On November 17, the Academy for Education Development hosted the UNDP Washington Roundtable event “The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development”, a discussion on the UNDP’s 20th anniversary of the Human Development Report. The discussion was moderated by Gregg Easterbrook, contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly and The New Republic and columnist for Reuters and ESPN. Panelists included Jeni Klugman, Director of the UNDP Human Development Report Office; Donald Steinberg, Deputy Administrator of USAID; Kemal Derviş, Vice President and Director of Global Economy and Development at the Brookings Institution and former UNDP Administrator; and Nancy Birdsall, President of the Center for Global Development.
Klugman started the discussion with a presentation on the 2010 Human Development Report. To see the complete findings of the 2010 Human Development Report, click here. The report highlights that, in the past few decades, most developing countries have made dramatic progress in areas such as health, education, and basic living standards. Much of that progress is occurring in fast-developing Asia—Indonesia and China in particular—but some Arab nations and countries in Latin America have grown quickly as well. One criticism of the report is that it neglects to clearly illustrate the disparities that exist within countries. On a related note, Klugman acknowledged that the successes seen in the report are diminished by other measurements of human development such as gender equality.
Deputy Administrator Steinberg highlighted President Obama’s announcement at the UN of a new global development strategy for the US and suggested that we need to look beyond overall growth rates and at the actual impacts on the ground. Steinberg suggested that the scrutiny of development results—as seen in the Human Development Report—validates new approaches that can be found in the administration’s development strategy. A new approach to development that is more selective and focuses on game-changing innovations will help increase the effectiveness of foreign assistance.
Klugman highlighted the need to focus on understanding local contexts as implemented policies look different in different contexts because of varied structural systems. Birdsall discussed how in mature democracies, the middle class creates a demand for good governance which benefits the poor as well. In developing countries, however, Birdsall underscored the need to “unpack the problem of poor governance by finding ways to deliver aid without bureaucracy and infrastructure impediments.” In essence, Birdsall confirms the need for foreign assistance reform.