Remarks by Ms. Renata Lok Dessallien, UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator at the Launch of the Human Development Report

Photo: RCO/Ko Ko Latt

Dear Friends from the Media,

Human development is about basic freedoms, freedoms to realize our human potential, our human development.

The human development index measures human progress against a set of representative benchmarks that go beyond mere GDP or other income or monetary measures of well-being. 

In essence it captures income, health and education dimensions of human wellbeing, reflecting fundamental human capabilities and freedoms needed to make meaningful choices for oneself and one’s families.

The HDI is therefore a richer, more well-rounded, more meaningful measure of human progress than GDP or income alone.

Over the past 25 years, significant progress has been made in improving human development around the world.  The quality of people’s lives overall, on average, have improved markedly:

    -   A billion people have escaped from extreme poverty;

    -   2.1 billion gained access to improved sanitation;

    -   More than 2.6 billion gained access to improved drinking water:

    -   The global under-five mortality rate more than halved between 1990-2016;

    -   The incidence of HIV, malaria and TB declined;

    -   And progress was made in other areas as well. 

Yet despite this progress, there remain large numbers of people for whom poverty eradication is a distant dream, who continue to suffer very basic deprivations and who face substantial barriers to overcoming them.

The global Human Development Report this year provides insight into how the human development approach can help address the needs to those who have been left be out of mainstream global progress, the marginalized, the most vulnerable, the “have-nots”.  This is in perfect synch with the Sustainable Development Goal lite motif of “leaving no one behind”.

The report discusses a range of policy options that could contribute significantly to achieving the goal of human development for all, and leaving no one behind.  

The report also highlights other complementarities between the human development approach and the SDGs.  For example, it stresses that :

- the human development approach is underscored by a clear analytical framework that could enrich the 17 SDGs by providing conceptual clarity;

- The areas of focus of the HD approach and SDGs are very similar;

- The preoccupation with sustainability is central to both HD and the SDGs; 

- And, not surprisingly, the policy options for promoting greater HD are closely linked to achieving the sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.

Now let me say a few words about Myanmar’s human development progress.

This year’s HDR shows that Myanmar continued to make progress in its HDI score.

The value of the country’s HDI in this year’s report is 0.556 (2015 data) compared to the previous report when it was 0.552 in (2014 data).

Over the past five years the country’s score grew by 5.7 per cent.  

The higher value means that Myanmar is now 145 in the overall ranking out of 188 countries.

The improvement in score and ranking are in themselves very positive news.

However, the higher score also means that Myanmar has moved from the category of Low Human Development to Medium Human Development.

The achievement of reaching Medium Human Development status is significant. It documents the progress Myanmar has made in improving human development for its people.  The Government and people of Myanmar should be applauded for this.

At the same time, we cannot forget that there remains a gap between Myanmar’s HDI score and the average for South-East Asian countries. For example, in areas such as maternal health and under five mortality Myanmar is still performing below the average of South-East Asia.

The legacy of Myanmar’s under-investment in the social sectors will take time to overcome and extra efforts are required for this.

Also, the country is not gaining relative to the regional HDI average and only gaining marginally relative to the global average for developing countries overall. This means that much more needs to be done if the country is to catch up with other countries in the region and around the world.

So, while I wish to warmly congratulate the Government and people of Myanmar for achieving Medium HDI status, I also urge the Government to do more to accelerate human development for all so that people’s wellbeing across the country improves more quickly and, with that, the SDGs journey is accelerated. 

This requires a range of policy decisions, budgetary allocations, institutional follow through, and it includes tackling some of the recent economic challenges that have emerged.

All this is more than possible with concerted effort, the active participation of all national actors, and support from development partners. 

The United Nations System is supporting the people and Government of Myanmar toward human development for all and will continue to do so.