the world has recovered from Covid, but poor countries have not

the world has recovered from Covid, but poor countries have not


Humanity has returned to its pre-pandemic level of development, but the record forecast for 2023 hides a gap which is now widening between rich and poor countries in a fragile world like a “house of cards”, warns the UN.

In 2020 and 2021, for the first time since its creation more than 30 years ago, the human development index, which takes into account life expectancy, education, and standard of living, had declined two years in a row, returning five years ago due to an unprecedented overlap of crises, including Covid-19.

” Rebound “

But since then “we have seen a rebound”, explains Achim Steiner, head of the UN Development Program (UNDP) which publishes this report on Wednesday.

Thus, estimates for 2023 predict a historic record for the index at the global level, with a return of all its components “above pre-2019 levels”. Even if Covid and the impacts of the war in Ukraine have slowed down the trajectory previously hoped for.

But what looks like good news hides an unexpected divide between rich and poor countries. “We see that the poorest and most vulnerable segments of our society are being left behind”, while the UN development goals for 2030 aim to ensure that no one is left behind, starting “with those who are furthest behind,” insisted Pedro Conceição, responsible for the report.

Switzerland, Norway and Iceland in the lead

And this result is “very worrying” after “20 years during which countries have converged in terms of income, life expectancy and education”, insists Achim Steiner.

At the top of the development index list are still Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. Like them, the other OECD countries should all have returned to their 2019 level of development in 2023.

At the back of the pack, Somalia, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. More than half of least developed countries have not recovered from the impacts of the pandemic, most of them on the African continent.

There is also “an extreme group” of countries like Sudan, Afghanistan or Burma that “the combination of the pandemic, fiscal crises and conflicts, sometimes civil wars, has trapped in a situation where recovery is “is not on the agenda,” laments Achim Steiner, rejecting the “usual narrative according to which the world is recovering.”

“A world richer than ever”

According to UNDP, Afghanistan, for example, has lost 10 years in terms of human development, and in Ukraine, the index is at its lowest since 2004.

And the widening gap further endangers a multipolar world, geopolitically more divided than ever.

“We live in a world richer than ever in human history, at least in financial terms (…) But there are more people who are hungry, more poor than ten years ago. More and more wars across the world, with tens of millions of refugees,” notes Achim Steiner. “It’s a riskier world, which turns against itself.”


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