The United Nations Development Program (UNDP)-commissioned global Human Development Report 2003 (HDR) was released in China today, highlighting this year's theme, Millennium Development Goals: A compact among nations to end human poverty, as part of a worldwide launch kicked off in Dublin, Ireland and Maputo, Mozambique.
According to the Report, the pledge by world leaders to lift hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty by 2015 can be achieved -- but only if poor countries pursue wide-ranging reforms and wealthy nations respond with improved trade terms and increased aid. China was singled out as demonstrating dramatic success in fighting poverty.
The Human Development Report introduces a new plan of action -- the Millennium Development Compact -- to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Goals, endorsed by all members of the United Nations, set out a series of time-bound and quantifiable targets ranging from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015. Among the Report's findings is that the first of these global targets -- reducing by half the proportion of people living on less than US$1 a day -- is likely to be reached, due in large part to sustained economic growth in China and India; in the last ten years, China's dynamic economy lifted 150 million people out of dire poverty. According to the report, due to China's key economic and policy reforms, the percentage of people living on less than US$1 a day dropped from 33 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2000. As a result, East Asia was the only region in which the absolute numbers of poor people declined significantly over the past decade.
Leaps forward in relatively short periods of time have clearly been proven possible. For example, in nine years from 1953 to 1962, China added 13 years to life expectancy. Nonetheless, global trends of the 1990s show a looming development crisis. In China, there are inequalities in the impact of development, thus revealing the critical areas of need for increased efforts by all sectors of Chinese society and the international community.
Ms. Kerstin Leitner, UNDP Resident Representative, commented in her opening remarks, "The Millennium Development Goals are not a product of the United Nations or some other organization. They belong to the people and as such are a people's agenda.' Open debate and accountability -- nationally and internationally -- is critical to achieving the MDGs. I very much hope that the report will contribute to the ongoing discussion about development challenges and open up the dialogue among all players."
Mr. Bob Boase, UNDP Advisor, delivered a presentation summarizing the key findings of the HDR, and stressed, "The MDGs are feasible -- but the world is not on track. The key question is: What and how much will it take to meet the goals?' Without a radical change of course in policy, matching resources and interventions to the magnitude of the problems, the world is facing a development crisis."
The HDR is critically relevant to China, since the Chinese Government and its people are moving firmly to build a xiaokang society, which was the goal set by the 16th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) last year and measured by a broad set of variables. Dr. Li Peilin, deputy director of Institute of Sociology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and the main author of the newly published book entitled Building a Well-off Society in China, gave a presentation as guest commentator on the HDR. Linking the MDGs to the Chinese national context, he remarked, "The HDR offers us the opportunity to look at the xiaokang system and MDGs side-by-side. Combining these two sets of national and international indicators gives a more comprehensive picture of how people's lives are faring and where China needs to focus its attention. China is in a unique position to attain sustainable human development through achieving both xiaokang and MDG goals."
UNDP is working around the world with national governments, civil society and international financial institutions to produce reports that monitor individual country progress towards the MDGs. This information, together with the data contained in the HDR, give people the information to demand improvements from their governments. This campaign, in turn, can help ensure that public funds are allocated in a pro-poor manner. In a call for partnership between rich and poor countries, this year's HDR addresses the world's development crisis and outlines a new approach to aid and development, advocating the key message, "We know what needs to be done -- Let's do it."
The report's Beijing launch was attended by senior representatives from UNDP, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the National Bureau of Statistics, China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges (CICETE), and other VIP guests.
(China.org.cn July 10, 2003)