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article imageMigrants, women left behind in human development: UN

By Pia OHLIN (AFP)     Mar 21, 2017 in World

Impressive advances have been made in human development over the past 25 years on many fronts, but ethnic minorities, refugees, migrants and women are being left behind, a United Nations report said on Tuesday.

"People now live longer, more children are in school and more people have access to basic social services," said the report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), released in Stockholm.

"Yet human development has been uneven."

Even though the global population increased by two billion from 1990 to 2015, the report found that more than one billion people had escaped extreme poverty, 2.1 billion gained access to improved sanitation and more than 2.6 billion had access to an improved source of drinking water.

But still, in 2016, one person in three were malnourished and one in nine left hungry, according to the report.

About 18,000 people die every day because of air pollution, and every minute an average of 24 people are displaced from their homes.

Among the groups where such basic deprivations are common were women and girls, ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and migrants.

"Many migrants, especially the world's 65 million forcibly displaced people, face extreme conditions -- lacking jobs, income and access to health care and social services beyond emergency humanitarian assistance," the report found.

"They often face harassment, animosity and violence in host countries."

- Women still discriminated against -

Striking a positive chord, the UNDP noted that gender equality and women's empowerment were now mainstream aspects of any development discourse.

But women are still discriminated against in terms of both rights and opportunities.

"Only 10 to 20 percent of landowners in developing countries are women," it said, even though women in these countries often work in agriculture.

Meanwhile, ethnic minorities often face discrimination and exclusion from education, employment and administrative and political positions, resulting in poverty and "higher vulnerability" to crime, including human trafficking.

"By eliminating deep, persistent, discriminatory social norms and laws, and addressing the unequal access to political participation, which have hindered progress for so many, poverty can be eradicated and a peaceful, just, and sustainable development can be achieved for all," UNDP administrator Helen Clark said at the launch of the report in Stockholm.

Income inequality remains a problem as well.

Just one percent of the global population holds 46 percent of the world's wealth, the report said.

Inequalities in income influence inequalities in other dimensions of well-being, and vice versa.

- Brexit a sign of rising inequality -

It noted that inequality means excluded groups, who lack power and voice, "are in a weak position to initiate the transformation of institutions," while nationalist movements grow stronger.

The report said Brexit could be seen as an example of this.

"Social and political movements linked to identity ... seem to be getting stronger. Brexit is one of the most recent examples of a retreat to nationalism when individuals feel alienated in a changing world."

Selim Jahan, the lead author of the report, told reporters in Stockholm that "inequality has become the defining issue of our time."

"Every human being counts and every human life is equally valuable. In the human development journey, no one should be left behind," he said.

The report recommended several measures to reach those being marginalised.

It said countries need to pursue "inclusive growth" such as employment-led development strategies, frameworks to tackle informal work, and renewed focus on sectors where poor people live and work.

Countries also need to improve opportunities for women, it said, adding that if all girls in developing countries completed secondary education, "the under-five mortality rate would be halved".

They must also mobilise resources for human development and empower young people and see human development through a "lifecycle lens" that takes into account the different challenges people face during different phases of their lives.

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