Multiple global crises reverse human development gains worldwide, UNDP report finds

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has released the 2022 Human Development Report (HDR), which also contains the Human Development Index (HDI), which assesses the state of human development worldwide and ranks 191 countries based on their national progress.

The 2022 HDR titled Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World finds that 90% of countries recorded unprecedented reversals in human development progress in 2020 or 2021 as a result of multiple global crises – COVID-19, the climate emergency, the war in Ukraine and rapid technological innovations, which are fostering greater inequalities.

Liberia has shown a slight improvement in the Human Development Index (HDI). The country’s HDI in 2021 was 0.481, compared to 0.480 in 2020. When inequality of human development across the country is factored in, Liberia’s HDI drops to 0.330. Liberia remains in the low human development category being ranked 178 out of 191 countries and territories, one point improvement over the previous rank in 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 life expectancy growth trend with a reduction of 3.4 years in just 1 year from 64.1 years in 2019 to 60.7 years in 2020 shows how multiple global crises are impacting the 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.

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 year (3.5 to 4.8 years).

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.

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.

For the first time in the 32 years that UNDP have been computing the Human Development Index, global development has declined for two consecutive years. Human development has fallen back to its 2016 levels, reversing much of the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The report finds that inequalities and uncertainty are reinforcing one another to negatively impact human development and undermine our sense of control over our lives.

“The world is scrambling to respond to back-to-back crises. We have seen with the cost of living and energy crises. While it is tempting to focus on quick fixes like subsidizing fossil fuels, immediate relief tactics are delaying the long-term systemic changes we must make” says Achim Steiner, the UNDP Administrator. “We are collectively paralyzed in making the required changes. In a world defined by uncertainty, we need a renewed sense of global solidarity to tackle our interconnected, common challenges.”

The report presents a fresh narrative on human development examining how new layers of uncertainties are interacting to create new unknowns to the everyday uncertainties that people have faced in the past.

The new uncertainties are associated with how humanity is dangerously changing nature, the transition towards new ways of organizing industrial societies, and the intensification of political and social polarization across and within globally.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which sparked global energy, food, and finance crises, are devastating manifestations of today’s uncertainty. It is crucial that we strengthen and accelerate the implementation of the SDGs, to recoup the development gains eroded by these new uncertainties if we are to achieve the 2030 SDG Agenda.

In response to these challenges, the 2022 Human Development Report proposes adoption of policies that focus on three ‘I’s: investment — in renewable energy and preparedness for pandemics; on insurance—including social protection and investments in universal basic services; and on innovation in its many forms—technological, economic, cultural—to build capacities to respond to whatever challenges come next.

The Human Development Report has made it possible to fundamentally reconsider the place of the individual 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 2021/2022 HDR between the government, citizens, private sector, civil society, and development partners.

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