The World after COVID Recovers, but Forgets the Poorest, Warns UNDP

    Most of the planet's inhabitants claim to support democratic values, but “populism is exploding” says report

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    Humanity has recovered its pre-pandemic level of development, but the record expected for 2023 hides a growing gap between rich and poor countries in a world as fragile as a “house of cards,” warns the UN.

    In 2020 and 2021, for the first time since its creation more than 30 years ago, the Human Development Index, which takes into account life expectancy, education and living standards, had fallen two years in a row, to levels of one five years ago due to an overlap of unprecedented crises, including Covid-19.

    But since then, “we have seen a rebound,” said Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which publishes the report this past Wednesday.

    Estimates for 2023 foresee an all-time high for the index globally, with all its components “back above pre-2019 levels.” Although Covid and the impact of the war in Ukraine have slowed the trajectory that was previously expected.

    But what seems like good news hides an unexpected gap between rich and poor countries

    “The first time I saw the results, I asked the team to check the data,” Pedro Conceição, responsible for the report, told the press.“What we are seeing is that the poorest and most vulnerable segments of our society are being left behind,” despite the fact that the UN Development Goals for 2030 precisely aim to prevent this from happening, starting “with the furthest behind.” he added.

    And this result is “very worrying” after “20 years during which countries have converged in terms of income, life expectancy and education,” Achim Steiner insists on his side.

    Switzerland, Norway and Iceland continue to top the list of the human development index. Like them, all other OECD countries should return to their 2019 levels of development in 2023.

    “Distrust and polarization”

    At the bottom of the list are Somalia, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. More than half of the least developed countries have not recovered from the impact of the pandemic, most of them on the African continent.

    There is also “an extreme group” of countries such as Sudan, Afghanistan and Burma, which “the combination of the pandemic, fiscal crises and conflicts, sometimes civil wars, has trapped them in a situation in which recovery cannot be achieved.” is on the agenda,” laments Steiner, who rejects the “usual narrative that the world is recovering.”

    According to the UNDP, Afghanistan, for example, has lost 10 years in terms of human development, and in Ukraine, the index is at its lowest level since 2004.And the growing divide is further endangering a multipolar world, more geopolitically divided than ever.

    “We live in a richer world than at any other time in the history of humanity, at least in financial terms (…) But there are more hungry people, more poor people than ten years ago. There are more and more wars around the world, with tens of millions of refugees,” warns Steiner.

    “It is a riskier world, one that turns against itself”

    The report, titled “Breaking the Gridlock: Reimagining Cooperation in a Polarized World,” examines shortcomings in international cooperation, highlighting a “democratic paradox.”

    Although the majority of the planet’s inhabitants claim to support democratic values, “populism is exploding,” the “every man for himself” mentality is resurfacing, and voters are bringing to power leaders who are “undermining” this democracy, notes the UNDP.

    This places humanity at “an unfortunate crossroads” in which “mistrust and polarization risk colliding head-on with a sick planet.”At a time when countries should “work together,” “we are turning our partners, who we need, into enemies,” says Achim Steiner.

    “We are spending excessive amounts on defense budgets” without financing the fight against “the main risk factors of the 21st century: inequality, climate change, cybercrime, the next pandemic,” he concludes.

    Resonance Costa Rica
    At Resonance, we aspire to live in harmony with the natural world as a reflection of our gratitude for life. Visit and subscribe at Resonance Costa Rica Youtube Channel
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