Commonwealth countries doing very well in human development

The Commonwealth Secretariat today hosted the London launch of the 2016 UNDP Human Development Report with its lead author describing Commonwealth countries as “doing very well” in terms of human development.

Selim Jahan said the report showed more than 50 per cent of Commonwealth countries were ranked ‘high’ or ‘very high’. However, there were some countries with low rankings and the dialogue should be about how to improve the situations there, he added.  

The annual Human Development Report provides an empirical overview of the state of the world’s progress against social and economic indicators and is widely recognised as a leading source of global development data.

Dr Jahan told the audience of High Commissioners and development professionals that overall there had been impressive progress over the past 25 years including halving the under-five mortality rate and ending extreme poverty for a billion people. Yet significant deprivations still exist and inequality has become “the defining issue of our time,” he said. 

The 2016 report ‘Human Development for Everyone’ highlights the systemic exclusion of specific groups from development gains.  Women and girls, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, migrants and refugees are deprived in the basic dimensions of human development. Dr Jahan said it is critical to identify the ‘who’, ‘where’, and ‘why’ of these deprivations.

Speaking at the launch, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “The Commonwealth brings together countries of widely different sizes, of geographical locations, and at every stage of social and economic development. It is valuable to have set within the global context of the Human Development Report, data that suggests there is a broad and positive impact arising from sustained Commonwealth collaboration and mutual support. It is particularly encouraging to see good, strong performance by our member countries across all of our regions and this reflects the distinctive strength and character of the Commonwealth as a community united around common goals and values.”

Sir Richard Jolly, Honorary Professor of Institute Development Studies at the University of Sussex and a pioneer of human development said the report recognises that the challenges of development are universal and progress in poorer countries can often provide examples and a stimulus as to what needs to be done in richer ones.

The South African High Commissioner to London HE Obed Mlaba highlighted the report’s theme of inclusive development, and the importance of partnering with groups and industries that not always on development agendas, including women, those with disabilities, creative industries and sport.

In her closing remarks, the Secretary-General said: “The Commonwealth encompasses one third of world’s population and comes from six regions. If we can together collate our joint experience and pool our knowledge and share, particularly what does not work so we don’t have to repeat mistakes, and enhance what does work, we can be the pathfinders for the rest of the two thirds of the population.”