14 December 2011

Gambia: VP Launches 2011 UN Human Development Report

The vice president and minister of Women's Affairs Tuesday launched the 2011 UN Human Development Report on the theme " sustainability and equity; A better future for all" at a ceremony held at the Jama Hall, Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi.

Officially launching the report, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy made reference to what she described as a remarkable improvement and achievements registered by the Gambia's Human Development Index (HDI) in 2011 compared to previous years. She disclosed that in the 2011 Report, The Gambia is ranked 127 out of 187 countries. While noting that the country registered success in addressing gender inequality, she stressed that more can still be done.

She said: "Last year we launched a report entitled "The real wealth of nations; Pathways to Human Development", celebrating twenty years of human development by reviewing the concepts of human development, how it is measured and the policies in order to get a better insight about patterns, the progress made by nations in areas of health, education and income levels and it was noted that sub-Saharan Africa had the highest average HID improvement over the past decades compared to any other region in the world.

It also noted that the poorest countries improved their overall HDI by 82 percent, twice the global average between 1970 to 2010." She pointed out that the report, among other things, shows that many people today live longer, are more educated, and have more better access to goods and services than ever before.

According to her, even in most economically distressed countries, people's health and education have improved greatly and progress has extended to expansions in people's power to select leaders, influence public decisions and share knowledge as reflected in the UNDP summary measure of development called the Human Development Index (HDI).

VP Njie-Saidy described the HDI as a simple composite measure that includes health, schooling and income. She said the world's average HDI increased by 18 percent between 1970 and 2010 reflecting large improvement in human life expectancy, school enrolment, literacy and income.

She further disclosed that The Gambia, like most sub-Saharan countries, benefited by 1.44 percent during the period under review and also achieved HDI of 0.042 in 2011 as opposed to 0.390 in 2010, which was a result of improvements in life expectancy at birth, among others.

She expressed concern over what she called the worsened production and consumption patterns, especially in rich countries, which seems to be unsustainable. She noted that a key theme of this year's report is that the world's most disadvantaged people carry a double burden with more people vulnerable to environmental degradation, which they must cope with and the immediate environmental threats from indoor air pollution, dirty water and un-improved sanitation.

The vice president warned that environmental degradation can endanger the livelihood of millions of people across the globe who depend directly on environmental resources for work. She added that about 1.3 billion people or 40 percent of the economically active people worldwide work in agriculture, fishing, forestry and hunting or gathering. She lamented that the prospects of Africa addressing the mentioned environmental problems are bleak, and that the continent is most vulnerable to the vagaries of climate change, variability and yet not historically responsible for emission of greenhouse gases.

She then made reference to what she called the COPS 17th meeting in Durban, which is not offering any tangible hope for addressing the menace. She said The Gambia, like many other developing countries across the globe, strongly supports the extension of the commitments of Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, as well as the Balin Action Plan on Climate Change, and the need to have support in the adaptation of efforts to combat climate change.

She continued: "In facing these challenges of sustainability, the report says, a host of governments, civil society, the private sector and development actors have sought to integrate environmental and equity-related concerns and the issue of human development is a win-win strategy; and the example of this at the global level is the 1987 Montreal Protocol which bans ozone-depleting chemicals thereby benefiting sustainability through protection of the ozone layer and equity through technology transfer to developing countries and human development through positive impacts on health.

The report also advocates for women's participation as it pointed out the low participation of women in national and local politics with its ramifications for sustainability. However, sub-Saharan Africa has taken encouraging steps towards promotion of local and national participation in decision-making.

It does better than most regions on proportion of women in parliaments with a regional average of nearly 20 percent exceeding the global average of 18 percent. Research suggested that women expressed more concern for the environmental support, more pro-environmental policies and vote for pro-environmental leaders."

The UNDP Resident representative and Resident coordinator of the UN System in The Gambia, Ms Chinwe Dike spoke extensively about the Human Development Report, its importance and the need for improvement on it across the globe. She made reference to historical background of previous reports over the years to date and the commitment of her office towards achieving the goals of MDGs in achieving other human development objectives.

Janice James gave an overview of the Human Development Report whiles Nana Grey-Johnson, a veteran journalist and writer chaired the ceremony.

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