UNDP report says human development is improving worldwide, but the rate of improvement has slowed
The latest Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Programme in Tokyo on July 24 has ranked India 135 in a list of 187 countries. The position of the top and bottom five countries in the report has not changed from the past year. Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands and the United States are the top five ranked countries in 2013, while Sierra Leone, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger continue at the bottom of the list.
At 135, India’s position too is the same as it was in 2012. HDI takes into account long-term progress in three areas—a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.
The report, titled Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience, says that though human development levels continue to rise across the world, the rate of this growth has slowed and the spread has been very uneven.
According to the report, 1.2 billion people live on $1.25 or less a day. It also says that going by the latest estimates of the UNDP Multidimensional Poverty Index, almost 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries are living in poverty with “overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards”. And although poverty is declining overall, almost 800 million people are at risk of falling back into poverty if setbacks occur, warns the report.
The report notes that threats such as financial crises, fluctuations in food prices, natural disasters and violent conflict significantly impede progress.
The 2014 Human Development Report comes at a critical time, as attention is focussed on creation of a new development agenda after the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
New gender dimension
According to the Gender Development Index (GDI), introduced this year for the first time to measure the gender gap in human development achievements, there are 16 countries where the female HDI is equal to or higher than the male HDI. These countries are Argentina, Barbados, Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Poland, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine and Uruguay. GDI was used for 148 countries only. Afghanistan, with a female HDI of only 60 per cent of its male HDI, was the most unequal country.
As far as other countries of the subcontinent are concerned, Sri Lanka was ranked 73, Bhutan 136, Bangladesh 142, Nepal 145, Pakistan 146 and Myanmar 150.
Among the BRICS countries, India’s rank is the lowest, with Russia at 57, Brazil at 79, China 91 and South Africa 118.
Call to build resilience
The report advocates for the universal provision of basic social services to enhance resilience. It refutes the notion that only wealthy countries can afford to do this. It presents a comparative analysis of countries of differing income levels and systems of government that have either started to implement or have fully implemented such policies. These include fast-growing economies, such as Republic of Korea, and developing countries such as Costa Rica.
“These countries started putting in place measures of social insurance when their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita was lower than India’s and Pakistan’s now,” the report observes.
The report calls for “an international consensus on universal social protection” to be included in the post-2015 development goals agenda.
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