While Peru has gone up the UNDP’s international human development report ranking, a local report published recently shows huge geographical inequalities, both in terms of human development and the presence of the state on the ground.

The publication each year of the UNDP’s Human Development Report (HDR) documenting and reviewing poverty and inequality is a noteworthy event. The main international document, published last week, is over 300 pages of careful methodology and presentation. The country report on Peru was published at the end of November. Also available is a useful briefing paper on Peru. Readers are encouraged to look at these documents to see how Peru has fared both with respect to the past and how it compares with other countries.

The Human Development Index (HDI) has developed beyond recognition over time, which is both a plus and a minus; on the minus side it can make comparisons over time more difficult and misleading. For the highest possible level of comparability over time and between countries, the reader is referred to Table 2 on page 304 of the main HDR2019 Report.  This shows that Peru’s HDI rose from 0.613 in 1990 to 0.759 in 2018, enabling the country to move four places up the international ranking. Its close Latin neighbours are Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Ecuador. Chile has the highest ranking among Latin American countries in the table.

Very interesting new indices produced in the last few years cover gender inequality and the HDI corrected for inequality. An important innovation is a multi-dimensional index of poverty. Detailed analyses, summarised as ‘dashboards’, cover women’s empowerment, environmental sustainability and socio-economic sustainability. The methodology for each of these is fully presented in the main international report.

The innovations and improvements in measurements are exceptionally useful, and usefully explained in the Peru report. The Peru report reveals a strong preoccupation with geography, crucial to the analysis of the Peruvian case. An additional measure that features prominently is the effort to examine data on state presence and the progress (or lack of it) in the HDI.

Using data by province, the report compares data for 2007 with 2017.  The presence of the state at the provincial level is measured by delivery of basic services, provision of ‘integration’ (electricity) and ‘identity’ (documents). It is shown to have grown significantly in many sierra provinces, though not in the selva.

But strikingly, the correlation work shows that the increased presence of the state in the sierra does not result in a corresponding improvement in the HDI.  Provinces which are high and lightly populated do poorly. This leads the authors to strong conclusions (going beyond the data but only too plausible) concerning the importance of many actors’ responses and local roles, above all local governments but also local civil society.

In the spirit of this finding, and in line with international work around the HDR, much emphasis is placed on the report’s own participative methodology, helping it to effect change in its own right.

A ‘collective space’ was organised building on a ‘festival of innovation’, where some 200 young people from Lima and Huaraz worked together on solutions to problems of public policy affecting growth in young people’s capacities and opportunities (p.17). Three national universities were drawn in to collaborate. A prototype was developed for Ancash of multi-actor intervention to accelerate the region’s development, one capable of being exported to other regions (p16).