United Nations Development Programme awarded five outstanding human development reports from around the world for their special contributions to the global campaign towards reaching the Millenium Development Goals.
New Horizons - This year’s awards went to Costa Rica, India, China, Guinea-Bissau and Asia-Pasific. Authors of the award-winning reports were honoured at a ceremony at the U.N. Headquarters in New York on 20 June 2007.
The Judging Panel also gave “Special Recognition” to Guatemala for its report on Ethnic and Cultural Diversity, to Brazil for Human Development Atlas of Recife City, to Afghanistan for Security with a Human Face,and to Liberia for Mobilizing Capacity for Reconstruction and Development.
2007 Human Development Awards’ winner in the category of ‘Human Development Innovations-Concepts’ was the Costa Rican report entitled Overcoming Fear: Insecurity and Human Development. The report (dated 2005) clearly articulated the fears suffered by Costa Ricans in the face of rising numbers of robberies, rapes and drug-related offenses, addressing the common crime misconceptions of Costa Rican people who overwhelmingly blamed foreigners from other Latin American countries. Yet, the report said, conviction statistics showed young Costa Rican men as primarily responsible. The report’s findings have reshaped national debate on better anti-crime strategies and ushered in new proposals to regulate firearms and reduce violence against women; and have helped decrease xenophobia in Costa Rica. “This report urges Costa Ricans to stand up to their fears and work together to create safer communities,” said UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis.
The winner in the category of ‘Participation and Capacity Building Process’ was India’s, Chhattisgarh Sub-National Human Development Report, which investigated the quality of life in one of India’s youngest states. Also published in 2005, the Chhattisgarg Report recounts the voices of more than 19 thousand villagers from across a rural landscape of 135,000-square-kilometres with poor infrastructure. Villagers provided detailed information about their experiences, concerns and aspirations, speaking out against inequality in education and health and sharing their local insight – which often contrasted with state views - on such topics as the use of water, forests and land. The voluminous data collected by the Report is now being used by the Indian Government to better chart Chhattisgarh's future. “This will help us in evolving a development model for inclusive growth that factors local needs, and at the same time help retain the state's culture and traditional wisdom while restoring the ecological balance”, said Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh. “Meaningful participation at the grassroots level is fundamental to good policy-making, democracy and human development, and the Chhattisgarh report embodies all these ideals,” added Kevin Watkins, Director of the Human Development Report Office in New York.
China’s 2005 HDR entitled Development with Equity, awarded best in the ‘Policy Analysis and Influence’ category, was an assessment of the nation’s progress in confronting the destabilizing wealth gap between its urban and rural communities. This independent report, commissioned by the UNDP, was the first of its kind by China-based researchers and scholars to take a hard look at some of the most critical human development issues facing their nation, including inequality between men and women. The China study is remarkable not only for its findings but also for its frank discussion of obstacles to reform in China, such as corruption. The Report urges widespread reforms, including increasing investment in public education, providing universal access to health care, curbing corruption by making the Government more transparent, reforming the tax code, and widening access to the judicial system so victims of discrimination have a better chance of obtaining redress.
Local authors from Guinea-Bissau were presented the “Human Development Award” for guiding their country, one of Africa’s smallest and poorest nations, on Political Reform to Achieve the MDGs, in the category of ‘Excellence in Support of Millenium Development Goals’. Their report published in 2006, underlines the obstacles to progress—including government corruption, a weak legal system, mismanagement of public resources, and political instability—that keep two out of three people in Guinea-Bissau mired in poverty and living on two dollars or less a day. “Considerable changes are necessary to put Guinea-Bissau on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals,” said Célestin Tsassa, Senior Economist at Guinea-Bissau’s UNDP Office. “At the forefront is strengthening respect for laws, regulations and human rights. The country also needs much greater investments in physical, human and social capital.” As a result of the Report’s publication, the Government’s poverty reduction strategy has now been revised.
And finally, the 2006 report entitled Trade on Human Terms: Transforming Trade for Human Development in Asia and the Pacific, won the first prize in the category of ‘Innovation across HDR Corporate Principles for Regional HDR’. This report detailed how smaller Asian countries are being out-competed and overwhelmed by exports from China. Coupled with trade imbalance pressures with China, countries including the East Asian tigers are suffering from ‘jobless growth’, said the authors. While trade in the region fuelled economic growth and alleviated poverty, it also increased inequalities and resulted in growing unemployment. Some parts of the region, especially the 14 least-developed countries as well as the Pacific Islands, did not benefit substantially—in human development terms—from increased trade. “This report seeks to demystify trade related issues, making them more accessible to a wider cross-section of people, thereby facilitating more informed debate and advocacy,” said Hafiz Pasha, Regional Director of the Bureau for Asia and the Pacific region for UNDP. “In doing so, it hopes to promote human development in the region.”
“The Asia-Pacific report identifies the policies needed to ensure that all people realize the potential benefits of trade,”added UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis. “It sends the message that success in the global marketplace brings with it social responsibilities as well.”
INUIT LEADER WINS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Besides awarding national and regional reports for their outstanding contributions to human development, United Nations also recognize individual activists for exceptional efforts in developmental and environmental issues. Created in honour of Mahbub ul Haq, founder of the Global Human Development Report, this lifetime achievement award went this year to a female Inuit community leader, Sheila Watt-Cloutier from Canada, for her tireless work against climate change. The 53-year-old political leader, representing indigenous communities in Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Russia and a nominee for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, received her award from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on 20 June.
“Ms. Watt-Cloutier's life work is what human development is all about: helping people live healthier lives so they can realize their full potential,” said Kevin Watkins, Director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP. “Her leadership and advocacy on behalf of Arctic communities have advanced the cause of human development around the world. Her strength and dedication should inspire us all.”
Born in a small village in Canada’s frozen north, Ms. Watt-Cloutier helped launch one of the world's first international legal actions on climate change, contending that unchecked greenhouse gas emissions from the United States violated Inuit Indians’ cultural and environmental rights.
“The world must pay attention to what's happening to Arctic communities because we are the early warning system for the rest of the planet,” she said.
In addition to her work on climate change, Sheila Watt-Cloutier was an instrumental force behind a global campaign to ban industrial toxins that can cause infertility, cancer and brain damage.