Saturday, November 5, 2011

UN: failure to reduce environmental risks will set back human development

Damian Carrington in globaldevelopment, a blog at the Guardian (UK): Unchecked environmental destruction will halt – or even reverse – the huge improvements seen in the living conditions of the world's poorest people in recent decades, a major new UN report warned on Wednesday.

The 2011 Human Development report, from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), concludes that problems such as worsening droughts in sub-Saharan Africa and rising sea levels that could engulf countries like Bangladesh, could send food prices soaring by up to 50% and reverse efforts to provide access to clean water, sanitation and energy to billions of people.

"Continuing failure to reduce the grave environmental risks and deepening social inequalities threatens to slow decades of sustained progress by the world's poor majority," said the UNDP administrator, Helen Clark. The report argues that achieving sustainable ways of living must be approached as a matter of basic social justice for both current and future generations and address health, education and gender equality. "Sustainability is not exclusively or even primarily an environmental issue," said Clark, noting that the landmark summit in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, 20 years on from the Earth Summit, will be devoted to sustainable development.

The report is centred on the new national rankings of the UNDP's human development index (HDI), which combines measures of health, education and income. Norway, Australia and the Netherlands lead the world in the 2011 ranking, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger and Burundi the least developed. Cuba showed the greatest rise in ranking and Kuwait the greatest fall.

Over the last 40 years, the HDI for the least developed quarter of the world's nations has risen by 82%, double the average global improvement. If continued for the next 40 years, those poorer nations would rise to living standards now enjoyed only by the current top quarter, which would be "an extraordinary achievement for human development globally in less than a century", says the report....

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