Speech at the launch of Human Development Report 2013

03 Jul 2013

Speaker: UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Pratibha Mehta
Date:       3 July 2013
Event:     Launch of Human Development Report 2013
Venue:    Press Club, 59A Ly Thai To St., Hanoi

Mr Bui Thanh Son, Vice Minister of Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Expert Panel members
Excellencies Ambassadors and Distinguished Guests
Friends from the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 2013 Global Human Development report ‘The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World’ was launched on 14 March 2013 in Mexico by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator and the President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto.
The Global HDR examines the shift in global dynamics driven by the fast-rising powers of the so-called ‘South’ and how this, in turn, impacts on human development.

The report examines the achievements of more than forty high achieving countries which performed better than predicted between 1990 and 2012 based on previous trends, both in terms of the income and non-income dimensions of human development.

Viet Nam is one of these dynamic countries. Human development progress has been fast increasing from 0.4 to 0.6 between 1990 and 2012 – that is equivalent to an increase of 41 percent, or an average annual increase of about 1.6 percent. In 2012 Vietnam ranked 127th out of 187 countries – which is in the ‘medium’ category of human development category.

For the first time in recent history, emerging economies in the 'South' are driving global economic growth and social change. According to projections developed for the Report, by 2020 the combined economic output, in 1990 purchasing power parity dollars, of China, India and Brazil - will surpass that of the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada combined.

Much of the dynamism of the emerging economies is being driven by trade, foreign direct investment, and technology partnerships within the South itself. Developing countries almost doubled their share of world merchandise trade from 25 percent to 47 percent between 1980 and 2010. Trade within the ‘South’ was the biggest factor in that expansion, increasing from less than ten percent to more than 25 percent in the last thirty years.

Trade patterns are also changing for Viet Nam (which a later presentation will show in more detail), with China and other regional partners becoming more important trading partners. Vietnamese companies are also increasing their investment abroad, most notably in neighbouring countries, particularly Laos and Cambodia, but also further afield in Africa.

So what has been driving the acceleration of economic and human development? Across most of these countries, the Report highlights three main drivers of development:
-    a strong, proactive, developmental state – which means proactive government that pursues economic growth as a pathway to HD and derives its political legitimacy from delivering better social services and living standards to all its people.
-    tapping of global markets
-    innovative social policies.

Analyzing the success of the high-achievers presented in the Report confirms a key message found across past HDRs: that economic growth does not automatically translate into human development progress. Significant investments in people reaching their full potential - including investing in quality education and health, are vital. And policies focused on ensuring productive employment, gradual integration into global markets, and improving service delivery are also important.

This is an important policy message for Viet Nam. The last National HDR for Vietnam (2011) showed that economic growth has been the single most important driver of human development in Viet Nam, but progress in health and education has been less rapid.

As in other countries, a rising contribution of foreign trade and economic integration has contributed to economic growth and human development progress in Viet Nam. Viet Nam has been actively involved in several global, regional and bilateral economic integration processes including the World Trade Organization, ASEAN and various Free Trade Agreements.

However, even more important than being integrated into global markets are the terms of engagements. Without investing in people, returns from global markets – or foreign direct investment – will remain limited. Investing in human potential is also vital for Vietnam to enhance its competitiveness, and to fully benefit from global economic integration.

Looking into the future, the Global HDR warns that if global human development is to continue to rise, emerging challenges related to demographic shifts, environmental degradation and political and social exclusion, will need to be tackled. It argues that an inclusive and sustainable path must be followed.

The Report suggests four key areas to ensure that we continue to make progress in human development:
-    enhancing equity, between different groups of people, including between women and men,
-    enabling greater participation of citizens, especially youth
-    confronting environmental pressures
-    and managing demographic change.

These are also key challenges for Viet Nam. In Viet Nam, progress in human development at the national level masks large disparities lower down. Taken together with economic status and ethnicity, regional and geographic disparities are among the most important determinants of inequality in Viet Nam. They stand in the way of Viet Nam progressing to higher levels of human development.

Slow global action in tackling the looming threat of climate change, however, has the potential to halt or even reverse the human development gains in the countries of the South - those with the poorest people and the lowest capacity to adapt.

Globally, Viet Nam is one of the countries most at risk of disasters, and has been identified as one of 30 countries at extreme risk due to climate change.

Climate change is already exacerbating chronic environmental threats and loss of ecosystems. Such losses limit livelihood opportunities, especially for the poorest people. The magnitude of such losses highlight the urgency of our need to take urgent action. The costs of inaction will be high.

One clear message of the report is that the rise of the South has implications for global governance and decision making, as well as for the financing of development. As the world becomes increasingly connected - through trade, migration, information and communications technologies, much greater cooperation between North and South is required.

For this to happen, global governance arrangements need to be more legitimate, accountable, and transparent. We need to recognize the changing politics of our times, by giving greater voice to the countries of the South.

In conclusion, much can be learned from the success of the emerging economies of the South, which have used their growing economic strength to improve human development.

In Viet Nam, as elsewhere, the challenge now is to carry that progress forward, and to move onto a much more sustainable and inclusive development path for all.

I hope that the recommendations of the global HDR will provide useful inputs into Vietnam’s socio-economic policies and integration strategy, and inform discussions about economic restructuring, and growth model. The UN looks forward to supporting this process, to facilitate learning and capacity building, particularly through South-South cooperation.

The balance of influence in our world is changing. The contribution of the South – intellectual, economic, social, environmental, and political - will be vital in building a better future for us all.

Xin cam on!