Bhutan achieves HDI score of 0.681

Ranked 125th out of 193 Countries in 2022

Bhutan has attained a Human Development Index (HDI) score of 0.681, placing it 125th out of 193 countries in 2022. This represents a two-place improvement from the previous year and positions the country within the medium development category. However, the 2023/24 Human Development Report (HDR) highlights a concerning global trend: the resurgence in the global HDI, which reflects a nation’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, education, and life expectancy, has been partial, incomplete, and unequal.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched the global Human Development Report 2023/2024, titled “Breaking the Gridlock: Reimagining Cooperation in a Polarized World,” on April 3. While the HDI was anticipated to reach record highs in 2023 following steep declines during 2020 and 2021, progress remains uneven. While affluent nations are experiencing unprecedented levels of human development, many of the world’s poorest countries continue to lag below their pre-crisis level of progress.

Global disparities are exacerbated by significant economic concentration. Nearly 40% of global trade in goods is dominated by just three countries, and in 2021, the market capitalization of each of the three largest tech companies surpassed the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than 90% of countries that year.

Addressing the launch, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Lyonpo D.N. Dhungyel, emphasized the timeliness of the HDR 2023/24 amid unprecedented global crises, including the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, declining economic growth, the triple planetary crisis, and widening inequalities. Lyonpo stressed the importance of strengthening multilateralism to address these challenges, recognizing that sustainable development requires collective action.

Lyonpo highlighted the significance of the Human Development Report, noting that its principles resonate strongly with Bhutan’s approach to development, prioritizing the well-being and happiness of its people. Bhutan has made significant strides in social sectors such as health and education since its first five-year plan in 1961, reflecting a commitment to holistic development.

Bhutan’s 35-year plan aims to achieve a healthy, prosperous, and secure nation by 2034, with a strong emphasis on social development. The plan identifies the social cluster as one of its four key areas of focus.

UNDP Resident Representative Mohammad Younus emphasized the widening human development gap, stressing that the reversal of a two-decade trend of reducing inequalities between wealthy and poor nations is deeply concerning. He called for leveraging interdependence to address shared challenges and ensure that people’s aspirations are met.

Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, highlighted the urgent need for cooperation in addressing conflicts, the climate crisis, and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals. He underscored the Human Development Report’s exploration of the roots of polarization and its impact on sustainable development.

The report emphasizes the importance of expanding systems of international cooperation to deliver on people’s priorities, including sustainable development, environmental preservation, and dignity for all.

Karla Hershey, Resident Coordinator of UN Bhutan, echoed the report’s call for action, emphasizing the pivotal role of multilateralism in addressing global challenges. She underscored the interconnectedness of nations and the need for collective efforts to navigate the complexities of the modern world.

The report calls for immediate action in promoting planetary public goods, enhancing digital global public goods, implementing new financial mechanisms to support low-income countries, and addressing political polarization through improved governance methods. Multilateralism is deemed essential to tackle the inherently global nature of providing global public goods, as bilateral agreements alone are insufficient.

By Sangay Rabten, Thimphu