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Poor Nations Not Better Off Decade Later, says UN Report - 2003-07-08


The United Nations said many poor countries are worse off now than they were 10 years ago. The annaul U.N. Human Development Report has been released.

This year's Human Development Report tracks progress made by 175 countries on a variety of development goals, including reducing poverty, achieving universal primary education, and halting the spread of HIV-AIDS.

The report warned that while illiteracy and child mortality rates have been dramatically reduced in some of the world's most impoverished nations, 54 countries are actually poorer today than a decade ago.

The author of the report, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, said most of these countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States. "One of the reasons this has happened is, in part, because of the economic decline and because of HIV-AIDS. You see how Botswana has caught up with Costa Rica by 1990, but then it goes precipitously down. Life expectancy has gone precipitously down in Botswana in part because of HIV-AIDS," she said.

But Ms. Fukada-Parr said AIDS is by no means the only problem facing poor countries. Other factors, such as declines in primary school enrollment and increases in child mortality rates, will also pull a country's development ranking down.

Good government and democracy, Ms. Fukada-Parr said, are important to a country's development, but she said other factors are also important. "Before you get growth going, you still need to invest pretty heavily in education and health. You still need to invest heavily in infrastructure. You need to invest in agricultural technology to improve productivity. These are basically public interventions. Public interventions are in fact necessary precisely to set the preconditions for market-led economic growth," she said.

In addition to calling for more aid to developing nations, the Human Development Report says that developing and industrialized countries alike should be held accountable for what they are doing to eliminate poverty.

According to the report, Norway ranks highest on the human development index followed by Iceland and Sweden. The lowest human development rates are found in Burkina Faso, Niger and Sierra Leone. Midway through the list of 175 countries are the Philippines, Maldives, and Turkmenistan.