2011 Human Development Report- Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All

    Main Messages

    The integral links between environmental sustainability and equity are critical to expanding human freedoms for people today and in generations to come. The point of departure is that the remarkable progress in human development over recent decades that the HDR has documented cannot continue without bold global steps to reduce environmental risks and inequality. The HDR2011 identifies pathways for people, communities, countries and the international community to promote environmental sustainability and equity in mutually reinforcing ways.

    1. Many disadvantaged people carry a double burden of deprivation. They are more vulnerable to the wider effects of environmental degradation, because of more severe stresses and fewer coping tools. And they must also deal with threats to their immediate environment from indoor air pollution, dirty water and unimproved sanitation. Forecasts suggest that continuing failure to reduce the grave environmental risks and deepening social inequalities threaten to slow decades of sustained progress by the world's poor majority, and even reverse the global convergence in human development.
    2. Major disparities in power shape these patterns. At the national level, new analysis shows how power imbalances and gender inequalities are linked to reduced access to improved water and sanitation, land degradation and deaths from indoor and outdoor air pollution, amplifying the effects associated with income disparities. Gender inequalities also interact with, and worsen, environmental outcomes. At the global level, governance arrangements often weaken the voices of many developing countries and exclude marginalized groups.
    3. The negative relations between inequality and unsustainability also reveal scope for positive synergies. Fossil-fueled growth is not a prerequisite for a better life, as defined in broader human development terms. Investments that improve equity-in access to renewable energy, water and sanitation, and reproductive health-could advance both sustainability and human development. Stronger accountability and democratic processes, in part through support for an active civil society and media,
      can also improve outcomes. Successful approaches rely on community management, inclusive institutions that pay particular attention to disadvantaged groups, and cross-cutting approaches that coordinate budgets and mechanisms across government agencies and development partners.
    4. Beyond the MDGs, the world needs a post 2015 development framework to reflect equity and sustainability; Rio+20 stands out as a key opportunity to reach a shared understanding about how to move forward. We show that approaches that jointly integrate equity into policies and programmes and empower people to bring about change in the legal and political arenas hold enormous promise. Specifically:
      • The systematic integration of the distributional effects of green economy policies, as with policies more generally, is critically important as a way to incorporate progressive features into programme design;
      • Rights to a clean and safe environment can empower groups and individuals to take actions to protect their environment; and
      • Empowerment mechanisms that hold decision-makers to account and enable participation in inclusive deliberative processes, at all levels.
    5. The financing needed for development-including environmental and social protection-will be many times greater in upcoming decades than current levels of official development assistance. Spending on low-carbon energy sources, for example, is only 1.6 percent of even the lowest estimate of needs, while spending on climate change adaptation and mitigation is around 11 percent of estimated need. Private sector funding is critical but needs to be supported and leveraged by proactive public investment. Closing the financing gap requires innovative thinking.
      A major innovative source of finance would be a new currency transaction tax. For the first time, since the 2008 global financial crisis, the infrastructure to enable collection is in place. Even small levies would generate substantial revenues: our updated estimates show that a tax of just 0.005 percent on currency trading-which is attracting increasing support around the world-could yield some $40 billion yearly, a major boost to the $130 billion in official development assistance flowing annually from OECD countries.

    Beyond raising new sources of funds to address pressing environmental threats equitably, the Report advocates global reforms to promote equity and voice. Financing flows need to be channeled toward the critical challenges of unsustainability and inequity-and not exacerbate existing disparities. Explicit criteria, complemented by reforms to global governance, would guarantee a greater representation. This would include mechanisms to provide finance for promoting safe, clean energy for all; climate change mitigation; technological innovation and adaptation; access to potable water and basic sanitation; and social protection guarantees for poor people and communities.