Human Development Report 2014 – Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience



The 2014 Human Development Report— Sustaining Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience—looks at two concepts which are both interconnected and immensely important to securing human development progress. It shows that overall global trends are positive and that progress is continuing. Yet, lives are being lost, and livelihoods and development undermined, by natural or human-induced disasters and crises.

However, these setbacks are not inevitable. While every society is vulnerable to risk, some suffer far less harm and recover more quickly than others when adversity strikes. This report asks why that is and considers vulnerability and resilience through a human development lens.

Key findings include the following:

  • As successive Human Development Reports have shown, most people in most countries have been doing steadily better in human development. Advances in technology, education and incomes hold ever-greater promise for longer, healthier, more secure lives. Globalization has on balance produced major human development gains, especially in many countries of the South. But there is also a widespread sense of precariousness in the world today—in livelihoods, in personal security, in the environment and in global politics. High achievements on critical aspects of human development, such as health and nutrition, can quickly be undermined by a natural disaster or economic slump. Theft and assault can leave people physically and psychologically impoverished. Corruption and unresponsive state institutions can leave those in need of assistance without recourse. Political threats, community tensions, violent conflict, neglect of public health, environmental damages, crime and discrimination all add to individual and community vulnerability.
  • Most people everywhere are vulnerable to shocks to some degree—natural disasters, financial crises, armed conflicts—as well as to long-term social, economic and environmental changes. Economic weaknesses are undermining the social contract even in advanced industrialized societies, and no country anywhere will be immune to the long-term effects of climate change.
  • Those living in extreme poverty and deprivation are among the most vulnerable. Despite recent progress in poverty reduction, more than 2.2 billion people are either near or living in multidimensional poverty. That means more than 15 percent of the world’s people remain vulnerable to multidimensional poverty. At the same time, nearly 80 percent of the global population lack comprehensive social protection. About 12 percent (842 million) suffer from chronic hunger, and nearly half of all workers— more than 1.5 billion—are in informal or precarious employment.
  • Conflict and a sense of personal insecurity have pervasive adverse impacts on human development and leave billions of people living in precarious conditions. Many countries in the bottom tier of the Human Development Index are emerging from long periods of conflict or still confront armed violence. More than 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by conflict—about a fifth of the world’s population. And recent political instability has had an enormous human cost: About 45 million people were forcibly displaced due to conflict or persecution by the end of 2012—the highest in 18 years—more than 15 million of them refugees. In some areas of West and Central Africa lawlessness and armed conflict continue to threaten human development advances, with long-term repercussions for national progress. And in a number of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, despite high human development achievements, many people feel threatened by rising rates of homicide and other violent crimes.
  • Women everywhere experience vulnerability in personal insecurity. Violence violates their rights, and feelings of personal insecurity restrict their agency in both public and private life. Expanding freedoms and human security, then, is also about supporting measures that bring about changes in institutions and norms that reduce interpersonal violence and discrimination. Improvements in personal security can have a profound impact on actual and perceived vulnerability of individuals and communities and on their sense of security, empowerment and agency.
  • People’s well-being is influenced greatly by the larger freedoms within which they live and by their ability to respond to and recover from adverse events—natural or human-made. Resilience underpins any approach to securing and sustaining human development. At its core, resilience is about ensuring that state, community and global institutions work to empower and protect people. Human development involves removing the barriers that hold people back in their freedom to act. It is about enabling the disadvantaged and excluded to realize their rights, to express their concerns openly, to be heard and to become active agents in shaping their destiny. It is about having the freedom to live a life that one values and to manage one’s affairs adequately.
  • A common commitment—national and global—towards universal provision of social services, strengthening social protection and assuring full employment would constitute a profound societal and political decision that would lay the foundation for building long-term resilience, for countries and for their citizens as individuals. Such a commitment would boost the ability of individuals, societies and countries to resist and recover from setbacks, while recognizing that some are more exposed to risks and threats than others and need additional support.


UNDP (2014). Human Development Report 2014 - Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience. New York: UNDP.