Helen Clark: Speech at the Global Launch of the 2014 Human Development ReportJul 24, 2014
U Thant International Conference Hall
United Nations University
Thursday 24 July 2014
I am delighted to be launching the 2014 Human Development Report, “Sustaining Human Development Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience”, in Japan - a recognised leader in disaster risk reduction and human security. Thank you, Prime Minister Abe, for your willingness to participate in this global launch today.
The topic of this 23rd global Human Development Report is particularly timely. As countries gear up for a final push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, increased volatility has become the new normal, with disasters and crises threatening to stall or reverse that progress.
Syria, South Sudan, Central Africa Republic – these are just some of
the countries where human development has gone into reverse because of
the impact of serious violent conflict. Extreme weather events, such as
last November’s typhoon in the Philippines, or the floods across Bosnia
and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia in May, can lead to loss of life
and the destruction of livelihoods and infrastructure, reversing
development gains in just hours. Here in Japan and in my own country,
New Zealand, earthquakes and their flow on effects have also devastated
But the development impacts of crises, and the numbers of lives lost, are not the same everywhere. That is because, as this Human Development Report states, there are policies and steps which can be taken to reduce vulnerability, and help build the resilience of individuals and communities to withstand shocks.
No one would pretend that this easy. This Human Development Report estimates that almost 1.5 billion people across 91 developing countries are currently multi-dimensionally poor—with overlapping deprivations in education, health, and living standards. A further 800 million are identified as at risk of falling back into poverty. This reminds us that it is not enough just to lift people out of poverty; we must ensure that their escape is permanent.
With this in mind, this Report calls for universal access to basic
social services, such as health and education, stronger social
protection measures, including pensions for the elderly and provision
for the unemployed; and a commitment to full employment. All measures
taken along these lines reduce vulnerability.
Universal provisioning of basic social services, the Report argues,
is feasible across the board, including in poor countries. It is a wise
investment which locks in development gains, boosts social cohesion,
and enhances the resilience of societies as a whole to adversity.
The Report calls for more responsive institutions and laws which make
societies fairer and more inclusive. These, it argues, are particularly
important for groups of people identified as "structurally vulnerable",
often due to discrimination and exclusion because of their gender,
ethnicity, job type, or socio-economic status - to name just some
The Report also presents evidence on how vulnerabilities vary across
the life-cycle. Setbacks during certain periods, such as infancy,
childhood, the transition from school to work, and in old age, may be
particularly difficult to overcome. Targeted and timely investments
during these sensitive periods of people’s lives help us all reach our
No matter how effective policies are in reducing individual and
societal vulnerabilities, crises – particularly those caused by natural
disasters - will continue to occur with potentially destructive
consequences. Building national capacities to predict and prevent
conflict and unrest, and investing in disaster preparedness and
recovery, does enable people and their communities and countries to
manage and mitigate crises and recover more quickly from shocks.
Here, let me commend Japan for all the support it has given to the
Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, Building the Resilience of Nations
and Communities to Disasters, and for agreeing to host the Third UN
World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March 2015.