UNDP’s Human Development Report, launched on Friday at OECD headquarters in Paris, stresses that today’s development challenges require a new outlook. There are no silver bullets or magic potions for human development. Rather than trying to replicate past experience, we need to focus on new opportunities. Rather than attempting to apply policy prescriptions, we need to adapt general principles and guidelines to the local context. And we must address major new challenges - in particular, climate change - and build democratically accountable global institutions to deal with them. Our analysis must go deeper, and we must consider carefully the multidimensionality of development objectives.
The Human Development Index was one of the first serious attempts to broaden the debate around just how we measure development. Over time, the development community has moved from an initial, rather simplistic stance of increased GDP as synonymous with development, to an array of indicators for ranking how countries and people are faring. In recent years, the debate has become much more pronounced with the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi commission and the OECD’s work on measuring the progress of societies.
At OECD we recognise how important measurements are; they are, quite simply, our means of defining success. And, as such, we feel that it is vital to consider development outcomes in their multiple facets—not just poverty or income growth levels. Growth is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. The Human Development Report confirms this central truth, and also makes it clear that there is no single pathway to success. Each country must have the ownership, capacity and resources to find their own solutions to their own development challenges.
In this respect, it is very positive to see the G20’s growing focus on development. Having just attended the G20 Summit in Seoul, I was fortunate to witness global leaders confirming the challenge of closing development gaps as a core element of their economic co-operation.
This is good news for at least two reasons. First, the G20 countries are the largest global economies and major partners of low-income countries (LICs), and what they do matters a lot for LICs’ growth. Second, G20 countries bring to the development debate new perspectives and fresh ideas—in particular, they bring their own development experiences and skills, enriching the menu of options available to LICs for the design of their development strategies and policies.
In Seoul, the G20 adopted the Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth and an action plan comprising nine pillars to promote LICs’ growth. The G20 is uniquely placed to provide leadership in advancing the international development agenda and achieving the MDGs. They can do this by: improving their own policies; sharing their development experiences; providing assistance to build capacity; and offering strategic guidance to international organisations, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of the multilateral system. It is essential that all these work together toward the ultimate objective of improving the impact of G20 policies on LICs’ growth.
The OECD, like the G20, takes a comprehensive approach to development and to knowledge sharing, cross-fertilisation and policy coherence, placing development at the core of our work and engaging our full range of policy communities. With decades of experience in development, we are pleased to be mandated by the G20 to work closely with the UN, the World Bank and other international organisations to contribute to implementing the action plan. We believe that our contributions will help the G20 to identify what works when promoting growth and poverty reduction, to better assess the impact of G20’s own policies on LIC growth, and to find ways of maximizing positive impacts.
The G20 approach to development is underpinned by a fundamental belief in the core importance of growth. This is the right perspective as growth is a necessary component of development but it is also important to remember that the rate of poverty reduction depends on the pattern, and not only the pace, of growth. One of the key messages of the HDR—and one that I know the G20 will heed—is that growth does not automatically equate to other aspects of development. Nor is there a minimum threshold of growth required for countries to develop.
At OECD, we are keen to share our experience regarding what makes growth benefit the poor—something we have been exploring for years in the DAC and its Network on Poverty Reduction. More generally, we will continue to put a strong emphasis on measuring the progress of societies, because people, as the HDR says, are the real wealth of nations.