CALENDAR OF EVENTS
S. Gyawali: Address to World Summit 2015
Written by Sambridhi Gyawali, corporate affairs manager, Nepal Republic Media Ltd.
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Address to World Summit 2015, Seoul, Korea, August 27 to 31, 2015
Distinguished guests, I am honored to be here in Korea among all of you and would like to thank UPF for creating this wonderful platform where we not only share our perspectives on crucial issues but also learn from one another.
Peace and human development in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole can be very vague. When we look into the human development index in Asia-Pacific, we have countries like Australia, which rank very high in terms of human development, and, contrary to that, we have Nepal and Pakistan ranking very, very low.
Similarly, when we look into countries that are regarded as peaceful, we find polarization as per Forbes 2013: Pakistan and Afghanistan are regarded as the least peaceful countries, while Japan, Australia and New Zealand are regarded as the most peaceful.
So I would like to take this opportunity to focus more on South Asia. South Asia has experienced a long period of robust economic growth and is also regarded as one of the fastest-growing economies. It has been forecast to have a steady economic growth of 7.5 percent in 2016 and 2017. However, this region is home to 40 percent of the world’s poor (people who live under $1.25 a day), more than 200 million live in slums and half a billion go without electricity. South Asia is also among the three regions with an extremely low literacy rate.
However, on the bright side, it also has the world’s largest working-age population and a quarter of the world’s middle-class consumers; hence the growth and development of this region are not only a possibility with the right foundations but also a necessity.
It is evident that peace or human development is not obtained only through economic growth. GNP alone is not capable of demolishing poverty or establishing long-lasting peace. It is only through investment in human capital, education, good governance and an inclusive growth strategy that we can elevate our people, which at large will further elevate the region.
Before I move any further, I would like to make a comparison between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
There is a vast difference in the development outcome of these two regions. This has resulted from several factors, including the emphasis of Southeast Asia on the importance of high savings and investment, open economies, land reforms, etc.
But these differing outcomes are only on philosophies of economic liberalization. All analysts’ critiques state—and we can agree—that Southeast Asia’s growth puts education, skill development and technology at the core of its accelerated growth. For example—the first of the four principles of the Thai national plan for the period 2007-2011 was to develop people into quality citizens with both virtue and knowledge.
In Singapore, education is at the heart of the planning, as the mission of the education service “is to mold the future of the nation, by molding the people who will determine the future of the nation.”
This further helps me stress my point on investment in human capital. South Asia faces a higher rate of illiteracy, a higher rate of violence to women, greater women’s inequality, a high mortality rate and a lack of proper governance both politically and socially. Overcoming these challenges overnight is not possible, but the very basic steps toward addressing these problems would be educating the human capital.
- The government should focus a large portion of its budget on educating its population, be it in the form of formal education or vocational training. The World Bank states that the governments in South Asia have invested heavily in 2015 to achieve the Millennium Development Goal, which has increased the enrollment rate in the primary sector from 75 percent to 85 percent; however, this is not enough. The present high level of education in Singapore stems from two main factors, namely strong political commitment and governmental control over educational development.
- Accessibility—this is another issue that should be looked into from a geostrategic point. Many rural areas are isolated, and basic necessities such as pure drinking water or electricity are out of reach in those areas. While building schools, these areas need to be included, even more due to their isolation.
- Quality—It is never about quantity but more about quality when we speak about human development; hence raising teaching quality or teacher quality in rural areas especially is a necessity. This can be obtained by incentivizing and encouraging teachers to take up jobs in rural areas and upgrading their work facilities in those areas.
- Private sector—Government also should encourage the private sector to invest in quality education by easing entry barriers or encouraging well-designed public-private partnership, as it may be difficult for government itself to make high investments, especially on the tertiary level where education can become expensive.
A large share being taken by the private sector at all levels of education is also another proven reason for the growth of the Southeast Asian education system. This further helps fill the gap created due to the absence of public schools in certain areas.
- Lastly, the most important factor is ensuring that children are well nourished, which otherwise will lead to a damaging effect on the ability to learn.
Without this basic but necessary foundation we will always have a population made up of an uneducated and unskilled labor force, which will leave us incompetent at all levels.
Human development generally focuses on three things: knowledge, life expectancy and GNP. And education sits at the core of any economic growth; as proven in other countries, a higher literacy rate results in a higher life expectancy rate at birth and a lower fertility rate of mothers.
Not moving too far and looking into our experiences closely, we can claim the major setback for peace in South Asia is its lack of human development and good governance. Our region is known not only for poverty and illiteracy but also for growing corruption, mismanagement and the absence of the rule of law dominating the political, social and economic landscape.
The growing magnitude of poverty in South Asia is alarming, and ironically most of the countries in South Asia have agriculture as their major source of economy.
Hence the basic right to human development should be the biggest concern in South Asia; policies surrounding a quality education system should be encouraged, which then helps human development.
Along with the imperative of human development, human security is a crucial factor for peace.
As [the late Pakistani Finance Minister] Dr. Mahbub Ul Haq once said, “Human security means a child who did not die, a disease that did not spread, an ethnic tension that did not explode, a dissident who was not silenced, a human spirit that was not crushed.” This is possible only through education.
Hence, in order to have peace and human development, I cannot stress enough how investment in human capital is an absolute must and quality education should be looked upon as a birthright of all citizens.
For more information about the World Summit, click here.