UNDP warns possibility of social strife
Warning about the possibility of social strife in Asia, a panel of
experts called for an urgent need for policy responses to reduce
inequalities both within and between countries by ensuring that the
benefits of economic growth permeate across social groups and classes.
Asia and the Pacific is the fastest growing region in the world.
However, the benefits of growth have been distributed unevenly,
benefitting certain countries more than others. Fourteen Least Developed
Countries (LDCs) lag far behind the Asian ‘economic miracle’.
The unequal nature of growth within countries reveals itself in
widening regional inequality and rising urban poverty and increasing
conflict said panellists at Regional Policy Dialogues on Inequality
organized by the UNDP Regional Centre in Colombo.
The multi-country dialogues on inequality held in honour of Professor
Frances Stewart are based on research conducted by UDNP in Nepal, India,
Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Timor-Leste and had high-level participation
from governments of these countries a, UNDP press release states.
Keynote speakers included Prof Frances Stewart who is Professor of
Development Economics and Director of the Centre for Research on
Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity, Oxford University and Sir
Richard Jolly who is Honourary Professor at the Institute of Development
As the Deputy Executive Director in UNICEF, Sir Jolly was
instrumental in initiating an action agenda, resulting in reduction of
child mortality from 15 to 12 million globally from 1982 to 1996. The
dialogues focused on the policy implications of rising inequality levels
in Asia, exploring development policy options to address the issue.
Experts noted that migration patterns in the region send a clear
signal to governments to manage the transition from rural to urban
areas, particularly in light of growing urban inequalities. Urban
tensions have already exploded into ethnic conflict in several Asian
cities. It was noted that conflict, both by state and non-state actors,
is hampering development and destabilizing a number of countries.
The experts called for human development strategies aimed at reducing
these conflicts. Asia is home to the largest number of mega cities and
urban slums. In 1970, only one in five people lived in an urban city and
by 2000 one in every three was an urban resident.
Growing urban inequality throws a unique set of issues that need to
be dealt with urgently to avoid further fuelling the social tensions
between different groups living side by side. “As the tragedy of Mumbai
demonstrates, terrorism is a major threat to human development,” said
Head, UNDP Regional Centre for Asia Pacific in Colombo Omar Noman.
“There is a direct relationship between growing inequalities and
conflict. Urban poverty is on the rise. Hunger and maternal mortality
continue to remain serious concerns. The Region has more than 900
million people living in extreme poverty, more than the population of
Sub-Saharan Africa, he said.
Proposing the following five point action agenda the experts said
that the current financial crisis demonstrates the need for policy to
have a good mix of market and State action which is critical in reducing
As part of its efforts to raise awareness and mobilize action around
human development, UNDP Regional Centre also announced an annual award
for young Sri Lankan social scientists in honour of Sir Richard Jolly.