and basic social services."

The report, prepared by an independent team of economists for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and published by Oxford University Press USA, shows that ethnic minorities, the poor, rural dwellers, women, and the disabled often have little power to change their lives. This disempowerment can even extend to entire countries.

Mahbub ul Haq, former Finance and Planning Minister of Pakistan and now Special Adviser to the Administrator and chief architect of the report, says the basic message of human development has not changed: economic growth is imperative for a nation's development, but this growth must be translated into the lives of people. "Income is essential," says Dr. Haq, "but it is only a means, not the sum total of human life." People make many choices besides making money which affect their lives, in areas ranging from health and education to employment and the way they are governed.

To make the point, the report ranks countries by a Human Development Index (HDI), which combines life expectancy, educational attainment and basic purchasing power into one indicator of human development. The countries with the highest incomes are not always those with highest HDI ranking. In 1993, Japan ranks first on the HDI although sixth in real gross domestic product (GDP). Canada is second in HDI, followed in order by Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, USA (first in income), Australia, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Among developing countries, Barbados is first with a ranking of 20, followed by Hong Kong (24), Cyprus (27), Uruguay (30), Trinidad and Tobago (31), Bahamas (32), Republic of Korea (33), Chile (36), Costa Rica (42) and Singapore (43).

The need for improved levels of human development is not limited to developing countries. To highlight the exclusion of ethnic minorities from participating fully in economic and social benefits, the 1993 report ranked the white, African-American and Hispanic populations of the United States on the HDI as if they were separate countries. The white population would rank first on the HDI, ahead of Japan, while African-Americans, with lower life expectancy, income and education levels, would rank 31st, the same as Trinidad and Tobago. Hispanics in the U.S. would rank 35th among countries, below the Bahamas, Republic of Korea and Estonia. Studies of other countries show many other groups such as the poor, women and rural dwellers are excluded from participation as well.

The report says that after reviewing patterns of participation--and exclusion--around the world, "it seems likely that fewer than 10 percent of the world's people participate fully in political, economic, social and cultural life."

To promote societies built around people's genuine needs, the report calls for "five new pillars of a people-centred world order":

1. New concepts of human security that stress security of people, not just of nations and territory. This means accelerated disarmament, using defence cuts to boost human development. It means a new role for the United Nations, increasingly intervening to provide human security in areas such as the former Yugoslavia and in Somalia, where people are fighting within countries rather than between countries.

2. New strategies of sustainable human development that weave development around people, not people around development.

3. New partnerships between state and markets, to combine market efficiency with social compassion. …

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