Stephen Tull: Launch of the 2011 Global Human Development Report

16 Nov 2011

Stephen Tull, Launch of the 2011 Global Human Development Report

Astana, 16 November 2011

 Welcome to our local release of the 2011 Human Development Report, “Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All”.   The HDR is an annual progress report, now covering 187 countries and territories. It has been launched in UN HQ and all around the world over the past two weeks.

 This year, we launch the HDR right after the world’s population has passed the threshold of 7 billion inhabitants. This threshold gives us moment to pause and reflect. Some of you (perhaps) may have lived, like me, at the moment when the population was half as great. Half.

 The world also is soon, in 2015, approaching the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN General Assembly. The push for the MDGs has brought progress in improving people’s lives, but they are only an interim measure. 

 The problem is that there is a Global Debt Crisis in terms of development. To sustain the global community of 7 billion people, we have borrowed heavily from earth’s future. Our current development path is not sustainable.

 Therefore, the countries of the world will meet in June next year in Rio de Janeiro to look for a new consensus on global actions to safeguard the future of the planet, and to offer to all people of this and future generations the chance to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

 Sustainable, equitable development is the great development challenge of the 21st century. The 2011 Human Development Report offers important new contributions to the global dialogue on this challenge. It is a comparative study showing how sustainability is inextricably linked to basic questions of equity— That is, of fairness and social justice and of greater access to a better quality of life.

In presenting this report to you, media professionals, we are inviting you to look into the analysis of sustainability and equity for messages that matter most to the people of Kazakhstan. There is a wealth of information here. It is a snapshot of the state of the world, but also one way to fine tune national policies to better advance human development.                                                                                                               

It is natural to ask: How is our country doing? Well, not bad. Kazakhstan has the highest Human Development Index among the Central Asian countries and holding steady. In fact, over the last 30 years, some of the key indicators determining the HDI have improved significantly. For example, life expectancy has increased by 2 years, and youth are benefitting from over 4 more years of schooling on average. Also, as you know, the GN(Income) per capita in Kazakhstan has grown tremendously, especially in the past 15 years, when it has more than doubled.

 But while Kazakhstan is in the ranks of countries with a High HDI, the national policy is to strive higher. This report, and the data analysis behind it, can help policymakers find some of the means to do so. And again, the key watchwords for development are sustainability and equity, for Kazakhstan, its neighbors, and the world.

 Now let me move on straight to the Human Development Report itself.

 Key Messages

The Report’s central message is that equity and sustainability are inextricably linked, but here are some of the other lessons drawn out. 

First, while environmental risks such as climate change, deforestation, air and water pollution, and natural disasters affect all members of society, they do disproportionately affect the most vulnerable. Certain identifiable members of our societies suffer a double burden of deprivation:  they are more directly vulnerable and their lives have less resilience. 

These neighbors of ours cope with threats from insufficient access to clean water, poor diets, indoor air pollution from unhealthy cooking and heating methods, and poor sanitation. And they certainly do not have insurance policies when disaster strikes.

Second, the Report highlights the positive synergies which exist between greater equity and sustainability; there are win-win policy options for achieving both.

 For example, investments in access to renewable energy, clean water, and improved sanitation will advance equity, sustainability, and human development.  Stronger accountability and democratic processes can also improve outcomes.  Successful approaches rely on community management of natural resources, inclusive institutions which pay attention to disadvantaged groups, and cross-cutting approaches which co-ordinate budgets and mechanisms across government agencies and development partners. Kazakhstan’s legislative reforms have begun the process of making these connections, but it is critical that good policy initiatives be constantly supported and implemented through practical steps.

 The third message of the Report is that financing for environmental and social protection needs to increase.  The Report identifies pathways for individuals, local communities, nations and the international system to promote environmental sustainability and equity in mutually reinforcing ways. This includes better stewardship of ecosystems, to enhance forests and water resources for example while at the same time reducing poverty and inequality.

The Government of  Kazakhstan has latched onto this latter message and made “green growth” a central policy position for its domestic agenda and international development. The Government is preparing to go to Rio in June and promote its Green Bridge initiative along with a global energy initiative.  The Green Bridge idea is important in that it seeks to strengthen integration between Europe, Asia, and the Pacific regions on the basis of sustainable development. It is an excellent to have such an initiative arising from a country like Kazakhstan, which is itself developing rapidly and whose wider neighbor’s development needs to be greener if the world is to overcome its development debt crisis.

 2011 Indices and Rankings

As in previous years, the 2011 Report includes a detailed ranking of countries based on the Human Development Index.  This year the report covers 187 countries and territories - up from 169 in the 2010 report.

 What is far more significant than the ranking, however, are all the factors that go into that. And even more important are the billions of individual lives and household stories from which all the statistics are drawn.

 In a moment, Mr. Shokomanov will speak about some of the most important details in the context of Kazakhstan.


The ultimate goal of human development is to expand peoples’ choices and give all people the opportunity to lead lives which they value.  That has been the guiding principle for the annual Human Development Reports.

This year’s Report offers new insights on how to move human development forward and overcome the inequity and unsustainability which currently constrain its advance.

I encourage you to look into this report, and to come back to the UNDP office with questions or should you wish to do a feature story on any of the issues it raises. And think of what it means to live in a world of 7 billion people, who are reproducing but whose most essential natural resources are finite.

Equity and sustainability.