UNDP-Harvard dialogue explores linkages between human development, COVID-19 and environment

24 June 2020
By HDRO

The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented human development crisis and exposed our collective unpreparedness despite the warning signs. How can we turn this crisis into an opportunity for positive change? How can we make decisions that will have lasting effects on the world´s capacity to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and drive human development forward?

These considerations formed the basis of an open dialogue, “Linkages between Human Development, COVID-19 & the Environment” on June 24. Jointly organized by UNDP and the Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University, the event was webcast live on YouTube to the public.

In his opening remarks, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner emphasized that the choices that we make in response to the COVID-19 crisis will determine the trajectory of future development.
“In the 21st Century, the planetary dimension of human development becomes ever more fundamental. It defines the outcomes that we can achieve through the development choices we make,” Steiner said.

Steiner also highlighted that the conversations around the COVID-19 pandemic is one in which no one can claim to have the right answers but that we can begin by asking the right questions and envisaging a global community learning about what needs to change for a better future.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not a short-term event. Even after a vaccine is discovered, it will take a long time for us to figure out how to rebuild. I am hoping this situation will give us a chance to reimagine how we do things and collaborate across different disciplines,” said Asim I. Khwaja, Faculty Director of CID and Sumitomo-FASID Professor of International Finance and Development at the Harvard Kennedy School, who also delivered opening remarks.

Other participants included:
- Luis Felipe López-Calva (Director, UNDP Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean)
- Kanni Wignaraja (Director, UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific)
- Isabel Saint Malo (former Vice-President of Panama; Special Advisor to the Administrator)
- Pedro Conceição (Director, Human Development Report Office at UNDP)
- Joseph Aldy (Professor of the Practice of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School)
- William Clark (Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development, Harvard Kennedy School)
- Isabel Guerrero Pulgar (Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School & Co-founder/Executive Director of IMAGO)
- Gordon Hanson (Peter Wertheim Professor in Urban Policy, Harvard Kennedy School)
- Henry Lee (Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School)
- Richard Peiser (Michael D. Spear Professor of Real Estate Development, Harvard Graduate School of Design)
- Forest Reinhardt (John D. Black Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School)

Participants agreed that COVID-19 is a clear reminder that humanity remains at the mercy of the forces of nature and that we must reconsider a path that leads to more equalitarian, sustainable growth incorporating environmental considerations.

The open dialogue was part of an inclusive, participatory consultation process for the 2020 Human Development Report, which will focus on how to rekindle our relationship with nature and improve people’s lives today and in the future, in balance with the planet.

YouTube recording: https://youtu.be/TOrD5RF_AJU