Launch of UNDP Human Development Report 2021-2022

Opening remarks in Copenhagen, Denmark

September 14, 2022

As prepared for delivery

Under-Secretary of State, Stephan Schönemann,

Distinguished Guests,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for joining us for the launch of the United Nations Development Programme’s flagship publication: the Human Development Report 2021-2022 entitled, “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World”.

This year’s Report is the third in a trilogy of publications that considers the future of development in the “Anthropocene”.

The report comes as our global community faces a confluence of crises:

  • The world is still contending with the devastating socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is far from over: last month we reached the tragic milestone of 1 million COVID-19 deaths in 2022.
  • The world is also gripped by violent conflicts, now at their highest levels since the end of World War II. Even before the war in Ukraine, 1.2 billion people were living in conflict affected areas.
  • In addition, the cost-of-living crisis, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, is pushing millions of people into poverty, hunger and even famine.
  • At the same time, the climate crisis is growing worse every year. Vast tracts of the world are either on fire or under water.

From the flash foods in Pakistan, to the countries across Europe that faced record-breaking temperatures this year, and the devastating droughts in the Horn of Africa - there is nothing “natural” about the scale of such disasters.

For the first time in 32 years, the Human Development Index (or HDI) -- which measures a nation’s health, education, and standards of living -- has declined globally for two years in a row in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And human development has fallen back to 2016-levels.

While Denmark’s HDI scores marginally increased in 2020 and 2021, over 90 per cent of countries worldwide registered a decline in their HDI score in either 2020 or 2021.

In more than 40 per cent of countries, it declined in both years.

It is perhaps no wonder that in this context, 6 in 7 people feel insecure about their future regardless of their socio-economic status or the country where they live.

Worryingly, the report also shows that fewer than one-third of people worldwide trust one another.  

At this moment of profound global uncertainty, this Human Development Report therefore aims to find new ways to ‘re-boot’ our systems to achieve a greener, more inclusive, and more sustainable future for all.

The Report argues that next-generation policies that focus on the three “Is” of the future: investment, insurance, and innovation will enable people to thrive in the face of uncertainty.

-Investment is needed in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to reduce poverty and inequality, promote gender equality, and drive climate action and restoration of our natural world.

-Extending insurance, including social protection, is vital to prepare countries and communities for the next crisis. This is also a vital means to help some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities to adapt to a changing climate.

-And Innovation in its many forms -- technological, economic, cultural -- is important as it will help define our response to the development challenges of today, and tomorrow.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In short, this Human Development Report aims to advance the global conversation on how to shape the 21st Century development pathways we need to secure the future of people and the planet.

To get there, all countries -- developed and developing -- must focus on ways to advance human development, which is not just narrowly focused on improving people’s wealth or health.

It is about providing people with the tools they need to regain control over their lives and their futures.

Crucially, the Report argues that we must recover the sense that we all have more to gain if we “co-invest” in one another rather than trying to outcompete each other.

In many ways, it lays out a clear argument that our “best world” is indeed still ahead of us if we make the right choices now.

I look forward to our discussion today.

Thank you.