David McLachlan-Karr: Statement on the National Launch of 2014 Human Development Report

Jul 25, 2014

Distinguished Guest of Honor, Dr. Kaifala Marah, the Minister for Finance and Economic Development,

Your worship Mayor

Honorable Ministers

Other Government Representatives from MDAs,

Excellencies, Ambassadors, High Commissioners,

Development Partners,

UN Colleagues

Civil Society representatives,

Members of the Media,

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen,


Good morning and welcome to the launch of UNDP’s 2014 Human Development Report whose theme is Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience.  It is a great honour for me to have such distinguished guests gracing this launch

The 2014 Human Development Report highlights the need for promoting people’s choices and protecting human development achievements. It takes the view that vulnerability threatens human development and, unless it is systematically addressed, progress will be neither equitable nor sustainable.

This Report makes two basic propositions. First, people’s vulnerability is influenced by their capabilities and the society they live in. Second, failures to protect people against vulnerability are mostly a consequence of inadequate policies and poor or dysfunctional social institutions. A better understanding of vulnerability and resilience from a human development perspective allows for a deeper analysis of the factors and policies that explain why some individuals, communities or countries are more resilient to adverse events and respond better to them.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

The 2014 HDR takes a human development perspective to vulnerability and goes beyond a narrow interpretation of vulnerability as exposure to risk. This viewpoint underlines the role of people’s capabilities in minimizing adverse consequences from shocks and persistent threats. It also unearths important factors underlying vulnerability, such as exclusion and discrimination

Since UNDP published its first Human Development Report in 1990, this year’s report is unique in several ways;

(i)            The first time that a global HDR considers vulnerability and resilience through a human development lens.  Why?  Despite progress in poverty reduction, lives are still being lost and livelihoods and development undermined by natural and human-induced disasters;

(ii)           It introduces the concept of life cycle vulnerabilities since people experience varying degrees of insecurity and vulnerabilities at different points along their Life cycle. Children, adolescents and the elderly are inherently vulnerable. For instance, the first 1000 days of a child’s life is particularly vulnerable. The report asks what type of investment and interventions can reduce vulnerability during the sensitive transition periods of the life cycle

(iii)          The report takes a holistic approach to vulnerabilities as opposed exposure to particular risks and in specific sectors.  It considers the factors which contribute to risks to human development and discusses ways in which resilience to a broad group of evolving risks could be strengthened, particularly in an interconnected world.

(iv)         The 2014 HDR introduces a new measure, the Gender Development Index (GDI) based on sex-disaggregated Human Development Index. It is defined as the ratio of the female to the male HDI.  The GDI is calculated for 148 countries.  The GDI value for Sierra Leone is 0.799, which ranks 139th out of 148 countries.  The GDI means that females enjoy 79.7% of what their male counterparts enjoy in education, health and income.

 Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

Let me point out some of key recommendations from the report to address vulnerabilities and build resilience to future shocks.

First, the need for universal provision of basic social services to enhance resilience- especially health and education. 

Second, strong universal social protection, not only improves individual resilience but also bolsters the cohesion and resilience of the society as a whole.

Third, commitment to provide employment opportunities, given the fact that the value of employment extends far beyond the income it generates.  This is particularly important for the youth and women in Sierra Leone.

Finally, responsive and fair institutions, policies and laws that change social norms are key to reducing structural vulnerabilities.

Sierra Leone has implemented some of these policies at different scales and speed in the context of peace consolidation with the Agenda for Change guiding national priorities (2008-2012) and the Joint Vision document (2009-12) aligning the United Nations response to the agenda.  Currently national priorities are guided by the Agenda for Prosperity (2013-2018) and the UN Transition Joint Vision (2013-2014) and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (2015-2018) aligning UN response to the agenda.  All these aim at addressing different vulnerabilities and risks.

Sierra Leone’s achievements in human development, especially since 2005, are notable. Human Development Index increased from 0.329 in 2005 to 0.374 in 2013 and steadily moving to the 0.620 HDI target by 2035 in the Agenda for Prosperity. Its rank in the 2013 Index – 183nd out of 187 countries – is one place higher than last year, which translates to 1.84% increase- the highest in the MRU and g7+ member countries. That said, there is lot more catching up to do;

(i)            Inequality in different dimensions of HDI threatens the significant progress made.  Specifically, the inequality adjusted HDI shows that shows that there is 44.3% loss in human development as a result of inequality in education, health and income. 

(ii)           The Gender Development Index (GDI) in 2013 is 0.799 (rank 139/148), which implies that women enjoy 79.9% of their male counterparts in education, health and income

(iii)          While income poverty is 52.9%, multi-dimensional poverty is 72.7%, which means that individuals living above the income poverty line still suffer deprivations in education, health and other living conditions. 

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

This report comes at a critical time for the international community and Sierra Leone in particular.  First, it comes at a time when attention turns to the creation of new development agenda following the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  While many countries have made progress in eradicating poverty they remain at the risk of slipping back into poverty because of structural factors and persistent vulnerabilities. The report notes that while reducing poverty and people’s vulnerability to falling into poverty must be a central objective of the post-2015 agenda, eliminating poverty or hunger is not just about “getting to zero” but it is about staying there.

Second, it comes in at time when we are fighting the Ebola virus epidemic, a health shock that is most destabilizing to households and the society at large.  It requires some of the recommendations from this report and in particular a holistic approach since it is both trans-boundary and multi-dimensional.

Finally, the report makes special reference to the g7+ countries and the “New Deal for Engagement of Fragile States” of which Sierra Leone is not only a founder member but also the honourable Minister for Finance is the current chair, since June 2014.  The objective of the “New Deal is to promote solutions based on national ownership and comprehensive approach to development and security. The report specifically notes that

“Sierra Leone is one of the first countries to provide a fragility assessment report, which revealed considerable progress but also challenges in terms of limited resources and capital constraints.”

An update of the fragility report is currently being finalized.  Specifically, the report argues that inaction in fragile states can have repercussions for national, regional and international security, stability and prosperity.  I wish to assure you of the UN’s support in your new role as the chairman of the g7+.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

While effective policies are important in reducing inherent vulnerabilities, crisis will continue to occur with potentially destructive consequences.  It is therefore important to build capacities for disaster preparedness and recovery, which enable communities to better weather and recover from shocks. 

Let me conclude by saying that sustaining progress takes work and requires protecting development achievements against vulnerability and building resilience.  This is a collective effort and requires a new focus that goes beyond short-term responses.

 Thank You