Like the larger regional Report, the Caribbean Human Development Report expands the way we think about progress and multiple dimensions of well-being, applying the human development approach to the new, holistic, sustainable development agenda, and adapting it to the needs and aspirations of Middle Income Countries (MICs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) alike.
The key ideas of this report are embedded in its title, Multidimensional progress: human resilience beyond income. The vulnerabilities of Caribbean states are well known: prominent among them are geographic location in a hurricane belt and earthquake zone with climate change exacerbating weather-related threats, and limited scope for economic diversification. Now, bringing the concept of multidimensional progress into the discourse on Caribbean development is an invitation to rethink building resilience in the region.
Rather than focusing only on the state, this report also examines vulnerability and resilience at the household and community levels. It is important to recognize that while both state and human resilience are related, and even interdependent, they are not one and the same. Vulnerabilities are increasing in the Caribbean. The region faces growing multidimensional poverty. There has been persistent low growth and an erosion of human development gains over the past decade – as evidenced by deteriorating regional human development indicators and multidimensional poverty data.
Poverty and unemployment rates, especially among youth, are high, and stand above the regional average for Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole. Public social protection and health expenditures, which contribute to resilience and adaptive capacity, measured as a proportion of GDP, lag behind the population weighted average of 13.2 percent for Latin America. Th ey also lag, except for Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, behind the worldwide average of 8.6 percent.1 Economic growth is insuffi cient on its own for lift ing and keeping people out of poverty. Thus, measures to target and address key sources of vulnerability and deprivation and to strengthen adaptive capabilities, as in the areas of education, health, training, employment opportunities, and social protection, are of critical importance.
Available data show that real GDP growth for the Caribbean region averaged 2.04 percent between 1971 and 2013, as compared to 3.57 percent for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and 5.99 percent for developing countries in Asia.2 For Middle Income Countries, “development” does not expire at a GDP threshold. Inequalities, discrimination, and longstanding exclusions -including on the basis of gender and ethnicity – require policy attention.
The Caribbean is faced with a dual challenge: to boost inclusive economic growth, and to build multidimensional progress which contributes to eradicating poverty in all its forms, tackling vulnerability at the state, household, and individual levels, and ensuring sustainability. The “multidimensional” focus of this report builds both on past work on human development and on the more recent and pioneering policy work on multidimensional poverty in the region.
The explicit measurement of acute deprivations has inspired a generation of policymakers to also think about policy in a multidimensional and integrated fashion. There is now an interest in addressing multidimensional challenges above the poverty line – to include issues such as the quality of work, social protection across the life cycle, systems of care, use of time between men and women, citizen security, and freedom from shame and humiliation, among others. All of this relates to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Last year, 193 heads of state signed an historic and universal agreement which will shape the development conversation for the next fi ft een years. If there ever was a “multidimensional” moment, this is it.
This report relates to the UN development system’s efforts to mainstream, accelerate, and provide policy support on SDGs to Member States. An innovation in the report is a tool to tackle poverty in its multiple dimensions, providing an SDG entry point for each country according to their specific needs.
This year’s report is timely, both because it addresses the vulnerabilities and key strengths of Caribbean countries, and because it kick-starts a new development conversation for Middle Income Countries and Small Island Developing States around the world. Human Development Reports are at their best when they document good practice, measure progress, and push the frontiers of how we think about development in a changing world. This Caribbean Human Development Report should be no exception in its capacity to engage stakeholders across a rich empirical, and conceptual policy debate – and one which will be seminal to our work for at least the next fifteen years.