Human Development Report 2014

undp_hdr_2014_finalcover-1Since 1990, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been publishing an annual Human Development Report. The latest report from July 2014, “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience”, focuses on the question of today’s precariousness. Although an improvement of human development in most countries can be observed – due to advanced technology, education or income – “a widespread sense of precariousness” still exists. Natural or human-induced disasters or crises can eventually undermine the existing efforts and achievements.

Every society is confronted with risks and precariousness, however, not all communities are affected the same way; nor does every group recover in the same time. The 2014 report tackles this issue and, for the first time, analyzes “vulnerability and resilience through a human development lens.” It gives different recommendations on how to address vulnerability and strengthen resilience to future shocks.

The report follows a holistic and people-centered approach. It presents the risk factors which influence human development, and at the same time points out different ways to strengthen resilience relating to these factors. By taking a people-centred approach, the report puts people in the center of the analysis. It considers disparities in and between countries, focuses on the context of inequality of people and its broader causes, and thereby “identifies the ‘structurally vulnerable’ groups of people who are more vulnerable than others by virtue of their history or of their unequal treatment by the rest of society.”

Furthermore, the report takes a “life cycle approach” – it takes into account the fact that people of different ages are confronted with different risks, and that these vulnerabilities change during their lives. Some periods are especially important, such as the first 1000 days of life, and setbacks at this point can be difficult to overcome and may have long lasting impacts. Capabilities to deal with risks and vulnerabilities are built over a lifetime and need constant investment.

Most Vulnerable Groups and The Multidimensional Poverty Index

Among the most vulnerable are people living in extreme poverty and deprivation. The report uses a Multidimensional Poverty Index in order to measure multidimensional poverty, which includes deprivations at the household level in education, health and standard of living.

Some of the report’s findings include the following:

  • More than 2.2 billion people are either near or living in multidimensional poverty;
  • More than 15% of the world’s people remain vulnerable to multidimensional poverty;
  • Nearly 80% of the global population lack comprehensive protection;
  • About 12% (842 million) suffer from chronic hunger;
  • Nearly half of all workers (more than 1.5 billion) are in informal or precarious employment.         

People suffering under a lack of core capabilities, such as education or health, and whose choices are restricted due to social barriers or other exclusionary practices often find it harder to deal with threats. Those barriers also often hinder them to invest in further life capabilities. That in turn challenges them to deal with vulnerabilities at other stages of life and leads to an increase in their vulnerabilities.

Building Resilience

The report gives six recommendations to strengthen and build resilience to risks and future shocks.

  • Universal provision of basic social services: The access to basics services, such as water supply, education, health care and public safety ought to be independent from peoples ability to pay for them. Having these provisions empower people to live a life in dignity that they actually value. It furthermore can raise social competence and reduce structural vulnerability.  
  • Addressing life cycle vulnerabilities: It is important to support the development of capabilities of people at the right time. That includes the stages of early childhood, the transition from youth to young adulthood, and from adulthood to old age. A focus on early childhood is especially needed since countries right now do not invest enough in that stage.
  • Strengthening social protection: Social protection measures, such as unemployment insurance, labor market regulations or further social protection programs, are an important tool to protect people from risks and adversity. These measures can also prevent people in need from taking their children out of school or to postpone necessary medical care, which in turn influences their future vulnerability.
  • Promoting full employment: Full employment helps support the provisioning of social services and brings social benefits. Furthermore, jobs bring forward social stability and decent jobs help to manage shocks and uncertainties.
  • Responsive institutions and cohesive societies: Building resilience requires responsive and accountable governance institutions and policies. They are necessary to overcome inequality, exclusion and vulnerability. Cohesive societies, on the other hand, are of importance since they contribute to building resilient societies, and decreasing conflicts and violence.
  • Building capacities to prepare for and recover from crises: In order to be prepared for natural risks – which are likely to increase poverty, weaken governance or inequality, and thereby enhance vulnerabilities – early warning system are required, especially for those countries and communities that are under-prepared. Countries’ capacities to recover from disasters has to be strengthened.

