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Award-Winning Report

21 June 2007

The Asia-Pacific region is at the forefront of international trade—dispatching goods across the world and selling services from Manila to Bangalore. But what kind of impact is globalization having on the lives of people in the region, especially the poor? International trade has fuelled economic growth and alleviated poverty in the region, but it also has increased inequalities. Smaller countries are being out-competed and overwhelmed by exports from China. Many open economies—and in particular the East Asian tigers—are creating far too few jobs, resulting in growing unemployment, according to an independent report commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme.

Titled “Trade on Human Terms: Transforming Trade for Human Development in Asia and the Pacific” the report urges the region to take the needs of the poor into account when formulating trade policies. It also asks nations to focus more on rural development and pursue strategies that, along with economic growth, would increase the number of jobs.

“Asia-Pacific is at the forefront of globalization and is today one of the world’s most rapidly growing regions, said Anuradha Rajivan, leader of the multinational team that prepared the report. “Yet at the same time, inequalities are growing both between countries and within national borders, pointing to the need for state policies to counterbalance market forces.”

On 20 June, the Asia-Pacific report and research team were honoured in New York with a United Nations Human Development Award, for excellence and innovation for a region.

“This report is by and for the people of the Asia-Pacific region. It seeks to demystify trade related issues, making them more accessible to a wider cross-section of people, thereby facilitating more informed debate and advocacy,” said Hafiz Pasha, regional director of the Bureau for Asia and the Pacific region for UNDP. “In doing so, it hopes to promote human development in the region.”

Like human development reports produced around the world, the Asia-Pacific study was editorially independent, from conception to data collection, analyses to policy recommendations. That means it was free to say what governments in the region and others may not have necessarily wanted to hear.

According to the report, some parts of the region—especially 14 so-called “least-developed countries” as well as the Pacific Islands—have not benefited much from trade, in human development terms.

“Asia-Pacific is a region of contrasts and, due to the tyranny of averages, the relatively poor performance of the least-developed countries gets less attention,” Rajivan said.

Among the research team's key findings: Now that there are no longer quotas for textile and clothing imports, the region has gained overall. But because of trade barriers that distort prices, agriculture has stagnated, forcing the region to import food and devastating the livelihoods of people in rural areas.

The report contends that one of the keys to successfully managing globalization to benefit all is opening up trade selectively, and in a proper sequence.

“International trade has helped many in the Asia-Pacific region prosper, but the uneven playing field is causing too many others, especially the poor, to lose out,” said Kevin Watkins, director of the Human Development Report Office. “The poor, too, should have the right to share in the economic bounty of trade. Only when there are economic opportunities for all can a region achieve its full potential in human development.”

“The Asia-Pacific report identifies the policies needed to ensure that all people realize the potential benefits of trade,” said Kemal Derviş, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. “It sends the message that success in the global marketplace brings with it social responsibilities as well.”

The Human Development Awards, which are given every two to three years, recognize the contributions of national and regional reports to improve policies and practices.

Judges for this award included Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Princess Basma of Jordan, President Jorge Quiroga of Bolivia and Dr. Gita Sen of Harvard University and the Indian Institute of Management. Previous awards were given in 2000, 2002 and 2004.

More information about this year's Human Development Awards can be found at: Human Development Report Office Outreach and Advocacy Unit: Telephone: +212.906.6763 Mobile: +646-201-8036 Email: or or