in depthPhoto: Prashanth Vishwanathan/UNDP India

Since 1999, in partnership with the Planning Commission, NITI Aayog, and a range of other stakeholders, both nationally and at state level, UNDP has supported efforts to integrate human development into planning and action. The partnership began with an initiative to develop the capacity of state planning bodies to prepare state HDRs. The partnership between Planning Commission and UNDP has evolved over the years – from preparation of State HDRs and later District HDRs to collaboratively supporting action at the State level for better human development.  The first sub-national Human Development Report was prepared in India for the State of Madhya Pradesh in 1995 by the State government. Thereafter, UNDP and Planning Commission have supported the preparation of 31 State HDRs and 59 District HDRs.  Many States now prepare their own Human Development Reports at the state and district levels.

An important feature of these reports is that they are owned by the governments thereby making the governments responsible to act on the recommendations. The importance of HDR as a tool for planning is highlighted by the fact that the Ministry of Home Affairs has advised all districts to prepare HDRs to be used as District Gazetteers. Further, the 11th Plan mandates preparation of District HDRs for all districts in conjunction which district planning. This work in India has been recognized by UNDP globally as a practice leading to transformational change. HDRs of West Bengal and Chhattisgarh have also won global awards, and are widely recognized for analytical quality and significant local participation in their preparation.

In addition to State HDRs and District HDRs, the work on human development has also included:

  • Strengthening of statistical systems
  • Research on financing for human development
  • Gender analysis of budgets and policies
  • Capacity development and advocacy on human development

Several Evaluations have Recognized the Importance of the HDRs.

An independent evaluation acknowledged that UNDP brought the human development agenda to attention, just when the Government of India was beginning to recognize the need to invest strategically in education, health, drinking water and other social sectors in the 1990s. In doing so, it ensured that human development did not remain an abstract concept, understood only in multilateral donor headquarters. UNDP’s human development work has indirectly contributed to safeguarding Indian national/state spending on human development despite recent fiscal austerity crunches. The evaluation study of the human development project noted that ‘Over the ten years of the programme, a strengthening of political commitment towards human development can be seen at the state level as well’. This commitment is reflected in the annual state economic surveys and plans of several states now include separate chapters on human development. Impact of analysis on issues of state finances and human development is also visible in state budgets.

UNDP also made efforts to mainstream gender into planning through tools such as gender budgeting that has resulted in earmarking budgets for women. For instance, in West Bengal, several departments created gender sensitive budgets and budget heads for schemes related to women and children. In Maharashtra, classification of schemes at state and district level from women and child perspective has been introduced. UNDP has also responded to one of the key challenges to people-responsive planning by strengthening statistical systems for planning. Stronger statistical systems have ensured availability of data on human development at the district level including in states that have weak statistical systems such as Nagaland and newer states such as Chhattisgarh.

India’s rich experience with human development, has made it the learning ground for other countries. Through another project implemented between 2012 and 2015, an International Centre for Human Development supported experience sharing  on human development reporting and analysis with other countries. The primary aim of the initiative was to help move countries from analysis to action, and to make government policies and programmes more responsive to the needs of the persistently excluded.

Deepening Partnership on Human Development

Going forward and building on this strong foundation, the next phase of UNDP work on human development in collaboration with NITI Aayog focuses on supporting state level analysis on persistent inequalities, further strengthening of statistical systems to be used in planning, and capacity development with a range of stakeholders. The US$ 5.5 million partnership till 2017 will focus on helping states reach the next level in human development – translating analysis into policy action with a focus on bridging inequalities.

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