Rich countries attain record human development, but half of the poorest have gone backwards, finds UN Development Programme

Kyrgyzstan ranked 117th out of 193 countries and territories on the Human Development Index in the Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Programme.

March 18, 2024


Rising political polarization and distrust results in gridlock on global challenges 

Bishkek, 18 March 2024 – Uneven development progress is leaving the poorest behind, exacerbating inequality, and stoking political polarization on a global scale. The result is a dangerous gridlock that must be urgently tackled through collective action, according to a new report released on 13 March 2024 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 

The 2023/24 Human Development Report (HDR), titled “Breaking the Gridlock: Reimagining cooperation in a polarized world", reveals a troubling trend: the rebound in the global Human Development Index (HDI) – a summary measure reflecting a country’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, education, and life expectancy – has been partial, incomplete, and unequal. 

The HDI is projected to reach record highs in 2023 after steep declines during 2020 and 2021. But this progress is deeply uneven. Rich countries are experiencing record-high levels of human development while half of the world’s poorest countries remain below their pre-crisis level of progress. 

Global inequalities are compounded by substantial economic concentration. As referenced in the report, almost 40 percent of global trade in goods is concentrated in three or fewer countries; and in 2021 the market capitalization of each of the three largest tech companies in the world surpassed the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than 90 percent of countries that year. 

“The widening human development gap revealed by the report shows that the two-decade trend of steadily reducing inequalities between wealthy and poor nations is now in reverse. Despite our deeply interconnected global societies, we are falling short. We must leverage our interdependence as well as our capacities to address our shared and existential challenges and ensure people’s aspirations are met,” said Achim Steiner, head of the UN Development Programme. “This gridlock carries a significant human toll. The failure of collective action to advance action on climate change, digitalization or poverty and inequality not only hinders human development but also worsens polarization and further erodes trust in people and institutions worldwide.” 

The report argues that advancing international collective action is hindered by an emerging ‘democracy paradox’: while 9 in 10 people worldwide endorse democracy, over half of global survey respondents express support for leaders that may undermine it by bypassing fundamental rules of the democratic process, as per data analysed in the report. Half of people surveyed worldwide report having no or limited control over their lives, and over two-thirds believe they have little influence on their government’s decisions. 

Political polarization is also a growing concern with global repercussions. Along with a sense of powerlessness, report authors say, it is fuelling inward-turning policy approaches – starkly at odds with the global cooperation needed to address urgent issues like the decarbonization of our economies, misuse of digital technologies, and conflict. This is particularly alarming in light of 2023's record-breaking temperatures, which emphasize the immediate need for united action to tackle the climate crisis, or in the advent of artificial intelligence as a new and fast-evolving technological frontier with little or no regulatory guard rails. 

The report highlights that deglobalization is neither feasible nor realistic in today’s world and that economic interdependence remains high. It points out that no region is close to self-sufficiency, as all rely on imports from other regions of 25 percent or more of at least one major type of goods and services.  

"In a world marked by increasing polarization and division, neglecting to invest in each other poses a serious threat to our wellbeing and security. Protectionist approaches cannot address the complex, interconnected challenges we face, including pandemic prevention, climate change, and digital regulation,” Steiner added. “Our problems are intertwined, requiring equally interconnected solutions. By adopting an opportunity-driven agenda that emphasizes the benefits of the energy transition and of artificial intelligence for human development, we have a chance to break through the current deadlock and reignite a commitment to a shared future." 


Information on Kyrgyzstan

In 2022, Kyrgyzstan strengthened its position in the ranking, taking 117th place after 118th place in 2021 and 121st place in 2020. Kyrgyzstan's Human Development Index value in 2022 was 0.701 in comparison with 0.696 in 2021. This allowed Kyrgyzstan to move from the medium human development to the high human development category, with the latter, according to the report, also including other countries of the Europe and Central Asia region, such as Uzbekistan (106th place with an index of 0.727), Turkmenistan (94th place with an index of 0.744), Azerbaijan (89th place with an index of 0.760), Armenia (76th place with an index of 0.786) and others. Thus, Kyrgyzstan managed not only to recover at the pre-crisis level, but to demonstrate growth relative to the level of 2019, when the HDI value was 0.699.

