Bhutan improves HDI position despite global decline

The Global HDR Report for the Asia and the Pacific was launched in Thimphu on 15 September. For the first time in the 32 years that UNDP has been calculating, the Human Development Index (HDI), which measures a nation’s health, education, and standard of living, it has declined globally, for two years in a row.

Human development has fallen back to its 2016 levels, reversing much of the progress toward 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. 

While some countries are beginning to get back on their feet, recovery is uneven and partial, further widening inequalities in human development.

As per the report, Bhutan is among some of the countries that have bucked the trend and improved their standing. It has moved up two ranks on the 2022 HDI from 129 to 127.  There has been a consistent rise across all HD indicators that include, life expectancy, education, and gross national income.   

The report further explores the many reasons why the change needed isn’t happening, including how insecurity and polarization are feeding off each other today to prevent the solidarity and collective action required to tackle crises of this magnitude.

To chart a new course, the report recommends implementing policies that focus on investment in renewable energy to preparedness for pandemics, and insurance including social protection to better prepare our societies for the ups and downs of an uncertain world.

While innovation in its many forms, technological, economic, cultural, can also build capacities to respond to whatever challenges come next, the report further added. 

During the launch, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that Bhutan, as a small landlocked nation, is also impacted by such uncertain times. COVID-19 is displacing people economically and socially, and climate change and global warming are making Bhutan more vulnerable than ever to climate and economic shocks.

“The task in front of us is urgent. We are truly being tested in our commitment and ability to address the multitude of challenges that demand us to work together,” Lyonpo said.

Meanwhile, UN Assistant Secretary-General, and UNDP Regional Director for the Asia-Pacific Region, Ms Kanni Wignaraja, said that a lot could be accomplished if people can work together towards shared goals. By doubling down on human development investments, protecting the planet, and providing people with the tools they need to feel more secure and thrive in an uncertain world, they can create futures of prosperity, opportunity, and hope. Where we go from here is up to us.

The HDR is UNDP’s flagship report. Premised on the powerful idea, that people are the real wealth of nations, UNDP conceived its first HDR in 1990. The 2022 HDR is the 31st edition of the report.

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