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Part I

Renewing human development for the Anthropocene

While Covid-19 has absorbed the world’s attention, pre-existing crises continue.

The strain on our planet mirrors the strain facing many of our societies. This is not mere coincidence; indeed, planetary imbalances (the dangerous planetary change for people and all forms of life) and social imbalances exacerbate one another. As the 2019 Human Development Report made plain, many inequalities in human development have been increasing and continue to do so. Climate change, among other dangerous planetary-level changes, will only make them worse. Social mobility is down, social instability is up. Ominous signs of democratic backsliding and rising authoritarianism are worrying. Collective action on anything from Covid-19 to climate change becomes more difficult against a backdrop of social fragmentation.

Figure 1.1: Planetary and social imbalances reinforce each other

Chapter 1 argues that the human development journey (where we want to head) must now be considered in the context of an unprecedented moment in human history and in the planet’s history—and that the human development approach opens fresh and empowering perspectives on how to get there.

Complementing chapter 1’s analysis, chapter 2 provides detailed evidence of unprecedented planetary and social imbalances and their interaction. It shows empirically that we are confronting something fundamentally new and that the natural world of the Anthropocene reflects imbalances in opportunities, wealth and power of the human world.

Chapter 3 argues that working together in the pursuit of equity, innovation and planet stewardship can steer actions towards the transformational changes required to advance human development in the Anthropocene.

Figure 3.1: Key outcomes to guide action in the Anthropocene
Part 2 Cover

Part II

Acting for change