HDR 2016: Seeking Human Devt for Everyone


Abimbola Akosile looks at the contents and key messages in the Human Development Report 2016, titled ‘Human Development for Everyone’, which was published by the United Nations Development Programme and launched recently

Although the world is riddled with inequality across ethnic, social and continental divides, the Human Development Report 2016, which was launched recently by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), believes there is a way out.

In the latest report released by the agency titled ‘Human Development for Everyone’ there is an emphasis on the need to close the human development gap, despite identified challenges.

Vital Foreword

Human development, according to the Administrator UNDP, Helen Clark, is all about human freedoms: freedom to realise the full potential of every human life, not just of a few, nor of most, but of all lives in every corner of the world – now and in the future.

In a foreword to the 286-page report, Clark noted that such universalism gives the human development approach its uniqueness. However, to her, the principle of universalism is one thing; translating it into practice is another.

“Human development has enriched human lives – but unfortunately not all to the same extent, and even worse, not every life. It is thus not by chance but by choice that world leaders in 2015 committed to a development journey that leaves no one out – a central premise of the 2030 Agenda. Mirroring that universal aspiration, it is timely that the 2016 Human Development Report is devoted to the theme of human development for everyone”, she added.

Identified Challenges

 The Report paints a picture of the challenges the world faces and the hopes humanity has for a better future. It notes that some challenges are lingering (deprivations), some are deepening (inequalities) and some are emerging (violent extremism), but most are mutually reinforcing. Whatever their nature or reach, these challenges have an impact on people’s well-being in both present and future generations.

Given that broader context, the report then raises two fundamental questions: who has been left out in progress in human development and how and why did that happen.

It emphasises that poor, marginalised and vulnerable groups – including ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, refugees and migrants – are being left furthest behind. The barriers to universalism include, among others, deprivations and inequalities, discrimination and exclusion, social norms and values, and prejudice and intolerance.

The report also clearly identifies the mutually reinforcing gender barriers that deny many women the opportunities and empowerment necessary to realise the full potential of their lives. To ensure human development for everyone, it asserts that merely identifying the nature of and the reasons for the deprivation of those left out is not enough.

Some aspects of the human development analytical framework and assessment perspectives must be brought to the fore to address issues that prevent universal human development. For example, human rights and human security, voice and autonomy, collective capabilities and the interdependence of choices are key for the human development of those currently left out, the report noted.

The report forcefully argues that caring for those left out requires a four-pronged policy strategy at the national level: reaching those left out using universal policies (for example, inclusive growth, not mere growth), pursuing measures for groups with special needs (for example, persons with disabilities), making human development resilient and empowering those left out.

It rightly recognises that national policies need to be complemented by actions at the global level, and it addresses issues related to the mandate, governance structures and work of global institutions.

The report complements the 2030 Agenda by sharing the principle of universalism and by concentrating on such fundamental areas as eliminating extreme poverty, ending hunger and highlighting the core issue of sustainability.

To Clark, “Transformation in human development is possible. What seems to be challenges today can be overcome tomorrow. The world has fewer than 15 years to achieve its bold agenda of leaving no one out. Closing the human development gap is critical, as is ensuring the same, or even better, opportunities for future generations. Human development has to be sustained and sustainable and has to enrich every human life so that we have a world where all people can enjoy peace and prosperity”.


Devt for Everyone

The report notes in an overview that over the past quarter-century the world has changed – and with it the development landscape. New countries have emerged, and the planet is now home to more than 7 billion people, one in four of them young.

The geopolitical scenario has also changed, with developing countries emerging as a major economic force and political power. Globalisation has integrated people, markets and work, and the digital revolution has changed human lives.

The 2016 Human Development Report focuses on how human development can be ensured for everyone – now and in the future. It starts with an account of the achievements, challenges and hopes for human progress, envisioning where humanity wants to go.

Its vision draws from and builds on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that the 193 member states of the United Nations endorsed in 2015 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that the world has committed to achieve.

The report explores who has been left out in the progress in human development and why. It argues that to ensure human development for everyone, a mere mapping of the nature and location of deprivations is not enough. Some aspects of the human development approach and assessment perspectives have to be brought to the fore.

It also identifies the national policies and key strategies that will enable every human being to achieve basic human development and to sustain and protect the gains. And addressing the structural challenges of the current global system, it presents options for institutional reforms.


Key Messages

 The HDT 2016 Report conveys five basic messages:

  • Universalism is key to human development, and human development for everyone is attainable.
  • Various groups of people still suffer from basic deprivations and face substantial barriers to overcoming them.
  • Human development for everyone calls for refocusing some analytical issues and assessment perspectives.
  • Policy options exist and, if implemented, would contribute to achieving human development for everyone.
  • A reformed global governance, with fairer multilateralism, would help attain human development for everyone.

Critical Conclusion

 According to the authors of the report, Selim Jahan (Director and lead author) and Eva Jerspersen (Deputy Director) “Universal human development must enable all people – regardless of their age, citizenship, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or any other identity – to expand their capabilities fully and put those capabilities to use.

“This also means that capabilities and opportunities are sustainable throughout an individual’s lifecycle and across generations. But those less endowed or lagging behind need support from others – from individuals, communities and states – to realise their full potential.”

To them, “In the ultimate analysis, development is of the people, by the people and for the people. People have to partner each other. There needs to be a balance between people and the planet. And humanity has to strive for peace and prosperity. Human development requires recognising that every life is equally valuable and that human development for everyone must start with those farthest behind.

“The 2016 Human Development Report is an intellectual contribution to resolving these issues. We strongly believe that only after they are resolved will we all reach the end of the road together. And when we look back, we will see that no one has been left out”, they added.