Guyana must sit up and take note
-- says Foreign Minister on latest UN HDI report By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
November 11, 2006

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FOREIGN Minister, Dr. Rudy Insanally, yesterday said Guyana needs to sit up and take note of the general thrust and some particular aspects encapsulated in the just released United Nations Human Development Report for 2006.

Although Guyana has moved up three places from the 107 rank it got last year to the 103 it obtained this year on the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), Insanally said there is a far way to go and much more still needs to be done.

The top ten ranked countries on the HDI are Norway, followed by Iceland, Australia, Ireland, Sweden, Canada, Japan, the United States of America, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

Among Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries rated on the annual UNHDI, Barbados ranks the highest at 31 while St Kitts and Nevis is at 51; the Bahamas at 52; Trinidad and Tobago at 57; Antigua and Barbuda at 59; Dominica at 68; St Lucia at 71; Grenada at 85; St. Vincent and the Grenadines at 88; and Suriname at 89.

Jamaica is ranked at 104 and Haiti trailing at 154 among the 177 countries ranked on the HDI.

At the launching of the report in Guyana yesterday, following the official world launch of the report in South Africa Thursday, Insanally noted that the UN Human Development Report is a global document and pointed out that the general thrust and particular aspects of this 2006 report have resonance in Guyana and “we must all sit up and take note”.

“Not only are people everywhere experiencing the debilitating effects of environmental degradation and manmade disasters, mainly through climate change, but we here in Guyana also face an uncertain future through actions that are beyond our control but within our collective grasp to limit,” the minister told a small but high-level gathering at the ceremony at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown..

“We not only have to set the right examples for ourselves therefore; we also have in the months and years to come to redouble our efforts in the formation of a global partnership to save the world for our future generations,” Insanally posited.

The report, titled ‘Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis’, examined two distinct themes – water for life and water for livelihoods.

In a world of unprecedented wealth, it notes, almost two million children die each year for want of a glass of clean water and a toilet. Beyond the household, competition for water for production intensifies, while the environment and the rural poor lose out.


Debunking the myth that the global water crisis is the result of scarcity, the 2006 Human Development Report argues that poverty, power and inequality are at the heart of the problem.

Sixteen years ago, the UN launched its first Human Development report and since then, Insanally said, each and every UN Human Development report has “stirred the conscience of mankind, exposing the reality of widespread suffering amidst pockets of plenty and making it clear that unless those in positions of leadership and influence took note and action, the world would not be a better place the following year – or indeed, succeeding ones.”

He said the remarkable aspect of these Human Development Reports is that they were “not purveyors of doom and gloom”.

“On the contrary, the very evidential nature of their reporting on the human condition worldwide and their positive prescriptions based on actual examples of success, have made these reports essential material for examination and study and for the application of remedial action in accordance with the individual circumstances of member states of the United Nations.”

He said that for people in Guyana, human development is rights based and as a consequence, it encompasses political, social, economic and civil rights.

He noted that the Millennium Development Declaration, to which the international community subscribed in 2000, provided not only attainable goals for human development but also some clear benchmarks against which progress could be measured.

Insanally said the 2006 UN Human Development Report with its specific emphasis on the issue of water which profoundly influences human development and progress, has made a significant contribution to making the philosophic underpinnings of the MDGs an imperative for global concern and for global action.

It makes clear that the water crisis lies at the heart of mankind’s survival, Insanally said.

“Very few people realize, I believe, that most of the water on earth is salt water and that only about 21/2 per cent is fresh water. The scarcity of potable water is thus a clear and present danger and one that we must confront resolutely.”

According to him, Guyana fully understands this imperative. “When it made available to the international community thousands of acres of its pristine forest land for study and use in the interest of global development and human survival, its decision was based on its conviction that the environment, like water which is an essential component, when properly managed is the backbone of sustainable human development.”

Insanally also highlighted two important and interesting points made by the UN Human Development Report – that scarcity of water is not a problem but its management; and damage to the environment, in particular the changes that will occur when temperature rise exceeds 4 degrees Centigrade, will be irreversible.

“In both cases the solution is in our hands,” Insanally said.

The Foreign Minister also alluded to a quote in the report which he believes captures the heart of the problem: “Unlike wars and natural disasters, the global crisis in water does not make media headlines. Nor does it galvanize concerted international action. Like hunger, deprivation in access to water is a silent crisis experienced by the poor and tolerated by those with the resources, the technology and the political power to end it. Yet this is a crisis that is holding back human progress consigning large segments of humanity to lives of poverty, vulnerability and insecurity.

This crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns. It also reinforces the obscene inequalities in life chances that divide rich and poor nations in an increasingly prosperous and interconnected world and that divide people within countries on the basis of wealth, gender and other markers for disadvantage”.

Insanally also called for a redoubling of efforts in the formation of a global partnership to save the world for future generations

Acting United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Guyana, Ms. Carla Khammar, believes Guyana is among the few countries in the world that do not have a water problem.

According to her, Guyana – the land of many waters – was found to be actually ‘under-ultilizing’ its vast water resources, which is in fact not a bad thing.

She, however, alluded to the report which serves to offer fresh new data on how many poor people around the world go without water and sanitation, the inequality of access within and between nations, and on what clean water really means for child survival rates.

According to her, the report argues for a concerted drive to achieve water and sanitation for all through national strategies, and proposes models of cooperation to resolve cross-border tensions in water management.

Alluding to the first part of the report, Khammar noted that it elaborates on the widespread violation of the basic human right to water. This violation results in 1.1 billion people in developing countries with inadequate access to water, 2.6 billion lacking sanitation and 1.8 million avoidable child deaths, while unclean water is trapping millions of the world’s poorest people in cycles of deprivation.

Khammar also pointed out that the report rejects the view that the global water crisis is about absolute shortages of physical supply. Rather, it argues that the root of the crisis in water can be traced to poverty, inequality and unequal power relationships, as well as flawed water management policies that exacerbate scarcity.

She also noted that by crisis it is meant that “too many people do not have access to enough water under the right conditions to live”.

The UNDP Resident Representative said closing the gap between current trends and target trends for achieving the Millennium Development Goal for water and sanitation, would result in some 203,000 fewer child deaths in 2015 and more than one million children’s lives saved over the next decade.

She said an additional 272 million days will be gained in school attendance as a result of reduced episodes of diarrhoea alone while the total economic benefits will be about US$38B annually.

Khammar said it is her sincere hope that this year’s report “will serve to be of tremendous benefit to all relevant agencies as we continue in our national and international efforts to develop a comprehensive approach to meet the global targets in areas of ‘water for life’ and ‘water for livelihoods’.”

Among those at the ceremony were Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, Mayor of Georgetown Hamilton Greene, senior members of the government and governmental and environmental agencies and members of the diplomatic corps.