The next frontier of human development - the shared fate of people and planet

December 15, 2020

Photo: UNDP Ghana

This week, Ghana joins the rest of the world in launching a landmark report that shapes the new frontier in global human development. It recognizes that for the first time in a relationship spanning 300,000 years, instead of the planet shaping humanity, humanity is shaping the planet.

This latest UNDP Human Development Report, titled “The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene” coincides with a new era as Ghana and countries all over the world seek to rebuild and recover from the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

It is clear that the government of Ghana is working hard to mitigate the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the lives and livelihoods of Ghanaians. The Ghana CARES programme for instance aims to ensure that Ghana quickly emerges from the pandemic with a stronger and more resilient economy. By providing immediate relief and support as well as revitalizing local businesses and transforming the economy of the country, the Ghana CARES Programme aims to accelerate the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda towards the achievement of the SDGs.

The bold and comprehensive actions proposed in this year’s Human Development Report can help to overcome the anticipated decline in Human Development as a result of COVID-19.  For the first time in 30 years, the human development index is set to decline from reversals in health, education outcomes, disrupted livelihoods and income. In responding to this decline, Ghana must seize emerging opportunities to re-create in line with her bold vision of a transformed society and a prosperous economy.  

Three aspects covered in this report will set the stage for navigating complex, interconnected social and ecological systems. They provide a roadmap to expand human development and a robust recovery from COVID-19 while maintaining a balance with nature to keep within planetary boundaries.

First, the report calls for a reorientation of social norms and values in order to empower people to live and work to expand human freedoms while easing pressure on the planet. Many parts of the country are already badly affected by the rising destabilisation of the systems we all depend on for survival including biodiversity, wildlife, oceans and land.  This report showcases an opportunity to create new social norms that allow Ghana’s young and fast-growing population in rural and urban areas, to work with nature, not against it.

Secondly, the report calls for the implementation of bold incentives and regulatory frameworks that will help to catalyse investments in both blue and green economies. These bold incentives are in line with and could support the Ghana CARES Programme in mobilizing private sector investments to contribute to the estimated GH₵100 billion (or US$18 billion) to be invested in 3 years. Seventy percent (70%) of this investment is expected to come from the private sector. Catalysing private sector investments therefore could leverage access to green and climate financing and help to tap into the blue economy. Ghana is well positioned to lead in effective protection, sustainable consumption and equitable prosperity as one of the 14 countries that developed the recent report of the high-level panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. Emerging tools such as UNDP supported SDG Investor Maps will provide intelligence on Investment Opportunities linked to national development priorities to connect businesses to investment opportunities.

Finally, as the first generation to jumpstart this transition to a world shaped by humans, the report speaks to our innovators to help decide what we will all be remembered for. We need more and widespread innovative nature-based solutions that accelerate human development and the achievement of the SDGs, by expanding people’s choices and opportunities with greater equity and less planetary pressure. The UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner, has challenged us with these questions: “will we be remembered by the fossil we leave behind, […] a legacy of loss and waste? Or will we leave a much more valuable imprint: balance between people and planet, a future that is fair and just?”

Over the coming months, UNDP will work with partners to navigate the complexities of these questions and explore connections and opportunities in the Anthropocene for Ghana.

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