I am honored to represent UNDP today, for the launch of the 30th anniversary edition of the Human Development Report, entitled ‘The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene’. For us at UNDP, this is a great moment to continue the advocacy and shape development policy and the discourse for human development. This report was launched globally by the UNDP Administrator, Mr Achim Steiner, on the 15th December 2020. Due to the COVID-19 related restrictions, we are only hosting the Lesotho’s launch today – to echo those that have already come before us.
The Human Development Report is a flagship report of the UNDP, focusing on providing evidence-based analysis and policy options for building human capabilities, freedoms, and choices for achieving development. Since 1990, at the first publication of the Human Development Report, the report has interrogated many development issues. As UNDP, we are proud that even today, 30 years later, the report continues to influence development discourse and policy decisions at global, regional and country level. The Human Development Reports have focused on ways to expand people’s choices and their ability to live a long healthy life, to have access to schooling, to make a decent livelihood, and to be able to achieve their full potential.
In this 30th anniversary edition of the Human Development Report, focus is on the inter-relationship between the people and the planet. This relationship has entered a new territory, the age of the Anthropocene. The report indicates that ‘for the first time in a relationship spanning over 300,000 years, instead of the planet shaping humans, humans are shaping the planet’, - this is Anthropocene, the age of humans.
Human development approach is about increasing opportunities and realizing the potential of every human being. Overtime, the world has achieved progress in health, education, and improved standards of living, as per past measures of human development. However, this has come at a cost to the planet. Actions such as use of natural resources, dependency on fossil fuels, increased materials consumption, have propelled the biodiversity collapse, environmental degradation and pollution. This has thus destabilized the natural ecosystem upon which both the planet and the people rely for survival. The report looks at how humanity has driven nature into this new era, how humanity can navigate it and how we can together to transform pathways to human progress while containing the effects of the Anthropocene.
The report comes very timely, in context of the challenges facing the world today. At the beginning of 2020, the world faced an unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other than health, the pandemic has highly affected the economic and social wellbeing of many societies, forever changing the outlook on life and livelihoods for many. The positive flipside of this is how the forced lockdowns improved environmental indicators for many countries; In China, carbon emissions were temporarily reduced by 25%; water flows in Venice, Italy were improved, also restoring some marine life. While these were temporary, it reflects how human actions cause strains on the planet.
The report provides an analytical assessment of how humans relate to the Anthropocene, exploring how they are destabilizing planetary systems and putting a strain on the environment. Due to the interdependency between humans and the planet these imbalances are mutually reinforcing, thus amplifying the existing development and livelihood challenges.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We take this opportunity to co-launch this human development report with the Government of Lesotho, taking into consideration the Lesotho’s development context and relationship with nature. We believe that it gives a good basis for defining and recognizing the Anthropocene and its effects in the country, as well as setting a course to transform our actions to minimize and manage the impact, together.
Lesotho’s well-being is heavily vested in nature. The beautiful mountains of this country are also key to its economic potential, traditions, heritage, and culture. The effects of the Anthropocene, therefore, have potential adverse impacts for the country and the people of Lesotho. Lesotho’s environmental ecosystem has been deteriorating overtime, resulting in long-spells of droughts, floods and seismic shifts that have increased both economic and social vulnerabilities. For many Basotho, these changes have resulted in loss of livelihood sources, thereby worsening inequality and poverty levels in the communities.
According to the report, human action is required to minimize these planetary pressures. There is need to adopt mechanisms that catalyze action and change, including changing social norms, providing incentives and regulations that enable humans to work with nature and not against it. The first step here is recognizing those that are affected – including women, youth, the elderly and children – and considering them in decisions that affect them. This will favorably affect environmental stewardship and equity in use of resources.
The 2020 report introduces a new measure to help account for planetary resources - 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 carbon emissions and their material footprint.
Lesotho is ranked 165/189 on the Human Development Index. While the adjustment for planetary effects is minimal, it pushes it lower by 4 points. This means we must be continuously conscious of the development actions which may compromise the planetary ecosystems.
This launch comes at the right time when the country is just at the crossroads on the implementation of the NSDP II and preparations for the post-COVID recovery agenda. It also provides a checkpoint on the Sustainable Development Goals, reminding us the importance and challenges of environment and climate action in the journey to 2030.
Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Everyone has a role to play in creating a positive and lasting change on the human influence on the ecosystem. The report suggests three pillars for this;
1. Implementing nature-based solutions that catalyze human prosperity while promoting regeneration of nature because ‘planetary and social and economic systems are interconnected, and local decisions can have impacts elsewhere and at multiple scales’
2. Providing incentives that influence decision-making for planetary conservation and move transformative changes for human development, considering finances, prices and international collective action.
3. Adoption of new social norms to unleash a society -wide transformation at work, schools and households through intergenerational dialogues, adoption of new forms of sharing and disseminating information
In conclusion, let us remind ourselves that the recent assessment of the socio-economic impact of COVID on the Kingdom of Lesotho, by the UN and partners, notes that agriculture has been the most resilient sector in the country. As such this sector becomes central in the definition of the national recovery strategy. Noting that Agriculture productivity depends on sound environmental management, biodiversity and adaptation to climate change, green activities remain central to economic recovery and employment creation.
The Government of Lesotho in collaboration with UNDP and partners are already implementing actions that promote environmental management, conservation of biodiversity, renewable energies, building resilience and adaptation to climate change and implementation of climate smart agricultural practices, among others. Although these projects have been piloted in a few communities, the initial impact on livelihoods, household food security and the environment provide a justification for more investments in the sector, for accelerating attainment of SDGs and eradicating poverty. We have recognized that inculcating planet smart systems changes from the community level and empowering the people can have a ripple effect in promoting change of behavior and attitudes towards environmental sustainability.
UNDP’s strategy is poised to working together with Government and partners for developing lasting solutions and finding pathways ‘Beyond recovery, towards 2030’, taking into consideration the need to turn around the impact of COVID-19 and maintaining the SDGs as the compass for development actions. We are hopeful that this report will contribute to informing and managing these complex but necessary policy choices for better recovery for Lesotho.
It is our commitment to work with Government and the people of Lesotho to advance the human development approaches to find lasting development solutions for the country.
The last time that Lesotho published the National Human Development Report was in 2016. Ideally, the frequency of the nationals HDRs is every 4 years. It is time therefore for a new report for Lesotho. I am glad to announce that later this morning, the NHDR theme will be launched. It is not by accident that we launch the global HDR with the NHRD but shows UNDP’s brings global leadership into to national and local action. The human development approach has been replicated at country and regional levels since 1992. And, just like the global report, these reports are useful to inform and evaluate policy choices and design, monitor and forecast development trends.
It is our anticipation therefore, that this National Human Development Report will provide a ground-breaking analysis for selected issues and facilitate advocacy among stakeholders for achieving the Lesotho development objectives.
I wish you all success and informative deliberations.
Khotso Pula Nala