| Forsaken by the state
This report is about politics and human development. It is about how political power and institutions — formal and informal, national and international — shape human progress. And it is about what it will take for countries to establish democratic governance systems that advance the human development of all people — in a world where so many are left behind.
Politics matter for human development because people everywhere want to be free to determine their destinies, express their views and participate in the decisions that shape their lives. These capabilities are just as important for human development — for expanding people’s choices — as being able to read or enjoy good health.
In the Eighties and Nineties the world made dramatic progress in opening up political systems and expanding political freedoms. Some 81 countries took significant steps towards democracy, and today 140 of the world’s nearly 200 countries hold multiparty elections — more than ever before. But the euphoria of the Cold War’s end has given way to the sombre realities of 21st century politics.
Developing countries pursued democratization in the face of massive poverty and pervasive social and economic tensions. Several that took steps towards democracy after 1980 have since returned to more authoritarian rule: either military, as in Pakistan since 1999, or pseudo-democratic, as in Zimbabwe in recent years. Many others have stalled between democracy and authoritarianism, with limited political freedoms and closed or dysfunctional politics. Others, including such failed states as Afghanistan and Somalia, have become breeding grounds for extremism and violent conflict.
Even where democratic institutions are firmly established, citizens often feel powerless to influence national policies. They and their governments also feel more subject to international forces that they have little capacity to control. In 1999, Gallup International’s millennium su- rvey asked more than 50,000 people in 60 countries if their country was governed by the will of the people. Less than a third of the respondents said yes. And only 1 in 10 said that his government responded to the people’s will.
Globalization is forging greater interdependence, yet the world seems more fragmented — between rich and poor, between the powerful and the powerless, and between those who welcome the new global economy and those who demand a different course. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States of America cast new light on these divisions, returning strategic military alliances to the centre of national policy-making and inspiring heated debates on the danger of compromising human rights for national security.
For politics and political institutions to promote human development and safeguard the freedom and dignity of all people, democracy must widen and deepen.
Economically, politically and technologically, the world has never seemed more free-or more unjust
At the March 2002 United Nations Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, world leaders and policy-makers assessed progress towards the development and poverty era-dication goals set at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000. They also pledged an unprecedented global effort to achieve those goals by 2015.
Many developing countries are making progress on several fronts, particularly in achieving universal primary education and gender equality in access to education. But for much of the world the prospects are bleak. At current trends, 33 countries with more than a quarter of the world’s people will achieve fewer than half the goals by 2015. If global progress continues at such a snail’s pace, it will take more than 130 years to rid the world of hunger.
Two problems seem intractable. The first is income poverty. To halve the share of people living on $ 1 a day, optimistic estimates suggest that 3.7 per cent annual growth in per capita incomes is needed in developing countries. But over the past 10 years only 24 countries have grown this fast. Among them are China and India, the most populous developing countries. But 127 countries, with 34 per cent of the world’s people, have not grown at this rate. Indeed, many have suffered negative growth in recent years, and the share of their people in poverty has almost certainly increased.
The second major problem is child mortality. Although 85 countries are on track to reduce under-five mortality rates by two-thirds from 1990 levels or have already done so, they contain less than a quarter of the world’s people. Meanwhile, 81 countries with more than 60 per cent of the world’s people are not on track to achieve this goal by 2015.