I recently had the opportunity to review the 2013 Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Program. There is a great deal to be excited about in the realm of international development. The report features the rise of the global south, not only as a contributor, but also as the likely leader in many areas of the global economy and international affairs.
Over the last 30 years, the global south, especially countries like Brazil, China, and India, has made dramatic gains in global output and in the Human Development Index. The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite of indicators that fall into three categories; Health, Education, and Living Standards. Central to these indicators is equity. According to the report, inequality reduces the pace of human development and in some cases may even prevent it entirely.
The report attempts to distill the major drivers of development transformation from the countries who have made the greatest gains in HDI so that their achievements can be shared with other countries still struggling. The report points to three major drivers of development transformation.
The first is a proactive, developmental state. The report finds that countries that have made the greatest strides in the HDI tend to expand basic social services, invest in their people’s capabilities, and rapidly create new quality jobs.
The second is how developing countries tap into global markets. Newly industrialized countries are successfully “importing what the rest of the world knows and exporting what it wants.” Success has also been found in developing domestic markets and integrating them gradually into the global economy instead of relying on foreign direct investment and multinational companies.
The third is a determined social policy innovation. Countries that have been successful in human development have had to balance economic growth with strong social policies that ensure that the benefits of economic growth are felt by all sectors and groups of a society. This mitigates growing income inequality and helps reduce social conflict.
Although there is much to celebrate and learn from these developments, the report points out that the majority of these achievements have been in Health and Education. Global income inequality remains high. As mentioned above, the report believes that inequality can only hinder human development. Failing to address income inequality, even in a time of rapid development, represents a huge risk to the sustainability of human development in the global south. In my next post, I will explore how the report recommends the global south address income inequality.
-By Ryan Steinbach
*Disclaimer: The views represented here are the opinions of the individual blog author and do not represent the views of Oikocredit USA.