**NEW YORK, Sep 14 2022 (IPS)**- Intercontinental vacations appear to be the norm again with COVID-19 waning as new cities are built with $4 million condos exploding in months , and millennials fresh out of college launching their careers with a minimum starting salary of $75,000.
Sounds pretty good.
These scenarios present a shocking oxymoron to the recently released facts that, shockingly, 90% of the nations of the world are currently experiencing severely altered lives due to a downward spiral of human development over the past two years.
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) of the annual Human Development Report (HDR) and the Human Development Index (HDI), released on September 8, the percentage far exceeds any other reversal during the global financial crisis, setting the world back by approximately six years. Therefore, the organization issues a strong global call for collective action.
The survey results show that for the first time in 32 years of calculating global well-being, nine out of 10 countries have slipped in health, education and living standards. The organization says that while there are many reasons for the downgrade, the continued effect of back-to-back crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, is most to blame.
Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, identified areas where human development has fallen back to 2016 levels and world leaders find themselves collectively paralyzed to bring about change. Steiner added that the current state of regression thwarts the 2030 deadline set by the UN to achieve the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Other exhausting factors include the exorbitant increase in the cost of living; unemployment; artificial intelligence chosen over human activity rather than using it to maximize existing tasks.
There’s also digitalization – “a double-edged sword for mental well-being”; mental distress, which limits freedom of achievement, as well as climate and energy crises. But these are easily sutured by subsidizing fossil fuels; lack of access to adequate resources, as well as persistent and growing inequalities.
All of this negatively affects and delays long-term goals as well as needed systemic changes, and causes insecurity among both leaders and people.
Speaking at the launch of the HDR, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the current crisis is creating an uneven economic recovery from the pandemic and further exacerbating inequality, leaving entire regions behind.
“It triggers spikes in food and energy prices, drives up inflation and drowns vulnerable countries in debt,” he said.
The most underdeveloped countries in South America, the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are the hardest hit. For example, Pakistan – which already had a very low score on the index, fell 7 places. It now ranks 161st, on the HDI, out of 192 countries, while Afghanistan ranks 180th.
The report, titled “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World” was released just a day before UNDP’s high-level gathering of global leaders, the SDG Media Summit, highlighting those driving the social change to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.
Isis Jaraud-Darnault, political coordinator of the Permanent Mission of France to the UN, spoke about France’s participation with the European Union to alleviate the misfortunes in the entire Horn of Africa region .
France contributes in particular to the food crisis in Somalia by dispatching a special envoy to the country, while keeping its promise to provide continuous financial aid (which amounted to 61 million euros in 2022) and by also launching a humanitarian airlift to provide emergency relief. food and medicine, especially in areas that are difficult to reach by road. “The international community must mobilize,” Jaraud-Darnault said. “France takes its full part in this aid.”
“Today, with a third of the world’s people feeling stressed and less than a third of the world’s people trusting others, we face major barriers to adopting policies that work for people and the planet,” says Steiner. “There is a skyrocketing perception of insecurity in most countries, even in some high-ranking HDI countries.”
Despite the dark clouds, the desperation, the doubts that grip many countries, as well as the fact that the recovery is uneven and partial, some seem to be dusting themselves off and getting back on their feet.
UNDP clings to the hope of positivity and promise by expressing the sentiments that if futures are reimagined, refreshed and renewed; carved and molded walkways; plans, goals and values are developed, then there has to be a slight uptick – because nothing lasts forever – not even the bad.
António Guterres reiterated the steps clearly laid out in the report to solve this conundrum, which was to “double human development and advance policies around the ‘three Is’ – investment, insurance and innovation”. He added: “We need to invest in global public goods; developing insurance through social safety nets; and innovate, fostering new pathways and technologies.
The UNDP report depicts a totally overwhelmed global society teetering from crisis to crisis. Steiner adds. “This risks increasing deprivation and injustice and in a world defined by uncertainty, we need a renewed sense of global solidarity to address our common interconnected challenges.”
Lorraine Farquharson is a freelance writer/essayist and investigative journalist who seeks to raise awareness and alleviate the woes of humanitarian issues. She has traveled to over 30 countries and written articles for several United Nations-based international news outlets.