Launch of the Human Development Report 2002
Address by Mark Mallock Brown, UNDP Administrator
Launch of the Human Development Report 2002
24 July 2002
Madam President, Minister Ramos-Horta, Excellencies, Honoured Guests, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by adding my thanks to President Arroyo and the Government of the Philippines for being our hosts today and providing such a wonderful venue. And let me also thank Minister Ramos-Horta for joining us for this important event.
It gives me enormous pride and pleasure to be here in Manila today to launch UNDP’s Human Development Report 2002. Not just because I believe the subject matter – Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World – is the critical challenge of our time, but because it was in the Philippines, that much of my own understanding of and commitment to this issue was born.
As a young man, it was here, working with former President Cory Aquino that made me really understand the power of democracy and its critical importance to development.
The modern use of the phrase “people power” was born on the streets of this city. It was a movement that testified to the extraordinary commitment of ordinary Filipinos from every part of the country and every walk of life to struggle for their vision of a free, democratic future. And it has helped inspire similar movements in many other parts of the world, not least in East Timor, the newest member of the global family of democracies.
This commitment was inspired by the hope and belief that democracy would give them a real chance at building a better life for themselves and their families.
In the Philippines, it is buttressed by a booming civil society movement and an exuberantly free press that has helped forge a strong and abiding understanding in this country of the importance of democratic participation as an integral element of meeting broader development challenges from economic growth to personal security.
More than that, the Philippines has also been a global leader in promoting and expanding the concept of human development itself since UNDP first articulated it 12 years ago and much of the work being done here on these issues is now being copied in other parts of the developing world.
The Politics of Poverty
But even in the Philippines, which is – as the forthcoming MDG report UNDP has helped prepare will show -- relatively well positioned to meet many of the Millennium Development Goals, there is still a long way to go, particularly in areas like hunger and environmental sustainability, and in overcoming rural poverty.
And the picture is much more gloomy in many other parts of the world.
More than 60 countries are poorer than they were a decade ago and 33 on current trends will not even meet half of the Millennium Development Goals
And across South East Asia, which reaped many of the benefits of economic expansion of the last decade, the Asian financial crisis provided a sharp reminder of how fragile these gains can be.
Fuelled by a rising population of young jobless, in many countries the result has been anger and frustration at the lack of opportunities and political freedoms that in some countries has started to fuel disillusionment with democracy itself.
Unless governments are able to demonstrate to their citizens that they are taking successful action on bread and butter issues from jobs to crime to schools -- and by doing so make serious inroads on poverty – the dramatic expansion of democracy risks going in reverse.
Already there have been serious setbacks in some countries. And nearly half of the new wave of nominally elected governments cannot yet be described as full democracies.
In that context, the central message of this report is a simple one: to promote human development successfully we need to put the politics back into poverty eradication.
That means ensuring that the poor have a real political voice and access to strong, transparent institutions capable of providing them with the kind of personal security, access to justice, and services from health to education they so desperately need.
Tackling the Democracy Deficits
Many detractors -- including some prominent voices in this region – have long argued that democracy is a Western obsession that cannot provide the necessary stability and continuity for economic growth in poor countries.
These are now yesterday’s debates.
As Minister Ramos-Horta has eloquently pointed out, ordinary men and women from all across Asia – and indeed Africa and Latin America -- have made very clear by their words and actions that democracy and human rights are not an invention of the West.
But despite huge progress, the needs and aspirations of too many of those people are still not being met – and they will not be met until we can entrench strong and deep democratic governance at all levels of society.
On one level that clearly means tackling the global democracy deficit.
We live in a world economy that on nearly every important measure remains firmly tilted against developing countries. At a time when rich countries spend $1bn a day in subsidies – seven times international aid – it is little wonder that so many developing countries find it difficult to compete.
And exacerbating matters, many key institutions from the World Bank to the IMF to the UN Security Council are not sufficiently democratic or transparent.
But at least as important for developing country leaders as fighting -- and being seen by their people to fight -- for the economic right to participate as equal partners on a level playing field is the quality of domestic democratic culture and the strength of local democratic institutions.
In too many countries, governments act as if democracy stops when the polling booths close. And in some cases oppositions fail to respect results, taking their grievances to the streets rather than the parliament floor.
The bottom line is democracy is not a panacea, but a process.
Free and fair elections are necessary, but they are not sufficient.
That is why what is now urgently needed is a “second wave” of democratization. One that both seeks to widen the democracy net to those parts of the world that are still lagging while deepening the practice of democratic government in those states that are struggling to make it work.
In practice that means building a parliament and judiciary that protect human rights and gives scope for the cut and thrust of vigorous – but peaceful – political debate; a police force that provides safe streets and safe borders; decentralized power so that local people can monitor and mobilize to ensure schools with well trained teachers and hospitals with proper drugs and equipment; and a thriving civil society and a free press in the vanguard of attacks on corruption and mismanagement by government and business alike.
Working to help countries in these complex tasks is increasingly the core business of UNDP – at the request of developing countries themselves.
Last year we carried out democratic governance programmes in more than 140 countries, including the Philippines, in areas ranging from helping strengthen parliaments, to supporting decentralization initiatives, to security sector reform.
But in practice no outside support can ever substitute for the most important ingredient: strong democratic leadership with a clear vision of how to tackle those Millennium Development Goals.
Because these are both the cornerstone commitments to which ordinary people – both North and South -- should hold their governments accountable and the yardstick for measuring future progress.
Building real democracy is messy. It is slow. It is very difficult. But for human development, it is also indispensable.Thank You
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