These are among the key findings of the 2020 Human Development Report “The next frontier – Human Development and the Anthropocene,” released in Viet Nam today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in cooperation with the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

The Anthropocene—or The Age of Humans—refers to the new  geological age we are living in  where for the first time instead of the planet shaping humans, humans are shaping the planet.

According to the new report, 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. Therefore, the report introduces a new experimental index on human progress that takes into account countries’ carbon dioxide emissions and material footprint - planetary-pressures adjusted HDI (PHDI).

Photo: UNDP

Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Tran Quoc Phuong praised the Human Development Index (HDI) report for introducing a new experimental index on human progress that takes into account countries’ carbon dioxide emissions and material footprint - planetary-pressures adjusted HDI (PHDI).

“With the index, Viet Nam, as one of the countries hardest hit by climate change, will have additional orientation foundation to issue and implement policies in response to environmental pollution and climate change,” Vice Minister Tran Quoc Phuong added. 

The report lays out a stark choice for world leaders - take bold steps to reduce the immense pressure that is being exerted on the environment and the natural world, or humanity’s progress will stall.

Addressing the report launch, UNDP Resident Representative Caitlin Wiesen praised Viet Nam for embarking firmly on people-centered development and prioritizing human development and equality in its socio-economic development strategies and plans. 

Photo: UNDP

“Viet Nam’s High Human Development is a remarkable achievement and also creates opportunities for greater and more rapid progress in the coming development period. The country is at a critical juncture as it designs its next Socio-Economic Development Strategy, with decisions made today determining whether it will continue on it current path of growth and  low inequality, and whether it can simultaneously shift to  reducing pressure on the planet to  enhance  the harmony of the people and the environment,” said Ms. Wiesen. “I would like to reaffirm that UNDP stands ready to partner with Viet Nam in this journey to redesign a path to progress that respects the intertwined fate of people and planet.”

Viet Nam Joins High Human Development Group with relatively low levels of inequality 

Viet Nam’s HDI value for 2019 is 0.704, putting the country in the high human development category and positioning it at 117 out of 189 countries and territories. Between 1990 – 2019 the country’s HDI value increased by almost 46 percent, which is among the highest HDI growth rates in the world. During the same period, Viet Nam’s GNI per capita increased by more than 370 percent. 

Notably, Viet Nam’s Human Development progress has been achieved with moderate and stable levels of inequality. Viet Nam’s loss of HDI value due to inequality in 2019 is 16.5%, its loss of income due to inequality is 19.1% and, its GINI coefficient at 35.7 -- are among the lowest in the East Asia and Pacific region. In fact, when considering Viet Nam’s Inequality Adjusted HDI, the country is 10 places higher than its HDI ranking in 2019. 

Viet Nam has also been performing well in terms of gender equality. With the Gender Development Index value of 0.997, Viet Nam ranks 65th out of 162 countries and is the highest among five country groups. Particularly commendable is the share of seats in parliament which places Vietnam among the top third of countries globally. However, Viet Nam still facing gender inequality challenges: the country ranks in the bottom third globally in terms of sex ratio at birth (1.12), violence against women by intimate partners (34.4%) and women with accounts in financial institutions or with a mobile money service provider (30.4%). Disaggregated data show larger disparities within geographical locations and ethnic minority groups.

On the quality of Human development, Viet Nam performs well on health, education, employment and rural development indicators. Viet Nam is among the top third of countries in terms of lost healthy years as a percentage of expectancy (11.7%), and number of hospital beds (32 beds/100,000 people). All primary school teachers are trained, rural electrification covers 100% of the population and the unemployment rate is low. 

However, Viet Nam is within the bottom third in terms of vulnerable employment (54.1%) because of the large share of the labor force dependent on self-employment in household businesses.

Remarkable human development however accompanied with relatively high pressures on the planet

The 2020 Human Development Report considers the challenge of accelerating progress in human development while reducing inequality and reducing humanity’s negative impact on the natural environment. 
 
The report argues that as people and planet have entered an entirely new geological epoch, the Anthropocene or the Age of Humans, it is time to for all countries to redesign their paths to progress by fully accounting for the dangerous pressures humans put on the planet, and dismantle the gross imbalances of power and opportunity that prevent change.

The report introduces the Planetary-Pressures Adjusted HDI – or PHDI - a new indicator linking human development to environmental sustainability. when environmental factors are taken into account, more than 50 countries drop out of the very high human development group, reflecting their dependence on fossil fuels and material footprint.

Viet Nam’s remarkable human development has been accompanied with high pressure on the planet. In 2019, Viet Nam’s HDI value falls from 0.704 to 0.664 or a loss of 5.7% due to carbon dioxide emissions and material consumption per capita.

Viet Nam performs well in terms of forest coverage and response to disasters, but is among the bottom third of countries in terms of carbon emissions per unit of GDP (0.33Kg/$2010PPP GDP), land degradation (31% of the total land area), red list index (a measure animal extinction), and use of fertilizer nutrients per hectare of cropland (136.5kg Nitrogen & 65.1kg Phosphorus). 

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. 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./.

Khac Kien