YEREVAN–Consuelo Vidal, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Simon Papyan, First Deputy Minister of Nature Protection, and Nerses Yeritsyan, Minister of Trade and Economic Development, last month presented the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2007/2008 to the Armenian public, during a press conference held at the UN House.
Published annually since 1990, the Human Development Report (HDR) provides a thorough and objective analysis of the current state of human development and draws worldwide attention to issues vital for humanity, concentrating on a specific theme of global significance. The latest report, subtitled “Fighting Climate Change: Human’solidarity in a divided world,” focuses, particularly, on global warming, its devastating consequences, and the urgency of taking action to help curtail them.
“The well-being and future development of humanity hinge on the highest level of awareness regarding the issues facing our world and, as importantly, the will to address them in a truly collaborative manner,” Vidal commented. “The UNDP Human Development Report has fast become the global standard in the study and mitigation of core problems affecting our planet.”
The findings of the HDR are factored into the Human Development Index (HDI), which is designed to assess the relative human-development level of every country in three basic dimensions: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living. For 2007/2008, Armenia’s HDI value stands at 0.775, ranking it at 83 out of 177 countries. These figures represent a gain of .007 points but a three-level drop in ranking compared with 2006. However, if today’s revised HDI criteria were to be applied to the 2006 rankings, Armenia that year would have stood at 90 and thus advanced by seven levels this year, not dropped by three. In terms of HDI ranking for 2007/2008, the closest to Armenia from Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS countries are Ukraine, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, ranked 76th, 96th, and 98th, respectively. Armenia’s other neighbours, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey, are ranked 94th and 84th, respectively.
The latest HDR shows that climate change is no longer a matter of speculation. It goes on to state that exposure to droughts, floods, and storms is already destroying opportunity and reinforcing inequality. ”There is now overwhelming scientific evidence that the world is moving towards the point at which irreversible ecological catastrophe would be unavoidable,” it says.
As in previous years, the 2007/2008 HDR stresses that climate change is not purely an environmental issue but rather a complex phenomenon which poses a great challenge to the development of humanity and realization of the UN Millennium Development Goals.
The report indicates that the poorest countries and populations will suffer the earlier and most damaging setback, even though they have contributed the least to the problem. Some 262 million people, over 98 percent of them in the developing world, were affected by climate-related disasters annually from 2000 to 2004. Further temperature increases of 3-4? C could result in 330 million people being permanently or temporarily displaced as a result of floods, and 20-30 percent of land species could face extinction. An additional 220-400 million people could be exposed to malaria ‘s a disease that already claims around 1 million lives annually. These eventualities represent only a tiny fragment of the consequences of climate change.
According to the report, in order to effectively fight climate change and the threats it poses to humanity, mitigation and adaptation must go hand in hand.
According to the First National Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Armenia the scenario of a 2? C increase in temperature over the 21st century would have the following consequences:
Decrease of total annual flow of water by 15-20 percent;
Reduction of precipitation by 10 percent;
Expansion of desert and semi-desert areas by 33 percent;
Reduction of livestock by 30 percent and dairy production by 28-33 percent;
Reduction of crops by 8-14 percent.
Though the overall economic cost of such scenarios in Armenia has not yet been calculated, the global picture is clear. The HDR report indicates that if no action is taken now for a drastic reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, the overall cost of adaptation measures may total around US $86 billion annually by 2015, representing close to 0.2 percent of the GDP of developed countries.
As significant as these figures may seem, they pale in comparison to the human and financial costs of the expected damages in health, livelihoods, ecosystems, property, and infrastructure if no immediate measures are taken.
“Climate change is exactly the kind of global challenge that the United Nations is best suited to address,” Ms. Vidal said. “This is why we have initiated a study of the actual economic costs of climate change, which will become a baseline document to help the government of Armenia institute appropriate adaptation strategies, integrate them into sectoral policies, and take relevant measures to curb the impact of climate change in the country.”
This week, Vidal and Sergey Hambardzumyan, an Armenian entrepreneur based in Moscow, signed an unprecedented agreement whereby Hambardzumyan will support a host of community-development initiatives in the village of Yeghvard, located in Syunik Marz, Armenia. The signing ceremony was held in Moscow, at the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia, in the presence of Armen Smbatyan, Armenian Ambassador to the Russian Federation.
The agreement covers three agricultural initiatives that have been identified by the Yeghvard community as top development priorities. The identification process, based on a participatory strategic planning scheme, has been spearheaded by UNDP Armenia through its Community Development Project. UNDP Armenia works extensively with rural communities to foster a grassroots mechanism of discussing local development needs, prioritizing subsequent projects, and creating community ownership of projects.
“Our agreement with Mr. Hambardzumyan is a milestone in our efforts to establish collaborative links with the Armenian-Russian Diaspora,” Vidal said. “Russian-Armenian donors and donor organizations are eager to support key development programs in the Armenian homeland, and UNDP Armenia is proud to provide its development expertise and proven capacity to implement projects on the ground, in close cooperation with our partners.”
The first initiative stipulated in the agreement is to provide a fleet of agricultural machinery to Yeghvard, which is home to some 100 households. The village, located 23 kilometers from Kapan, the center of Syunik Marz, was all but destroyed during the Armenian-Azerbaijani armed conflict in the early 1990’s, with 80 percent of its structures sustaining heavy damage. The new farming equipment will enable the residents of Yeghvard to restore their livelihoods by cultivating all of their arable lands. The second and third initiatives comprise the establishment of an evolving wheat-seed fund for local residents and the construction of a flour mill, which will serve the needs of both Yeghvard and neighboring communities.
All development activities in Yeghvard will be carried out within the framework of the UNDP Community Development Project in the course of 2008. Project funding totals $210,500.