More accountable development cooperation is necessary for efforts to improve human security and inclusivity at all levels, UNDP HDR finds

Monrovia, Liberia; 12 March 2024: On 13 March 2023, there will be a global launch of the UNDP 2023/2024 Human Development Report titled “Breaking the Gridlock: Reimagining Cooperation in a Polarized World”.

Among other exciting questions, the report seeks to address the following: 1) What is the state of human development? 2) How can we improve cooperation in a divided world?  3) What can we do to advance the SDGs and leave no one behind?

The report presents proposals on reimagining cooperation in ways that do not take away divergent interests or opinions but work with them to deliver global public goods – which we all stand to benefit.

This report opens a new trilogy of human development reports that will explore further the layers of uncertainty identified in the latest HDR: how to address polarization (2023-24), shape our shared digital future to advance human development (2025), and marshal human aspirations to navigate the Anthropocene (2026).

The report is coming at an auspicious time for Liberia following a smooth democratic transition where the focus is now on advancing development in ways that accelerate progress towards the achievement of the SDGs, to rescue the remaining 7 years for the global development goals.

The report complements other analytical works including the ongoing study on the Drivers of Sustainable and Inclusive Development now being concluded by the government and its partners. With plans underway to develop the next national development plan, the report comes at a critical moment to help Liberia rethink its development trajectory, identify priority investments, and spur inclusive and sustainable development that will ultimately impact human lives.

The rich analytical information contained in the 2023/2024 HDR will also contribute to the preparation of Liberia’s next medium-term plan, informed by the ARREST agenda, the Drivers of Sustainable and Inclusive Development, the Liberia SDG’s Transformation Roadmap, and other analytical reports. With 52.9 percent of the population multidimensionally poor, and 50.9 percent living below the national poverty line, the life expectancy situation is not so encouraging, as it had receded from 64.1 in 2019 to 60.7 in 2021.

Liberia’s state of human development requires high-impact actions for more prosperous sustainable development gains- using the country’s resources for development, investing in quality education, building skills for future jobs, promoting greater gender inclusion, accelerating community development, decentralization and local economic empowerment, strengthening the center of government, tackling climate change and turning climate vulnerabilities into opportunities for climate finance, and reducing fiscal space leakages through collective efforts to stem corruption.

Since 2018, the poverty level has remained stubbornly at half of the population with consequential interlinkages to good health and well-being (SDG 3), educational attainment (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), climate action (SDG 13), life on land (SDG15), peace and access to justice (SDG 16).

Given Liberia’s high level of vulnerability to the vagaries of the global economy, GDP growth has not been as robust as anticipated, with the growth rate falling below the 7% annual rate estimated to meet the SDGs.

Nor can Liberia make progress towards reducing poverty to acceptable levels by 2027, without significant re-prioritization and sustained investment directed at the lower end of the income stream to reduce decades-old income inequality. Moreover, the government and civil society need to engage more openly on the true dimensions of pervasive poverty in rural areas and urban informal settlements so that workable situations can emerge and the needs of the poorest can be addressed.

This can only happen if reliable data such as the HDR is available to track progress on the SDGs at the local level and to inform decision-making on prioritization in the fiscal framework.  While the Accelerated Community Development Programme is a good start for local/rural empowerment, the implementation of a Local Government Act, and strengthening decentralization and local economic development are critical to the improvement of human development, leaving no one behind.

Although Liberia remains in the low human development category where it ranked 178 out of 191 countries and territories in 2021, we can build on Liberia’s past performance improvements in the human development index. The country’s HDI in 2021 was 0.481, compared to 0.480 in 2020, equivalent to a point improvement in the ranking for 2021 compared to 2020.

In 2021, Liberia’s average years of schooling were 5.1, while the expected years of schooling were 10.4 years, representing an increase of 0.3 years and 0.8 years respectively. Liberia’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita increased by about 2.5%. Nevertheless, the reversal of the life expectancy growth trend shows how multiple global crises and changing climate are impacting sustainable development gains, and the need to build resilience and invest in human development, especially for rural communities at risk of a further deterioration of their ability to live a healthy and longer life.  This thus reminds us of the need to leverage cooperation to deliver public goods more inclusively.

Since 2000, Liberia has maintained a general upward trend in its human development index. Between 2000 and 2019, Liberia’s HDI value increased from 0.435 to 0.480, an increase of 10.3% driven by life expectancy at birth which increased by 12.4 years (from 51.7 to 64.1), and the average number of years of schooling which increased by 1.3 years (3.5 to 4.8 years).

Nevertheless, inequality both spatial and gender persists in Liberia. Liberia’s HDI for women and girls was 0.447 lagging behind that of men and boys, which was 0.513 in 2021. On the Gender Inequality Index (GII) Liberia has a value of 0.648, ranking it 164 out of 170 countries in 2021.

The HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge/education, and a decent standard of living.

The latest edition of the HDR offers a fresh and complimentary perspective to the previous reports, reminding us that for Liberia to achieve middle-income status,  more investments are needed in education, health, and living standards, and concerted efforts made in tackling poverty, inequality, vulnerability, and climate change, and ensuring that Liberia’s resource endowment serves as an opportunity for shared prosperity, where the dividend of peace is widely felt, social cohesion is promoted.

The human development approach argues that genuine development should seek to expand the richness of lives not just the economy. The first Human Development Report was released in 1990 and it began with the powerful idea: that “People are the real wealth of nations”.

Every report since then has built on this and sought to understand development issues as they affect people’s day-to-day lives. This report is no different. The Human Development Report has made it possible to fundamentally reconsider the individual’s place in development, including the impact of direct intervention by humankind into nature.

To improve development outcomes, UNDP reiterates its commitment to continue its support to the Government and the people of Liberia. A national launch will follow the global launch to fuel debate on the 2023/2024 HDR between the government, citizens, private sector, civil society, and development partners.

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