The positive dynamics of the HDI was primarily due to changes in gross national income (GNI) per capita, which increased by 5.27 per cent in the period under review. It should be noted that GNI per capita among women increased more (+6.99 per cent) than among men (+4.31 per cent). Further, positive changes were observed in life expectancy: if in 2021 it was 69.98 years, in 2022 it amounted to 70.48 years (+0.72 per cent). At the same time, among women, the increase in life expectancy slightly outpaced that of men, totalling 0.58 years and 0.42 years respectively.

In addition to the improvement in the HDI, that shows progress in human development on average across the country, Kyrgyzstan saw an increase in the IHDI, which considers the distribution of human development within the country. The IHDI for Kyrgyzstan in 2022 was 0.634, while the value of the inequality-adjusted index was 0.627 in 2021 and 0.622 in 2020. Overall human development losses from inequality continued to decline for the third consecutive year, falling from 10.3 per cent in 2019 to 9.6 per cent in 2022, with income inequality remaining the major cause of inequality losses. The report estimates that in 2022, the richest 10 per cent of people in the country own 24.0 per cent of income, while the poorest 40 per cent own only 22.5 per cent of total income.

Despite the successes, the gender gap in human development achievements in Kyrgyzstan persists. The Gender Development Index (GDI) has been estimated at 0.975 for the Kyrgyz Republic in 2022. The value of the GDI for women is 0.690 compared to 0.707 for men. Significant differences were recorded in such indicators as life expectancy at birth: women's life expectancy was 8.7 years higher than men's; the value of gross national income per capita for men was 79.3 per cent higher than for women. The Gender Inequality Index (GII), which measures the inequality of achievement between women and men in reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market, showed a gradual downward trend between 2021 and 2022. The decline in the GPI in 2022 was associated with a decline in the adolescent fertility rate (births among women aged 15-19 years). The significant gap in labour market participation rates between men and women remains alarming - 78.0% and 52.5% of men and women over 15-year-old participated in the labour market in 2022 respectively. Gender bias is often an obstacle to women realising their potential. It is estimated that over 98 per cent of Kyrgyzstanis have at least one gender bias related to political, educational, economic aspects or physical integrity. 

The planetary pressures-adjusted Human Development Index (PHDI) is 0.683. The PHDI provides a more nuanced measure of human progress by adjusting the traditional Human Development Index (HDI) for a country's environmental impact, including carbon dioxide emissions and material footprint per capita. This index reflects the balance between a country's development achievements and the environmental burden it creates. Kyrgyzstan's PHDI assumes that when these environmental pressures are taken into account, its development status is adjusted for its impact on the planet.



The report emphasizes how global interdependence is being reconfigured and calls for a new generation of global public goods. It proposes four areas for immediate action: 

  • planetary public goods, for climate stability, as we confront the unprecedented challenges of the Anthropocene. The Tien Shan ecosystems of Kyrgyzstan are part of the so-called Third Pole, which together with the high-mountain ecosystems of the Pamirs and the Hindu Kush provide water for more than 1 billion people and regulate the climate over the whole of Asia. Understanding global and regional climate change and its impacts, taking into account the climate vulnerability of communities and strengthening the capacity of countries to adapt to it is an important part of the collective endeavour. Kyrgyzstan, as the initiator of the global mountain agenda, needs to consolidate the efforts of mountain countries in protecting fragile mountain ecosystems.
  • digital global public goods, for greater equity in harnessing new technologies for equitable human development. In order to utilise global public digital goods, Kyrgyzstan needs to ensure that the population is ready to take advantage of digital opportunities. Above all, this will require the development of digital literacy and skills. 
  • new and expanded financial mechanisms, including a novel track in international cooperation that complements humanitarian assistance and traditional development aid to low-income countries. For Kyrgyzstan, new instruments of international cooperation need to focus on attracting the private sector, whose resources can be mobilised using blended finance.  
  • dialling down political polarization through new governance approaches focused on enhancing people's voices in deliberation and tackling misinformation. 

