IfAD Development Economics Workshops are often co-organized with the leading international development institutions (e.g., UN institutions), aimed at focused discussion on specific economic development issues. The participants include researchers, thinkers, and practitioners who are at the forefront of national and international economic development policy debates,their formulation and implementation.

Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World

Over the past years, the world has experienced widespread and interlinked crises. Whether it’s the unequal health and socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, supply-chain disruptions, cost-of-living shocks in the wake of the war of Ukraine or accelerated climate change putting a third of Pakistan under water while rivers dry up in Europe, the current context is one of system-wide disruption.

While there is nothing new about disease, war, or poverty, different development challenges are now happening at a speed and scale beyond what humans have ever experienced. The 2021-2022 Human Development Report provides insight to new and emerging “uncertainty complex,” with three interacting layers of uncertainty:

  • from the inequalities and dangerous planetary changes of the Anthropocene,
  • from the sweeping transformations towards a low-carbon future, and
  • from the intensification of political polarization making, it harder to come together to tackle shared problems at a time when we need to the most.


Speaker: Pedro Conceição
Time: 18 January 2023 | 3.30 - 5.00 pm
Location:McClelland Park 105
“2021-2022 Human Development Report-Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World.”

Speaker:Including fromUniversity of Arizona,University of Bristol, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, University of Maryland, Stockholm University, and United Nations Development Programme.
Time: Thursday, 19 January 2023 | 8.30 - 5.00 pm
Location: ENR2 S107

Together, they drive distress and unsettle lives, calling for radically new approaches to development. Indeed, we face a growing mismatch between our collective responses and the current context of both enormous promise and pressing, globally interlinked, threats to human development: we know what the problems are, we have more tools than ever to address them, yet we are failing to act.

Conventional development narratives, assuming known benchmarks and linear pathways of progress, no longer appear to hold. The recent series of Human Development Reports find that average progress in traditional development indicators has not necessarily translated into increased individual life satisfaction. Globally, perceptions of insecurity and feelings of distress are reaching record highs: 6 out of 7 people report feeling insecure about many aspects of their lives, including in high-income countries, and stress and sadness are on the rise. Yet these feelings of distress have an objective basis. Over the past two years, and for the first time ever, the global human development index has declined – setting global progress back to 2016-levels. New gaps are opening in areas important for human development in the 21st century – such as higher education and digitalization – and humans’ planetary pressures are threatening both human development and human security progress.

However, while there is peril in new uncertainties, in the insecurity, polarization and demagoguery that grip many countries – there is opportunity too —an opportunity to reimagine our futures, to renew and adapt our institutions and to craft new stories about who we are and what we value. This is the hopeful path forward, the path to follow if we wish to thrive in a world in flux.

This workshop, jointly organized by the Initiative for Agency and Development (IfAD) at University of the Arizona and theUnited Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report Office, delves into what it would take to build a more hopeful future for human development in uncertain times.

Insights from economics, law, and behavioral sciences to inform identification and designs of effective development policies and programs to promote agency and economic development.

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