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This blog aims to reflect upon issues, share best practices and lessons learned and engage in a conversation on how we can best work together to balance the economy, society and environment – on a regional level and globally – and hence improve the lives of people living in the developing world.


Human Development from a Cuban Perspective

By Dalia Acosta, www.ipsnews.net
HAVANA, Oct 10, 2011 (IPS) – Excluded from the 2010 Human Development Index, Cuba will issue a report of its own, which will reflect the impact of an economic crisis that has lasted for 20-plus years, and will show social and health indicators typical of the developed world.

This decision, which has the support of the Human Development Report (HDR) Office of the United Nations Development Programme, is one of the results of a process of dialogue and consultation that followed the exclusion of Cuba from the U.N. agency’s global report in 2010.

After a Sep. 30 visit to Cuba, Khalid Malik, the new director of the HDR Office, said they were ready to work together with the UNDP office in Cuba.

This is not the first time that the UNDP has supported efforts by Cuba to measure human development in this Caribbean island nation. Three studies were conducted by the government-run Centre for the Study of the World Economy in 1996, 1999 and 2003, in the latter two cases devoted specifically to equity and science and technology.

Khalid Malik said that, in parallel with this effort, his office hoped Cuba would participate in a global human development forum to be held in January or February of 2012.

Khalid Malik said that at the conference the UN Development Programme HDR Office would analyse the HDI and how to best gauge progress in human development among countries. And he added that the more all the countries work together with the UNDP, the more everyone will benefit. His trip to the island was one of his first missions as director of the HDR office.

One of the main aims of the visit was the official presentation to Cuban authorities of the results of the process that followed the publication of the report “The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development” and the methodological changes that made it possible to retroactively include Cuba.

According to the UNDP, Cuba was omitted from the 2010 Human Development Index (HDI) due to the absence of current internationally reported data for one of the three required indicators: health, education and income (which are used to calculate the composite HDI value, which in turn determines a country’s HDI ranking.)

The missing indicator for Cuba was for income, because there is no internationally reported figure for Cuba’s Gross National Income adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity (GNI-PPP): the figure used for all countries for the income component of the HDI, and which is normally provided by the World Bank and/or the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Doubts were also raised about the reliability of Cuba’s ranking in the HDI reports from previous years, due to the difficulty of comparing data from a country where the economy operates with a dual currency system (the Cuban peso and the Cuban convertible peso).

“They provided very unusual numbers and that happens because there were two types of exchange,” Khalid Malik told IPS. “When you have to compare country by country, you compare the local currency with the international and then all of the countries. And that gave rise to figures that did not seem real and that could give an erroneous impression.”

“This is a technical problem and perhaps it was not the right decision,” he said, referring to the decision not to include Cuba.

“What we did after that was to invest a lot of time trying to find a reliable method to see how we could come up with a formula that does not need conversion, in order to arrive at a figure that seems to be accurate. And then we updated all of the results from all the years about Cuba, as well as the formula,” he explained.

In addition to Cuba, the 2010 report excluded Palau and the Occupied Palestinian Territories due to problems with data. The situation, which sparked debate and joint work by statistics specialists at various institutions, eventually led to the return of all three countries to the HDI, and to the expansion of its coverage from 169 to more than 180 nations

The methodology developed made it possible to make a retroactive estimate, according to which Cuba would have ranked 53rd in the UN Development Programme HDI 2010, among the group of countries with high human development. In the Latin American and Caribbean region, it would have been in sixth place.

In the case of Cuba, the new method for calculating GNI takes into account per capita GDP with relation to international trade, per capita energy consumption, proportion of the population with Internet access, and a set of regional variables.

The result, according to sources from the HDR Office, reflects national achievements such as an average of 10 years of schooling among the adult population, almost 18 expected years of schooling among the younger generations, a life expectancy of 79 years, and 5,747 dollars in income per capita in PPP terms.

“Cuba is the only Latin American country in the top ten non-income-HDI movers over the past decade, with life expectancy increasing by two years and expected years of schooling increasing by five years. These are remarkable improvements for a country that already had very high health and education indicators at the outset of the decade,” says an article by Francisco Rodríguez and Clara García, head of research and statistics and research analyst, respectively, in the UN Development Programme HDR Office.

The global reports, however, are not able to take into account highly specific aspects from each nation, such as the possible impact on human development of the nearly five-decade United States embargo against Cuba, Khalid Malik admitted during his remarks to reporters in Havana.

“The more we see each other and work together, the more we can all benefit,” the U.N. official said, after meeting with Cuban authorities and experts, accompanied by Barbara Pesce-Monteiro, U.N. resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative in Cuba.

More voices to the story:

Clark Appoints Khalid Malik Head of Human Development Report

United Nations Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark has appointed Khalid Malik of Pakistan as the Director of the Human Development Report Office.

