Multiple crises halt progress as 9 out of 10 countries fall backwards in human development, UNDP report warns

September 15, 2022
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Asia-Pacific Regional Launch of Human Development Report 2022

UNDP Bhutan/Phuntsho Namgay

15 September 2022:  The world is lurching from crisis to crisis, trapped in a cycle of firefighting and unable to tackle the roots of the troubles that confront us. Without a sharp change of course, we may be heading towards even more deprivations and injustices, warns the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  

The Human Development Report 2022, “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World”, argues that layers of uncertainty are stacking up and interacting to unsettle life in unprecedented ways. The last two years have had a devastating impact on billions of people around the world, when crises like COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine hit back-to-back, and interacted with sweeping social and economic shifts, dangerous planetary changes, and massive increases in polarization. 

Launch of HDR 2022

Lyonpo Namgay Tshering, Minister for Finance and Ms. Kanni Wignaraja, UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific launched the report at the Royal University of Bhutan in Thimphu

UNDP Bhutan/Phuntsho Namgay

For the first time in the 32 years that UNDP has been calculating it, the Human Development Index, which measures a nation’s health, education, and standard of living, has declined globally, for two years in a row. Human development has fallen back to its 2016 levels, reversing much of the progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals. 

The reversal is nearly universal as over 90 percent of countries registered a decline in their HDI score in either 2020 or 2021 and more than 40 percent declined in both years, signaling that the crisis is still deepening for many. 

The Asia-Pacific region, home to more than 60 percent of the global population and comprising of some of the most conflict-stricken and disaster-prone regions in the world, is particularly vulnerable to the daunting human development challenges posed by this age of uncertainty, inequality, and polarization. 

UNDP Bhutan/Phuntsho Namgay

While some countries are beginning to get back on their feet, recovery is uneven and partial, further widening inequalities in human development. South Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa have been hit particularly hard. 

Bhutan is among some of the countries that have bucked the trend and improved their standings. It has moved up two ranks on the 2022 Human Development Index from 129 to 127.  There has been a consistent rise across all Human Development indicators that include, life expectancy, education, and gross national income.   

The report further explores the many reasons why the change needed isn’t happening, including how insecurity and polarization are feeding off each other today to prevent the solidarity and collective action required to tackle crises of this magnitude. New calculations show, for instance, that those feeling most insecure are also more likely to hold extreme political views. 

To chart a new course, the report recommends implementing policies that focus on investment — from renewable energy to preparedness for pandemics, and insurance—including social protection— to better prepare our societies for the ups and downs of an uncertain world. While innovation in its many forms—technological, economic, cultural—can also build capacities to respond to whatever challenges come next. 

The Regional Launch of the Global HDR Report for the Asia and the Pacific was held today in Thimphu, Bhutan. The Launch was attended by his Excellency Namgay Tshering Finance Minister of Bhutan and by Ms. Kanni Wignaraja, UN Assistant Secretary-General, and UNDP Regional Director for the Asia-Pacific Region.   

“The task in front of us is urgent. Bhutan as a small landlocked nation is also impacted by such uncertain times; COVID-19 is displacing people economically and socially, and climate change and global warming are making Bhutan more vulnerable than ever to climate and economic shocks. We are truly being tested in our commitment and ability to address the multitude of challenges that demand us to work together,” said His Excellency Lyonpo Namgay Tshering.

Speaking at the launch, Ms. Wignaraja, said: “We can accomplish a lot when we work together towards shared goals. By doubling down on human development investments, protecting the planet, and providing people with the tools they need to feel more secure and thrive in an uncertain world, we can create futures of prosperity, opportunity, and hope. Where we go from here is up to us.”

The Human Development Report is UNDP’s flagship report. Premised on the powerful idea, that “people are the real wealth of nations”, UNDP conceived its first Human Development Report in 1990. The 2022 HDR is the 31st edition of the report.


Media enquiries:

Dechen Wangmo, Communications Analyst, UNDP Bhutan, Mobile: +975 1734 3086, Tel: +975 322424 Ext: 135, Email:

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