Findings for THP’s Program Countries

The following table presents a selection of findings of the Multidimensional Poverty Index from The Hunger Project’s program countries. The complete data (p. 180ff.) as well as the data for the further indices can be found here.

Year of data Population in multidimensional poverty – Intensity of deprivation (in %) Population near multidimensional poverty (in %) Population in severe poverty (in %) Population below income poverty line – PPP 1.25$ a day (in %) Population below income poverty line – National poverty line (in %)
Bangladesh 2011 47.8 18.8 21.0 43.25 31.51
Benin 2006 57.4 18.8 45.7 47.33 36.2
Bolivia 2008 47.0 17.3 7.8 15.61 51.3
Burkina Faso 2010 61.3 7.6 63.8 44.6 46.7
Ethiopia 2011 60.9 6.7 67.0 30.65 29.6
Ghana 2011 47.3 18.7 12.1 28.59 28.5
India 2005/2006 51.1 18.2 27.8 32.68 21.9
Malawi 2010 49.8 24.5 29.8 61.64 50.7
Mexico 2012 39.9 10.1 1.1 0.72 52.3
Mozambique 2011 55.6 14.8 44.1 59.58 54.7
Peru 2012 41.4 12.3 2.1 4.91 25.8
Senegal 2010/2011 56.2 14.4 45.1 29.61 46.7
Uganda 2011 51.1 20.6 33.3 38.01 24.5


  • Population near multidimensional poverty: Percentage of the population at risk of suffering multiple deprivations – that is, those with a deprivation score of 20–33 percent.
  • Population in severe poverty: Percentage of the population in severe multidimensional poverty – that is, those with a deprivation score of 50 percent or more.
  • Population below PPP $1.25 a day: Percentage of the population living below the international poverty line $1.25 (in purchasing power parity terms) a day.
  • Population below national poverty line: Percentage of the population living below the national poverty line, which is the poverty line deemed appropriate for a country by its authorities. National estimates are based on population-weighted subgroup estimates from household surveys.

 Both the report and a summary are available in different languages and can be downloaded here.

“A Theory of Change on Child Marriage”

“Every year, approximately 14 million girls are married before they turn 18, across countries, cultures and religions. Robbed of their childhood, denied their rights to health, education and security” (Girls Not Brides, 2014).

GirlsNotBrides-LogoChild marriage poses a huge problem all over the world today. How can this practice be addressed in a proper way? What can be done in order to end child marriage? And which different approaches need to be considered?

Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of over 300 civil society actors including The Hunger Project, is committed to the issue of ending child marriage. Their Theory of Change on Child Marriage (2014) is a response to child marriage and illustrates how this topic could effectively be addressed as well as which approaches towards child marriage should be included. At the same time, the Theory of Change illustrates “that there is no single solution to ending child marriage and that everyone has a role to play. Ultimately efforts to address child marriage must respond to local contexts and accordingly programs and investments may take different forms.”

Guiding Principles

The Theory of Change reflects six guiding principles:

  1. It is important to state that the theory does not only focus on preventing child marriage but also on mitigation and support of girls who are already married.
  2. The focus on the impact of child marriages on girls does not mean the impact on boys should be neglected. However, focusing on girls is necessary in order to highlight the importance of gender equality.
  3. The theory includes both forms of child marriages: formal and informal unions.
  4. In order to end child marriage, action by multiple actors at many levels is required.
  5. Although change happens locally, national, regional and global actions are necessary in order to “create an environment that offers girls opportunities beyond the traditional roles envisaged for them.”
  6. Both parties should be freely and fully agreed to their marriage. However, this is rarely the case where one of the spouses is under the age of 18.

Theory of Change

The Theory of Change contains seven levels: 1.) Problem, 2.) Catalyzing strategy, 3.) Strategies, 4.) Outcomes, 5.) Results, 6.) Impact and 7.) Vision. However, as Girls not Brides points out “[i]t is important to recognise that the relationships between different levels are not causal or linear but represent a broader view of how change will occur.”

