• Publication typology: Report
  • Responsability: Human Development Report Office, UNDP
  • Authors: Director and lead author Pedro Conceição Research and statistics Jacob Assa, Cecilia Calderon, Fernanda Pavez Esbry, Ricardo Fuentes, Yu-Chieh Hsu, Milorad Kovacevic, Christina Lengfelder, Brian Lutz, Tasneem Mirza, Shivani Nayyar, Josefin Pasanen, Carolina Rivera Vázquez, Heriberto Tapia and Yanchun Zhang Production, communications, operations Rezarta Godo, Kristin Hagegård, Jon Hall, Seockhwan Bryce Hwang, Admir Jahic, Fe Juarez Shanahan, Sarantuya Mend, Anna Ortubia, Yumna Rathore, Dharshani Seneviratne and Marium Soomro
  • Language: English, French, Spanish
  • Publication date: December 2020
  • Pages: 412
  • Access: http://report.hdr.undp.org/ 


Thirty years ago, a new way to conceive and measure progress was created. Rather than using GDP growth as the sole measure of development, the UNDP ranked the countries in the world by their human development: by whether people in each country have the freedom and opportunity to live lives they value.

The 2020 Human Development Report doubles down on the premise that people’s agency and empowerment can bring about the action we need to ease planetary pressures while advancing human development in a fairer world. The Report reviews evidence indicating that we are at an unprecedented moment in history when human activity has become a dominant force shaping our planet’s fundamental processes. As our impacts on the planet interact with existing inequalities, unparalleled risks and threats are created. Nothing short of a great transformation – in how we live, work and cooperate – is needed to change our path. The Report explores how to jumpstart this necessary transformation, using different approaches. There are already many encouraging examples of this working around the world. The challenge is to take them to scale.

The challenge

The climate crisis. Biodiversity collapse. Ocean acidification. The list of challenges facing our planet and humanity is long and is continuously growing longer. For the first time in history, scientists believe that humans are knowingly shaping the planet instead of the planet shaping humans. This is the Anthropocene – the Age of Humans – which may soon be desinated as a new geological era.

Though humanity has achieved incredible things, we have taken the Earth for granted, destabilizing the very systems upon which we rely for survival.  COVID-19, which almost certainly sprang to humans from  animals, offers a glimpse of our future, in which the strain on our planet mirrors the strain facing societies.  This global pandemic threatens a reversal in human development and has exposed weaknesses in social, economic, and political systems.

While the devastating effects of COVID-19 quickly gained the world’s attention, other layered crises – from climate change to rising inequalities – continue to take their toll. At a time of great upheaval and peril, the challenges of planetary and societal imbalance are intertwined: they interact in a vicious circle, each making the other worse.

Nevertheless, 2020 also offered a glimmer of hope: the global health crisis reminds us that collective action at the global scale is not only essential but possible.

At this crossroads, what is next for human development? How do we find a new path: one that expands human development while easing planetary pressures? These are the questions at the heart of the 30th Anniversary Human Development Report “The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene”.

The solutions

The goal of human development is as relevant as ever: for people to lead lives they value. Its focus on capabilities, agency and values can usefully reorient and anchor our approach to the Anthropocene, enabling people and the planet to prosper together.

The report argues that enhancing equity, fostering innovation and instilling a sense of stewardship of nature will be vital in navigating the Anthropocene successfully.  The three main catalysts of action explored are: (1) social norms & values, (2) incentives & regulation, (3) nature-based solutions.

The Report proposes new metrics, including an adjustment to the Human Development Index to account for planetary pressures.

The Report further argues that despite the titanic implications of the Anthropocene, the future is not set in stone – yet.  We must act quickly and boldly to transform the way we live, work, and cooperate. A transformation that is imperative to help chart a course to the next frontier for human progress.

We must chart bold paths, recognizing that systemic change will not happen overnight, nor will it be the result of pushing a few policy levers to tackle discrete problems. What is certain is that humanity’s current trajectory is doomed to failure.

The Human Development Report argues that this trajectory can be changed, presenting new paths to continue human development while easing planetary pressures.

If you wish to know more about the Human Development Report 2020 or to watch its launch event, please access the following links:

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