" Alert !  The global standard of living is falling for the first time in thirty years.

” Alert ! The global standard of living is falling for the first time in thirty years.

The latest Human Development Report from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), released on Tuesday 8 September, confirmed what many felt and what everyone feared: the climatic, pandemic and political crises of unprecedented magnitude that we have suffered over the past two years have had a devastating impact on the lives of billions of people around the world.

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For the first time in thirty-two years, the Human Development Index (HDI) has in fact declined for two consecutive years, for more than 90% of the countries of the world. Created in response to the shortcomings of GDP per capita alone, which only assessed economic production and did not provide information on individual or collective well-being, the HDI makes it possible to assess the level of development of a country based on on the quality of life of its inhabitants. It incorporates three factors: life expectancy at birth (the “health” dimension of human development), level of education (schooling of young people and literacy of adults), and standard of living (per capita income in parity purchasing power).

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Historical trend reversal

When health, education and the standard of living are in decline, it is a massive and generalized deterioration of human living conditions on the planet that we are witnessing. This reversal of humanity’s historic trend towards betterment is near universal, with more than 90% of countries registering a decline in their HDI in 2020 or 2021. Human development has now fallen back to 2016 levels, reversing much of the progress towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

For what reasons ? The UNDP report of course returns to the lasting effects of COVID-19. Extreme poverty around the world has increased by 20% in the first two years of the pandemic: between 2020 and 2022, an additional 110 to 150 million people have been added to the 689 million who are trying to survive on less than 1 $.90 a day, counted in 2018. The global recovery has been partial and uneven, and many countries in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are still not recovering. The food crisis resulting from climate change and the war in Ukraine, the “granary” Europe and part of Africa, have undoubtedly had dramatic consequences. The intensity of geopolitical changes and the persistence of regional conflicts are also to blame: 100 million people are currently forcibly displaced, most within their own country.

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Faced with these upheavals of unprecedented magnitude, with lasting consequences, whose awareness and perception of the issues have increased, uncertainty and concern about the future dominate. Even before the pandemic, more than six in seven people around the world felt unsafe, despite years of improvements in the usual indicators for measuring wellbeing. It is particularly within the rich countries that the increase in this feeling of insecurity has been most marked.

New group insurance

At a time when the interconnectedness of the world and the globality of the issues are more evident than ever, the UNDP explains in particular the collective inability to tackle the origin of the problems we face by the rise of political polarization , frustration with leaders and suspicion: less than 30% of people worldwide believe that others can be trusted – the lowest rate on record. Paradoxically, it is time to withdraw into oneself at the precise moment when the need for collective action is most urgent.

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To prepare our societies for the vagaries of a more uncertain world, this report invites us to share risks more broadly and suggests deploying new collective insurance, investing in social protection, and giving individuals the means for their emancipation. through access to health or education.

While the conditions for recovery and the energy transition remain largely to be invented, the UNDP message is a call to action, unambiguous and ultimately relatively optimistic: to regain control of our lives, we cannot go on alone aims to create new wealth while neglecting human development. To break the deadlock and put an end to global uncertainties, we need a burst of international solidarity.

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