Global Launch of the 2020 Human Development Report – 2020

Global Launch of the 2020 Human Development Report
The next frontier :: Human development and the Anthropocene
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
2020 :: 412 pages

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We may be entering a new geologic age called the Anthropocene in which humans are a dominant force shaping the planet’s future. That future is already taking frightening shape in many ways, from climate change to plunging biodiversity to the epidemic of plastics in our oceans.

The strain on the planet mirrors the strain facing many societies. Indeed, planetary and social imbalances reinforce one another. As the 2019 Human Development Report made plain, many inequalities in human development continue to increase. Climate change, among other dangerous planetary changes, will only make them worse.

The Covid-19 pandemic may be the latest harrowing consequence of imbalance writ large. Scientists have long warned that unfamiliar pathogens will emerge more frequently from interactions among humans, livestock and wildlife, squeezing ecosystems so hard that deadly viruses spill out. Collective action on anything from the Covid-19 pandemic to climate change becomes more difficult against a backdrop of social fragmentation.

Consciously or not, human choices, shaped by values and institutions, have given rise to the interconnected planetary and social imbalances we face. The good news, then, is that we can make different choices. We have the power to embark on bold new development paths that allow for the continuing expansion of human freedoms in balance with the planet.

That is what the concept of human development, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, can contribute to the complex predicaments that this new age poses to each of us. And that is the central message of this year’s global Human Development Report. Human development is not just possible in the context of easing planetary pressures; it is instrumental to doing so.

The Report calls for a just transformation that expands human freedoms while easing planetary pressures. For people to thrive in the Anthropocene, new development trajectories must do three things: enhance equity, foster innovation and instill a sense of stewardship of the planet. These outcomes matter in their own right, and they matter for our shared fu¬ture on our planet. All countries have a stake in them.

The Report organizes its recommendations around mechanisms for change: social norms and values, incentives and regulation, and nature-based human development. Each mechanism of change specifies multiple potential roles for each of us, for governments, for firms and for political and civil society leaders.

The Report goes on to explore new metrics for a new age. Among them is a planetary pressures-adjusted Human Development Index, which adjusts the standard Human Development Index (HDI) by a country’s per capita carbon dioxide emissions and material footprint. The Report also introduces a next generation of dashboards, as well as metrics that adjust the HDI to account for the social costs of carbon or for natural wealth.

A new normal is coming, one that is more than uncertain; it is unknown. And it cannot be “solved” neatly. The Covid-19 pandemic is just the tip of the spear. Nothing short of a wholesale shift in mindsets, translated into reality by policy, is needed to navigate the brave new world of the Anthropocene, to ensure that all people flourish while easing planetary pressures. This year’s 2020 Human Development Report helps signpost the way.