Malik is currently serving as Special Advisor with the UNDP Partnerships Bureau, after completing his assignment early last year as UN RC/RR China. Prior to that he was Director of the UNDP Evaluation Office and UN Representative, UNRC/UNDP RR in Uzbekistan. Earlier, Khalid held both positions in UNDP as Senior Economist in the Africa Bureau and programme management positions in Asia and in the Caribbean.

Malik succeeds Jeni Klugman, who led publication of the 2009 global report on migration, the 20th anniversary report: The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development, and the upcoming 2011 report which casts light on how the two closely related development challenges of equity and sustainability are interlinked—and on how human development can become more sustainable and more equitable.

Prior to joining the United Nations System, Khalid carried out research and teaching at Pembroke College, Oxford and at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics in Islamabad. Khalid did post-graduate research at Oxford University. He also holds an MA in Economics from Essex University, an MA in Economics from Cambridge University and a BA in Economics/Statistics from Punjab University.

From Across the Globe

From across the globe interview – a conversation with Khalid Malik on China’s unprecedented capacities to tackle poverty, development partnerships and the financial crisis,  14 April 2009
source: http://europeandcis.undp.org/cd/show/5428589E-F203-1EE9-BB06D9BC5D5E2F56

Question: What does China have to offer in terms of capacity strengths, assets or lessons that other countries could draw on or learn from?

Khalid Malik: Well, China represents 1.3 billion people and in that sense really is an example, or an opportunity for people to know better what China has done. China has lifted 500 million people out of poverty in the last two and a half decades. That is by far the most historic progression of the human condition ever in the history of mankind. And what was quite interesting for me was that, how China did it, in what way their policies succeeded is not well known globally. And that’s the reason that a few years ago, we helped set up an international poverty reduction centre in Beijing which is very much focused on the South-South dimensions and tries to engage developing countries globally with Chinese poverty reduction experiences. So, each country has to take its own view on how to move forward but there are also wonderful examples as to how countries have taken up an issue and tell something and make some progress on it. And maybe China can be an opportunity to dig a little deeper on that.

The second dimension of this whole experience is that China is going global in a very massive way quickly. Five years ago, when I went to China I could see already that their companies were beginning to go overseas. But I was quite impressed by companies that were not going overseas to one or two countries, but they were going overseas and having offices and operations in 60, 70, 80 countries. They were becoming global players in that sense. And now you see the more recent step forward of that aspect which is that we have China as a government also going global in terms of partnerships with neighbouring countries, and also Africa and Latin America – and the recent meeting in London was also an indication of China beginning to take a sense of global responsibilities. So, there’s a lot of interesting stuff out there for others if they’re interested in getting involved.

Q: China is emerging as a powerful donor and investor in Africa and other places, what does this mean for the United Nations?

Khalid Malik: The traditional ideas of recipient and donors never really applied but it was somehow easy to think in those terms. I would have put the accent much more on partnerships. And in that context China has been doing this for the last 50, 60 years – it’s not a recent phenomenon. What is different now is that in the last four or five years, China has picked up the pace in terms of visibility, in terms of new resources. In the case of Africa for instance, infrastructure investments had virtually disappeared. But China has put a lot of “oomph” behind that and initially of course, people were very worried – are they operating under some agreed framework or not – but in the end, we have to see what the recipients are saying. And two years ago, when the recipients came all in Beijing – there were 44 heads of state who came to that summit meeting. It was clear that the China Africa relationship is a very robust one, it’s continued to grow. And to an extent, the UN system can be helpful in facilitating that and making it an increasingly win-win partnership on both sides – that is our role fundamentally.

Q: What is the role of UNDP in a country like China that has such substantial human and financial capital?

Khalid Malik: Five years ago, when I got there, there was a question asked of me: What is the UN – not just UNDP – doing in a country like China, which is a vastly emerging superpower, with resources and capacities? And curiously, the work we have done over the last five years has been trying to respond to that question. Fundamentally, you realize that actually, your role becomes even important as countries move up the scale.

It’s been very much along three lines in China: one is on global norms and standards. If we can work and help China become a full and active, concerned, global citizen, then the modest investments we have made is magnified dramatically, not just for China, but globally as well. Secondly, this question of best practices and global experience sharing – to the extent that we do it well or not, we can debate this, but it is very much a demand, an interest as to how other countries have done certain things. And that is also something we have been investing a lot in China. And the third part has been very much maybe more specifically China’s own conditions. They do not believe in rolling out global policies in one go. They do a lot of piloting and experimentation. And as they go from one threshold of reforms to the next one, this is where UNDP, and the UN have been very useful because increasingly, they use us to test out sensitive ideas – land reform for farmers (there’s only 300 million of them so it’s a big issue) growth of civil society in China, we have been asked to help them in doing that. So, to try out those methodologies and approaches in different parts of China. And once that is done, then China will, as it were, take pause and bring it all together before it rolls out the legal change or policy change which is needed as a result of that. So, in a sense, it showed very much the high potential value of the UN system if we do it right.

Q: From your experience, will countries have to develop new capacities to deal with the financial crisis? And what is the role of UNDP?

