Norway, Australia and the Netherlands led the world in 2011 Human Development Index (HDI). The Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and Burundi went to the bottom, according to the recently released Human Development Report 2011 “Equity and Sustainability: A Better Future for All”.
Nepal saw a marginal dip in its position from 138th out of 169 countries in 2010 to 157th out of 187 countries in 2011. For a relief, the dip is not caused by the lack of improvements in health, education and income sectors—the major HDI measurement factors. In fact, the Human Development Index has improved from 0.428 in 2010 to 0.458 in 2011.
Despite making the slight progress in terms of HDI, Nepal is still placed in the ‘Low Human Development group’ and is the second lowest ranked country only ahead of Afghanistan among SAARC nations. Sri Lanka has topped the region and is placed at 97th position, while neighbor India, is placed at 134th.
The report states, “Development progress in the world’s poorest countries could be halted or even reversed by mid-centuries unless bold steps are taken now to slow climate change, prevent further environmental damage and reduce deep inequalities within and among nations.”
The report has also ranked countries by making adjustments in inequalities in areas of access to health, education and income. Even with the new adjustments, Nepal held its position, with income inequality being the main reason that held Nepal back as it lost whopping 37.4 percent on income index – biggest loss when compared with South Asian nations. Likewise, Nepal lost 19.5 percent on life expectancy index and 43.6 percent on education index.
The report showed there is a vast inequality in the country especially in terms of income distribution. Nepal has seen increase in inequality although there has been significant reduction in poverty. “Despite the relatively better position on access to education and health, income equality dragged Nepal down the adjusted rankings and had the traditional methodology been applied, we would have ranked much higher,” said Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel, Former vice-chairman of National Planning Commission (NPC).
The country’s income Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, is at 47.3.
“Connecting the gender dots is the most important thing that is needed to be done,” said Seira Tamang, political scientist.
The wealthiest of economies also got affected when new adjustments were brought into the equation and a few got dropped out of top 20 after the adjustments were applied. The United States falls from 4th position to 23rd, the Republic of Korea from 15th to 32nd, and Israel from 17th to 25th indicating that income distribution has worsened in many countries.
Robert Piper, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, stated Nepal made very fast development in HDI but there is a need of more inclusive and equitable growth. “The report’s emphasis on the benefits of integrating sustainability and equity for promoting human development reminds us forcefully of the need to put equality in outcomes at the center of the development debate,” noted Piper.
Meanwhile, the report also talks about sustainability and notes that the most disadvantaged people are bearing the repercussions of environmental deterioration, even though they are contributing little to the problem.
It also indicated that Nepal has already begun to see the direct impacts of climate change in the form of increased floods, melting glaciers and shifting seasons. Therefore, it is critical that equity is integrated into development policies and approaches at global, regional, and national community levels so that already excluded and deprived communities are not left far behind.
“Nepal is contributing very little for the climate change but is facing adverse impacts. More resources will come for climate change funding rather than for other issues in around 10 years or after,” said Piper.
The report argues that sustainability must be approached as a matter of basic social justice as the world community prepares for the landmark UN conference on sustainable development in June 2012 in Rio de Janerio.