HDR 2016 Highlights Disadvantaged Groups, Uneven Development Progress
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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The 2016 Human Development Report from UNDP finds that women have fewer opportunities in most aspects of life than men, while people in rural areas, ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, migrants and refugees, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community face exclusion and a lack of empowerment.

The report calls for a shift towards assessing progress in autonomy and participation, and for more refined analysis and disaggregated data.

21 March 2017: The UN Development Programme (UNDP) released the 2016 Human Development Report (HDR), finding that human development progress remains uneven, with women, ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples facing systemic discrimination and exclusion as a result of economic, political, social and cultural barriers. The report stresses the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to build on development gains and ensure sustainable human development for all.

The latest HDR, titled ‘Human Development for Everyone,’ finds that “women tend to be poorer, earn less and have fewer opportunities in most aspects of life than men.” For instance, the authors note, women are legally excluded from some jobs because of their gender in 100 countries, and in 18 countries require a husband’s approval to work. The report also underscores the persistence of practices like forced marriage and female genital mutilation in hindering women’s development and inclusion. Further, the report finds that people in rural areas, ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, migrants and refugees, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community face exclusion and a lack of empowerment.

Selim Jahan urged examining not just what has been achieved, but also who has been excluded and why.

On data, the report cautions that a focus on quantity, rather than quality, to define progress can paint a misleading picture, and that averages disguise inequalities. For example, the report points out, girls’ enrollment in primary education has increased but in half of 53 countries with data, the majority of adult women who completed four to six years of primary school are illiterate. The report’s lead author, Selim Jahan, explains that national averages mask “enormous variations in people’s lives.” He urged examining not just what has been achieved but also “who has been excluded and why.” The report calls for a shift towards assessing progress in areas such as autonomy and participation, and for more refined analysis and disaggregated data to inform development actions.

Speaking at the report’s launch in Stockholm, Sweden, on 21 March 2017, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark called for “eliminating deep, persistent, discriminatory social norms and laws, and addressing the unequal access to political participation,” saying such actions can contribute to poverty eradication and “peaceful, just, and sustainable development…for all.” Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said, “leaving no one behind needs to become the way we operate as a global community.” He stressed that “inclusiveness must guide policy choices” to overcome barriers that hinder progress on human development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report’s accompanying Human Development Index (HDI) finds that average human development improved across all regions from 1990 to 2015, but one in three people around the world live at a low level of human development. Norway ranks the highest in human development, followed by Switzerland, Australia, Germany and Denmark. The HDI measures average achievement in three dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth; having a decent standard of living, as measured by gross national income (GNI) per capita; and being knowledgeable, as measured by mean years of schooling for adults 25 years old and more and expected years of schooling for children of school entering age.

The report recommends, inter alia, increasing attention and reorienting policies to focus on those furthest behind, and reforming global institutions and markets to make them more representative and equitable. At the national level, the report recommends: ensuring the design of policies and programs that promote human development for everyone and make development more inclusive; recognizing that the most disadvantaged need extra assistance to overcome discrimination; and enhancing the resilience of human development progress to ensure development gains are not reversed. [UN Press Release] [UNDP Press Release] [UNRIC Press Release] [UNDP Administrator’s Statement] [Swedish Prime Minister’s Statement] [Interactive Report Website] [HDI Website]

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