ISLAMABAD: Staggering rates of poverty, high inequality and frequent natural disasters and crises threaten the progress of human development in developing countries. Addressing these challenges requires a host of initiatives, including universal provision of social services and a strong system of social security benefits, says the 2014 Human Development Report (HDR), released in Islamabad today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Pakistan.
The Report, entitled Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience, offers a fresh perspective on what makes people vulnerable, and proposes ways to strengthen resilience. The Human Development Report is an independent study intended to stimulate an informed debate on global development issues and to highlight trends for policy makers.
Despite overall gains in human development, progress in all regions decelerated over 2008–2013 compared to 2000–2008. In the last 2 decades, most countries have registered significant improvements in human development. Now, vulnerability and the impact of crises and disasters are undermining the hard won progress or slowing down its growth. The annual growth in Human Development Index (HDI) value has declined in Pakistan from 2 percent in 2000-2008 to almost zero during 2008-13. The Report demonstrates that progress cannot be sustained without building resilience.
Marc-André Franche, UNDP Pakistan Country Director, presented the key recommendations of the report. Richard Montgomery, Head of the Department for International Development (DFID) in Pakistan, said, “This report can help inform the debate about how best to build Pakistan’s resilience, strengthen the way the State serves its citizens, and build a more inclusive economy and society.”
Abdul Qadir Baloch, Federal Minister of the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), congratulated UNDP on the launch of the Report and reiterated the Government’s commitment to work for the rehabilitation of displaced persons in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
A panel discussion focused on the vulnerabilities of people in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Panel members included journalist and author Mr. Zahid Hussain, member of the Joint Political Parties’ Committee on FATA reforms Ms. Bushra Gohar, Chairperson of the FATA Reforms Commission Mr. Ejaz Qureshi, and former member of the Social Sector in the Planning Commission of Pakistan Ms. Saba Gul Khattak. The discussion was moderated by journalist and development analyst Ms. Sidra Iqbal.
The panelists discussed the possible reforms required to establish the rule of law and efficient institutions in FATA. The set of laws and the capacity and effectiveness of institutions is one of the key drivers of structural vulnerability which is highlighted in the Report.
Pakistan has been faced with multiple risks and vulnerabilities. In the last ten years, Pakistan has incurred damages due to natural and manmade disasters. The opinions highlighted during the discussion included the necessary measures that should be taken to cope with the recurring risks and vulnerabilities as there are more than a million displaced persons not only from North Waziristan but other parts of FATA as well. The panel members suggested that a robust return and rehabilitation strategy needs to be devised and implemented along with adequate administrative capacities to implement and sustain any such strategies in the aftermath of the crises.
The panelists urged the people and the Government of Pakistan to commit to the universal provision of basic social services and social protection to build resilience, especially for the poor and other vulnerable groups in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Natural disasters expose and exacerbate vulnerabilities, such as poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and weak governance. The Report asserts that those who face multiple deprivations are especially at risk of falling back into poverty if a disaster or crisis should occur. Persistent vulnerabilities create a vicious circle where both progress is undermined and resources needed to recover increase. Countries need to build resilience and capacities to address vulnerability and prepare for and recover from crises.
Poor people need protection against vulnerability. The human development approach provides a holistic approach to address vulnerability and build resilience.
Pakistan’s investments in resilience today are the ultimate win-win: reducing adverse impact and costs and freeing resources for additional investments where it most matters.
UNDP also released its 2014 Human Development Index (HDI) for 187 countries and UN-recognized territories, which ranks countries in terms of economic and human development indicators. Pakistan’s HDI value for 2013 is 0.537 – which is in the low human development category – positioning the country at 146 out of 187 countries and territories. From South Asia, countries which are close to Pakistan in 2013 HDI rank and to some extent in population size are India and Bangladesh, which have HDIs ranked 135 and 142 respectively.
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