The United Nations (UN) now ranks Brunei Darussalam in the 51st position out of 191 countries on its 2021/2022 Human Development Index (HDI), down two places from the previous index issued by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
HDI measures three human development criteria, specifically health, knowledge and standard of living.
The Sultanate received a 0.829 score on the index with an average life expectancy of 74.6 years and 14 years of expected schooling. It is also categorised under the ‘very high’ development group; to qualify, a nation must receive a score of 0.8 or higher.
Among ASEAN member nations, Singapore received a 0.939 score, with Brunei Darussalam scoring 0.829; Malaysia at 0.803; Thailand at 0.8, followed by Indonesia at 0.705, Vietnam at 0.703, the Philippines at 0.699, Laos at 0.607, Cambodia at 0.593, and Myanmar at 0.585.
The latest Human Development Report Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World recently launched by UNDP argues that layers of uncertainty are stacking up and interacting to unsettle life in unprecedented ways.
The past two years have had a devastating impact for billions of people around the world, when crises like COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine hit back-to-back, interacting with sweeping social and economic shifts, dangerous planetary changes, and massive increases in polarisation.
The report stated that for the first time in the 32 years that UNDP had been calculating it, the HDI has declined globally for two years in a row. Human development has fallen back to its 2016 levels, reversing much of the progress towards the sustainable development goals.
The reversal is nearly universal as over 90 per cent of countries registered a decline in their HDI score in either 2020 or 2021 and more than 40 per cent declined in both years, signalling that the crisis is still deepening for many.
While some countries are beginning to get back on their feet, recovery is uneven and partial, further widening inequalities in human development.
Latin America, the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have been hit particularly hard.
“The world is scrambling to respond to back-to-back crises. We have seen with the cost of living and energy crises that, while it is tempting to focus on quick fixes like subsidising fossil fuels, immediate relief tactics are delaying the long-term systemic changes we must make,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.
“We are collectively paralysed in making these changes. In a world defined by uncertainty, we need a renewed sense of global solidarity to tackle our interconnected, common challenges,” Steiner added.
The report explored why the change needed isn’t happening and suggests there are many reasons, including how insecurity and polarisation are feeding off each other today to prevent the solidarity and collective action needed to tackle crises at all levels.
New calculations show, for instance, that those feeling most insecure are also more likely to hold extreme political views.
“Even before COVID-19 hit, we were seeing the twin paradoxes of progress with insecurity and polarisation. Today, with one-third of people worldwide feeling stressed and fewer than a third of people worldwide trusting others, we face major roadblocks to adopting policies that work for people and planet,” Steiner said.
“This thought-provoking new analysis aims to help us break this impasse and chart a new course out of our current global uncertainty. We have a narrow window to re-boot our systems and secure a future built on decisive climate action and new opportunities for all.”
To chart a new course, the report recommended implementing policies that focus on investment – from renewable energy to preparedness for pandemics, and insurance-including social protection – to prepare our societies for the ups and downs of an uncertain world.
While innovation in its many forms – technological, economic, cultural – can also build capacities to respond to whatever challenges come next.
“To navigate uncertainty, we need to double down on human development and look beyond improving people’s wealth or health,” said UNDP’s Pedro Conceição, the report’s lead author.
“These remain important. But we also need to protect the planet and provide people with the tools they need to feel more secure, regain a sense of control over their lives and have hope for the future.”