UNITED NATIONS: A United Nations report published on Thursday argued that an unprecedented array of crises, chiefly among them Covid-19, has set human progress back five years and fuelled a global wave of uncertainty.

The UN Development Program (UNDP) announced that for the first time since it was created over 30 years ago, the Human Develop­ment Index — a measure of countries’ life expectancies, education levels, and standards of living — has declined for two years straight, in 2020 and 2021.

“It means we die earlier, we are less well educated, our incomes are going down,” UNDP chief Achim Steiner said in an interview.

“Just under three parameters, you can get a sense of why so many people are beginning to feel desperate, frustrated, worried about the future,” he said.

The Human Development Index has steadily risen for decades, but began sliding in 2020 and continued its fall in 2021, erasing the gains of the preceding five years, the paper said.

Titled “Uncertain times, unsettled lives”, the report points to the Covid-19 pandemic as a major driver of the global reversion, but also says that a compounding number of crises — political, financial and climate-related — have not allowed time for populations to recover.

“We’ve had disasters before. We’ve had conflicts before. But the confluence of what we’re facing right now is a major setback to human development,” said Steiner.

The setback is truly global, impacting more than 90 percent of countries around the world, according to the study. Switzerland, Norway and Iceland all retain their spots at the top of the list, while South Sudan, Chad and Niger sit at the bottom.

And while some countries had begun to recover from the pandemic, many others in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean had not yet turned the corner before a new crisis hit: the war in Ukraine.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2022

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