Guyana’s human development rank unchanged

Guyana has maintained its overall 114 ranking in the latest United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) remaining at the same position as it did in 2006. The HDI covered the year 2007 and 182 countries were ranked.

The UNDP Human Development Report 2009 with the theme ‘Overcoming Barriers: Human Mobility and Development’ was released yesterday and a copy was handed over to Foreign Affairs Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett at a ceremony at the Georgetown Club.

The report, according to its summary, explores how better policies towards mobility can enhance human development. It traces the contours of human movement—who moves where, when and why—before analyzing the wide-ranging impacts of movement on migrants and their families and on places of origin and destination.

It lays out the case for governments to reduce restrictions on movement within and across their borders, so as to expand human choices and freedoms. It argues for practical measures that can improve prospects on arrival, which in turn will have large benefits both for destination communities and for places of origin.

The reforms speak not only to destination governments but also to governments of origin, to other key actors—in particular the private sector, unions and non-governmental organizations—and to individual migrants themselves, the report states.

Alluding to the migration and development theme, in brief remarks, Rodrigues-Birkett said that the report reinforces the need for governments to work towards reducing restrictions to movements across their borders.

The HDI, a summary measure of a country’s human development, classifies Guyana as a medium human development country. It measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions: a long and healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth; access to knowledge, as measured by the adult literacy rate and the combined gross enrolment ratio in education; and a decent standard of living, as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) US dollars. Norway maintained its top ranking followed by Australia, Iceland, Canada and Ireland. The highest ranked Caribbean Community (Caricom) country was Barbados at 37. 

According to the report, Guyana ranked 48 out of 135 countries in the Human Poverty Index, while the highest rated Caricom country, Barbados, was ranked at 4. The major developed countries were not included on this list.

In the gender related development index, Guyana was ranked 96 out of 155 countries while Barbados was again the highest ranked Caricom country in this index at 30. In gender empowerment measures, Guyana ranked 53 out of 109 countries while the highest ranked Caricom country was Trinidad and Tobago at 14.

Rodrigues-Birkett said that the report comes at a time when developing countries such as Guyana are confronted by unprecedented challenges and these have created or reinforced other challenges. “Human mobility is a fact of life,” she stated noting that many debates are “slanted” towards the disadvantages of migration. She noted that there are opportunities as well. The minister said she hopes the report contributes to a better understanding of human mobility declaring that Guyana is willing to play a role in creating a new global regime in migration development.

In this light, the minister pointed out that discussions have started at the level of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to abolish the need for visas for travel to member countries. She noted that with regard to Brazil, significant progress has been made with nationals of both countries having no need for passports to travel within certain areas.  At the regional level, she said, the ultimate goal is total free movement within Caricom.

But, the foreign minister noted, there are certain issues that must be addressed. Appearing to be alluding to treatment of Guyanese nationals by Barbados, she said that in recent times, there has been the disregard of basic human rights of citizens. These actions set back the integration movement, she asserted. The minister however noted that the report offers hope.

Meantime, UNDP Resident Representative in Guyana, Kiari Liman-Tinguiri noted that the report looks beyond the GDP of countries to the broader aspects of human well-being. He said the report covers most of the current debates in migration adding that the development debate is often enriched with such publications.

Core issues in the report include the fact that migration can bring large gains for human development though this is strongly constrained by barriers.

It was stated that mobility has the potential to enhance human development among “movers, stayers and the majority of those in destination places”.  It was also noted that migrants are particularly vulnerable at times of crisis. 

Meantime, the report said:  “It is important to note that these HDI results, based on 2007 data, do not reflect the effects of the global economic crisis, which is expected to have massive impacts on human development achievements in many countries around the world”.

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