15 March 2013

HDR 2013 - Rise of the Global South

The Human Development Report 2013 - Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World is out. In HDI rankings, Norway ranks first, but Australia (#2) and New Zealand (#6) do better than Norway when it comes to non-income HDI.
US (#3) fares poorly in terms of life expectancy as it is below 30 countries. This means that at a higher level of attainment, shortfalls in one dimension are compensated by attainments in other dimensions. Future calculations of HDI could use An Alternative Approach to Measure HDI or choose from A Class of Human Development Index Measures. These address the inequity across dimensions. In other words, as the average attainment increases, the same deviation from a balanced approach is considered worse off. It turns out that the HDI computed with geometric mean does not satisfy this.

Conflict-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo and drought-affected Niger jointly take the last position at #186, but despite the odds they are the ones that have made impressive improvements. In fact, the story from HDR 2013 is the rise of the Global South. It is pertinent that when the North slowed down because of the financial crisis during 2007/2008, it is the entrepreneurship of masses and social innovations in diverse settings with proactive state that have helped in this progress. Fourteen countries, mostly low-HDI ones from Africa (including DR Congo and Niger), made HDI gains of at least 2 per cent per annum since 2000.

In 150 years, the year 2010 marks a turnaround as Brazil (#85), China (#101) and India (#136) together have a combined income as that of the six industrial countries of Canada (#11), France (#20), Germany(#5), Italy(#25), UK (#26) and US. The middle class is growing in the South and they are demanding better services, but one should not forget that income inequalities are widening.

I take the liberty to get out of the report and provide some pointers for India. Some recent successes in India are the state-facilitated livelihood missions (see BRLPS, SERP and also NRLM) among others. Civil society participation also have made significant contributions leading to recent legislations on Right to Education and Right to Information. There also have been public movements such as India Against Corruption, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, and Right to Food. Another recent initiative is the RRA Network, which advocates for a differentiated policy and support system for revitalizing rainfed agriculture.

To sustain the momentum, the report calls for enhancing equity, enabling voice and participation, confronting environmental challenges and managing demographic change.The report reiterates the need to change the structures of global institutions to involve and articulate the concerns of the South, to bring in plural concerns and to unravel that the notions of 'publicness' and 'privateness' in our understanding of public goods are social constructs. Bringing about effective interventions needs good leadership who can keep vested interests out of decision making.

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