11 December 2019,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps, representatives from the Government of South Africa, the business community, other development partners, academia, and members of the non-government community came together to commemorate the global launch of the Human Development Report 2019. The report, titled: Beyond Income, Beyond Averages, Beyond Today, looks at inequalities in human development with a new lens. It assesses what inequalities are becoming important today, how they differ around the world and among population groups, and how they are changing. It says that just as the gap in basic living standards is narrowing, with an unprecedented number of people escaping poverty, hunger and disease, the necessities to thrive have evolved. New inequalities are becoming more pronounced, particularly around tertiary education, and the seismic effects of technology and the climate crisis.
In many countries today, for example, the gap between rich and poor children has closed when we look at whether they have access to primary education. But differences between these children are widening when we consider the quality of that education, or whether they have access to other schooling, such as early childhood education.
These and some of the other human development aspects relating to South Africa's development priorities were tabled for discussion as part of the national launch hosted by UNDP in Pretoria. Income inequality, gender inequality and inequalities resulting from spatial location were some of the issues that received the spotlight during this vibrant discussion. The inclusion of people living with disabilities in policy and planning processes was a key highlight during the panel discussion with Dr Neva Makgetla, Senior Economist at Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies and Ms Simmi Pillay, Acting Director: Governance & Compliance Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
According to the Report’s accompanying Human Development Index (HDI), Africa has experienced one of the most significant improvements in human development. Between 1990 and 2018 life expectancy increased by more than 11 years; and for the first time this year, an African country – Seychelles – has moved into the very high human development group. Others are rising in the ranks as well with South Africa as one of four countries who are now in the high human development group. Botswana also enjoys the highest increase in HDI rank between 2013 and 2018, rising 11 places in the rankings. The launch celebrated this as good news, but cautioned against complacency as a country. In this regard, the Head of Secretariat in the National Planning Commission, Mr Tshediso Matona conveyed government's commitment to working hard towards attaining better results in years to come, and extended an invitation for to UNDP to assist in this quest. This followed a congratulatory message by Ambassador Manuel Carvalho of Portugal who commended UN in South Africa for their tireless efforts to focus on the human aspect of society; which he cited as an economic stimulator.
In her remarks, the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in South Africa, Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas added underscored the importance of the human development approach, emphasising the that human development is not for a few or for most, but for everyone.
Dr Ayodele Odusola, Resident Representative of UNDP in South Africa announced that the country office is working on the South African Human Development Report and are happy to work with the Government of South Africa and all stakeholders to see it to fuition.
Despite substantial gains in health, education and living standards, the basic needs of many remain unmet while a next generation of inequalities opens, pushing the wealthiest ahead. Inequalities are deeply rooted in our societies, economies and politics. Birthplace and parental income determine many lives. Inequalities can start early, grow, and may be passed across generations. But action is possible. It requires more than redistribution. It requires decoupling political and economic power and levelling the economic playing field. It also requires continuing action to close the gaps in basic deprivations while reversing the growing next generation of inequalities in human development.
- Presentation by Ms Fatou Leigh, Senior Economist, UNDP South Africa
- Speech by Dr Ayodele Odusola, Resident Representative, UNDP South Africa
- Speech by Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas, Resident Coordinator, UN in South Africa
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