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In the run-up to COP27, the benchmark United Nations Development Programme 2021/2022 Human Development Report, Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World was released, highlighting the critical roles of insurance, investment and innovation in making people more resilient. 

Drawing on research from previous Human Development Reports, including the 2019 paper on inequalities and the 2020 publication which uncovered the risks of the Anthropocene, the 2021/2022 report focuses on the roles we all play in shaping the world we live in – particularly when it comes to the choices surrounding green energy technology, health and social services, and even education. There is an economic, cultural, and environmental impact to every decision we make. 

Over the past few years the world has experienced wave after wave of unprecedented global disasters, from the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing impacts of climate change, to wars, conflicts and the fallout from inflation. 

The result of these global incidents has led to an “uncertainty complex” – a phrase that forms the basis and focus of the report, compiled by director and lead author Pedro Conceição, with input from several Advisory Board members (led by Michèle Lamont and Tharman Shanmugaratnam), the 2021/2022 Human Development Report aims to both understand and navigate the impact of today’s “uncertainty complex”, exploring what it means for human development, and importantly, our future.

Investment, innovation and insurance
Unquestionably, resilience is a prime building block to securing a stable and sustainable future, something which insurance can play a key role in delivering. Bringing financial security and even prosperity in the face of disastrous events, insurance is, as the authors highlight, “an essential stabilising force in the face of uncertainty”, and therefore a “vital element to navigating the uncertainty complex”. 

“Insurance helps protect everyone from the contingencies of an uncertain world. The global surge in social protection in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic did just that, while underscoring how little social insurance coverage there was before and how much more remains to be done. Investments in universal basic services such as health and education also afford an insurance function.”

Insurance, however, cannot solve the world’s problems alone; as the report highlights, it is about bringing together elements of innovation, investment and insurance together, to expand human development, and ultimately help humankind respond, recover and adapt to the “unknown and unknowable challenges that humanity will face”. 

From designing and utilising risk management mechanisms, investing in green technology,  protecting and enhancing natural resources, strengthening and expanding social protection systems, driving policy development, to using the power of social media – investment, innovation and insurance all have a key role to play, and people are at the heart of its success. 

As Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme and Co-Chair of the Insurance Development Forum Steering Committee, concluded: “This report firmly positions human development not just as a goal, but as a means to a path forward in uncertain times, reminding us that people – in all our complexity, our diversity, our creativity – are the real wealth of nations.”

Read the report in full. 


1st November, 2022