} Lalith Abeysinghe: May 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Human Development Report (HDR-UNDP) Needs a Drastic Change

Human Development Report (HDR-UNDP) Needs a Drastic Change

The “Human Development Report” (HDR), annually published by UNDP, consider as an impartial, authentic and a reliable source of information with regard to the status of “human development” in the world. Hence many, the academics, policy makers, international bodies and the politicians refer to this HDR for various purposes.

The Report, categorizes the countries into three, the High Human Development Countries, the Medium Human Development Countries and the Low Human Development Countries. The first set of countries are supposed to be “developed” countries and it implies that the other countries should and try to “promote” them selves to be one of them. Though this is not implicitly stated, through out the report it proposes that to be in “high” rank, the “medium” and “low” rank countries should have the characteristics that the “high” rank countries poses.

There are 177 countries listed and, 57 countries comes under “High”, 88 countries as “Medium” and the rest 32 countries comes under “Low”.

The HDR uses several indicators to compile its report and to categorize the countries in to the High, Medium and Low. The GDP per capita, the life expectancy, adult literacy rate, enrolment in education top the indicators for categorizing. It is understood that the GDP per capita is the utmost important indicator couple with the growth rate. The others are really about the usage of the GDP in health, education etc.

The cases and the preventive actions taken to control HIV/AIDS which is of course deadly, use as an indicator to measure human development. In the same way, the mental illness and stress have gone unnoticed as they reported mainly in the “high” ranking countries. This will become a major problem in very near future. The work and life style mainly base on profit created this problem and it is not any way a human pattern to achieve “human development”.

The other aspects which the HDR looks at are rather secondary. In short the categorization ultimately deals with the “Rich” and “Poor” aspects of the countries base on their GDPs.

One has to seriously look at the criteria used on which the HDR compile.

The HDR proposes that the countries in the “High” category are better and the other countries should follow the path the “high rankers” have taken to achieve a high position in the Human Development Index.

This is at the very outset a misleading and really a “destructive” measure propose by the HDR.

The most important aspects that should come in to the whole analysis are regrettably absent in the HDR. The HDR looks lacking a vision for the present and certainly for the future.

There should be a new set of aspects, indicators and more importantly a set of “human” values to compile this report. Even at present the HDR presents a set of values, indicators and aspects for ranking the countries which are highly questionable.

The attempt of this article is to examine whether the current sets of values, indicators and the aspects are fair and sufficient to “measure” “Human Development “of the world.

At the very out set, it is very clear that there should be a drastic change in the format, values, emphases, aspects, issues and the indicators in order to compile such a decisive report. It is because, the HDR, published by an UN body, regarded as a credible report and many tend to refer to this report and get a direction from it to ensure or promote “human development” in the respective countries. Many tend to take the observations, predictions, trends and proposals from the report with regard to the “human development”

Hence, there should be a serious effort to review the whole presentation of the HDR. There could be many ways of looking at this. But the case is that it needs a dialogue in this regard.

One way of looking at this could be introducing a points system that could be used to categorize the countries. According to the points the report could present “comparatively” a “highest ranked” state with regard to the “human development”. The efforts take by such country should be exemplary with regard to “human development” not only in its own country but also world wide.

The points system is necessary to cover more complex aspects of “human development” as they are not always and necessarily the “material” connected aspects. The “meta material” needs and aspects should be seriously looking in to when compiling a report of this nature. They may include even the religious, spiritual and community aspects in the “medium” and “low” rank countries and the mental stress, illness, loneliness and suicide rates taking place in the “high” rank countries. Then only the HDR could present a credible example of a country, that really looking at all this aspects and be comfortably replicate the principles adjusting to the other countries as they applicable, appropriate and if at all tat they wished.

This is necessary because the HDR should take a responsibility as they directing countries towards “Human Development”. The present HDR certainly proposes a “path” the countries should be followed in order to achieve “human development”.

We may have to divide the new set of aspects, issues, indicators and values into two. They are “Anti Human” and “Pro Human” or rather “Anti Nature” and “Pro Nature” which ever be appropriate and applicable. The “anti” aspects will get minus points and the “pro” aspects will get the plus points. Of course there is a value judgment in dividing those. The point is that we have NOT agreed upon these values and it seems “somebody” have taken a decision with regard to these values.

