Kosovo launch of the Human Develoment Report 2020: COVID-19 is both a troubling glimpse into what our new normal could be - and an opportunity for choosing a new development pathway

February 16, 2021

We have entered a new geological era - the Anthropocene, or the Age of Humans. For the first time in 300,000 years, humans have become the dominant force in shaping the future of the planet. Our actions – particularly our dependence on fossil fuels and material consumption - are driving climate change, biodiversity collapse, air and water pollution, and land degradation. It is time to for all societies to re-think their development pathways.

The 2020 Human Development Report (HDR 2020) ‘The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene’ argues it is time for all countries - rich and poor - to redesign their pathways for human progress, by fully accounting for the dangerous pressures we as humans put on the planet.

HDR 2020 introduces an experimental new lens to its annual Human Development Index (HDI), the Planetary Pressure-Adjusted HDI (PHDI) which adds a country’s carbon dioxide emissions and its material footprint to the HDI. A new global picture emerges. More than 50 countries drop out from the very high human development group, reflecting wealthy countries dependence on fossil fuels and their material footprint.

UNDP in Kosovo organized a virtual event on 1 February with high-level speakers to discuss what HDR 2020 means for Kosovo and how we can navigate our way forward in this new era.

Ms. Maria Suokko, Resident Representative of UNDP Kosovo, opened the event by emphasizing the necessity of integrating the environment into Kosovo’s upcoming strategies and action plans. For the first time, the environment will be one of the a strategic prioritiesy in the National Development Strategy 2021-2030 currently being drafted. While Kosovo, just like the rest of the world, is navigating through the COVID crisis - and focused on recovery efforts to get is economy back on track – this is also an opportunity to build forward better.

Ms. Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States highlighted that COVID-19 is both a troubling glimpse into what our new normal could be - and an opportunity for choosing a new development pathway. “This is a unique moment. The choices we make today as we build forward better from COVID-19 will be fundamental. We have a once-in-a-generation an opportunity to choose to change.”

Mr Muharrem Nitaj, Minister of Economy and Environment stressed the importance of the environment and the way forward as preserving, not exploiting. Shift towards cleaner and renewable energy sources is crucial in ensuring the energy supply and for making Kosovo attractive to investors. A more investment friendly Kosovo increases the potential to develop innovative and sustainable business, increasing employment, especially employment of youth and women.

Ms. Karin Hernmarck, The Swedish Ambassador in Kosovo stressed that now is the time to take concrete action – to robustly invest in green technology, and put an end to fossil fuel subsidies, phase out oil production, stop the construction of new coal power plants and instead integrate the goal of carbon neutrality into all economic and fiscal policies and decisions.

Ben Slay, Senior Advisor for Europe and Central Asia region presented results for the Western Balkans with Montenegro inhibiting the highest HDI whereas, for PHDI, Albania and North Macedonia have a lower planetary pressure than the world average. Albania even advances 28 positions in PHDI ranking compared to its HDI.

Ms Mimoza Kusari Lila talked about the potential of the green economy, the digital agenda and the European Green deal leaving room for improving energy efficiency in Kosovo. Most strategies are expiring or to be revised leaving a good moment for Kosovo to connect sustainability with the long-term recovery. Mr Visar Azemi of the Balkan Green Foundation underlined the problem particularly with air pollution and the importance of action. Consideration of environmental issues should be incorporated in our DNA. If we focus only on economic development without saving natural  resources - for whom are we then developing our country? Dr Peter J. Middlebrook focused on development financing by stating that the only way we can solve the problems is to crowd in private capital. The way we finance sustainable development solutions needs to change and there are huge incentives to invest in the green economy sector.

Ms. Blerta Thaci of Open Data Kosovo emphasized the role of data in empowering people as agencets of change. “We need to bring everyone together - the Kosovo institutions, civil society, academia, private sector - for better data, for better decision-making, and for better lives.”

Mr Ben Slay reiterated the three building blocks from the HDR 2020 to create lasting change: regulations; improving incentives by e.g. reducing fossil fuel subsidies and investing in renewables and waste management; and changing social norms through making “reduce, reuse, recycle” a household phrase and promoting circular economy (CE) solutions.

The CE transformation needs to ensure environmental sustainability, decent work, social inclusion, and poverty eradication. With the poorest people normally bearing the greatest cost for pollution and environmental degradation, we need to address these issues to not leave anyone behind. The Green Agenda for Western Balkans views CE as one of five key priorities and a start is to focus on waste management and the many illegal landfills in Kosovo. By advancing green economy, there is potential to create many new jobs.

Sustainable fashion was brought up as an emerging area of sustainable business with great potential for creating empoloyment opportunities in Kosovo. Ms Hana Zeqa stressed the impact the fashion industry has in being the second largest polluter in the world. Kosovo can find itself in the front row by aiming at slow fashion and shift the behaviour of consumerism into more awareness of the ethical decisions. Sustainability can be promoted through use of innovative technologies in design and production, second-hand shopping and the global trend of amending and upcycling clothing.

A green recovery is needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, to create an economy for the future, and to accelerate the EU integration. To learn more about the 2020 Human Development Report and UNDP’s analysis on the experimental Planetary Pressures-Adjusted HDI, visit http://hdr.undp.org/en/2020-report