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Less Vulnerability & Better Resilience, Urges HDR

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 24 2014 (IPS) - Although global poverty is declining, human development growth across all regions is slowing down, according to the 2014 Human Development Report (HDR) launched Thursday by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP).

Income inequality has also risen in several regions, though Latin America and the Caribbean still carry the highest instances of income disparity. Increased levels of violent crime continue to threaten the lives of people, despite its many achievements in human development.

Such crises and threats significantly hinder progress towards sustainable development. Other than physical insecurity and income inequality, the report cites food insecurity, health risks and natural disasters as shocks that prevent people from overcoming vulnerability.

Almost 800 million people are at risk of falling back into poverty if problems arise, which is more frequently becoming the case in a world where rising instances of conflict are thrusting people into states of insecurity.

“The eradication of poverty is not just about ‘getting to zero’ – it is also about staying there,” states UNDP administrator Helen Clark. She also added that as long as people remain at risk of slipping back into poverty because of structural factors and persistent vulnerabilities, development progress remains uncertain.

The report – “Sustaining Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience” – thus asserts that progress is neither equitable nor sustainable unless comprehensively tackled by policies and social norms.

It takes on a people-centred approach with a human development lens in order to consider vulnerability and resilience and makes recommendations in dealing with these factors.

More than 15 percent of the world’s people remain vulnerable to multi-dimensional poverty. The report states that restricted core capabilities in areas such as education and health as well as limited choices caused by social obstacles prevent them from effectively tackling shocks and setbacks.

Khalid Malik, Director of UNDP’s HDR Office, said at a press briefing, “There may be instances in which equal opportunities require unequal treatment. Greater resources and services may need to be provided to the poor, the excluded and the marginalized to enhance everyone’s capabilities and life choices.”

He also talked about “historic exclusions” such as that experienced by India’s Dalits, and suggested collective action be taken in addressing this deep-rooted issue and supporting people’s rights.

The report promotes “a more equal society” where people are placed first, in order to secure gains and sustain progress. It advocates for the universal provision of basic social services, stronger social protection and a commitment to full employment.

“Markets alone cannot provide adequate social and environmental protection,” said Malik. He recognized that fair and responsive institutions have to exist in order to foster social cohesion and expand the capacity for disaster preparedness and recovery.

He also added that “jobs are far more important than the wages” being attained from employment because of the social dividends – such as social cohesion and stability – that exceed the private benefit.

In many parts of the world, youth expectations in the labour market are not being met. As witnessed in the Arab Spring, a youth bulge coupled with limited jobs, amongst other socio-political issues, led to an explosion of dissatisfaction with the state.

The report argues that changing social forces and greater global interconnection require that a better relationship be forged between states and their citizens.

In order to do this, people need to be empowered and supported by their governments, through social protections and policies that build resilience to weather shocks. It also calls for universalism, an improvement in global coordination and stronger collective action in the path towards sustainable development.

As preparations for the conclusion of the post-2015 development agenda negotiations are being made, the report serves as a timely and valuable analysis. It urges the inclusion of “an international consensus on universal protection” in the upcoming plan.

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