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News, 11/4/2011

UN report: development requires equity

Living standards have risen and living conditions improved in most countries in recent years. However, environmental problems and increasing social inequalities threaten to reverse this positive trend. The 2011 Human Development Report shows that sustainable development is an integral part of equality, social justice and better quality of life.

The report published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was released in Finland on Thursday 3 November.

“Gross national income is not sufficient as a measure of development. It is equally important to monitor whether the development goals become achieved and whether the status of the poorest people is improved,” estimated Jorma Julin, Director General, Department of Development Policy, who spoke at the event.

“Development must be promoted in a sustainable manner in order not to endanger the opportunities available for future generations. The report is an important statement regarding the future. It will bring new elements to the Rio+20 Summit by proposing that the benefits of sustainable development must be more equitably shared by all. The means have to be found by which to promote development in a way that is both equitable and sustainable. Women are the key actors of sustainable development,” Julin pointed out.

The report is an important statement regarding the future, said Director General Julin. Photo: Eero KuosmanenThe report is an important statement regarding the future, said Director General Julin. Photo: Eero Kuosmanen

“Equitable development does not happen by itself. Focus must be kept on equality issues at all times, since inequality is increasing in many countries. In the Rio+20 Conference, the concept of green economy will be addressed, but it is equally important to take care of the living conditions of the world’s two billion poorest people,” said Veerle Vandeweerd, Director, UNDP Environment & Energy Group, who presented the report.

If all women had access to family planning services, the present level of gashouse emissions could be reduced, said Director Vandeweerd. Photo: Eero KuosmanenIf all women had access to family planning services, the present level of gashouse emissions could be reduced, said Director Vandeweerd. Photo: Eero Kuosmanen

“The poorest people often lack a voice and opportunities to influence their own lives. Therefore inequality eats away a major part of human development in many countries. If all women had access to the family planning services they want, the present level of gashouse emissions could be reduced by 17 per cent,” said Vandeweerd, giving a practical example.

According to Wandeveerd, there is an enormous amount of unexploited opportunities in the world to meet the challenges of climate change and poverty. “Many inhabitants of developing countries already feel the impact of climate change in their own lives, and poor countries are also doing a lot to address the environmental challenges.

Sustainability calls for right choices

The report highlights the interdependence of sustainability and equity and shows how to make human development more sustainable and equitable. Environmental problems hurt the poorest people the most. UNDP proposes some practical measures by which to expand people’s choices while simultaneously protecting the environment.

Growth built upon the use of fossil fuels is not the prerequisite of a better life and human development. Investments in renewable energy, water supply, sanitation and reproductive health enhance equality. By investing in these, both sustainability and human development are promoted.

The report proposes that better social services than currently available be provided to the world’s two billion poorest people. Equality of women will be improved, for example, by guaranteeing access to family planning services to everyone who wants them. Political participation of citizens will be promoted and local communities will be ensured participation in the management of natural resources. In addition, an agreement must be reached on sufficient environmental and climate funding.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is a global development assistance network and the world’s biggest multilateral development cooperation organisation. It operates in 177 countries and regions seeking local solutions to global and national challenges in cooperation with local governments and citizens.

UNDP is one of Finland’s most important partners in multilateral development cooperation.

The Human Development Index (HDI), used in the report, is a comparative measure of development of individual countries using three development indicators, including long and healthy life, education and sufficient standard of living.

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Updated 11/4/2011

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