The UN Development Programme, UNDP, says in spite of the progress recorded globally, women are still the most marginalized group.
The UNDP’S latest Human Development Report, launched on Tuesday, found that while the average human development improved significantly since 1990, progress is uneven, with systemic discrimination against women, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities.
UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said while many people have greater access to education, health and sanitation, more focus needs to be paid to who has been excluded and why.
“By eliminating deep, persistent, discriminatory social norms and laws, and addressing the unequal access to political participation, which have hindered progress for so many, poverty can be eradicated and a peaceful, just, and sustainable development can be achieved for all,” Ms. Clark said.
Entitled ‘Human Development for Everyone’, the report noted that one in three people worldwide continue to live at a low level of human development, as measured by the Human Development Index.
The index is essentially a ranking of countries based on strides made with a peace-centric model of progress.
According to the report, women and girls are systematically excluded by economic, political, social and cultural barriers.
“Women tend to be poorer, earn less, and have fewer opportunities in most aspects of life than men,” the report found.
The report found that in 100 countries, women were legally excluded from some jobs because of their gender, and in 18 countries, women needed their husband’s approval to work.
The report also pointed to “dangerous practices”, such as female genital mutilation and forced marriage, which continue to hamper the development of women and their inclusion in society.
In addition to women and girls, the report pointed to “patterns of exclusion and lack of empowerment” of people in rural areas, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants and refugees.
The report called for far greater attention to empowering the most marginalized in society, and recognized the importance of giving them greater voice in decision-making processes.
The report also warned that key development metrics could overstate progress when they focus on the quantity, rather than the quality, of development.
“For instance, girls’ enrolment in primary education has increased, but in half of 53 developing countries with data, the majority of adult women who completed four to six years of primary school are illiterate,” the report stated.