The HDR should have a vision of sustainability, justice, environmental harmony and to deal with the entire future of the globe including human.

It is clear at present that the GDP is topping the list. Is it a fair indicator to measure “human Development”? Most of the countries in the “High” category earns fair amount of their GDP by producing armaments. Is this really for the “Human Development”? The countries which earns by producing arms should get a drastic cut of the points for their contribution towards destruction and anti human actions and motives. The countries which import such armaments too should get minus points.

In the same way the countries invade the other countries should get minus points as they are anti human, destructive and anti nature as well.

The countries which dispose nuclear waste to the environment should get minus points as they are anti human as well as the anti nature and rather toxic. These wastes produced by the “High” rank countries normally dump in the “Low” rank countries. Should the “Medium” and “low” ranking countries follow this example? Not only the nuclear waste, but the wastages of food, cloths, machineries, and equipments too should get minus points. Many of the “Low” rank countries have become the cemeteries of the dead equipments dispose by the “High” rank countries.

There should be a figure worked out as to calculate the average global per capita resources consumption. If the figure is “x”, all the countries which exceed the figure should get minus points. Looking at the present ranking it is surprising that the countries waste food, cloths, and all the resources by media promoted consumerism are in the “higher” rank. What are the vision and the direction given by the HDR? Should the “medium” and “low” rank countries follow the same path to be in “high” rank and put the whole world in danger?

It should be same for the per capita carbon emissions to the environment. The countries exceed the figure should get minus points according to the volume. The countries which use the renewable sources should get plus points according to the volume.

There should be also a system to give plus points for the protecting and maintaining bio diversity and natural rain forest per squire km. In the same way the producers and the usage of the harmful chemicals and pesticides which will be detrimental to the eco system should get minus points. The countries import and use them too should get minus points according to the volume they use.

The environmental prolusion should treat in the same way. There are systems adopted by the “high” rank countries which could use to minimize the pollution by filtering and controlling the harmful gases, materials entering in to the environment. The harmful stuffs still remain in the environment if not they “exported” to the Moon or to the Mars. The “purification” process too, eats lots of energy which could be used for other purposes. It is not the “purification” efforts that we take. We have to stop pollution at the first place. Should the “medium” and “low” rankers follow the same path?

There should be also a provision to examine the fair and reasonable trade. The countries engage in fair trade should get high points and they should not necessarily be alone with WTO treaties which are one sided and imposed on the others. The “primary products” mainly agriculture, mining, raw materials etc should realistically get the higher price in trade and higher points in ranking. We could look at them whether they eco friendly activities and process. The “secondary products” will be not there if the primary products are not coming in. The OPEC has realistically showed this case few decades ago. As they got a good price for their primary commodity, they were able to come up on the ranking!

On the other hand the “technological”, “electronic” and “digital” advancements and their colossal prices/incomes should take back into a realistic level. They were overvalued and, thus boost their GDPs.

There are also treaties that have approved by ALL the countries, still some countries are adamant and publicly say that they will not abide by them because of their “national interests” thus causing problems to “Human Development” of other countries. These countries should get minus points.

It is also now become very clear, the 120 Medium and the Low rank countries listed in the HDR, cannot replicate the model of the “High” rank countries. If it to be happened, it says that we need another four planets to get the required resources. Even we get them that the increasingly fading limits of the nature will revolt against not only the entire humankind, but the whole globe.

There should be also a method to “measure” the status of “human rights”, “women”, “children”, “good governance”, “transparency” and “democracy” etc. “The concept of “democracy” should not necessarily be a two or multi party system. A system where the “minority” aspirations also looked after should get higher marks. Even in some traditional systems, there was greater participation of the people in governance.

The HDR should present an exemplary sample of a country as the Top High Ranking, considering all the facts with regard to the authentic “Human Development”, and the model which replication is viable.

If it happens, the current order of the ranking of the countries may change. It will encourage the other countries to follow the same path which should be a sustainable, fair and just one.

The HDR, as a whole needs a thorough review in order to present a true picture of the world affairs and to present a vision for the “Human Development” and for the future generations as well.

Lalith Abeysinghe