By Pawlos Belete
In Capital,Monday, 07 November, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) annual flagship publication, the Human Development Index (HDI) for 2011, puts Ethiopia fourteenth from bottom in its HDI ranking of 187 countries. That is the most countries it has ranked in their over two decades of publication. Ethiopia ranked 174 out of 187 surpassing only 13 countries amid the huge investment the Ethiopian government and its development partners have made so far. The HDI placed Norway at the throne of human development while it put DR of Congo at its tail.
What a disparity, many would say. One of the richest countries in terms of natural resource endowment on our planet, DR Congo, is suffering from lack of human development while the relatively poor nation in terms of natural resource endowment, Norway, is booming.
That is the inconvenient truth the report finds as the very poor segment of the world’s population that counted seven billion last Monday, faces the impact of climate change.
Human development is all about the expansion of people’s freedom and capability to lead lives that they value, as well as a reason to value life in general. Expanding choices and meeting basic needs is at the crux of human development.
The report highlights the link between environmental sustainability and equity. But Alemu Mekonen, Assistant Professor and Senior Environmental Economist at Addis Ababa University (AAU), says the report’s concept of equity is not clear.
“What is really meant by equity? Is it intergenerational equity or intra-generational equity? How can we insure that? The report lacks insight with points,” said the assistant professor in a critical reflection on the report at the launching ceremony at Eshetu Chole Building, AAU.
“Ethiopia spends more than 60 percent of its total expenditure on poverty reduction oriented sectors like agriculture, education, health, and water and road development.”
The report also cautions that the remarkable progress in human development our planet witnessed over centuries can not continue with out bold and united steps to reduce environmental risks and address inequality. The disturbing prediction that comes out of this year’s report is that if the world we live in today fails to reduce grave environmental risks resulting from human greed and address the ever deepening social inequalities, we will run the risk of slowing down business environments like the one we are witnessing in the US and Europe.
The report argues the developing world carries the double burden of deprivation. Poorer segments of society are more vulnerable to the wider effects of environmental degradation because of more severe stress and coping mechanisms. They also have to deal with threats to their immediate environment from pollution, dirty water and poor sanitation.
An imbalance in power and gender which is linked to reduced access to clear water and sanitation and land degradation make the income disparity worse. Gender imbalance also worsens environmental outcomes, argues the report.
Eugene Owusu, UN Resident Coordinator to Ethiopia, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Humanitarian Coordinator to Ethiopia argues that the expansion of reproductive rights, health care and access to contraceptives is s a great leap forward that Ethiopia has made toward reducing gender inequality.
“Such programs can serve as additional means to reduce the pressure put on our planet’s environment. That can be attained through slowing down of global demographic growth,” explained Owusu.
The report identifies investments that could improve equity and advance sustainability and human development. Stronger accountability and democratic processes, in part through support from an active civil society and media as well as empowered and independent watchdogs are key instruments to ensuring both sustainability and equity.
“This report strongly advocates for global reform to promote equity including greater participation in government financing that is channeled toward addressing the critical challenges of non sustainability and inequality. The reports also includes putting in place mechanisms to provide finance for promoting safe and clean energy for all; finance to promote climate change mitigation efforts including technological innovation and adaptation; access to potable water and basic sanitation; and social protection guarantees for poor people and communities,” said the UN Resident Representative in his remark at AAU.
Ethiopia’s HDI value for 2011 is 363 which places it in the low human development category (HDC). Even though the report ranked Ethiopia in the low HDC, it also appreciates the HDI growth Ethiopia has registered in the past decade. Ethiopia has managed to register an over all HDI increment of 32 percent in the past ten years. This represents an annual average growth of about 2.6 percent since 2000. If we look at Ethiopia’s HDI, there is clear evidence that significant human development gains are being registered. For instance, the report shows that since 1980 life expectancy at birth has increased by 15.3 years while expected years of schooling increased by 5.4 years. And from 1985 to 2011, Ethiopia’s Gross National Income on per capita basis has increased by a whopping 92 percent.
“Since 2003/04 the Ethiopian government has spent more than 60 percent of its total expenditure on poverty oriented sectors like agriculture, education, health, and water and road development. In the past eight years, the government has maximized its effort and shown the highest level of dedication to bring about pro-poor economic growth. To this effect, the country chose the path of Climate Resilient and Green Economy Development and the preparations for ground work is underway,” said Ahmed Shide, State Minister of Finance and Economic Development, in his remark at the official launch of the report