The Global Human Development Report (HDR) was launched this morning by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka bringing together a wide range of high-level participation from the Government, Public and Private sector, Development partners and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). The 30th anniversary edition of the HDR 2020, titled ‘The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene’, includes a new experimental index; the Planetary Pressures-Adjusted Human Development Index (PHDI) on human progress which takes into account countries’ carbon dioxide emissions and material footprint. Sri Lanka retains its position as the lead for the South Asian region and move up the rank by 34 positions in the new PHDI from 169 countries and territories in the world.
Human development has historically taken place at the cost of the land and environment around us. The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest crisis facing the world, but unless humans release their grip on nature, it won’t be the last, according to the recently launched HDR.
In the Human Development Index (HDI), Sri Lanka is positioned at 72 out of 189 countries and territories, with ‘High Human Development’ with an HDI value of 0.782. Yet there is no time for complacency. Because, Sri Lanka is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change ranking 6th on the Climate Risk Index; the country is at crossroads with a choice to exercise – of choosing a development trajectory that progresses human development while easing pressure on the planet.
Ceremoniously receiving the report at the virtual launch in Sri Lanka, Hon. Dullas Alahapperuma, Minister of Power stated, “the Government of Sri Lanka aims to build a Green Economy that will generate new industries by local entrepreneurs. Through renewable energy, we can create low-cost, low-carbon energy. A Green Economy will improve energy security, improve environmental and public health, and create better and more jobs. And with the vision of H.E. President Gotabaya Rajapakse, we commit to ensure that the environment is protected in all our development plans. It is with great pleasure that we welcome UNDPs coordinated support to ushering in aspects of a Green Economy.”
Speaking at the event, Mr. Robert Juhkam, Resident Representative of UNDP in Sri Lanka stated, “UNDP stands committed in supporting Sri Lanka to define and operationalize its national development plan in a way that is underpinned by Green Development thinking, with consideration for socio-economic impacts of COVID-19. UNDP commits to helping establish a platform for all partners and stakeholders to come together in achieving a Green development pathway: government, private sector, civil society, academia, development partners, and our sister UN agencies.”
Also speaking at the launch, H.E Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Sri Lanka stated, “given the deep interconnection of planetary and social imbalances noted in the Report, I want to emphasize today the importance of ensuring justice, equality and human rights as part of this process. Seeing as no country anywhere in the world has yet achieved the ideal combination of high human development and low planetary pressure, we need such an inclusive and participatory approach where all voices are heard. Only in this way can we address the enormously complex challenge ahead of us.”
The next frontier for human development will require working with and not against nature, while transforming social norms, values, and government and financial incentives, the report argues. In her remarks, H.E Sarah Hulton, British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka emphasized that, “climate action is extremely tangible and relevant to Sri Lanka, with its rich biodiversity, climate vulnerability, reliance on nature and environment for many livelihoods whether through agriculture, fishing or tourism. In fact, maintaining the environment and protecting biodiversity through nature-based solutions is one of the key shared objectives for many of us working here in Sri Lanka including the UK and UN, in supporting the people and Government of Sri Lanka on this.”
According to the report, easing planetary pressures in a way that enables all people to flourish in this new age requires dismantling the gross imbalances of power and opportunity that stand in the way of transformation. Highlighting this through an interactive talk, Mr. Hiran Cooray, Chairman – Jetwing Symphony stated, “we need to change the way we think if we are really focused on human development and switching to a green economy. Greater collaboration and encouragement to Sri Lankans across the country who really want to make a difference is essential.”
The launch was followed by a moderated conversation on ‘A New Social Compact: Human Development with Reduced Planetary Pressures’ and was moderated by Mr. Raashid Riza, Policy and Engagement Analyst, UNDP in Sri Lanka. The panel comprised of Ms. Savera Weerasinghe, Founder, Ananta Sustainables; Dr. Ravi Fernando, Chairman/CEO, Global Strategic Corporate Sustainability; Mr. Thorsten Bargfrede, Deputy Head of Mission, Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives; and Mr. Hemantha Withanage, Executive Director/ Senior Environmental Scientist, Centre for Environmental Justice. Furthermore, Ms. Shabiya Ali Ahlam, Senior Journalist – National English Daily; Ms. Kanchana Weerakoon, Founder/President, Eco-Friendly Volunteers; and Dr. Ganeshamoorthy Murugesu, Senior Lecturer – Department of Economics, University of Colombo shared their expertise as discussants.
The virtual launch event was one engagement part of a broader series of interventions led by UNDP in Sri Lanka, working in collaboration with all stakeholders to further the conversation around the findings of the HDR 2020.