Khalid Malik: We are currently involved in doing something like that in China. We have been trying to help them look at the issues that are emerging which need very operational attention now. One issue that has been emerging is trade finance, which is drying up globally. China is in an unusual situation. It has large reserves, low inflation, there is not much internal debt. So it’s an opportunity that if China can be helpful to neighbouring countries, it can also jumpstart China’s recovery – 60 percent of Asia’s trade is within Asia, so that’s a very different scale of issues here than what we may think when we first come to this particular issue. So, there’s an opportunity to doing that in a cooperative way, an opportunity of looking at these issues and working out how best China can actually put its own stimulus package in order. It has launched a half a trillion dollar stimulus package. I think that we can do some more with it. But all of this is where I think that the UN system can be of some help.

Beijing High-level Conference on Climate Change:

Speech by Khalid Malik UN Resident Coordinator in China UNDP Resident Representative in China

Beijing High-level Conference on Climate Change: Technology Development and Technology Transfer November 7th, 2008

source: http://www.ccchina.gov.cn/bjctc/en/

Excellency Minister Zhang Ping, Excellency vice Minister Xie Zhenhua, Ecellency Ambasador Sha Zukang, dear delegates, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to join this global conference on Climate Change, Technology Development and Technology Transfer.

On behalf of UNDP and the UN System in China, I would like to convey my warmest congratulations to the organizers, the National Development Reform Commission and our friends and colleagues of UNDESA.

Climate change has now become the defining issue of our era. As noted by the Secretary General, if 2007 was the year that climate change rose to the top of the global agenda, 2008 has become the year of taking action.

The main goal of any action is accelerating the pace towards a lower carbon economy. The urgency to beat the CO2 inertia, the unstoppable flow of GHG released into the atmosphere, however makes this goal different than any other policy challenge. Responding to the challenge requires a full commitment to innovation in assessment tools, policies, technology and financing, and common visions.

Last year UNDP launched its Global Human Development Report. The report calls the world to reflect on social justice and equity across countries and generations. It recognizes the fundamental principle underlying global climate change regime: that of common but differentiated responsibilities. It challenges political leaders and individuals in rich and developing nations to undertake strong collective action based on shared values, and it offers a vision.

UNDP takes a “people-first” approach to climate change, placing human development at the forefront of our efforts. Countries like China have made historic achievements towards the goals of poverty alleviation. Climate change now brings serious risks to ensuring that such gains are sustained for future generations.

Climate change is an issue of sustainable development. The impact of climate change requires facts, answers, by all sectors of society: governments, yes, but also the private sector, by civil society and people themselves fundamentally. Addressing climate change requires a transformation of the economies and societies; a transformation lead by innovation and technological development and through consumers’ choices that will affect the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Hence actions to address global warming need to be linked to trade, production and consumption patterns, energy access, energy provision and pricing, as well as commodities and capital markets. The countries need also to find a right balance on the emphasis placed on adaptation and mitigation, taking into account that investments in developing countries are likely to be particularly cost effective.

Creating a new financial architecture to provide strong incentives for sustainable investments, and to boost research and development in technologies, is crucial to address climate change, especially taking into account the current circumstances of the global financial crisis. Optimal use of the funds available under the Climate Change Convention and from other resources; spreading the risks across public and private sources; an expansion of the carbon market; a mix of cap-and-trade and carbon taxes schemes, will hopefully become pillars of this architecture.

As with many elements of the world global agenda, the role of China will be critical to many of these challenges. China has shown great ingenuity and leadership in taking a responsible approach to development and innovation on Climate Change – establishing well-targeted policy frameworks, moving quickly on local pilot operations, bringing forth lessons learned and successful models for up scaling and replication at the national level, strengthening institutional reform. These approaches are well reflected in China’s recent White Paper on Climate Change.

In China, the entire UN system is working together to support the nation in its efforts to achieve its goals on climate change and energy – some of the most ambitious targets on the planet to increase energy efficiency and increase the share of renewable energy in the overall energy mix.

Through programs on energy efficiency, renewable energy, CDM and capacity building, the UN is active in China with an ongoing and planned portfolio of more than US$ 500 million in the area of energy and environment. A landmark “one” UN China Climate Change Partnership, with 9 UN agencies and over 12 national partners to establish a common framework for policy and action on climate change has been initiated. It seeks to strengthen global knowledge sharing and best practices; to pilot clean coal and further strengthening its already robust renewable energy sector and to design adaptation policy frameworks of climate-proof future investments.

UNDP and the UN system will also work closely with our Chinese partners to mobilize public-private partnerships, global knowledge for innovation, including sizeable financing and technology solutions multiplying the resources, the models and the opportunities for market instruments addressing the need of a lower carbon economy.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, Climate change confronts humanity with stark choices. We can avoid 21st Century reversals in human development and catastrophic risks for future generations. We can choose to act with a sense of urgency. What we need now is a shared vision, innovative thinking, new solutions that can have tangible impacts and can achieve the level of scale needed to confront the global climate crisis.