Human Development and Human Security for the Anthropocene: An analysis of the UNDP trilogy of reports 2020-2022

Des Gasper*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Three recent reports from the United Nations Development Programme’s
Human Development Report Office constitute a reconsideration of human development thinking and a revival of UN human security thinking: 1) the 2020 Human Development Report (“The Next Frontier — Human Development and the
Anthropocene”, 2) the 2022 Special Report “New Threats to Human Security in
the Anthropocene”, and 3) the 2021/22 Human Development Report (“Uncertain
Times, Unsettled Lives”). All are oriented to challenges summed up by the notion
of ‘the Anthropocene’. The trilogy forms an overdue, but welcome return to human security concerns and (sometimes) formulations. This paper analyses and assesses the set. It views them in terms of required transitions within the era of the
Anthropocene, during which threats and consequent crises will grow. The 2020
HDR provides new thinking, relevant to rescuing a sense of common human fate,
as underlies the notion of the Anthropocene. In parts though, it retains limitations in regard to i) mechanistic understandings of social and policy processes; ii)
one-sided emphasis on agency and freedoms and iii) lack of a notion of enough,
related to iv) a limited understanding of needs theory and leading to v) an unbalanced rendition of drivers of change. These limitations can be responded to, in
part, by human security ideas at various levels. Transitions require changes in vision and values as well as in methodologies and tools for analysis and planning.
Human security ideas can contribute at each of these levels, to understand and
cope better with the normality of crises in a world in transition. The 2022 Special Report has added two major features: a diagnostic stress on growing subjective insecurities and a prescriptive stress on solidarity. Solidarity — recognition
of shared fate, mutual concern, and mutual obligations — is added to the established UN headline strategies for advancing human security goals (protection
and empowerment). It is presented as a required commitment to others, globally;
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication5th International Academic Conference on Human Security
Subtitle of host publicationInnovation, research, and knowledge in the (re)configuration of human security
Place of PublicationBelgrade
PublisherUniversity of Belgrade
ISBN (Print) 978-86-80144-57-3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


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