COMMON GROUND
 

Air Date: October 19, 1999

Program 9942

The Human Element

(This text has been professionally transcribed, However, for timely
distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.)

RICHARD JOLLY: The whole process of development should be expanding choices, strengthening people’s capabilities, at all levels of development. The message is as relevant for people in Washington and Chicago, including the better off in Washington and Chicago, as it is in El Salvador or in Mexico or in Kenya.

KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, officials from the United Nations Development Program discuss the 1999 Human Development Report.

Mark Malloch Brown: It has become, you know, not just a defining part of UNDP’s public persona, but through the promotion of so-called sustainable human development it has totally shifted the terms of the development debate. So it’s been become an extraordinarily influential report. And in that sense, you know, is the flagship of UNDP.

KRISTIN MC HUGH: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape events. It is produced by the Stanley Foundation. I’m Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. For a decade now the United Nations Development Program, known as UNDP, has produced the Annual Human Development Report. Rather than looking at how economies are doing, how businesses are performing, or how markets are expanding, the Human Development Report attempts to catalog how people are doing all over the world.

Malloch Brown: It’s a wonderful thing. I mean, you know, it’s also a sort of journalist’s encyclopedia in that it’s got every fact you’d ever want to know of that kind, which relates the broader economics to the individual.

PORTER: Mark Malloch Brown is the administrator of UNDP.

MALLOCH BROWN: You know, it’s where you go to find these statistics like Americans spend more in ice cream than it would cost to make sure everybody had primary education in the world. Or that the wealth of the top hundred billionaires in America is greater than that of the bottom couple of billion people in the world. Or that there are people in America whose individual wealth is bigger than that of a lot of countries’ total GNP. Mainline economists can often pooh-pooh these things as comparisons of apples and oranges. And I, certainly as a bit of a hybrid, with one foot in mainstream economics and one foot in this more populist human development agenda, I’m strongly of the view that if you didn’t have Bill Gates you’d lose a huge opportunity for economic growth in the poorest countries. In other words, I don’t think eating less ice cream or redistributing the wealth of the world’s richest to the poorest countries, is a long-term solution to much. But nevertheless, I think these comparisons have huge value because they give us some sort of moral compass points to the kind of global world we’re building, to its opportunities but also its pitfalls.

PORTER: Joining us on this program are two of the authors of this year’s Human Development Report. First, the leader of the Report Team, Richard Jolly.

JOLLY: This is trying to say how has all the economic, social events been operating in the past five, ten, twenty years, in terms of, has it helped people? Has it improved human development?

PORTER: I think so often we see these, we see statistics about what’s happening in the world and so many are generated by either stock markets or by treasury departments and they’re all sort of, they start with the dollar and build from that. And what I love about the Human Development Report is it starts with individuals and asks where they are in relation to other people around the world.

JOLLY: It does that. It also actually has hidden in its approach some very deep philosophy and some very creative economics. Going back indeed to Mahbub ul Haq, the distinguished Pakistan economist who had the idea a Human Development Report, and to Professor A.K. Sen, Amartya Sen, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics last year. So although there’s a simple superficial message it’s also a very fundamental one.

PORTER: We’re also joined here by Sakiko FUKUDA-PARR, one of the principal authors and a Director of the team that put this together. Sakiko, for someone who has never seen the Human Development Report, how do you explain it to them, what this book is?

SAKIKO FUKUDA-PARR: Well, maybe I can illustrate it by saying what I say to people about why we, they should read this report on globalization. There are thousands of books on the bookshelves in bookstores about globalization, but why should read this particular one? And that’s really because, as Richard just said, you know, the Human Development Report has always focused on what things means for people. So, for example, in globalization, most of the book on globalization will analyze the international financial architecture and the fact that there are, you know, open markets today. And trade is increasing and so forth. But our report looks not just at, for example, the $1.5 trillion that are exchanged every day in foreign exchange markets, but the fact that in fact the number of minutes that people spend on international telephone calls has more than doubled in just six years. And so this is a kind, this is just one of the ways in which you can see that we are looking at something like globalization from a very different point of view.

PORTER: When you look at those countries and the top ten, say, of the, in the Human Development Index, what do we know about those countries? What is it that’s different about the life of a person who lives in one of those countries, as opposed to someone who live in one of the bottom third countries on the list.