The different levels encompass the following:

  • Problem: As a first step, it is necessary to understand the problem of child marriage, to be aware of the different settings in which child marriage takes place, as well as the different drivers of it. And finally, it is important to be aware of the need to address the issue.
  • Catalyzing strategy: In order to achieve gender equality and end child marriage, the catalyzing strategy underlines that child marriage needs to be addressed within a broad framework of development and human rights. Ending child marriage is a complex and long-term task that requires awareness of the issue. It also requires local, national, regional and international strategic cooperation, resources, data collection and a monitoring system.
  • Strategies: Most of the existing strategies to address the problem of child marriage fall within one of these four categories: 1) empowering girls, 2) mobilizing families and communities, 3) providing services, and 4) establishing and implementing laws and policies. Since all of the strategies are interlinked and mutually reinforcing, it is necessary to combine the related actions in a context-specific way that takes into consideration the different drivers of child marriage in each region.
  • Outcomes: The next level addresses the outcomes that are targeted by following these four strategies. Change is aimed to be reached with regard to the attitudes and conditions of 1) girls, 2) families and communities, 3) services, and 4) laws and policies.
  1. Girls: If girls are aware of their rights and enabled to develop necessary skills to support their own life and each other, that would constitute an important factor in increasing their ability to refuse marriages. However, this has to be accompanied by economic and social alternatives for unmarried girls as well as a shift in the perception of it by both girls and their families.
  2. Families and communities: A shift of social norms is essential to end child marriage. Among others, families and communities have to become more aware of the harm of child marriage, and alternatives to child marriage need to be accepted. Therefore the media plays an important role.
  3. Services: To prevent girls from being pushed into child marriage, structural barriers needs to be removed, for example, in the education sector. Likewise, married and unmarried girls must have access to safe and quality education. Conditions which stop families sending girls to school must be considered and removed.
  4. Laws and policies: Both laws and policies play an important role for the improvement of services, the changes of social norms as well as girls’ empowerment.
  • Results: The results, on the other hand, “reflect the demonstrated changes in behavior on the part of individuals, families and communities, program implementers, and law enforcement officials as a consequence of surrounding changes in attitudes and conditions.” Depending on the given region and context, “different combinations of the results will be necessary to prevent child marriage and support married girls.”
  • Impact: A lasting impact is achieved when girls are eventually in the position to choose when and whom to marry or even not to marry at all; it constitutes “a shift in decision-making power to girls and new social norms.”
  • Vision: Girls not Brides does not only aim to end child marriages before the age of 18, but seeks to “ensure that [children] acquire the skills, connections and capacities that child marriage impedes, and have the opportunity and freedom to thrive.” And in order to achieve this, gender equality is essential.

Girls Not Brides underlines that the Theory of Change is not final but is continually evolving just as the field itself evolves.

More information about the Theory of Change on Child Marriage can be found here.

Gender Gap and Access to Productive Assets: A Conceptual Framework

GAAPHow can agricultural development programs help improve women’s access to assets, thus reducing gender gaps and leading to more well-being? The latest report “Learning from Eight Agricultural Development Interventions in Africa and South Asia” from The Gender, Agriculture, & and Assets Project (GAAP) focuses on that question. GAAP developed a conceptual framework for the evaluation of development projects and presents the results of eight agricultural programs.

GAAP is a gender focused project led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). It aims to reveal gender gaps with regards to the different distribution of productive assets between men and women of a household, and how agricultural development projects can improve the access to assets and thus diminish the gender gap (GAAP, 2013).

The report stresses the fact that “[a]ccess to, control over, and ownership of assets are critical components of well-being” (GAAP, 2013). Having productive assets can help  increase income as well as facilitate dealing with shocks (e.g. natural disasters or family health crises). Assets can be controlled separately by men and women or as joint assets. However, since assets and their control are unequally distributed in a household between man and woman, their bargaining power over resources is unequal as well, leading to a varying in well-being with regards to food security, nutrition, and education (GAAP, 2013). Therefore, development programs should rather focus on the improvement of access to assets and their control than just on the improvement of incomes.

