THE UNDP’s 2024 Regional Human Development Report for Asia-Pacific offers a detailed review of human development across the region, acknowledging the significant economic growth and reduction in poverty. Despite these advances, it underscores a stark imbalance in the distribution of benefits, with persistent income and wealth disparities, gender biases, and extensive informal sectors. It also highlights the region’s environmental predicaments, notably its substantial global carbon emissions and decline in biodiversity. Pakistan is spotlighted for its innovative approaches to development challenges, as evidenced by the implementation of UNDP’s Social Innovation Platforms in GB and Karachi. The report recalls last year’s floods, triggered by rapid glacial melt and monsoon rains, and lauds Pakistan’s disaster response, particularly the successful use of UNDP-supported flood mitigation infrastructure in the affected provinces. In terms of technological progress, the integration of fintech and agri-tech in Pakistan’s agricultural sector, with the potential to increase production, enhance the livelihoods of small farmers, and drive economic growth. It recognises Pakistan’s legislative efforts to protect migrant domestic workers, illustrating its dedication to equitable labour conditions and contemplates the potential of export-led growth to alleviate economic crises and manage large debt burdens, which could be pivotal for Pakistan’s economy. Further, the adoption of action plans for human rights and business marks a conscientious effort to align business practices with international human rights standards.
Yet, the report presents a troubling rise in perceived human insecurity in Pakistan between 2010-2016 and 2017-2020. This suggests a pressing need to tackle socioeconomic vulnerabilities. A comparative analysis of historical GDP per capita provides insight into our economic history and future prospects. The report starkly contrasts gender disparities in the workforce, particularly noting a 25pc female labour participation compared to countries like Vietnam with 69pc participation, indicating a significant area for improvement. The discussion of Pakistan’s acute debt stress underscores the need for effective fiscal management and strategic planning to navigate this challenge. It concludes by emphasising the imperative for Pakistan to develop a strategy centred on innovation, resilience, gender equality, and sustainable development. As Pakistan charts its course towards human development, the report suggests that the keys to success will be effective leadership, collaborative efforts, and sound governance to forge a prosperous future for all its citizens.
Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2023