Partners pledge to cooperate in addressing global challenges

June 10, 2024

Acting UNDP Resident Representative, Dr. Gita Welch, Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, Thabsile Mlangeni, and UN Resident Coordinator, George Wachira.


After the global release of the 2023/2024 Human Development Report (HDR) on March 13 in New York, USA, Eswatini and several other nations launched the report nationally. Unveiled to a wide range of stakeholders in Eswatini, including policymakers, development partners, UN agencies, civil society organisations, and representatives of the private sector, on May 24 at the UN House in Mbabane, the HDR carries the theme: "Breaking the Gridlock: Reimagining Cooperation in a Polarized World."

The HDR allows the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to catalyse aiding the international community in crafting suitable responses to significant emerging issues concerning human development dimensions. With this purpose, the HDR strives to spark discourse on crucial development matters and, when needed, to draw attention and caution leaders about potential threats if appropriate actions aren't taken. Additionally, it showcases the advancements made by nations and underscores the disparities existing both between and within them, as indicated by Human Development Indicators: the Human Development Index (HDI) and its constituent factors such as life expectancy at birth, expected years of schooling, mean years of schooling, and gross national income per capita.

Referring to the report's theme, Acting UNDP Resident Representative, Dr. Gita Welch, stated that the HDR evaluates the perilous gridlock arising from uneven development progress, exacerbating inequalities, and escalating polarisation, and addresses the necessity of cooperation in such uncertain times.

“The human development approach is concerned with a very basic idea; namely finding ways to advance the richness of human life rather than just the richness of the economies in which human beings live,” she said.  

Welch added that measuring human development helps UNDP and governments understand how people's lives and livelihoods vary globally and how they have changed over time. She said the HDI captures how people’s lives and livelihoods have changed over time through several indicators including the Gender Development Index, Multidimensional Poverty Index, and Gender Inequality Index. 

“All these measures seek to broaden the scope of development beyond simple economic growth, which is indispensable for development, no doubt, but should not obscure the quality of human lives,” said Welch. 

UNDP has produced the global HDR annually for 30 years since the 1990s and further supported Eswatini in developing three national HDRs in 1997, 2007 and 2016. 

Development partners were also part of the conversation. British High Commissioner, H.E Simon Boyden, making a comment at the HDR launch.


Delivering the keynote address, the Minister of Economic Planning and Development, Hon. Dr Tambo Gina, represented by the Principal Secretary, Thabsile Mlangeni, said the national HDRs allow the government to reflect on undertaken actions and to understand how they affect and transform people’s lives.

“We are also able to understand better why other countries with the same level of gross national income per capita as us find themselves with better human development outcomes using these strategies,” said Gina, adding: “Using this information we can review and adjust policies, priorities and strategies for better results.”

He expressed optimism that the global launch of the HDR in Eswatini would catalyse the development of the fourth national HDR. He echoed the report's sentiment that despite being interconnected as nations within a continent and globally, governments and leaders often appear disjointed and fail to collaborate effectively in addressing pressing global challenges such as climate change, pandemics, poverty, and digitalisation.

Gina said global shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related impact and, recently, the effects of resurgent conflicts counter countries' efforts to improve human development.

“As a result of these shocks, developing regions like ours have not met their anticipated you meant development index levels,” he said. 

Gina acknowledged the impact of COVID and other challenges on the healthcare system, highlighting a decrease in life expectancy at birth – an indicator used in measuring HDI – from 57 years in 2021 to 56.4 in 2022. Despite this, he assured that the government is diligently addressing premature deaths and other healthcare challenges. Additionally, he emphasised the importance of improving mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling.

He also highlighted some improvements in the country's gross national income per capita, which increased from USD 8,139 in 2021 to USD 8,392 in 2022. This positive trend, he said, reflects the government’s efforts to create an enabling environment for emaSwati to participate in the economy. Moreover, the HDR reveals an improved ranking for Eswatini, advancing by two places to 142 out of 193 countries.

UNDP Programme Analyst, Mavie Thwala, unpacking the Human Development Report.


Moreover, UNDP programme analyst, Mavie Thwala, further unpacked the HDR. He referred to the gridlock as encompassing catastrophes such as climate change and entrenched development challenges like conflicts. The significant number of displaced people and fatalities resulting from these issues is deeply concerning, posing a worrying trend for humanity because it leads to an agency gap; a sociological phenomenon, which denotes the power and the resources an individual needs to determine their own lives and live up to their full potential. 

Thwala also said the report further highlights that half of the world's population, representing five in 10 people, feel they lack control over their lives. This statistic is alarming, as is the fact that 70% of the global population feels marginalised from political decision-making processes. 

Furthermore, the report highlights how divergent views, often extreme, contribute to polarisation and conflict in many regions globally. For instance, it reveals that only 43% of the world's population is willing to allocate resources towards championing climate action, despite 69% acknowledging the urgency of addressing climate change.

“Essentially what this means is that if we do not deal with these perceptions, if we do not debunk these myths that are being peddled, we risk further polarisation, that leads to insecurity,” he said. 

A panel leading a discussion on issues pertinent to human development in Eswatini.


A panel discussion further unpacked the report along the following thematic areas: 

  • Access to digital public infrastructures, for greater equity in harnessing new technologies for equitable human development.

  • Enhancing people’s voices in tackling misinformation.

  • How Eswatini could take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) implementation.

  • Gender equity and human development trends in Eswatini.

This event also presented an opportunity to kickstart activities of developing the fourth National Human Development Report (NHDR) process that should begin in 2024.