Optimism for Human Development in 2014


Optimism for Human Development in 2014

25 Jul 2014

As the deadline approaches for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the UN Development Programme publish their annual Human Development Report, which finds vulnerabilities still threatening human development, but with signs for optimism in some areas.

On 24 July 2014, the UN Development Programme published the Human Development Report 2014: Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience. The report considers the way in which vulnerabilities change during our lives—by taking a 'life cycle approach', and based on analysis,  makes a number of recommendations. The report finds that the lower human development groups appear to be improving at a higher rate and there is optimism that the gap between higher and lower human development groups is narrowing.

The report also includes the Human Development Index (HDI), which ranks countries based on three components of progress:

  • Longevity;
  • Education (two indicators);
  • Income.

The Index finds that levels in human development continue to rise, but the pace has slowed for all regions and progress has been highly uneven. In the Arab States, Asia and the Pacific region, and Latin America and the Caribbean, average annual growth rate in the HDI dropped by about half over 2008–2013 compared to 2000–2008. 

Overall inequality has declined slightly in most regions, as measured by the Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI). This has been driven mainly by improvements in health in recent years. However high disparities in education persist. The report shows that older generations continue to struggle with illiteracy, while younger ones are having difficulty making the leap from primary to secondary schooling. The highest levels of education inequality are found in South Asia, the Arab states and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Key Findings - Overall
  • Despite recent progress in poverty reduction, more than 2.2 billion people are either near or living in multidimensional poverty;
  • 15 percent of the world's people remain vulnerable to multi-dimensional poverty;
  • Nearly 80 percent of the global population lack comprehensive social protection;
  • About 12 percent (842 million) suffer from chronic hunger;
  • Nearly half of all workers - more than 1.5 billion - are in informal or precarious employment;
  • Many of the Millennium Development Goals are likely to be met at the national level by 2015, but success is not automatic, and the gains are not necessarily permanent;
  • More than 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by conflict— about a fifth of the world's population;
  • About 45 million people were forcibly displaced due to conflict or persecution by the end of 2012—the highest in 18 years— more than 15 million of them refugees;
  • In some areas of West and Central Africa lawlessness and armed conflict continue to threaten human development advances, with long-term repercussions for national progress;
  • Disenfranchised ethnic and religious minorities are vulnerable to discriminatory practices, have limited access to formal justice systems and suffer from the legacy of past repression and prejudice.
Key Findings - Human Development Index
  • The lowest regional HDI values are for Sub- Saharan Africa and South Asia;
  • The highest is for Latin America and the Caribbean, followed closely by Europe and Central Asia;
  • Many countries in the bottom tier of the Human Development Index are emerging from long periods of conflict or still confront armed violence;
  • Norway, Australia, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United States remain at the top of the HDI - unchanged from the previous year;
  • Sierra Leone, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger continue to rank bottom of the Index;
  • The steepest declines in HDI values this year occurred in the Central African Republic, Libya and Syria, where ongoing conflict contributed to a drop in incomes.
  • Despite overall gains in human development, progress in all regions decelerated over 2008–2013 compared to 2000–2008;
  • In the Arab States, Asia and the Pacific region, and Latin America and the Caribbean, average annual growth rate in HDI dropped by about half when comparing these periods.
Key Messages
  • Vulnerability threatens human development— and unless it is systematically addressed, by changing policies and social norms, progress will be neither equitable nor sustainable;
  • Life cycle vulnerability, structural vulnerability and insecure lives are fundamental sources of persistent deprivation—and must be addressed for human development to be secured and for progress to be sustained;
  • Policy responses to vulnerability should prevent threats, promote capabilities and protect people, especially the most vulnerable;
  • Everyone should have the right to education, health care and other basic services. Putting this principle of universalism into practice will require dedicated attention and resources, particularly for the poor and other vulnerable groups;
  • Strong universal social protection will not only improve individual resilience - it can also bolster the resilience of the economy as a whole;
  • Full employment should be a policy goal for societies at all levels of development.

This article summarises an external report, and is not to be taken as the view of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. 


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United Nations Development Programme