A global 2020 Human Development Report (HDR) launched by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) shows that for the first time in a relationship spanning 300,000 years, instead of the planet shaping humans, humans are shaping the planet.
Titled ‘The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene’, the report tackles the issue of COVID-19 and its unprecedented effects on human development, emphasizing it as a cautionary tale of the type of challenges we are likely to face in the Anthropocene or the ‘Age of Humans’ unless humans transform the way we interact with the planet. But the future is not set in stone– yet. We have an opportunity to choose to change.
The report argues that it is time for all countries to redesign their paths to progress by fully accounting for the dangerous pressures humans put on the planet, and dismantle the gross imbalances of power and opportunity that prevent change.
In Uganda, the report was launched on 16 December 2020 at a colorful function held at Serena Hotel, Kampala featuring opening remarks by UNDP Uganda Resident Representative Ms. Elsie Attafuah, Mr. Alain Sibenaler, the UNFPA Country Representative and acting UN Resident Coordinator and Mr. Alfred Okot Okidi, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water and Environment. Other notable speakers were from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Makerere University, EcoTrust, Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda. Additionally, the event featured youth activist Leah Namugerwa, with participants from Little Hands Go Green who rallied youths to embrace climate change causes.
“We have had 30 years of the Human Development Report, but we have been talking about the same things. We need to take serious action; the talking must end. How many children must die for the world to wake up and do justice to us? Climate change affects us, and the worst is coming if we don’t take serious climate action. I am here to tell the youth that this is our future, and we have the biggest stake in our future. If others are not willing to offer leadership, I and fellow youth are willing to lead,” said Namugerwa.
“The report explores the coming of this new age and what it means for the global community but also individual countries, like Uganda,” said UNDP Resident Representative Elsie Attafuah. “It also makes a case that, going forward, we must adopt a new perspective on improving human development – one that continues to strive to expand human freedoms and choice while simultaneously easing planetary pressures.”
In driving the utility of the findings of the report, Mr. Alfred Okot Okidi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water and Environment asserted, “The first HDR published in 1990 recognized that the basic objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives. It also defined human development as a process of enlarging people’s choices and strengthening their capabilities. The 30th anniversary of the UN development report therefore offers an opportunity for us to reflect on the promise made toward achievement of the earlier stated objectives and the factors that have inhibited progress.”
The 2020 HDR report introduces new lens to its annual Human Development Index (HDI) which measures a nation’s health, education, and standards of living, to include two more elements: a country’s carbon dioxide emissions and its material footprint. The index shows how the global development landscape would change if humans work with and not against nature, while transforming social norms, values, and government and financial incentives.
According to projections in the report, by 2100 the poorest countries in the world could experience up to 100 more days of extreme weather due to climate change annually - a number that could be cut in half if the Paris Agreement on climate change is fully implemented.
And yet fossil fuels are still being subsidized: the full cost to societies of publicly financed subsidies for fossil fuels - including indirect costs - is estimated at over US$5 trillion a year, or 6.5 percent of global GDP, according to International Monetary Fund figures cited in the report.
Reforestation and taking better care of forests could alone account for roughly a quarter of the pre-2030 actions we must take to stop global warming from reaching two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
The report puts Uganda’s Human Development Index (HDI) value for 2019 at 0.544— which puts the country in the low human development category— positioning it at 159 out of 189 countries and territories. Between 1990 and 2019, Uganda’s HDI value increased from 0.320 to 0.544, an increase of 70.0 percent. Uganda also ranked 159 out of 189 countries and territories in 2018.
Between 1990 and 2019, Uganda’s life expectancy at birth increased by 17.5 years, mean years of schooling increased by 3.4 years and expected years of schooling increased by 5.7 years. Uganda’s GNI per capita increased by about 138.5 percent between 1990 and 2019.
Uganda’s 2019 HDI of 0.544 is above the average of 0.513 for countries in the low human development group and below the average of 0.547 for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. From Sub-Saharan Africa, Uganda is compared with Madagascar and the United Republic of Tanzania, which have HDIs ranked 164 and 163 respectively.
In terms of the average measure of basic human development achievements in a country, like all averages, the HDI masks inequality in the distribution of human development across the population at the country level.
Addressing Gender Issues
The publication also reports on the Gender Development Index (GDI) which measures gender inequalities in three basic dimensions of human development: health (measured by female and male life expectancy at birth), education (measured by female and male expected years of schooling for children and mean years for adults aged 25 years and older) and command over economic resources (measured by female and male estimated GNI per capita.
According to the report, the 2019 female HDI value for Uganda is 0.503 in contrast with 0.582 for males, resulting in a GDI value of 0.863, placing it into Group 5. 2. In comparison, GDI values for Madagascar and the United Republic of Tanzania are 0.952 and 0.948, respectively.
Finally, the publication also reports on the performance of nations in the Gender Inequity Index (GII) which reflects gender-based inequalities in three dimensions– reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity. Reproductive health is measured by maternal mortality and adolescent birth rates; empowerment is measured by the share of parliamentary seats held by women and attainment in secondary and higher education by each gender; and economic activity is measured by the labour market participation rate for women and men.
Uganda has a GII value of 0.535, ranking it 131 out of 162 countries in the 2019 index. In Uganda, 34.9 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women, and 27.5 percent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 35.1 percent of their male counterparts. For every 100,000 live births, 375.0 women die from pregnancy-related causes; and the adolescent birth rate is 118.8 births per 1,000 women of ages 15-19. Female participation in the labour market is 67.0 percent compared to 73.9 for men.
The publication also goes beyond income and reports on deprivation people face by introducing the Planetary Pressures Adjusted Human Development Index (PHDI). The PHDI takes the original Human Development Index and adjusts it according to how much pressure each nation is – per capita - placing on the planet in two areas: their CO2 emissions and their material footprint. When Uganda HDI value is discounted for the country places on the Planetary Pressures, then it falls from 0.544 to 0.399.