Inclusive growth, poverty reduction and employment seminar

19 Nov 2013

  

Bismillah – he – Rahman – ur – Rahim,

Salaam va Ruz be kheyr

Your Excellency, Dr Ali Rabiee, Minister of Cooperatives, Labour and Social Welfare,

Dr Mohamad-Reza Sepehri, Head of the Labour and Social Security Institute,

Dr Mohammad Taqi Hosseini, Acting Ministry for International Affairs in this Ministry,

Dr Hossein-Nejad, Head of Mehr Reza Fund,

Mr. Hevdahtan, Deputy Minister for Labour Relations,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to attend the Inclusive Growth, Poverty Reduction and Employment Seminar, organized by the Labour and Social Security Institute of Iran.

I would like to leave you with three messages today. 

My first message is that – from the human development standpoint – during the period 1980-2012, Iran’s policy interventions – and actions – have produced significant improvements in human development for Iranian citizens. 

The numbers are well documented and I have spoken about this major achievement elsewhere.

This is true whether we speak of:

  • long and healthy life,
  • access to knowledge, or
  • a decent standard of living.

By all these measures Iran has done well.  Iran’s progress currently places it in the “high human development” category among nations. 

During the past 20 years, Iran’s annual growth in its HDI has been over double the global average.  This would seem to imply that – from a human development standpoint – during the period 1980-2012, Iran’s policy interventions were both significant and appropriate to produce improvements in human development. 

***

My second message is that in the current climate, and despite the impact of sanctions, Iran’s future growth and development prospects can be strong. 

But in order to realize their full potential, we need to pay attention to the way that growth is achieved.  We need to ensure that people are included in this growth – and that this growth is environmentally sustainable. 

Why do I say this?  The latest UNDP data on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) shows that the world is making major progress in attaining its MDGs.  Iran has met many of its MDG goals – indeed, often well ahead of time.

Nevertheless, major challenges remain.  One key factor that will undermine progress towards the MDGs is income inequality.  This is true for the world as a whole.  And it is also true for Iran.

  • Inequality means that the poor cannot access health, education and other social services. 
  • Inequality means that the poor will continue to lack stable and productive employment and livelihoods.
  • Inequality means that the poor are socially excluded and are more vulnerable to shocks.

The evidence of the past 40 years tells us that perhaps the main risk to sustainable human development will come in the form of continuing income inequality in the medium term – the low probability of growth in “decent-jobs” – an increased tendency towards informal contracts – and an increase in jobless growth.

***

This brings me to my third message. 

This is the key message and one I would like to leave with you.  The solution to the need to achieve “growth with justice” and “growth with sustainability” lies in establishing inclusive growth as our long-term strategic priority.

UNDP has learnt much in the past 40 years.  Here are three approaches we believe any country can use to deliver human development to its citizens. 

  • First, we must plan in a way that does not only have growth at the centre.  We must go “beyond GDP” – “beyond growth” – when we try to measure human well-being.  We need to balance growth with social justice and with environmental sustainability.
  • Second, when we plan for growth, we must convince our planners to think inter-sectorally and to think small.  Yes, think small.  Think community-level.  We must constantly try to appreciate how our grand designs will play out on the lives of real people on the ground.
  •  Third, we must build innovative partnerships with public, private, and civil society stakeholders at all levels.

Iran’s 5th Development Plan aims to achieve “growth with justice”.   

Now, therefore, is the time to consider building inclusive growth approaches into the national planning framework.

When inclusive growth occurs, you see the following  seven things happening:

  1. all citizens share in the growth process
  2. poverty and inequality are reduced
  3. unemployment is reduced
  4. growth will benefit poorer groups more than higher income groups
  5. growth will lead to better access to basic social services
  6. growth will be accompanied by sound public investments
  7. the use of natural resources will benefit the poor and vulnerable.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

You may say this is difficult to achieve.  But I would say in response that – right here in Iran – the United Nations – and specifically UNDP – has been supporting the Government on a variety of initiatives that have been setting the stage to achieve inclusive growth

Time does not permit me to go into all our work in detail.  But please – during the deliberations today – take the time to ask us about just one of the many techniques we use.  Please ask us about UNDP’s “Social Mobilisation and Micro-Credit” model.  This is a model which won the best prize in the 2005 Global Poverty Reduction conference in China.

We use this in most UNDP projects currently underway in Iran. 

  • It helps empower individuals to become change agents for their own development. 
  • It encourages people – average citizens – to think, plan and implement business plans on their own.
  • It strongly leads to local inclusive growth outcomes.

We have used this model to support men and women to direct their own social and economic participation and development.  The model creates local community development groups and savings and loans systems. 

  • This ensures participation. 
  • This helps to create local jobs and eliminate extreme poverty. 
  • This increases knowledge and skills and – in doing so – innovation and enterprise.

In all of this the United Nations can help.  The new UNDP Strategic Plan for 2014 – 2017 already contains inclusive growth as its main pillar.  It can easily help us – in collaboration with the Islamic Republic of Iran – to develop inclusive growth models for macro-economic planning.  Our experience in other countries shows us the way.

In conclusion, I sincerely hope that the things we say here today – and what we do tomorrow – will provide a timely contribution to supporting development planning towards Inclusive Growth outcomes in Iran.  We hope it moves us closer to the goal of the 5th National development Plan – “growth with justice”.

If we do only this, we will have contributed to improving the welfare – and the lives – of those who are poor and vulnerable in our society.

Kheily motashekeram.

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Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Iran