FUKUDA-PARR: Well, you know, I just spent a week or so in Mexico visiting one of the local human development centers. And I think that the visits that I made in Mexico to some of the poorer communities in the highlands, really sort of bring home to you exactly what that means. And when you go to one of these communities in a country that is in fact one of the emerging economies, that has just recently joined OECD, that seems to be having a sort of a dynamic development process, and yet you go there and you realize that a third, maybe half of the children are not going to school, or that many of the people there do not know how to read or write. I think that really brings home to you some of the fundamentals of why it is that we measure development, for example, by literacy, as opposed to economic growth or the rate of expansion of exports.

JOLLY: We also measure human development by the length of life. And how has the length of life that people can expect to live, how has that changed over the last ten, twenty, thirty years. So we have a formal measure, which we call HDI, the Human Development Index. And we also have a measure of human poverty, which again, tries to say what proportion of people in a country, in Mexico, say, don’t live even to forty, or can’t expect to live to forty. What percentage of the children are malnourished, out of school, don’t have access to clean water? So, there are, there’s a science, and there’s some measurement behind these indicators. But again, the concept is a very general, very liberal one: do people, do poor people in Mexico have real choices? Or are many of them squeezed with their chance to participate, to have choices to live a full and sustained life, with knowledge? Or are they being deprived of that.

PORTER: I see. The report makes a difference, or makes a distinction between poverty and extreme poverty. What’s the difference between poverty and extreme poverty? I know that in Latin America we said that poverty may be declining but extreme poverty was growing at a great rate. What’s the difference between the two?

JOLLY: Well, often the difference is expressed in money terms. Do people have at least an equivalent of a dollar a day spending power a year? We use a human measure of deprivation. We don’t strictly make a distinction between extreme deprivation and other forms of deprivation, except in as much as we have a human poverty standard that everyone should be able to live at least to forty years or beyond, that everyone needs basic education, access to reasonable health, clean water, and so forth. And these indicators lie behind our Human Poverty Index. But I think our emphasis is that much more the whole process of development should be expanding choices, strengthening people’s capabilities, at all levels of development. The message is as relevant for people in Washington and Chicago, including the better off in Washington and Chicago, as it is in El Salvador or in Mexico or in Kenya.

PORTER: Sakiko, did you have something you wanted to add to this to this point?

FUKUDA-PARR: Well, yes, I think so. I think often people interpret human development or the converse of that, poverty, in terms of consumption. You know, I mean, are you able to consume so much or so little? Are you, do you enjoy a certain standard of living? And it’s really measuring, it’s really looking at material conditions. And I think, as I just want to emphasize what Richard has says about human development being really about choices. And it really is about not saying that you want development so you can consume more. It’s that you want development so people can live the kind of lives that they want to lead.

PORTER: Richard, where in the world do we see the most progress? Countries over the course of the last ten years that have improved their ranking in the Human Development Index the best, or the most rapid?

JOLLY: Well, some of the most dramatic examples are in East Asia. I remember at the launch of the Human Development Report four years ago in Tokyo, the distinguished Ambassador Tommy Koh, saying that when he left to Singapore in the early 1960s to go and study in England, he said, "I looked down and saw in the plane"—saw below the plane—"the slums of Singapore." He said, "If you told me that by the time I’d reach 50 those slums would be gone, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you’d told me that by the time I was 50, Singapore would have a lower child mortality rate than England, and a higher per capita income than England," he said, "I would have thought you were totally mad." He said, "I’ve seen that." And you can see this. Singapore is a very dramatic example. But they have creatively used their resources and the result is they have one of the highest human development indices of any developing country, and it’s bobbing up in the lists that mostly we expect of industrial countries.

But there are many other countries. If you want specifics, Thailand and Korea are countries, which we’ve seen great progress of. And yet if you actually—and many people think, "But surely they have suffered with the Asian crisis." It is true they have been set back. But they have not been back to anything like they were even ten years ago, let alone twenty, thirty.

And in other parts of the world, Tunisia is a very impressive example. In Africa, Botswana, Mauritius, are countries that have both achieved relatively high human development situations over the last twenty, thirty years? In Latin America, there’s Costa Rica. There’s a good sample of twenty, thirty countries that have done very well. And so there’s much to be, much to, much practical experience to build on. This is, these aren’t just ideas that we hope command support in a moral sense. They’re very practical ideas.

PORTER: Sakiko, anything you wanted to add on countries that have, who have succeeded over these years?

