Release of UNDP National Human Development Index Report on Inequality

Islamabad, 6 April 2021—UNDP’s Pakistan National Human Development Report (NHDR) – “The three Ps of inequality: Power, People, and Policy” – was launched today in Islamabad, Pakistan. The launch was attended by the Honourable Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan, Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives, Mr. Asad Umar, with virtual attendance by the Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Ms. Kanni Wignaraja. The report, presented by the lead author Dr. Hafiz Pasha, explores the many dimensions of inequality in Pakistan. These dimensions have been captured both at the national and provincial levels, exploring inequality between and within Pakistan’s provinces. In addition, inequality has been measured from the perspective of people focusing on children, labour, youth, and women. The report takes a comprehensive approach, exploring not just economic measures such as income and wealth, but also studying inequalities in human development – the true measure of a country’s success.

Speaking on the launch of the NHDR 2020, Prime Minister Imran Khan stated, “Inequality alleviation is the cornerstone of a prosperous Pakistan. We are committed to ensure equal opportunities for all citizens in all fields and regions, which is why the NHDR 2020 is especially meaningful for us”.

The Pakistan NHDR 2020 follows UNDP’s global Human Development Report (HDR) of 2020, which highlights how human development is deeply intertwined with our relationship to our planet. HDR 2020 illustrates that people who have more, are able to better capture the benefits of nature and export the costs onto those who have less. The HDR aims to dismantle ‘the gross imbalances of power and opportunity that prevent change’ in the world today. Pakistan’s national report has similar goals, looking at power differentials through a socioeconomic perspective rather than a purely environmental one. This analysis dovetails into the recommendations outlined in the NHDR 2020, arguing for increased outlays on human development and social protection in Pakistan.

Speaking on inequality in the region, Ms. Kanni Wignaraja, Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific at UNDP stated, “The challenge of inequality is endemic, both regionally and globally. While the Asia-Pacific region has witnessed the steepest rise in human development, globally, it continues to grapple with widespread multidimensional poverty, and is now vulnerable to a new set of inequalities emerging around higher education and climate resilience. And the one we have been unable to close – the shocking gender gaps in our region”.

The Pakistan National Human Development Report explores inequality between the country’s richest and poorest groups. “The report highlights that interregional inequality in Pakistan has increased. It indicates that the highest level of Human Development in Pakistan is in Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has shown the fastest rate of growth in human development,” said Dr. Hafiz Pasha, lead author of the report. While sharing the key findings of the report, Dr. Pasha highlighted that the level of child development is low in Pakistan, and within Pakistan it is highest for Punjab. He further articulated that the privileges of the elite in Pakistan adds up to PKR 2,660 billion, equivalent to 8% of the GDP.

The report highlights that Power, People, and Policy are the key drivers of inequality in Pakistan. Powerful groups use their privilege to capture more than their fair share; people discriminate against others based on characteristics such as gender and class; and policies are often unsuccessful at addressing the resulting inequality. Speaking of this, Mr. Asad Umer, Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives stated, “Social and economic inequality threatens the foundations of a just society. To this end, the framework of the ‘three Ps’ of inequality is a useful tool for deconstructing the challenges and carefully analysing inequality in Pakistan in detail”.

Speaking on the release of the report, Mr. Knut Ostby, Resident Representative at UNDP Pakistan stated, “This NHDR comes at an especially important time for the country. With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing millions of people into poverty, the issue of inequality has become far more urgent for the success of the country, its institutions, and its people. We hope that the recommendations contained in the report can spawn policy discussions and dialogue, and lead to actionable change at the policy level”.

The Pakistan NHDR launch was attended virtually by Ms. Kanni Wignaraja, Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific at UNDP. Other participants include, Mr. Julien Harneis, UN Resident Coordinator to Pakistan, Mr. Knut Ostby, UNDP Pakistan Resident Representative, Ms. Aliona Niculita, UNDP Pakistan Deputy Resident Representative, Mr. Kaiser Ishaque and Ms. Ammara Durrani, UNDP Pakistan Assistant Resident Representatives, Dr. Hafiz Pasha, NHDR Lead Author, Ms. Aida Girma, UNICEF Pakistan Country Representative, Mr. Bernhard Furger, Charge d’Áffairs, Swiss Embassy to Pakistan and Mr. Umer Malik, UNDP Pakistan Policy Analyst. Meanwhile, further national and provincial dialogues about the crucial issues raised by this NHDR are planned for the future, in keeping with official guidelines around COVID-19.

The Report can be viewed here.

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