Some of the greatest gains in human development have been made by the world's poorest countries. This, according to the 20th Anniversary edition of the UNDP's Human Development Report (HDR) titled The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development, released here yesterday.
The top five countries in 2010 Human Development Index (HDI) rankings of 169 countries are Norway, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Ireland, while the bottom five are Mozambique, Burundi, Niger, Congo and Zimbabwe. India came in as a country with medium human development at 119.
Oman, Nepal, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Algeria are in the top 10 list of the fastest gainers in human development over the past 40 years. Interestingly, the report points out that there is no direct correlation between the economic development of a country and its human development. This can be seen from the fact that China is the only country in the list of 10 top movers in HDI due to income rather than education or health accomplishments.
East Asia, led by China and Indonesia, was the region with the quickest HDI development since 1970. The Arab countries also performed well, with eight of the 20 world leaders in HDI improvement. Sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet Union did not perform as well - with declines in the life expectancy in some of their nations.
Most developing nations made dramatic developments in health, education and a basic standard of living. Overall, life expectancy grew from 59 years in 1970 to 70 years in 2010. School enrolment rose from 55 per cent of all primary and secondary school-age children to 70 per cent. Per capita GDP doubled to more than $10,000.
There has been a great variation in this growth. Over the past four decades, the lowest performing 25 per cent of developing countries saw their HDI grow by less than 20 per cent, while the top performing quarter posted gains of 54 per cent.
The 2010 index measures health, education and income for 169 countries. The first HDR, written in 1990, pioneered the concept of the HDI - introducing the idea that there is no direct link between economic growth and human progress. The 2010 report continues this trend of innovation, introducing three new indices previously not reflected in HDI measurement. They are the inequality-adjusted human development index, the gender equality index and the multidimensional poverty index.