FUKUDA-PARR: Well, I think we also have to say that, you know, it’s not by accident that some countries have succeeded more than others. And we always, most economists, try to look at correlations, the general patterns, to see, you know, for example that if you have higher economic growth you will have higher, faster rate of improvement in school enrollment. We are sometimes unpopular with conventional thinking economists, because we look at the exceptions to the rule. Like Costa Rica. Why is it that with, I think, about half the income of Korea, perhaps they have reached the same level of literacy or life expectancy? I think these countries let you dream better. I think you used the word dream for countries now. It really shows you what is possible. That lack of economic resources is not a condemnation to reduce life chances.

MC HUGH: Coming up, more from Sakiko FUKUDA-PARR and Richard Jolly on the 1999 Human Development Report.

JOLLY: We need to find ways to bring into the construction of global systems of governance and regulation—and just the operation of the system—concerns for people, human ethics, concerns for environment, sustainability—that’s what we need. That’s the challenge. We hope this report contributes to it.

MC HUGH: Printed transcripts and audiocassettes of this program are available. Listen at the end of the broadcast for details. Common Ground is a service of the Stanley Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts a wide a range of programs designed to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on world affairs.

JOLLY: I think many people in industrial countries are aware of globalization and can see that it has some problems. But surely on the whole it’s a good thing.

PORTER: Richard Jolly was Principal Coordinator of the 1999 Human Development Report.

JOLLY: And surely it is indeed globalization in trade, but also on the Internet, that has helped many of the poorer countries become richer. And surely they would say, helped human development. And that’s a view that we take in this report. We take a positive view of globalization. It has been, when it’s worked properly, a force for advancement of human development. But this report underlines several problems. One is this, a growing insecurity; we call it human insecurity, along with globalization. And it’s affecting people in their greater insecurity in industrial countries with their jobs. It has introduced a health insecurity with AIDS for example, or with diseases. We’ve got encephalitis at the moment here in New York. And some of these diseases are indeed, so to speak, bred in poorer, developing country situations, but they don’t need passports to travel. And they are a threat to us all. Or, as we say in the report, there’s a common interest of us all, in tackling these issues.

Finally, there is the issue of growing inequality. And to me one of the interesting points of the 1999 Human Development Report, is we show how with globalization, inequality has grown within countries and globally. So that in 1960 the gap between the fifth of the world living in the richest countries and the fifth of the world’s people living in the poorest countries, that gap was a 30:1 gap. Which itself is about as large as you’ll find in any country, individual country. But this is between countries. But we’ve seen that soar in the last 30 years or so. It was up to 60:1 in 1990; it is up to 74:1 in the latest figures. And for those with a bit of interest in history, we found that the gap back in the early 19th Century was only three or so to one.

PORTER: Sakiko, there is a special focus on globalization in this report. What is your take on this? On first of all, why you chose globalization as a special theme for this year’s report? And how do you feel about the results?

FUKUDA-PARR: Well, you know, I think that the more we got into the report, we realized how totally different this, the 1990s, has been.

PORTER: Sakiko Fukuda-Parr was Director of the Report Team.

FUKUDA-PARR: Richard and I have always debated about when it all began and when it all began to really change. But it’s clear that if you just think about today, and the era of globalization that we live in today, it’s very different from previous decades and previous eras, whether they were eras of globalization or not. And we have, for example, new markets. You know, the kind of financial markets that are linked globally. And it’s not a question of international flows, it is an issue of having a global market in capital and so forth. We also of course have new institutions like the WTO, with powers of decision-making that go beyond national governments, that have, have, that enforce multilateral agreements. And therefore that have many implications for the sovereignty of states. We have, so these new rules that I was mentioning, as well. And so we are in a very different kind of an economic and political environment. And also a technological environment.

And you know, I soft of think of three things that really, really made a huge difference. Quite recently, I think of the creation of the WTO in 1994

JOLLY: World Trade Organization.

FUKUDA-PARR: I think of the invention of the World Wide Web and the distribution of Netscape, which turned technology that had been in existence for a while, but into this information highway for commercial use, for individual contacts and so forth. I think about the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now, these are just three events if you like, that just tell you something about how historically economic, political, and technological changes have been unleashed.

PORTER: Richard, one of the huge changes Sakiko mentioned was the technological change, the rise of the World Wide Web and the Internet. You do devote part of this report to that. Tell us something about what you found about the role of the Internet.

