How Do We Choose to Live Our Lives?

KD Suarez

MANILA, Philippines – Despite big strides in human development, people worldwide are still facing large problems in sustainability and equality, the United Nations says in its latest Human Development Report.
 
The Human Development Report (HDR), released by the UN Development Program (UNDP) on Wednesday, November 2, focuses on the “challenge of sustainable and equitable progress” worldwide.
 
The report notes that even with significant gains in human development over the years, the world is still facing major problems in environmental degradation, wider income gaps, and inequalities between men and women.
 
“Sustainability is not exclusively or even primarily an environmental issue, as the Report so persuasively argues. It is fundamentally about how we choose to live our lives, with an awareness that everything we do has consequences for the 7 billion of us here today, as well as for the billions more who will follow, for centuries to come,” says Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator.
 
Environmental degradation is a major hurdle for development, the report states, saying that as countries grow richer, environmental degradation is also at a higher rate, but it is disadvantaged people who bear the brunt of its effects.
 
The most disadvantaged people do not just bear the brunt of environmental degradation, they also must “cope with threats to their immediate environment” such as air pollution, dirty water, and unimproved sanitation, according to the UNDP.
 
There are also wider income gaps despite increasing human development, and women are still at a disadvantage in political decision-making. The report says that “women’s participation in decision-making has both intrinsic value and instrumental importance in addressing equity and environmental degradation.”
 
The report claims that “reproductive health constraints contribute to gender inequality,” stating that places where effective reproductive control is present have gains in maternal and child health and lesser greenhouse gas emissions.
 
For everyone’s benefit

With these in mind, the UN report is pushing for a framework that will address such imbalances that will tackle present environmental problems “in a way that promotes equity and human development.”
 
“Human development, which is about expanding people’s choices, builds on shared natural resources. Promoting human development requires addressing sustainability— locally, nationally and globally—and this can and should be done in ways that are equitable and empowering,” the report says.
 
The report ranked 187 countries and territories based on their Human Development Index (HDI) values. The HDI is “a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living,” says the report.
 
The HDI takes into account factors such as life expectancy, literacy and educational attainment, and income levels. Each country’s HDI value is a number between 0 and 1, where a number closer to 1 would indicate a higher development level for that country.
 
Norway, with an HDI of 0.943, topped the list, followed by Australia (0.929), the Netherlands (0.910), the United States (0.910), and New Zealand (0.908). At the bottom of the list, meanwhile, was the Democratic Republic of the Congo (0.286).
 
Philippines’ HDI rank up one notch

The Philippines, grouped under the Medium Human Development category, ranked 112 in the Human Development Index, up one level from last year (113), with an HDI of 0.644.
 
The country’s HDI has been steadily increasing, at an average annual rate of 0.5 percent, owing to increasing life expectancy, expected years of schooling, and a higher gross national income (GNI) per capita.
 
With the Philippines’ HDI score, the UNDP said the country is “above the average” for countries in the medium human development group, but below average for countries in East Asia and the Pacific.
 
The Philippines, however, scores a 0.516 in the Inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI), a new measurement which takes into account inequalities in health, education, and income levels. The IHDI, the report explains, can be viewed as the “actual” human development, while the HDI is the “potential” development.
 
The country ranks high in the Gender Inequality Index, with a GII value of 0.427 (75th out of 146 countries). This is due to a relatively high percentage of female participation in politics and a high literacy and educational attainment rate.
 
In another indicator, the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), the Philippines had a value of 0.064. The MPI, the UN report said, “identifies multiple deprivations in the same households in education, health, and standard of living.”
 
The MPI indicated that 13.4% of the country’s population suffer from multiple deprivations, with an additional 9.1% at risk.
 
Despite the higher overall ranking, economist Solita Collas Monsod said the Philippines’ performance in the new HDI report is not significant. She told BusinessWorld on Thursday that the report showed other countries improved, but our country “didn’t move so much.” – Rappler.com

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