6 in 7 people worldwide plagued by feelings of insecurity

Posted February 9, 2022

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9 February 2022: Global development progress does not automatically lead to a greater sense of security, according to a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report on human security released yesterday.

New data and analysis in the report, New Threats to Human Security in the Anthropocene, shows that people’s sense of safety and security is at a low in almost every country, including the richest countries, despite years of upwards development success. Those benefiting from some of the highest levels of good health, wealth, and education outcomes are reporting even greater anxiety than 10 years ago.

To tackle this disconnect between development and perceived security, the report calls for greater solidarity across borders and a new approach to development; one that allows people to live free from want, fear, anxiety and indignity. 

“This special report finds a development conundrum. Despite people on average living longer, healthier and wealthier lives, these advances have not succeeded in increasing people’s sense of security. This is true for countries across the development spectrum, with perceptions of insecurity worsening most in recent years in several high-income income countries, even before the COVID-19 pandemic,” said UNDP Bhutan Resident Representative Azusa Kubota.

“The era of humans, or the age of the Anthropocene, has seen rapid planetary and social changes which have exacerbated existing threats and created new and emerging dangers. This reality demands a new approach to human security and to development, which is centered the restoration of our planet and global solidarity.”

The imperative to act now has never been more clear, as new findings also show that global life expectancy at birth is falling for a second year because of COVID-19, and overall human development measures are also moving downward. Furthermore, climate change is likely to become a leading cause of death around the world.  Even with moderate mitigation of emissions, some 40 million people might die because of changes in temperatures before the end of the century.

The report examines a cluster of threats that have shifted to become more prominent in recent years including those from digital technologies, inequalities, conflicts, and the ability of healthcare systems to tackle new challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing these threats, report authors argue, will require policy makers to consider protection, empowerment, and solidarity alongside one another so that human security, planetary considerations and human development all work together and not despite each other. This means that solutions for one problem shouldn’t exacerbate other problems.

“A key element for practical action highlighted in the report is building a greater sense of global solidarity based on the idea of common security. Common security recognises that a community can only be secure if adjacent communities are too. This is something we see all too clearly with the current pandemic: nations are largely powerless to prevent new mutations of this coronavirus from crossing borders,” said UNDP. 

The report also notes the strong association between declining levels of trust and feelings of insecurity. People with higher levels of perceived human insecurity are three times less likely to find others trustworthy.

Other new findings in the report include:

·         The more highly developed countries tend to capitalize more on the benefits from planetary pressures and suffer less of their consequences, highlighting how climate change is pushing inequalities further apart.

·         About 1.2 billion people live in conflict-affected areas, with almost half of them (560 million) in countries not usually considered to be fragile, indicating that the traditional ideas about which countries are most vulnerable to conflict need to be revisited.

·         In 2021, despite the highest global GDP in history, and despite COVID-19 vaccines becoming more readily available in some countries, global life expectancy declined for the second year in a row. Declining by about one and a half years on average compared to a pre-COVID world.

·         There are large and widening gaps in healthcare systems between countries. According to the report’s new Healthcare Universalism Index, between 1995 and 2017, the inequality in healthcare performance between countries with low and very high human development worsened.

The concept of human security, first introduced in UNDP’s milestone 1994 Human Development Report, signaled a radical departure from the idea that people’s security should be only assessed by looking at territorial security, emphasizing the importance of people’s basic needs, their dignity, and their safety to live secure lives.

For the full report, visit HERE.

For for more information, contact: 

Ms. Dechen Wangmo, Communications Analyst, UNDP Bhutan, Mobile: +975 1734 3086, Email: dechen.wangmo@undp.org