Reducing political polarisation through new approaches to governance focused on increasing people's participation in decision-making and combating misinformation. To reduce political polarisation in Kyrgyzstan, it is necessary to introduce new governance approaches focused on increasing citizen participation in decision-making processes and combating misinformation, including digitalisation. This includes developing public participation mechanisms such as dialogues, public hearings and online consultations, as well as expanding the space for public dialogue and including civil society organisations and non-governmental structures in decision-making processes. In addition, the availability and transparency of information on government activities should be actively improved so that citizens can be more informed about political processes. In addition, it is necessary to actively involve youth and women in the political process, providing them with opportunities for learning and participation and accepting their key role in development. All these measures will also contribute to increasing the level of trust between citizens and the government, as well as between different social groups, contributing to social cohesion.

In this context, multilateralism plays a fundamental role, the report argues, because bilateral engagements are not able to address the irreducibly planetary nature of the provision of global public goods. 


Information about the Human Development Index

The Human Development Index (HDI) was coined and first presented in 1990 in the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Human Development Report. The main authors of the index were Pakistani economist Mahbub ul-Haq and Indian economist Amartya Sen, who was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.

The HDI was created to provide a more comprehensive and integrated understanding of development processes than simply measuring economic growth through GDP. It became a tool for measuring human well-being, taking into account not only economic indicators, but also factors affecting quality of life and human capital development, such as health and education.

The purpose of the HDI was to draw the attention of the international community to the need to improve human development and to promote appropriate political and economic decision-making at the national and international levels. The HDI has become an important tool for comparing the development of different countries and for monitoring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The HDI is calculated on a scale from 0 to 1, with 0 indicating the minimum level of development and 1 indicating the maximum. 

The Human Development Report covers six key composite human development indicators: the Human Development Index (HDI), the Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), the Gender Development Index (GDI), the Gender Inequality Index (GII), the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) and the Planetary Adjusted Human Development Index (PHDI).

The HDI is categorised according to the values obtained after calculating the index into the following categories:

1.    Very high level of development: Countries with a very high HDI have values close to 1 (ranging from 0.800 to 1.000). These countries typically have very high levels of life expectancy, education and income. In 2022, Switzerland has the highest HDI at 0.967 and Belarus has the lowest in this category at 0.801.

2.   High level of development: Countries with a high level of HDI have values between 0.700 and 0.799. These countries tend to have high levels of life expectancy, education and income. In 2022, Bulgaria has the highest HDI in this category at 0.799 and Belize has the lowest in this category at 0.700.

3.   Medium level of development: Countries with a medium level of HDI have values between the high and low levels (between 0.550 and 0.699). They are characterised by average levels of life expectancy, education and income. In 2022, Venezuela has the highest HDI in this category at 0.699, while Zimbabwe has the lowest in this category at 0.550.

4.   Low Development: Countries with low HDI have values close to 0. These countries usually face challenges in health, education and economic development. In 2022, Nigeria has the highest HDI in this category at 0.548, while Somalia has the lowest in this category at 0.380.

About UNDP 

UNDP is the leading United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and the planet. Learn more at or follow at @UNDP. 

About the Human Development Report Office 

The mission of the Human Development Report Office (HDRO) is to advance human development. The goal is to contribute towards the expansion of opportunities, choice, and freedom. The office works towards this goal by promoting innovative new ideas, advocating practical policy changes, and constructively challenging policies and approaches that constrain human development. The office works with others to achieve change through writing and research, data analysis and presentation, support to national and regional analysis and outreach and advocacy work. 

More information about the Human Development Report 2022 and UNDP's analysis of how to navigate a new set of uncertainties can be found here: Human Development Report 2023-24 | Human Development Reports (