2024 Regional Human Development Report: A Complex Landscape of Progress and Challenges

To strengthen the future outlook for our Blue Pacific, human development must be mainstreamed across the region

April 5, 2024

The report launch commenced with the reading of a poem celebrating the identity and resilience of ‘The People of the Sea’.

Photo: UNDP

Suva, Fiji: Pacific Island Countries continue to grapple with a complex development landscape, states a new report launched in Suva today. While progress across several key indicators has been made, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) 2024 Asia-Pacific Human Development Report, launched at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, highlights that persistent disparities and ongoing disruptions threaten to derail further advancement.

The report shows that since the early 2000s there has been a regression on key human development indicators across the Pacific, with heightened human insecurity, and a potentially more turbulent future creating an urgent need for change.

Income inequality remains deeply entrenched, both within Pacific Islands Countries and when comparing the Pacific against its neighbors in Asia. Hundreds of thousands across the Pacific remain confined to the informal sector; in Tonga alone the informal sector accounts for 97 percent of the country’s workforce.

The pandemic saw numerous Pacific Island Countries suffer serious losses in income from tourism, remittances and manufacturing that employ many informal workers. The hardest hit in these already poor households were women, who have suffered serious setbacks in gender equality and empowerment.

The Pacific has seen its worst decline in gender equality in two decades. On current trajectory, the 2030 agenda is projected to be realized some 35 years late – in 2065 – with crucial action needed on Goal 5 (Gender Equality) where not a single indicator has been achieved thus far.   

The Pacific grapples with entrenched gender inequalities manifested in limited political participation, economic disparity, and a disturbing prevalence of gender-based violence. However, positive trends in girls' education and the commitment of Pacific nations to address the aforementioned issues offer a glimmer of hope for achieving gender equality. 

Other points of note from the report include:

•    The Pacific has seen a surge in adult literacy rates from 1990 to 2022, moving from 87.6 percent in 1990 to 94.2 percent in 2022. Tertiary education completion rates also improved, rising from 4.5 to 5.3 percent across the same reporting period. 
•    Under-five mortality rates improved from 88.3 live births per thousand in 1980 to 38.9 per thousand in 2022, with life expectancy rising from 64 to 72 years in the same reporting period.
•    40 percent of the region's people are digitally excluded, with notable gender and urban-rural inequities.
•    While the Pacific contributes 0.1 percent of total carbon emissions, the region has seen the largest impact of climate shocks. The fiscal measures required to tackle this crisis are on the verge of exhaustion, with six out 10 Pacific Island Countries at risk of high debt distress.    
•    Every US$1 invested in risk reduction and prevention can save up to US$15 in post-disaster recovery. Every US$1 invested in making infrastructure disaster-resilient saves US$4 through fewer disruptions and reduced economic impacts. 


To catch up on the human development backlog and confront the turbulent times that lie ahead, the region’s development strategies need to focus more on improving the lives of both current and future generations.

UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Resident Representative, Munkhtuya Altangerel, said that to advance indicators across the Pacific our focus must be placed on mainstreaming human development, leveraging technology and innovation, and the creation of a governance space that is fit for the future. 

“In a world defined by uncertainty, we need a renewed sense of solidarity to tackle our interconnected challenges. We must focus on both empowering people today and prioritizing the well-being of our young people – the future stewards of our Blue Pacific. This means making smart investments in their human development: education, health, and opportunities that will equip them to thrive and tackle challenges yet to come.

“Revitalizing our development strategies to close existing gaps and boost human security is essential: an unrelenting focus on governance, the politics of reform, and on the day-to-day practice of delivery all being required should we wish to boost sustainable development across our Blue Pacific.

“Our work is far from complete, and we must listen to and amplify the voices of Pacific peoples, as they are leading the way toward a future where no one is left behind,” Ms. Altangerel said. 

To view the full report, visit: https://www.undp.org/asia-pacific/publications/making-our-future-new-directions-human-development-asia-and-pacific 

To view the Pacific Snapshot of the regional report, visit: https://www.undp.org/pacific/publications/2024-pacific-snapshot-asia-pacific-human-development-report   

For more information contact:
Nick Turner | Communications and Advocacy Specialist, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji | nicholas.turner@undp.org