UN Human Development Report 2013: The Rise of the Global South

HDR 2013

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released their annual Human Development Report for 2013 on March 14th. This year’s report highlights the progress that has been made by several developing countries in advancing quality of life for their citizens. Titled “The Rise of the Global South,” it acknowledges that development works better in practice when southern governments and NGOs take ownership for the improvement of their own societies. The report’s findings confirm the recent shift in global development dynamics: that southern countries are beginning to take these humanitarian responsibilities into their own hands with less northern leadership.

Background of the Human Development Index

The annual report measures countries based on three indicators: 1) Health, 2) Education, and 3) Living standards. Specific factors include life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling, and gross national income per capita. Countries are ranked in order of Very High Human Development, High Human Development, Medium Human Development, and Low Human Development.

Although the original report is most widely used and accepted, other versions exist to account for missing variables. These forms are the Inequality-Adjusted HDI, Multidimensional Poverty Index, and Gender Inequality Index. The UNDP also publishes individual country reports, which take an in-depth look at the situation of human development in each state. These revised indices prove that there are more complex forces at work in determining the quality of human development around the world. The original HDI, however, is not to be discounted.

2013 Human Development Report

According to UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, the 2013 report names four target areas for promoting continued development progress:

  1. Enhancing equity, including on the gender dimension
  2. Enabling greater voice and participation of citizens, including youth
  3. Confronting environmental pressures
  4. Managing demographic change

The U.S. dropped one slot to 3rd place from 2012, placing 16th in terms of the Inequality-Adjusted HDI and a low 42nd on the Gender-Inequality Index. According to the report, Turkey, Mexico, Thailand, South Africa, Indonesia made remarkable progress among southern countries in advancing human development—particularly through the strengthening of their economies.

The three economic leaders among developing countries (China, India, and Brazil) also fared well. By 2020, their aggregate production is expected to outdo that of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States combined. But these three powerful economies also have something else in common: rampant income- and gender-based inequality. While economic development certainly has its merits, it does not directly correspond to human development. The report acknowledges that they do correlate, but economic growth is not a be-all, end-all.

The 2013 Human Development Report will be a particularly important policy resource as discussions on post-2015—what the global development agenda will look like after the Millennium Development Goals have ended—accelerate toward UN member state negotiations. UNDP Administrator Helen Clark reminds us in her remarks, “As countries are increasingly interconnected through trade, migration, and information and communications technologies, it is no surprise that policy decisions in one place have substantial impacts elsewhere.”

Read a copy of the 2013 Human Development Report here.

12 April 2013

This post is one of a series that I contributed to The MIDCM Column, a blog written by students in the Minor in International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland.

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