The world is lurching from crisis to crisis, trapped in a cycle of firefighting and unable to tackle the roots of the troubles that confront us. Without a sharp change of course, we may be heading towards even more deprivations and injustices, warns the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The latest Human Development Report, “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World”, launched by UNDP, argues that layers of uncertainty are stacking up and interacting to unsettle life in unprecedented ways. The last two years have had a devastating impact for billions of people around the world, when crises like COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine hit back-to-back, and interacted with sweeping social and economic shifts, dangerous planetary changes, and massive increases in polarization.
For the first time in the 32 years that UNDP have been calculating it, the Human Development Index (HDI), which measures a nation’s health, education, and standard of living, has declined globally for two years in a row. Human development has fallen back to its 2016 levels, reversing much of the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The reversal is nearly universal as over 90 percent of countries registered a decline in their HDI score in either 2020 or 2021 and more than 40 percent declined in both years, signaling that the crisis is still deepening for many.
“The world is scrambling to respond to back-to-back crises. We have seen with the cost of living and energy crises that, while it is tempting to focus on quick fixes like subsidizing fossil fuels, immediate relief tactics are delaying the long-term systemic changes we must make,” says Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. “We are collectively paralyzed in making these changes. In a world defined by uncertainty, we need a renewed sense of global solidarity to tackle our interconnected, common challenges.”
Ghana maintains medium human development but inequality remains a challenge
Ghana ranks 133 out of 191 countries and maintains the same human development index (HDI) value for 2020 and 2021 with 0.632. This puts the country in the medium human development category. Between 1990 and 2021, Ghana’s Human Development Index (HDI) value grew from 0.460 to 0.632 reflecting an increase of 37.4 percent.
However, though Ghana falls in the medium human development category, when considered for unequal distribution of human development, the country records a loss of 27.5 per cent in its HDI. For instance, Ghana’s level of gender inequality remains high over the years and ranked 130 out of 170 countries in 2021 in terms of gender inequality between female and male achievements.
“We cannot achieve development without addressing unequal human progress that leaves many behind. We must all support efforts to remove existing structural, cultural and socioeconomic barriers that block progress for young people, women, people living with disabilities among others. Let us work together to unlock the potential of every Ghanaian to create a sustainable future in the face of uncertainty”, noted Angela Lusigi, UNDP Resident Representative in Ghana.
To chart a new course, the report recommends implementing policies that focus on investment — from renewable energy to preparedness for pandemics, and insurance—including social protection— to prepare our societies for the ups and downs of an uncertain world. Also, innovation in its many forms—technological, economic, cultural—can also build capacities to respond to whatever challenges come next.
“To navigate uncertainty, we need to double down on human development and look beyond improving people’s wealth or health,” says UNDP’s Pedro Conceição, the report’s lead author. “These remain important. But we also need to protect the planet and provide people with the tools they need to feel more secure, regain a sense of control over their lives and have hope for the future.”