This year’s Human Development Report notes how countries in the South, to which Rwanda has received glowing mention, have continued to grow while the developed economies have seemed to stagnate.
The Report, The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World, takes stock of how “the striking transformation of a large number of developing countries into dynamic major economies with growing political influence is having a significant impact on human development progress.”
It notes how pro-poor policies and significant investments in people’s capabilities can expand access to decent work and provide for sustained progress.
Education, health care, social protections, legal empowerment and social organisation all enable poor people to participate in growth.
Countries in the South have done well. So well that the New York in the US which, despite the city’s economy being several times larger than many of the developing countries, has had to borrow ideas from the South.
No one has a monopoly on good ideas, the Report observes, explaining how New York, by establishing the Centre for Economic Opportunity, has borrowed a leaf seeking to reduce poverty by finding new and better ways to build self-sufficiency and prepare young people for bright futures.
The Centre is making some break-through with New York’s teeming poor; its mission being to identify strategies to help break the cycle of poverty through innovative education, health and employment initiatives.
These are universal solutions to wards human development, and which eventually should level the ground for all and sundry.
The Report, therefore, emphasizes equity as an essential part of human development. Every person has the right to live a fulfilling life according to their own values and aspirations.
No one should be doomed to a short life or a miserable one because they happen to be from the “wrong” class or country, the “wrong” ethnic group or race or the “wrong” sex. Inequality reduces the pace of human development and, in some cases, may even prevent it entirely.
Counsel is that social policy should promote inclusion, as nondiscrimination and equal treatment is critical for political and social stability. Along with this is provision of basic social services, which can underpin long-term economic growth by supporting the emergence of a healthy, educated labour force.
How can countries in the South continue their pace of progress in human development, and how can the progress be extended to other countries?
Sustaining the momentum is crucial, to which the Report suggests four specific areas of focus for sustaining development: enhancing equity, including on the gender dimension; enabling greater voice and participation of citizens, including youth; confronting environmental pressures; and managing demographic change.
Enhanced equity, including between men and women and across groups, is not only valuable in itself, but also essential for promoting human development.
The Report observes that one of the most powerful instruments for enhancing equity is education, which boosts people’s self-confidence and makes it easier for them to find better jobs, engage in public debate and make demands on government for health care, social security and other entitlements.
The second area towards sustainability is enabling people’s voice and their participation in the events and processes that shape their lives, with emphasis on involving the young people.
Environmental threats such as climate change, deforestation, air and water pollution, and natural disasters not only pose a challenge to sustainability, but affect everyone, hurting poor countries and poor communities most. Thus the need for globally addressing environmental challenges.
There is also need to manage demographic change, which has to do with the realisation that development prospects are influenced by the age structure of the population, as well as its size. Economic output of the young, for instance, helping support their old folk.
Projections suggest that some poorer countries will benefit from a “demographic dividend” as the share of the population in the workforce rises, but only if there is strong policy action.