CHALLENGE TO NATIONS: REDUCE POVERTY VIA QUALITY OF GROWTH!
Erle Frayne D. Argonza
We have a very fine news coming from the UNDP news rooms about the speech of the ennobled Helen Clark, Administrator of the UNDP. Appearing before the China-ASEAN dialogue in Jakarta, Madam Clark posed the challenge to the emerging markets of the South to translate economic growth into poverty reduction concretion.
Economic growth is definitely important, even as we continue to use growth indices—GDP, GDP growth rate, GDP per capita, GNP—in assessing the gains and loses from our respective countries’ growth efforts. However, quantities of growth alone do not suffice to make people more prosperous and live healthy lives.
Growth must translate into more jobs, greater longevity/good health, literacy, and gender empowerment, to go by the standard yardsticks of human development. Madam Clark shared to us her insights about the subject in her speech as contained below.
[Philippines, 29 September 2011]
Helen Clark: Poverty reduction through quality of growth
14 September 2011
FROM THE UNDP ADMINISTRATOR HELEN CLARK
AT THE FIFTH CHINA-ASEAN FORUM
ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND POVERTY
“Poverty Reduction through Quality of Growth”
Jakarta, Indonesia 14 September 2011
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I regret that I am not able to join you in person in Jakarta, but it is my pleasure to offer brief remarks to open the 5th China-ASEAN Forum.
I thank the Governments of Indonesia and China, and the ASEAN Secretariat, for organizing this Forum. UNDP is delighted to be a co-supporter and an active participant and facilitator of regional dialogues and South-South co-operation. We very much welcome the Forum’s focus on the quality of growth and its importance for poverty reduction and development. It comes at a critical time as countries strive to accelerate progress to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
One of the lessons of our efforts to achieve the MDGs is that growth, poverty reduction, and social development are too often considered in isolation, each with its own programmes, advocates, and experts. In practice these are interconnected objectives: in pursing one, we can advance, slow, or stall progress in the other. To get all of them moving in the same direction, we need to understand and harness the connections between them.
That is what UNDP’s human development approach strives to do. It looks for ways - across the silos and sectors – to expand the opportunities and choices people need to live long, healthy and prosperous lives. The implications are as pertinent to discussions of economic growth as they are to social development or poverty reduction.
The world has experienced enormous economic progress: in the past three decades, per capita income worldwide has almost doubled. Poverty reduction, particularly in Asia, has been similarly impressive. The absolute number of poor people living on $1.25 a day in Asia declined from 1.7 billion in 1981 to 933 million in 2005.
Yet, there is no automatic link between economic growth and poverty reduction. Even in the fastest growing economies, economic benefits have not been consistently translated into poverty reduction. Recent studies also show that in the past two decades the poverty-reducing impact of economic growth has slowed, especially in Asia.
Asia’s dynamic economic performance has benefited many hundreds of millions of people, but it has also brought challenges–including those of inequality, environmental destruction, and geographic, ethnic, and gender disparities.
To overcome such challenges and advance human development, the quality of growth matters. That was a major finding of a review conducted for last year’s UNDP Human Development Report. In examining forty years of human development progress around the world, the review found dynamic, inclusive, and sustainable growth to be a key success factor in advancing human development. To take this lesson forward, UNDP works with its government partners to design policies and interventions which can advance growth which is both inclusive and sustainable.
Through inclusive growth, countries expand the number of people who participate productively in the economy as well as the number who benefit from its growth. To promote inclusive growth, should stimulate the sectors where the poor work, generate employment and expand infrastructure in the areas where the poor live, and increase access to safe water, sanitation, and reliable energy.Services also need to reach remote areas and be made available to those who are often excluded, including women, the disabled, ethnic, and linguistic minorities.
Sustainable growth increases countries’ resilience to external shocks and protects development gains. Social protection systems are an important investment in sustainability, as they shield the most vulnerable from the worst effects of economic and other shocks and setbacks. Environmental protection is also critical. Depleted or polluted natural resources, increasingly volatile weather patterns, and more frequent natural disasters can impede development progress and even cause reversals, particularly for the poorest people. That is why the leadership of Indonesia, for example, on preserving forests and promoting sustainable development through initiatives such as REDD+ is so important.
The global economic crisis has also demonstrated how regional co-operation and integration can help countries withstand external shocks. In this regard, I commend the China-ASEAN Forum. Your partnership has contributed to the peace, stability, and prosperity of your region and the world. Member states represented here today are now focused on taking steps to improve the quality of growth in their countries and for their region.
UNDP looks forward to working with you all to take forward your individual country initiatives and to implement the outcomes of this Forum. I wish you success in using this platform to deepen your co-operation and to learn from the many rich experiences which each of you has to share.
Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme on 17 April 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. She is also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all UN funds, programmes and departments working on development issues.
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