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2011 Human Development Report Focuses on Sustainability and Equity

2 November 2011: The 2011 Human Development Report, titled "Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All,” highlights that equity and sustainability are inextricably linked. It notes that, if bold actions are not taken, environmental damage, including climate change effects, can slow or reverse development progress made in recent years. 

The report was launched by Helen Clark, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on 2 November 2011, in Denmark, Copenhagen.

The report emphasizes the positive synergies between greater equity and sustainability. It indicates that investments in access to renewable energy, clean water and improved sanitation can advance equity, sustainability and human development. It argues that, in order to achieve environmental sustainability in a fair and effective manner, there is a need to address health issues, education, income and gender disparities along with global action on clean energy production and ecosystem protection.

The report underlines that the most vulnerable suffer a double burden caused by environmental degradation and are less resilient to threats such as unclean water, indoor air pollution from unhealthy cooking and poor sanitation. It notes that patterns of inequity and unsustainability are shaped by disparities in power at the global and national levels. For instance, even though small island developing States (SIDS) are the most threatened by climate change, they have little influence in the global climate negotiations. The report further emphasizes that financing for environmental and social protection needs to increase as a way to build resilience. It indicates that new public financing mechanisms should be explored such as a currency transaction tax.

The report forecasts that inaction to curb environmental degradation could impact food prices and reverse development efforts. It notes that half of all malnutrition in the word is due to environmental factors, such as water pollution.

The report indicates that carbon-fuel development growth does not increase measures of human development, including life expectancy and education. The human development index (HDI) provides a ranking of countries based on a composite index of income, life expectancy and education levels. This year, Norway, Australia and the Netherlands lead the HDI ranking, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger and Burundi are ranked at the bottom. [Publication: Human Development Report 2011: Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All] [UNDP Press Release] [UN Press Release] [UNEP Press Release]