I Remain Optimistic We Can Achieve Human Progress for Everyone

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has released the Human Development Report for 2016, entitled “Human Development for Every One”. The report comes at a momentous time when the world leaders just recently endorsed the Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under the guiding principle of leaving no one behind.

The nexus between human development and the sustainable goals is thus critical and central to the universality of the values of human progress that defines development as enlarging peoples’ choices and capabilities to live lives they value. The report, which is the 25th in the series, brings a sharp focus to the plight of those who have been left behind by development progress, and what could be done to enhance their human capabilities.

The idea of human development in all its simplicity continues to resonate with those of the founding father of human development approach Amartya Sen and in line with the first human development report produced in 1990 which underlined that “people are the real wealth of nations”. And herein lies the philosophical underpinnings of why we measure progress beyond the prism of economic growth and remains impactful even today.

The 2016 human development report in its global outlook of human development outcomes bring out some key and important messages that are pertinent and relevant to Ethiopia even as it pursues a broad and ambitious transformation agenda.

First is the recognition that despite the recent advances in human progress both in developed and developing countries, there are still many who are left behind. Globally, 766 million people live on less than 1.90 dollars a day. In the OECD countries, 160 million people are functionally illiterate and unable to use reading, writing and calculations for basic activities in life. And some 2.4 billion people in the world still lack access to improved sanitation facilities.

In Ethiopia for example, despite the significant strides made in social and economic fronts, there are about 20 million people still living in poverty. Despite progress achieved to narrow the gender divide in education, political representation and labour force participation, there are still some social norms like childhood marriages that deter women from reaching their full potential.

Secondly, the report advances the imperative of understanding those who have been left behind and why. For example, it is argued that “women tend to be poorer, earn less, and have fewer opportunities in most aspects of life than men”. At the same time, those living in rural areas tend to face multiple barriers especially with children from poor rural households attending school getting fewer learning opportunities in the key subjects like reading, writing and mathematics.

What should be our policy responses for instance in addressing the plight of indigenous peoples that account for five percent of the world’s population, but 15pc of people living in poverty? How do we break the barriers to work, education and political participation that refugees and migrant populations face? Or that of the more than 250 million people in the world who face discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity?

We certainly have a collective and shared responsibility as policymakers, development partners, representatives of the people, academicians and community as a whole to support the laudable development agenda and plan of the government. It is to address the issues that affect the disadvantaged groups here in Ethiopia, ranging from women and girls, rural populations, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, migrants and refugees, and older people.

Thirdly, and equally important, is the whole notion of expanding voice and empowerment as part of the larger ecosystem of human development.

Again, the human development report eloquently analyses how legal and political institutions can be used and abused to perpetuate group divisions or instances when institutions and policies disproportionately reflect the values and interests of the elite. No doubt, there is a positive correlation between citizenry participation in development and the emergence of countries. It means building trust between the people and government and establishing a compact with the people. It is about investing in strong institutions that promote accountability in public governance systems across the board.

The United Nations in Ethiopia will continue to work closely with the government to strengthen institutions and deepen governance reforms to sustain its commendable development outcomes.

As we reflect and ponder over some of these pertinent developmental issues, the SDGs provides us with an opportunity to address the yawning gaps in human development progress. Indeed, the 2016 report provides some useful pointers concerning national and global strategies to reach those who have been left behind. It entails re-orienting human development policies to cushion the disadvantaged groups, including dealing with vertical and horizontal inequalities.

It is about building the resilience of people and nations and empowering the most disadvantaged by giving them a voice in shaping the decisions that affect their lives. I believe the world has enough resources for every need and I remain optimistic that together we can ensure no one is left behind.

By Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie
Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie is a UN Resident Coordinator, UNDP Resident Representative & UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia.

Published on Apr 14,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 884]



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