The decline affects almost all countries of the world. The Human Development Index (HDI), which the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has been using for thirty-two years to measure a nation’s health, education and living standards, declined for the second in 2021. consecutive year, according to the organization’s annual report published on Thursday 8 September. This is the first time that there has been a decline for two consecutive years. HDI is now back to its 2016 level (0.732 out of 1). Particularly worrying for the organization, this decline affects 90% of the world’s countries over the past two years, when usually only a few countries observe a decline. “It had never happened before, not even during the 2008 financial crisis”underlines Achim Steiner, director of the UNDP.
This unprecedented decline is due to the combination of the economic recession experienced by many countries and the significant decline in life expectancy at birth, which fell globally from 72.8 years in 2019 to 71.4 years in 2021, due to the crisis of the Covid-19, according to UNDP data. “With the rebound of the economy of some countries in 2021, life expectancy has continued to decline”, explains Pedro Conceição, the director of the report. Case in point, the United States lost 2.7 years of life expectancy in just two years of the health crisis. An unprecedented case in highly developed countries.
“Difficult to reverse the trend”
Obviously, for two years, the world crisis linked to Covid-19 has been under discussion, but also the global tensions that have multiplied, and that have accentuated and upset the fragile balance in many countries. Of course, Covid-19 has demonstrated the ability of governments, institutions and researchers to react quickly to a pandemic, particularly by developing effective vaccines in just one year. “But the differences in access to vaccines have shown how unequal our world has become and how access to something that can save lives is conditioned by who has the largest checkbook”Achim Steiner insists.
While some countries’ economies have been able to recover, others are struggling to get back on their feet, further exacerbating existing inequalities, particularly in relation to global warming. Countries particularly affected include Latin America, the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. “We are concerned that it is now more difficult to reverse the trend and increase overall HDI”underlines Ulrika Modéer, UNDP’s Head of External Relations.
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