JOLLY: Fascinating. Even as we were writing it, it was out of date. We wrote that 95% of all the language on the Internet is English. By the time we’d got to the final version of the report it was down to 80%. But we found that though the Internet is involving 25%—or at least computers—of people in the United States, even in Europe sometimes it’s only 10%—and of course in South Asia, in many developing countries, it’s well under 1%. So on the one hand people are being linked ever more rapidly across the world. On the other hand, Chapter II on Communications and Biotechnology, makes clear that an awful lot of people are not being linked. Fascinating details such as Americans spend twice as much on computers for their sons as for their daughters. That even in Britain 50% of the people with computers have college degrees.

So we ask, "Well, what can be done about this?" So this great force of globalization can work for all people and not just for some. And we looked at a number of initiatives that were being taken in developing countries to expand computers. For example in India there’s a linkup in, to bring in peasants, to give them access to markets. I was told that even in Africa, that some small-scale farmers can follow the prices of flowers through computer networks. And of course, in Bangladesh, for example, modern technology is being used to help the small businessman. And indeed our organization, UNDP, is behind many of these efforts in order to bring the benefits of the modern connections to ordinary people. But basically one needs to work very much harder at that. Because the natural forces without special efforts will produce a world of ever-greater inequality, rather than a world of greater equality.

FUKUDA-PARR: You know, I want to add that, you know, technology is just a tool. So it’s effect depends on how people use it and what it’s used for and who is using it. And so you see these many, sort of contradictory impacts of technology. Technology, I think, particularly this Internet and the new communications technology, has had a tremendously, sort of democratizing and equalizing effect. And it has certainly helped very much the strengthening of the NGO global movements.

PORTER: I have one last area I want to ask you about before we run out of time here. I just want to say that I spoke with the new Director of UNDP, Mark Malloch Brown, and he had very nice things to say about the Human Development Report.

Malloch Brown: It has become, you know, not just a defining part of UNDP’s public persona, but through the promotion of so-called sustainable human development, which is a very simply idea, that development is more than economic growth, it requires investment in people, in their education and healthcare, their environment, etc., etc., it has totally shifted the terms of the development debate. So it’s been become an extraordinarily influential report. And in that sense, you know, is the flagship of UNDP.

PORTER: Richard Jolly, it must be nice to know that the new boss appreciates this and sees it as an important part of what UNDP does.

JOLLY: It’s not only good, he’s written the foreword to this report and he recognizes the Human Development Report as a crown jewel. But the issue is, "What is the essence of the message of this analysis of globalization, and what we need to do about it?" And the message is that it doesn’t just happen by chance. It is a process, moving very rapidly, but being influenced by ideas and by actions, nationally and internationally.

PORTER: So we’re not powerless in the face of globalization?

JOLLY: We’re not powerless. But I think at the moment the world is misguided. And that’s because internationally we are constructing globalization—new institutions, new rules, and all of this—on the assumption that economic efficiency and free markets are sufficient to ensure a wonderful working global economy. If you said, "Does that work nationally?", no country—the United States, Britain, developing countries—would all say, "Those are important, but they’re not alone sufficient. We need schools, we need principles of ethics," and so forth. "We need" is the message of this report. We need to find ways to bring into the construction of global systems of governance and regulation—and just the operation of the system—concerns for people, human ethics, concerns for environment, sustainability—there’s glimpses of this. There are a few places. In, for example, the laws of human rights—that’s an important beginning. In, for example, the laws on the treatment of refugees—this is another. But we have not yet got a general way of bringing human concerns along with concerns of economy and efficiency, into the management and into the development of globalization for the Twenty-first Century. That’s what we need. That’s the challenge. We hope this report contributes to it.

PORTER: That was Richard Jolly. Our other guest was Sakiko FUKUDA-PARR. Both served as key authors of the 1999 Human Development Report. For Common Ground, I’m Keith Porter.

MC HUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Cassettes and transcripts of this program are available. The transcripts are free. Cassettes cost $5.00. To place an order or to share your thoughts about the program, write to us at: The Stanley Foundation, 209 Iowa Avenue, Muscatine, Iowa 52761. Please refer to program No. 9942. To order by credit card you can call us at 319·264·1500.

PORTER: Transcripts are also available on our web site, commongroundradio.org. Our e-mail address is commonground@stanleyfdn.org.

MC HUGH: B.J. Leiderman created our theme music. Common Ground is produced and funded by The Stanley Foundation.

Back to top

 

Sponsored by
The Stanley Foundation
209 Iowa Avenue
Muscatine, Iowa 52761 USA
319•264•1500
319•264•0864 fax
commonground@stanleyfdn.org
Copyright 2000