Sri Lanka’s Human Development Index value for 2018 is 0.780— which puts the country in the high human development category—positioning it at 71 out of 189 countries and territories, according to the 2019 Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Programme. Launched on 10 December 2019 at an event held at the United Nations Compound in Colombo, the report titled, ‘Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: inequalities in human development in the 21st Century”, highlights that the Asia Pacific region has witnessed the steepest rise globally in human development. It leads the world in access to broadband internet and is gaining on more developed regions in life expectancy, education, and access to health care. Yet, the next generation of inequalities are emerging, particularly around technology, higher education and climate resilience.
At the launch hosted by UNDP Sri Lanka, the report was ceremoniously handed over to Chief Guest, Hon. John Seneviratne, State Minister for Economic and Policy Development, in the presence of Ms. Hanaa Singer, Resident Coordinator of the UN in Sri Lanka. This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Mr. Robert Juhkam, Resident Representative of UNDP Sri Lanka. The panelists were Dr. Chandranath Amarasekera, Director Economic Research, Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Prof. Dileni Gunawardena from the University of Peradeniya, Dr. Rohan Fernando, Head of Plantations and Business Development at Aitken Spence PLC and Mr. Kulasabanathan Romeshun, Senior Research Professional, Centre for Poverty Analysis.
In his remarks, Hon. John Seneviratne stated, “As you know, this Government’s vision is to have a prosperous country with human development indices in par with developed countries. This is the goal that we are working towards. In this context, the launch of this Report is timely as it gives us a sense of where Sri Lanka stands and what more we need to do to achieve this vision.”
Adding to this, Mr. Robert Juhkam, Resident Representative of UNDP Sri Lanka highlighted, “This report looks at inequalities in human development with a new lens. It assesses what inequalities are becoming important today, how they differ around the world and among population groups, and how they are changing…but the future of inequalities in human development is in our hands”.
Also speaking at the launch, Ms. Hanaa Singer the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations stated, “As the UN in Sri Lanka we are working towards ensuring fair and inclusive development, while ensuring that the rights of every citizen are upheld in our journey towards helping Sri Lanka achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. As we focus our work on the core mandates of the UN in the areas of development, human rights, peace and security – we look to address inequalities to ensure a sustainable development agenda that leaves no one behind”.
The Report analyzes inequality in three steps: beyond income, beyond averages, and beyond today, proposing a battery of policy options to tackle it. It goes beyond the dominant discourse focusing on income disparities to also considering inequalities in other dimensions such as health, education, access to technologies, and exposure to economic and climate-related shocks. It uses new data and methods that will highlight, in a way that measures based on averages cannot, how inequality affects people’s lives; and it will take a long-term view towards 2030 and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and beyond.
According to the report’s Human Development Index (HDI), no other region has experienced such rapid human development progress. South Asia was the fastest growing region (46 percent growth over the period 1990-2018), followed by East Asia and the Pacific at 43 percent. Of all countries on the HDI, Thailand had the second-highest increase after Ireland, moving up 12 ranks during 2013 – 2018. Indonesia and the Philippines
both joined the ranks of countries with high human development. South Asia also saw the greatest leap in life expectancy and years of schooling.
Looking beyond today, the Report asks how inequality may change in future, particularly through the lens of climate change and technological transformation – two forces that seem set to shape human development outcomes into the next century.