Opening Remarks by Ms. Elaine Conkievich
Resident Representative, UNDP Mongolia
19 January 2021
Your Excellency Minister Sarangerel, honored guests and colleagues
I am pleased to welcome you all to the virtual unveiling of UNDP’s flagship Human Development Report 2020.
It has been already three decades since UNDP debuted the report globally introducing new measures to assess the progress of human development. As you may know, human development focuses on improving the lives of people rather than assuming that economic growth will lead, automatically, to greater wellbeing for all.
On its 30th anniversary, UNDP’s Human Development Report, entitled “The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene” proposes that humans are shaping the planet in an entirely new geologic epoch, Anthropocene or the Age of Humans. It shows that we are at an unprecedented moment in history, in which human activity has become a dominant force shaping the planet. Thus, the impact of human activity on the planet interacts with existing inequalities, threatening significant development reversals.
The 2019 Human Development Report emphasized that increasingly important for many countries’ human development was not the overall size of the “pie” but the relative size of the “slices”, of this pie, thus a focus not only on overall human development but on reducing inequalities across development areas. This year’s report, points out that we cannot just focus on the pie and the slices, but we also need to focus on the “oven”, a reference to our planet, our environment, our biosphere. If our “oven” is overheating, not well functioning, dirty or greasy, then surely our pie will not be tasty or turn out well.
With this added focus on the “oven”, this year’s report also pilots a new experimental measure, called Planetary pressure-adjusted human development index, that looks deep into how human determined environmental issues are affecting human development, or how we maintain and use our “oven” to bake our pie, nicely and evenly throughout.
If we look to Mongolia specifically, Mongolia ranks 99 out of 189 countries and territories in the report. However, when adjusted with the country’s planetary-pressures, through carbon dioxide emissions per person and material footprint per capita, Mongolia loses 10 positions in the ranking.
According to the report, while the COVID-19 pandemic is the latest crisis facing the world, unless humans release their grip on nature, it won’t be the last. Therefore, in the words of UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, ‘Our future is not about choosing between people or trees. It is about choosing to do things differently.’
Many countries in the world including Mongolia are facing rising environmental and climate challenges that require urgent and timely solutions. Natural disasters increased 75% in the last 20 years, almost 70% of the world’s wildlife may have been lost in the last 50 years, and in Mongolia, over 70% of the land has been degraded.
The Covid-19 pandemic is not only threatening to roll back achievements that Mongolia made towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals but also the world might see negative human development progress for the first time in the last 30 years, as per the report.
Challenges we face today and in the future are formidable and to lessen and avoid such disastrous impacts, we must act today and assess the consequences of our actions and choices on the planet.
We must focus not only on expanding people’s capabilities to lead lives they value, but we must also carefully focus on agency, a person’s ability to participate in decision making, particularly important for increased participation of women in decision making, and values, that is the choices that are most prioritized by people, including values that factor in nature if we are going to live on a healthy, green, and sustainable planet.
We have invited 4 esteemed panelists here today, women and men, to illuminate us with their thoughts on the report and what it means for Mongolia. I am pleased that our colleague Ms. Khishigjargal will pose some thought-provoking questions to the panelists to facilitate today’s discussion which I trust will be nothing less than stimulating for you.
With this I would like to close by saying that UNDP remains committed to supporting the Government and people of Mongolia in achieving Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, building forward better, so all Mongolian women, men, girls and boys live a decent life in harmony with nature.