Launch of the Human Development Report 2002
Madame President, Mr. Administrator, Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for the privilege of presenting to you the key messages of the Human Development Report 2002 - "Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented world". I am particularly grateful to you, Madame President, your government and the people of the Philippines for hosting the launch in this historic palace. Let me add that this event has special significance for me personally. I came to live in your country at the impressionable age of 16 when my father came to represent his government. This first encounter with the 'Third World' was a turning point in my life that led me to work for Human Development.
On this occasion we pay tribute to the leadership the Philippine National Human Development Network has provided in shaping social policy. The work of this Network in offering quality analysis and mobilizing open dialogue on key policy issues sets an example for similar networks in many countries around the world. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been a leading proponent of human development in her distinguished career in public service.
For many in the world, the 1990s was a decade of great leaps of progress — economic, technological and political. The Internet brought the world ever closer. Authoritarian regimes in the Former Soviet Union, Africa and Latin America toppled one after another. But it was also a decade of disturbing reversals in many countries — a modern day plague in Africa called HIV/AIDS, financial crises in many emerging market economies, and a rise in the number of violent civil conflicts. This year's Human Development Report shows growing divisions between those who prosper in this new world — and those who do not.
These trends are deeply troubling. Globalization is forging greater interdependence, yet the world seems more fragmented - between the rich and the poor, between the powerful and powerless, between those who welcome the new global economy and those who demand a different course. The anti-globalization movement, the most significant social movement of our times, is demanding greater social justice, not just handouts for the poor. All this adds up to a world in urgent need of a political order that can achieve greater inclusion, an order in which all people and countries can have a say in decisions that affect their future, and one with rules and institutions which command trust among all people and countries.
This year's Report thus focuses on political participation as an important, and often forgotten, part of the agenda for human development. It recognizes that development is a political process, as much as a social and economic one. Having the means and the freedom to fight for one's rights, to shape decisions about the future of one's own community, to gain access to crucial information and markets - in short, having a choice in life, is at the core of human empowerment. And it is what we mean by human development in its true sense.
Democracy-because of its potential to hold accountable those in power and authority, to allow the free and fair contest of power, and above all, to increase popular participation-is the system that can best safeguard human freedoms and dignity of all people. It is the only form of governance that has the incentives to act in the interests of all.
Too often when economic or social challenges confront a nation there is a mistaken notion that authoritarian control will provide the answer. Yet there is no evidence to support this. On the contrary, empirical evidence based on the best academic research shows authoritarian regimes have presided over the world's greatest economic disasters - such as Uganda under Idi Amin or Zaire under Mobutu - as well as some of the best. As Amartya Sen has argued, elections and a free press help put pressure on governments to take action to prevent large-scale disasters - such as the famine that has claimed a staggering 2 million lives in North Korea, or one tenth of its population. Open contest and debates help contain conflicts and violent political upheavals are more rare.
Many countries embarked on the path to democracy in the 1990s, but a closer look reveals that the quality of many democracies is poor. 106 countries still restrict important civil and political freedoms. And some 61 countries, with 38% of the world's population, do not have a free press.
We know that democracies are more than a hastily organized election: it is a long-term project that is particularly difficult when a nation is steeped in poverty or beset with conflicts and social violence, and lacking strong institutions susceptible to corruption.
But where democracy is weak we must not blame the system, withdraw our participation. We must engage. We must balance the institutions of the state with the institutions of civil society. Democracy can provide muscle to human progress; we must exercise it correctly to keep it strong and prevent atrophy. An alternative title for this report would be: Democracy - use it or lose it!
Let me end by quoting from a text contributed by Aung San Suu Kyi to this Report:
At a time when the world is preoccupied with the menace of terrorism, it is worth considering that people who feel deprived of control over their lives - necessary for a dignified life - are liable to search for fulfillment along the path of violence. Merely providing them with a certain material sufficiency is not enough to win them over to peace and unity. Their potential for human development has to be realized and their human dignity respected so that they can gain the skills and confidence to build a world strong and prosperous in harmonious diversity.Thank you.
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