Withstanding crises and redressing inequalities key to Africa’s and The Gambia’s continued progress

Jul 24, 2014

Climate change treatening the livelihood of communities in The Gambia (Photo Credit - Guy)

Jobs, social protection and more cohesive societies required to secure the Africa’s development gains, says UNDP’s 2014 Human Development Report

24th July, 2014, Banjul - Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa need to intensify their battle against deprivation and prevent crises from setting back recent development advances, according to the global 2104 Human Development Report (HDR), launched here today in The Gambia and few hours earlier in  Tokyo, by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“Africa is enjoying higher levels of economic growth and well-being, but insecurity, as well as natural or human-induced disasters, persists in some parts of the region,” said Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, UNDP Resident Representative for The Gambia. “Withstanding crises and protecting the most vulnerable, who are the most affected, are key to ensuring development progress is sustainable and inclusive.”

The 2014 HDR, entitled “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience,” shows that between 2000 and 2013, Sub-Saharan Africa had the second highest rate of progress in the Human Development Index (HDI), which combines achievements in income, health and education. Rwanda and Ethiopia achieved the fastest growth, followed by Angola, Burundi, Mali, Mozambique, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia.

In spite of this progress, Sub-Saharan Africa is the most unequal region in the world, according to UNDP’s Coefficient on Human Inequality. Around 585 million people, the equivalent of 72 percent of the region’s population, are either living in multidimensional poverty – with overlapping deprivations in education, health and living standards – or at risk of falling back into poverty, the Report shows. These groups often do not experience improvements in their standard of living because they have limited political participation, livelihood options and access to basic social services, and even when they do escape poverty, they can relapse rapidly into precariousness when crises hit.

These disparities affect individuals or even entire communities over a lifespan, based on gender, ethnicity, geographic location and other factors. For example, the Report shows that the region has the world’s highest disparities in health, and shows considerable gender inequalities in income, educational attainment and access to reproductive health services.

Noting that vulnerability can accumulate over the course of a lifetime, the Report asserts that policies to maximize people’s future opportunities should pay particular attention to specific periods in life. For instance, such policies would require investing in early childhood services, youth employment and support for older people.

The Report makes the case that preventing shocks and promoting opportunities for all—especially for those most at risk—can effectively help reduce vulnerabilities and build resilience.

“The eradication of poverty is not just about ‘getting to zero’—it is also about staying there,” the Administrator of UNDP, Helen Clark, points out in the foreword, adding that the Report’s focus on resilience is highly relevant to current discussions on the post-2015 global development agenda.

Efforts to build social cohesion in conflict areas can lead to long-term reductions in the risk of conflict, while early warning systems and responsive institutions can lessen the impact of natural disasters. The report cites examples of peace architectures in Ghana, Kenya and Togo in facilitating dialogue and mediating disputes among communities during elections.

In addition, the Report argues that measures to create equal access to jobs, healthcare and education opportunities have an important role to play in promoting sustainable and equitable development.

With 77 percent of the population in vulnerable employment, many of them youths, the Report calls on countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to adopt full employment policies and ensure that economic growth is employment-intensive, while paying special attention to the quality and security of the jobs created. Creating decent employment opportunities is critical to achieving substantive poverty reduction and social cohesion.

Acknowledging these challenges, it urges countries to transition from agriculture-based economies into industry and services, while supporting investments in infrastructure and education so that “modern formal employment gradually incorporates most of the workforce.”

Further, social protection schemes such as unemployment insurance and pensions, universal health coverage and cash transfers can help individuals and communities weather difficult times and invest in the future.

Responsive and accountable institutions of governance are critical to overcoming injustice, vulnerability and exclusion that can fuel social discontent, while improving the delivery of services to all populations, the Report adds. While responding to emergencies is critical, building resilience requires sustained, long-term comprehensive efforts over time. In addition, the Report calls for better global coordination in shoring up resilience to vulnerabilities that are increasingly global in origin and impact.

Finally, the report provided a detail annex of the country ranking based on the Human Development Index (HDI) which continues to be the only comprehensive measure of a Human development. The Gambia’s HDI value for 2013 is 0.441— which is in the low human development category—positioning the country at 172 out of 187 countries and territories. Between 1980 and 2013, The Report notes the commendable progress The Gambia made. Its HDI value increased from 0.300 to 0.441, an increase of 46.9 percent or an average annual increase of about 1.17 percent.
Between 1980 and 2013, Gambia’s life expectancy at birth increased by 12.5 years, mean years of schooling increased by 2.1 years and expected years of schooling increased by 4.1 years. Gambia’s GNI per capita increased by about 0.7 percent between 1980 and 2013.  While UNDP commends the progress made in human development in The Gambia, we also acknowledge the   challenge in relation to the high prevalence of poverty – particularly in rural areas, inequality and unemployment, especially among the youth. It is our firm conviction that the key messages of the 2014 HDR are pertinent to The Gambian context and the lessons learnt are equally relevant. We encourage, among others, the government of The Gambia to continue investing in its people in particular in providing universal social services, enhancing productivity in the agriculture sector, and build infrastructure that will promote private sector development which will be the engine inclusive growth.

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ABOUT THIS REPORT: The Human Development Report is an editorially independent publication of the United Nations Development Programme. For free downloads of the 2014 Human Development Report, plus additional reference materials on its indices and specific regional implications, please visit: http://hdr.undp.org 
Full press package available at: http://hdr.undp.org/en/2014-report/press

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UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in 177 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations.

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