Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of National Development Planning, Mr. Danies Chisenda(second from right), the UNDP RR, Mr. Lionel Laurens (second from left); the UNRC, Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio (left), and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Gender, Dr. Auxilia Ponga (right).

On the 12th of December 2019, UNDP Zambia officially launched the Global Human Development Report ( HDR) . UNDP Zambia officially disseminated the report at the Mulungushi Conference Centre, Lusaka with the attendance of guests from government ministries, civil society organizations, the youth, academia, cooperating partners, and the UN.

The HDR for 2019 is titled: Beyond Income, Beyond Averages, Beyond Today: Inequalities in Human Development in the 21st century.

Though it has been released nearly in the past three decades, the HDR and its Human Development Index remain a powerful voice today through positioning all countries in the world by their level of human development. The goal of this report by UNDP is to offer a different way of seeing the world and measuring progress of the people, i.e. measuring what matters to people.

This year’s report is pushing the boundaries as part of #NextGenUNDP  through building on UNDP’s existing cutting edges of: having worldwide presence, though thought leadership, and over five decades of experience in helping countries and communities find and implement solutions in response to constantly changing development landscape. In doing so, UNDP is launching partnerships and innovations to accelerate  progress towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals 2030 .

The report was officially co-launched by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of National Development Planning, Mr. Danies Chisenda, on behalf of the Minister of National Development Planning, Honourable Alexander Chiteme; the UNDP RR, Mr. Lionel Laurens; the UNRC, Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio, and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Gender, Dr. Auxilia Ponga.

In his keynote address, the government representative Mr. Danies Chisenda said, “the theme of the report is timely and relevant to Zambia, and its analytical framework and findings will feed into the on-going medium-term review of the 7th National Development Plan (7NDP). The Permanent Secretary also commended UNDP for its legacy and leadership on human development discourse.

At his turn, the UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Lionel Laurens referred to inequality as a common denominator for triggering frustration and demonstrations around the world.

‘’Most of you would have followed the news around the world and would have noticed the wave of demonstrations sweeping across countries, bringing people onto the streets. In all these manifestations however, triggers seem to vary, ranging from the cost of bread, price of a maize meal, a train ticket, the price of petrol, the prospect of new taxes etc. A connecting thread though is deep and rising frustration and inequalities across the world we live in today.’’ – Lionel Laurens, Resident Representative UNDP Zambia

Mr. Lionel also commended the Zambian nation for their progress since the inception of the first HDR in 1990. This progress was exemplified through metrics depicting the increase of Zambian life expectancy at birth by more than 14 years; from an average life span of 49.2 in 1990 to an average life span of 63.5 in 2019.

However, despite the progress in reducing extreme deprivations in human development as illustrated by the HDR 2019, inequalities still remain. In Africa, including in Zambia, significant gaps continue to linger not just in the unequal distribution of wealth and power, but in the entrenched social and political norms. Inequalities in human development are broad across the world and encompass various sectors including food security, housing, education, healthcare and water and sanitation.  

A technical presentation of the HDR was made by Mr. Domingos Mazivila, UNDP Economic Advisor, presented. Mr. Mazivila introduced the theme of this year’s HDR to the audience pointing out to the main findings of the report as well as the theoretical and methodological issues around the human development concept and measurements. He alluded to the new generation of severe inequalities in human development that is emerging, even if many of the unresolved inequalities of the 20th century are declining.

‘’The report points a picture that seems true almost everywhere: a slow narrowing of inequalities in some basic areas, and a widening in others that are rapidly becoming essential for 21st century life. Inequalities in basic areas – linked to the most extreme deprivations – are shrinking. In some cases, quite dramatically, such as global inequalities in life expectancy’’ – Domingos Mazivila, Economic Advisor, UNDP Zambia

Inequalities can start before birth, and many of the gaps may compound over a person’s life. The report demonstrates that children born to low socioeconomic status families for instance are more prone to poor health and lower education. Those with lower education are less likely to earn as much as others. And so, their children in turn are likely to be at a disadvantage; says the HDR 2019.

The Report argues that tackling inequalities is possible. But it isn’t easy. Power imbalances are at the heart of many inequalities. They may be economic, political or social. Many solutions outlined in the report can promote growth and reduce inequality. The human development lens – placing people at the heart of decision making – is central to open a new window on how to approach inequality, asking why and when it matters, how it manifests itself and how best to tackle it. This is a conversation that every society must have. It is also a conversation that should begin today. True, action may carry a political risk. But history shows that the risk of inaction may be far greater, with severe inequalities eventually propelling a society into economic, social and political tensions. What do is ultimately for each society to decide. This Report contributes to that decision-making process, and UNDP stands ready to help. 


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