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close this bookThe Courier N 140 - July - Aug 1993 - Dossier: National Minorities - Country Reports: Dominica, Mozambique (EC Courier, 1993, 96 p.)
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1993 Human Development Report


'90% of the workers people lack control over their own lives'

'Many of today's struggles are more than struggles for access to political power. They are struggles for access to the ordinary opportunities of life-land, water, work, living space and basic social services'.

This statement, by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, William Draper, sets the tone for the latest Human Development Report which was published at the end of May. The Report, prepared by an independent team of economists for the UNDP, shows that ethnic minorities, the poor, rural dwellers, women and the disabled often have little power to change their lives. Overall, the authors conclude that some 90% of the world's population lack control over their own destiny.

The chief architect of the Report, Mahbub ul Haq, who is Special Advisor to the UNDP Administrator and a former Minister in the Pakistan Government, 2 argues that 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 the people. 'Income is essential,' Dr Haq continues, 'but it is only a means, not the sum total of human life.'

To emphasise the point, the Report once again ranks countries according to the Human Development Index (which has been featured in The Courier in its coverage of previous Human Development Reports). This Index combines life expectancy, educational attainment and basic purchasing power into a single indicator of human development. The latest calculations reveal once again that the countries with the highest incomes are not always those with the highest HDI ranking. In 1993, Japan ranks first on the HDI although it is only sixth in terms of real GDP per capita (See also Table 1). As in previous years, we reproduce the rankings for the ACP and EC countries (Table 2).

In addition to providing updated statistical information which is designed to chart the trends of human development across the world, the authors of the Report seek each year to break new ground by focusing on specific aspects or topics of current concern. Last year, the

emphasis was on reforming world markets. Among the new themes highlighted as 'targets for change' in the 1993 Report are the exclusion of minorities, 'jobless growth' and centralised power.


Table 1: There is no automatic link between income and human development (Source UNDP)

Minorities excluded

To highlight the exclusion of ethnic minorities from full participation in economic and social benefits, the 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, ahead of Japan, while African Americans, with lower life expectancy, income and education levels, would come in at 31st place (the same as Trinidad and Tobago). Hispanics in the USA would occupy 35th position. Studies of other countries reveal similar divergences with many other groups such as women and rural dwellers excluded from participation. Overall, according to the Report, 'it seems likely that fewer than 10% of the world's population participate fully in political, economic, social and cultural life'.

Five pillars

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

-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 in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia, where people are fighting within countries rather than between countries.

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

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

-New patterns of national and global governance. Inflexible nation states, it is asserted, cannot cope with the globalisation of markets on the one hand and the rising aspirations of their people on the other. Needed here are greater decentralisation of power, more involvement by NGOs and more empowerment of the poor.

-New forms of international cooperation, to focus foreign aid directly on the needs of the people rather than on the preferences of governments.

Most importantly, the 1993 Report focuses on participation as a key to human development.

Economic participation

The Report calls for 'people-friendly' markets, allowing people to participate fully in their operation and to share equitably in their benefits. The starting point for economic participation is jobs, and the Report shows that all over the world, economies are growing but the number of jobs is not keeping pace, resulting in 'jobless growth' (see Table 3). From 1960 to 1987, for example, France, Germany and the United Kingdom saw their economies more than double in size but employment rates actually fell. The phenomenon is said to be particularly devastating in developing countries. Less than one-third of the increase in output in such countries in the 1960-87 period is reported as having come from increased labour; more than two thirds resulted from capital investment. Over the same period, the labour force in the developing world rose by more than 400 million, creating 'legions of unemployed'. On the positive side, the Report shows how, in some countries (particularly in East Asia), land reform and investment in human resources have led to substantial job growth.

One possible way of making economies work better and increasing opportunities for participation is to reduce state regulation, unleash private creativity and sell off inefficient public enterprises. While the Report applauds reforms of this kind, it stresses that care is needed in undertaking them so as to avoid abuses. A section on the 'seven sins of privatisation' wares of the need for full disclosure to prevent corruption and for anti-monopoly measures aimed at ensuring, among other things, that economic power does not simply pass 'from one ruling elite to another'.


Table 2: Human development index all ACP and EC States

Political participation

If people cannot travel large distances to the seat of government in order to share power, the Report argues that government can and should move towards people by decentralising. It states that one of the few ways of measuring decentralisation is by studying where government money is actually spent. By that measure, it is suggested that a lot remains to be done. On average, central governments in developing countries are said to delegate less than 10% of total national spending to local governments, and less than 6% of social expenditure. This contrasts with the situation in 15 industrialised. countries which were studied, where..40% of all spending and 25% of social spending was delegated to the local and regional authorities.

The UNDP points out that it is not an easy task to change the patterns of centralised government. Citing Chile, Indonesia, Morocco and Zimbabwe, which have moved towards decentralisation through the creation of near autonomous local government, the authors note that even these countries have devolved relatively little actual power.

According to the Report, 'the resources controlled locally are small, local decision-making powers are narrow and many local appointments are imposed from above'. Yet even with their limitations, the experience of the abovementioned countries is said to show that decentralisation can bring government closer to the people and improve their lives.


Table 3: Jobless growth: GDP and employment, 1975-2000 (1975 = 100) (Source UNDP)

Group participation

The authors of the Report observe that when people organise, by definition they increase their level of participation and often increase influence over their own lives. They point out that the dramatic shift towards democracy across the developing world has led to an explosion of participatory movements and nongovernmental organisations. NGOs today are said to benefit more than 250 million people, compared to 100 million in the early 1980s. The expansion of NGO activity has been supported by aid donors who, apparently dissatisfied with the performance of much of the official aid that has been provided, are channelling more of their money in this direction.

Over the past 20 years, the Report states that grants by NGOs in the North (most of it from government sources) to developing countries jumped from just over $1 billion to $5 billion a year.

The UNDP goes on to stress the variety of roles performed by NGOs including the promotion of democracy, reaching the poorest in society in circumstances where governments have been unable to do so, and helping to empower marginalised groups.

The example of labour unions, such as Solidarity in Poland and the Congress of Trade Unions in Zambia, is cited. Both of these played a central part in opposing one-party states and gaining multi-party elections and, in both cases, union presidents went on to be elected as Presidents of their country.

Another example, taken from Zimbabwe, is of the agricultural groups that were supported by the NGO Silveira House. These groups succeeded in increasing crop yield by as much as tenfold, allowing farmers to break out of subsistence agriculture and move into a cash economy. In Bangladesh, the Grameen Bank extended loans to almost one million people in 23 000 villages, and was able to show in the process that credit for the landless poor not only creates businesses and jobs, but can yield a loan repayment of 95%.

In Ecuador, the Report mentions the case of the Indian Federations that are helping indigenous people to gain secure title for their land, resulting in both material benefits and increased standing in civil society.

However, the authors stress that the growth of NGOs and their impact can obscure the fact that they still operate on a relatively small scale. The $7.2 billion in grants channelled through Northern NGOs to Southern NGOs is said to account for 13% of of official aid and 2.5% of total resource flows to developing countries. As Mahbub ul Haq says, 'this is not a criticism of the role of NGOs, but a reminder of stark reality: NGOs can supplement the role of governments, but they can never replace it.'

Although the Human Development Report was first published in only 1990, this annual publication has rapidly established itself as a key source of data and sharp analysis about development issues. The latest Report maintains the tradition of frankness which was established at the outset. The central message remains the same-that development must centre on people, and the authors put forward concrete proposals for achieving this goal. It must be said that national authorities will not always find it comfortable reading. But this fact alone means that it is almost certainly worth reading.
ed. S.H.