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UN: 'Significant progress' in human development

However, the UN warns that the gap between rich and poor is widening.

Image: CIMMYT via Creative Commons

THE PUBLICATION OF the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) annual development report has shown that there has been significant progress made across the world since 1970 – and that the fastest progress is being made by some of the poorest countries.

The UN’s Development Report – which has become of the most trusted indicator of development over the past 20 years – also concludes that aid works.

The greatest achievements have been made in the areas of health and education. It concludes that progress does not depend on economic growth alone, but also factors such as life expectancy, better access to health care, education, and transport.

The report also notes that three African nations have experienced a backwards trend since 1970; the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Researchers concluded that in the first two cases this was due to corruption and conflict, and in the case of Zambia was due to HIV/Aids.

The report warned that there was an increasing gap between rich and poor - particularly in countries of the former Soviet Union and Southern Africa. It also found that the markets were not the answer to development issues. The report reads:

Markets are very bad at ensuring the provision of public goods, such as security, stability, health and education.

It notes that the global financial crisis has forced 64 million people into absolute poverty, which is classified as living on earnings less than $1.25 a day.

The report, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, was inspired by the work of the Nobel-prize winning economist Amartya Sen.

Sen introduces the report, saying:

The new challenges we face have intensified – for example, those surrounding the conservation of our environment and the sustainability of our well-being and substantive freedoms.

The human development approach is flexible enough to take note of the future prospects of human lives on the planet.

The report found that Ireland was a leading country in terms of maternal health, with the United States’ maternal mortality rate standing at 11 times that of our small country.

In fact, Ireland was in the top 5:

1. Norway

2. Australia

3. New Zealand

4. United States

5. Ireland

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