METRO MANILA — Human development in the Philippines, as in the whole Asia-Pacific Region, has been a tale of progress, disparity, and disruption. Accelerating human development amid a potentially more turbulent future requires new directions for change, says a new report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Titled Making our Future: New Directions for Human Development in Asia and the Pacific, the 2024 Asia-Pacific Human Development Report paints a qualified picture of long-term progress, but also persistent disparity and widespread disruption, foreseeing a turbulent development landscape and urgently calling for new directions to boost human development.
The new report, prepared by the UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia-Pacific, acknowledges significant advancements in human development within the Asia-Pacific region despite a complex development environment. The report was launched in the Philippines in a forum co-organized by UNDP Philippines and the Philippine Human Development Network (PHDN).
The report utilizes UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) to assess the overall quality of life for each country and to underscore the belief that evaluating a country's development should extend beyond economic growth, prioritizing the well-being and capabilities of its people.
Over the last three decades, the HDI of Asia-Pacific has surged by 19 percentage points – the greatest leap in the world. Rapid economic growth, increase in adult literacy rates, and increased life expectancy rates have significantly contributed to major improvements in human development in the region.
For the Philippines, its HDI score has increased from 0.598 in 1990 to 0.699 in 2021, growing over those three decades alongside the Asia-Pacific Region’s trajectory. It suffered slight declines during COVID-19, keeping it within the group of countries with medium levels of human development. The Philippines ranks 7th in the ASEAN, 16th in the Asia-Pacific Region, and 116th in the world.
Beyond the progress, there are still widespread disparities and persistent structural exclusion in Asia-Pacific and in the Philippines. Worsened by the pandemic and the rising cost of living amid global crises, persistent challenges of poverty and inequality, gender biases, and a large informal sector make it a challenge for the region to be on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
“We are currently faced with a convergence of escalating global tensions, deteriorating climate conditions, regional debt distress, and enduring inequality. This convergence is exerting considerable strain on the developmental gains we have achieved in the past few decades,” said Dr. Selva Ramachandran, UNDP Philippines Resident Representative.
“This not only jeopardizes the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals, but also poses a potential for unprecedented setbacks in human development, economic stability, and climate resilience unless prompt and extensive corrective measures are implemented,” he added.
Mainstreaming Human Development, Recalibrating Growth, and Making Change Happen
The report further emphasizes 3 interconnected 'risk clusters' that the region currently confronts: climate change and potential pandemics; the changing globalization trends and increased automation; and a slowing pace of reform attributed to the changing political landscape.
To bring about that change, the report calls for three new directions in human development: to put people at the heart of development, to recalibrate growth strategies to generate more jobs while keeping within planetary bounds, and to focus relentlessly on the politics of reform and the science of delivery to turn ideas into practice.
“Ultimately, (we are all) deeply inescapably involved in the crisis that besets us. The climate crisis forms the brooding backdrop of this report. It is the crisis that will preoccupy us throughout our lifetime. It is one that directly concerns not only us, but also threatens to engulf the existence and well-being of our children, and their children’s children,” noted Dr. Emmanuel de Dios, President of the PHDN, noting that the exacerbating impacts of the climate crisis is a major challenge for the Philippine’s human development progress.
In the Philippines, these new directions require 4 major transformations, including: a larger and faster green economic and energy transition; strengthened resilience of families and communities from shocks and disasters; accelerated innovation and digital evolution as tools to accelerating and sustaining growth; and future-ready governance that can help to accelerate human development.
To unpack the Philippine implications of the report, the forum featured a panel discussion which was moderated by Dr. Alex Brillantes Jr., Professor Emeritus and Former Dean of the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance. The session featured Dr. Emma Porio of the National Resilience Council, Ms. Pia Faustino of Thinking Machines, Ms. Anna Lagon of Bayo, and Mr. Mel Senen Sarmiento of Galing Pook Foundation.
To chart a new course, governments would need to be future fit to combat the challenges to come. The report delves into how a greater focus on making change happen would be rooted in leadership and governance that is more anticipatory, more adaptable, and more agile.
The Philippine launch of the 2024 Regional Human Development Report sought to foster dialogue on human development that can be translated into policy recommendations to aid people-focused governance in the country.
The first Human Development Report of UNDP was released 33 years ago in 1990, marking a significant milestone by reigniting discussions on how development should be measured. PR