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Society
A world fit for people — Human aspects

Society
A world fit for people - Human aspects
Leadership for 21st century

Column
For the record
Politics & Policy
Change in the policy of Kargil

From Sher Khan
A tribute to late Dr. Mahbub ul Haq
July 19 - 25, 1999

"People today have an urge—an impatient urge—to participate in events and processes that are shaping their lives. This impatience brings both dangers and opportunities. It can dissolve into anarchy, ethnic violence, or social disintegration. But if properly nurtured in a responsive national and global framework, it can also become a source of tremendous vitality and innovation for the creation of new and more just societies.

"The dangers arise when the irresistible urge for participation clashes with inflexible systems. Although there have been significant achievements in human developments during the last three decades, the majority of the world's people still remain excluded from full participation in development as well as in the political process. One quarter of the global population still survives in absolute poverty. — The rural populations in developing countries still receive less than half of the income opportunities and social service available to their urban counterparts. — Our world is still a world of difference. Exclusion, rather than inclusion, is the prevailing reality.

"Security for people — Is it possible today to redefine security as not just security of land, but security for people? Security in the sense of education and health security, food security, job and economic security, environmental security, cultural security, human rights security — defence of people, not just of territory. — Our first opportunity today is that we can convert military spending into human spending, and redefine security as security for people, not just for land.

"Sustainable Human Development. — Growth must be woven around people, not people around growth. — There are those who are so obsessed with growth that they will destroy nature in the process. There are others who are so preoccupied with preserving wild life that they will rather forget human life in the process — and the fact that human beings are the most endangered species on this planet.

"Market Efficiency with Social Compassion. — Governments in the developing countries often try to run everything that the private sector can run more efficiently — agriculture, industry, trade—and they do not have the resources or the administrative capacity to run the social services that governments must often provide—education, health, nutrition programmes safe drinking water—or the physical infrastructure that the economy needs—roads, telecommunications, and power stations.

"A New North-South Partnership.—nobody has obliged Brazil to earmark 82 percent of its health budget to expensive urban hospitals while spending only 18 percent on primary health care facilities. We in the South have done it all by ourselves.—corruption will be checked not only by domestic actions in the South, but also by exposing multinationals that corrupt governments and the international banks that give shelter to corrupt money.—From confrontation, we must progress towards more understanding and greater accommodation.

'A New Pattern of Governance.—National governments must find new ways of enabling their own people to participate more fully in government and to allow them much greater influence on the decisions that affect their lives. Greater participation in government must become the theme of the future, including decentralization of government activity to the local levels, a greater role for NGOs, markets that are more people-friendly, and the nurturing of institutions of a civil society at all levels.

"Conclusion — If we respond to all these challenges — with courage and with wisdom—we can all write a new chapter in human destiny. We can finally celebrate the triumph of the human spirit in a period of fundamental changes, and have a world fit for people. It all depends on our actions. For human destiny is a choice, not a chance."

The excerpts above have been taken from an essay contributed by the late Dr. Mahbub ul Haq for a book titled "A World Fit For People" published by UNDP in 1994, in which thinkers from many countries address the political, economic and social problems of our time. The late Doctor needs no introduction, having played a leading role in shaping the economy of Pakistan for many years. More recently, and shortly before his untimely death, he won great acclaim with the publication of his study, in partnership with his wife, Khadija Haq, titled "Human Development in South Asia", which is an eye-opening indictment of how successive governments in the region have failed in improving the lives of the millions of their people even as they went about wasting precious resources in needless conflicts and an escalating, open-ended arms race.

I never had the opportunity of meeting the late Doctor in person, nor was economics ever my field of interest. Nevertheless, lately I have had the occasion to come across some his thoughts and ideas in the process of a post-retirement assignment, and could only come to the conclusion that his heart was in the right place. May his soul rest in peace. One can also add a prayer that those who rule over our destinies would ponder over what the late Doctor had to say in his essay excerpted above, i.e those amongst them who are literate and still have a heart ticks in their burly breasts.