Our Perspectives

Pakistan’s investment in resilience is the ultimate win-win


Pakistani man smilingThe provision of basic social services empowers people to live the lives they value. Photo: UNDP Pakistan

In the last 2 decades, most countries have registered significant improvements in human development. Now, vulnerability and the impact of crises and disasters are undermining the hard won progress or slowing down its growth.  The annual growth in Human Development Index (HDI) value has declined in Pakistan from 2 percent in 2000-2008 to almost zero during 2008-13.  The 2014 UNDP Human Development Report (HDR) 2014 launch in Pakistan demonstrates that progress cannot be sustained without building resilience.

The report highlights two crucial types of vulnerabilities influencing human capabilities: life cycle and structural vulnerabilities.

Life cycle vulnerabilities are the result of peoples’ life histories, with past outcomes influencing present exposure to and ways of coping with vulnerabilities. Unfortunately in Pakistan, vulnerabilities at the early stage of the life cycle are the highest.

The structural vulnerabilities are generated from social, legal institutions, power structures, political traditions and socio-cultural norms. Structural vulnerabilities are manifested through deep inequalities and widespread poverty. In Pakistan, 44.2 percent of the households live in poverty, according to the multidimensional poverty index.

There are at least five lessons from the report and global experience which are central for Pakistan’s future:

  • The provision of basic social services empowers people to live the lives they value. Social protection, including unemployment insurance, pension programmes and labor markets regulations can offer coverage against risk and adversity through people’s lives.
  • The timing of the intervention is critical because failing to support the development of capabilities at the right time is costly to fix later in life. Investment at early childhood and youth has much higher impact on human capabilities than investment at a later stage of life.
  • Unemployment – particularly of the youth of Pakistan - entails high economic and social costs. Policies are needed to support structural transformation, increasing formal employment and regulating conditions of work as well as reducing vulnerabilities and securing livelihoods of the work force in informal sector.
  • Persistent vulnerability is rooted in historic exclusions. Minorities encounter discrimination and exclusion due to long standing cultural practices and social norms. Responsible and accountable institutions should enhance social cohesion, prevent conflict and violence especially in situations of unequal access to resources.
  • Finally, natural disasters expose and exacerbate vulnerabilities, such as poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and weak governance. Serious investments in community based disasters risk management in Pakistan and regional cooperation on early warning system between India and Pakistan on disasters like floods can be highly effective.

Pakistan’s investment in resilience today is the ultimate win-win: reducing adverse impact and costs and freeing resources for additional investments where it matters most. 

Human development report Pakistan Asia & the Pacific Sustainable development Poverty reduction and inequality Adaptation Inclusive growth

UNDP Around the world