Launch of the HDR 2020 co-organized by UNDP Afghanistan and the Swedish Embassy in Kabul. Photo: UNDP Afghanistan / Omer Sadaat / 2020

Kabul, 16/December/2020 -
The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest world crisis, but unless humans loosen their grip on nature, it won’t be the last, according to a new global report launched yesterday by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with the government of Sweden. Today’s launch of the HDR 2020 in Kabul is also co-organized by UNDP Afghanistan and the Swedish Embassy in Kabul. The report includes a new experimental index on human development which takes into account countries’ carbon emissions and material footprint.

Globally, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the first Human Development Report and the Human Development Index (HDI), developed and pioneered in 1990. The HDI replaced traditional measurements of a country’s development such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with criteria such as life expectancy, education and Gross National Income (GNI). It gained recognition and popularity as an alternative approach to mainstream development economics, as it considers an individual’s capabilities as a measure of developmental progress.

The HDR 2020 challenges and explores how we define and measure human development, and outlines how we can use human development in the Anthropocene to change our current trajectory, which is mutually reinforcing planetary and social imbalances. It goes further than a routine sustainability report, summarizing familiar problems and policy solutions; instead, the HDR 2020 details the contemporary challenge of how we can, and must, successfully navigate this new geological era, by furthering human development in balance with environmental concerns, and the needs of our planet.

“Development choices of the past have systematically undervalued the environment, posing human progress and sustainability as conflicting pursuits” said Kanni Wignaraja, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. “We all need to work together on a trajectory that balances the pursuit of economic growth with planetary considerations” she said.

According to the new report, Afghanistan’s HDI value for 2019 is 0.511, which puts the country in the lowest human development category, positioned at 169 out of 189 countries and territories. Between 1990 and 2019, Afghanistan’s HDI value increased from 0.302 to 0.511, an increase of 69.2 percent. Afghanistan’s life expectancy at birth increased by 14.5 years, whereas mean years of schooling (average number of years of education of population aged 25 and older) increased by 2.4 years, and expected years of schooling increased by 7.6 years. Afghanistan’s GNI per capita decreased by approximately 10 percent between 1990 and 2019.

Afghanistan’s 2019 HDI is below the average for countries in the ‘low human development group’ and below the average of countries in South Asia. The 2019 female HDI value for Afghanistan is 0.391 in contrast with 0.593 for males highlighting a significant gender gap.

“The release of this year’s HDR coincides with the conclusion of the  Geneva Conference on Afghanistan and a clear commitment from international community to continue supporting the country to improve the lives of citizens” said Abdallah Al Dardari, UNDP Resident Representative for Afghanistan. “All partners must work together with the government and people of Afghanistan on  integrated programmes to help the country move up the HDI scale and closer to achieving Sustainable Development Goals.”

Human activity often has a detrimental impact on the natural world, but it can also be regenerative. Our challenge is to create and sustain positive cycles while preventing and ending negative spirals.

“The Planet-Adjusted Index introduced this year fills an important gap by showcasing new and more honest ways of measuring human development” said Ambassador of Sweden to Afghanistan Mr. Torkel Stiernlöf. “ There is an urgent need to shift to a green and sustainable relationship with nature” added the Ambassador. “Industrialized countries with the means for transition, like Sweden, must lead the way by building partnerships with developing countries to support their endeavors to find a path that is friendly to both people and the environment.”

The report outlines three mechanisms for collective change:

1.     Social norms and values: As we seek to expand agency and empower people through human development, we must also establish new norms that give greater weight to planetary balance and sustainability.

2.     Incentives and regulations: Incentives and regulations can be used to promote or deter action, helping bridge the gap between behaviors and values.

3.     Nature-based solutions: These can create a virtuous cycle between human development and planetary health by generating and supporting actions that protect, sustainably manage and restore ecosystems.

Afghanistan is blessed with rich natural resources which could be a major source of financing for the country’s socioeconomic development. However, managing the delicate balancing act of utilizing natural resources for sustainable development, and preserving the environment, is paramount. UNDP is offering a comprehensive package of programmes to help the government and people of Afghanistan towards self-reliance, sustainable development and responsible use of natural resources. 


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