For the outcome evaluation of agricultural development programs GAAP drafted a framework to ”offe[r] a starting point how gender and assets influence household and individual well-being” and “the way gender relations influence the different ways men and women experience constraints and opportunities when building their asset stock” (GAAP, 2013). The framework includes seven elements, which are all interconnected and gendered. The overall element to be aware of the context, since ecological, social, economic, and political conditions have different effects on women and men. The further components are now shortly presented (GAAP, 2013):

  • Assets: access to and control over assets are key determinants of individual agency
  • Livelihood strategies: the decisions about how to invest assets to generate returns, such as income or food, depend on contextual factors as well as assets which are available  
  • Shocks: shocks such as conflicts and diseases are experienced differently by men and women, also depending on their responsibilities; assets are differently used to respond to them
  • Full income: household members differ in their contribution to household income; women often spend more of their income on food, healthcare and children’s education
  • Consumption & savings: consumption and saving can affect asset accumulation or loss; income of women, men or the joint income can be used for different types of investment, however, women are not always able to invest in the same assets as men
  • Well-being: assets can impact well-being, e.g. by increasing status and empowerment through asset ownership or by providing a buffer against shocks  

This framework is a useful tool for project developers to analyze “how their interventions are gendered and likely to influence outcome and long-term asset accumulation” (GAAP 2013).

To download the report click here.

To read the project notes click here.


New Report 2014: Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation

report_unicefThe new report “Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation. Update 2014” from UNICEF and the World Health Organization “highlights a narrowing disparity in access to cleaner water and better sanitation between rural and urban areas.” Although some global progress was made “sharp geographic, socio-cultural, and economic inequalities in access to improved drinking water and sanitation facilities still persist around the world.” (Unicef, 2014)

The following tables present some of the findings relevant to the program countries of The Hunger Project.

  • 82% of the one billion people practising open defecation in the world live in 10 countries. Among these countries are India with 597 million people practising open defection, Ethiopia with 34 million, and Mozambique with 10 million.
  • Countries which could reduce open defection are Bangladesh, Benin, Ethiopia, and Peru. They belong to the 10 countries that have achieved the highest reduction of open defecation:
% of the population practising open defecation, 1990 % of the population practising open defecation, 2012 Percentage point reduction in practice of open defecation, 1990–2012
Ethiopia 92 37 55
Bangladesh 34 3 31
Peru 33 6 27
Benin 80 54 26
  • The following table shows the open defecation practices in Burkina Faso and Ethiopia according to level of education, and underlines significant disparities:
No Education, Preschool Primary Education Secondary Education Higher Education
Burkina Faso 76% 48% 14%
Ethiopia 54% 34% 15% 9%
  • The report’s findings on saniation and drinking water for all project countries with regard to the MDG targets read as follows (for a detailed breakdown see Annex 3):

Use of Sanitation Facilities

Progress towards MDG target Proportion of the 2012 population that gained access since 2000 (%)
Bangladesh not on track 19
Benin not on track 8
Bolivia not on track 16
Burkina Faso not on track 10
Ethiopia not on track 18
Ghana met target 35
India not on track 14
Malawi not on track 3
Mexico met target 21
Mozambique not on track 11
Peru on track 18
Senegal not on track 21
Uganda not on track 14

Use of Drinking Water Sources

Progress towards MDG target Proportion of the 2012 population that gained access since 2000 (%)
Bangladesh met target 20
Benin on track 30
Bolivia met target 24
Burkina Faso met target 40
Ethiopia on track 31
Ghana met target 35
India met target 25
Malawi met target 31
Mexico met traget 19
Mozambique not on track 19
Peru on track 17
Senegal progress insufficient 26
Uganda met target 37

To read the full report and see the findings click here.