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Speech by Mr. Antonius Broek, UNDP Resident Representative, at the press conference on the occasion of Human Development Report 2011 presentation
Dear Deputy Minister of Economy,
Dear friends of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today I am pleased to present to you the 2011 Human Development Report – an independent annual publication commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme already for the 21st time. As usual, its major purpose is to frame the debates on some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity today.
The theme of this year’s Report is SUSTAINABILITY and EQUITY. As the world community prepares for the landmark UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, the Report argues that sustainability must be approached as a matter of basic social justice, for current and future generations alike. If the pace of improvement over the past forty years were to be continued for the next 40, the great majority of countries would achieve Human Development Index (HDI) levels by 2050 equal to or even better than those now enjoyed only by the top 25 percent in today’s HDI rankings, the Report notes – an extraordinary achievement for human development globally!
Yet because of escalating environmental hazards, these positive development trends may instead be abruptly halted or even reversed by mid-century, the HDR contends, noting that people in the poorest countries are disproportionately at risk from climate-driven disasters such as drought and flooding and exposure to air and water pollution. For instance, half of all malnutrition worldwide is attributable to environmental factors. The HDR authors forecast that unchecked environmental deterioration – from drought in sub-Saharan Africa to rising sea levels that could swamp low-lying countries like Bangladesh – could cause food prices to soar by up to 50 percent and reverse efforts to expand water, sanitation and energy access to billions of people.
That’s why the Report adds its voice to those urging consideration of an international currency trading tax to fund the fight against climate change and extreme poverty. A tax of just 0.005 percent on foreign exchange trading could raise $40 billion yearly or more, significantly boosting aid flows to poor countries at a time when development funding is lagging behind previously pledged levels due to the global financial crisis. “The tax would allow those who benefit most from globalization to help those who benefit least,” the HDR affirms.
But sustainability is not exclusively or even primarily an environmental issue, as this Report so convincingly argues. The publication examines social factors not always associated with environmental sustainability. For example, expanding reproductive rights, health care and contraceptive access in many countries can further reduce environmental pressures by slowing global demographic growth, with the world population now projected to rise from 7 billion today to 9.3 billion within 40 years.
The Report also argues that official transparency and independent watchdogs (including news media, civil society and courts) are vital to civic engagement in environmental policymaking. Some 120 national constitutions guarantee environmental protections, but in many countries there is little enforcement of these provisions. Here in Belarus we have recently launched a joint UNDP/EU project on international environmental cooperation, which inter alia will contribute efforts to raising awareness by general public about environmental concerns as well as public participation in environmentally-related decision-making processes. A local Aarhus center will be established in one of the regions selected for pilot projects implementation.
Now let's get back to the Report and the Human Development Index annually recalculated using the latest internationally comparable data for health, education and income. The 2011 HDI covers a record 187 countries and territories, up from 169 in 2010, reflecting in part improved data availability for many small island states of the Caribbean and the Pacific. The 2011 country rankings are therefore not comparable to the 2010 Report’s HDI figures, the authors note. This year, Norway, Australia and the Netherlands lead the world in the HDI, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger and Burundi are at the bottom of the table.
Before I dwell on Belarus’ place in the HDI ranking, I would say a few words about the Eastern Europe region in whole. The region’s EU member countries all rank in the “very high human development” category in the HDI. Almost all other Eastern European countries (except Moldova) rank in the index’s second “high human development” group. With many states marking their 20th year of independence from the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, the Report shows the region is a pacesetter in providing the poorest communities with basic household services, such as safe water and cooking fuels, and sanitation.
Nevertheless many countries of the region are still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. The Report shows fossil fuels account for 88 percent of primary energy supply, and the regional average for renewable energy use is the world’s lowest. But “growth driven by fossil fuel consumption is not a prerequisite for a better life in broader human development terms,” the HDR says. Urban air pollution and rising carbon emissions are also cited as some of the area’s leading threats to sustainable progress. This underscores the urgent need for more investments in clean, renewable energy sources.
The HDI ranking of Belarus in 2011 is 65th among 187 countries assessed by the Report. This ranking is based on official data reported by participating countries for 2010. The score places Belarus among the countries with “high human development” and on top of all CIS countries. From the former Soviet Union countries, the only ones that surpass Belarus in terms of human development are the three Baltic republics. In all the areas of human development (health, education and income per capita) the Report places Belarus among the best achievers in the “high development” group.
Also measured over time, Belarus position is reported as stable – in the last five reports Belarus’s HDI rank has been more or less the same. Additionally, in the ranking which is adjusted for inequalities along the dimensions measured by the HDI, Belarus is also on top of all the CIS countries, and actually fares better than most of the countries with “high development” because of its better equality indicators.
Dear friends of the media and representatives of the academic society,
You can find additional reference materials about the Report and its indices in the press kits disseminated before the press conference, or download the whole publication in any of ten languages, including Russian, from a special website: http://hdr.undp.org.
Thank you for your attention.
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