World & Vatican
U.N.: ‘Disturbing reversal’ of rising living standards
November 8th, 2011
Climate change and inequalities in health, education and income threaten to reverse 40 years of progress in improving people’s lives, a U.N. official told Vatican Radio Nov. 3.
Helen Clark, head of the U.N. Development Programme, spoke on the launch of the 2011 Human Development Report in Copenhagen, Denmark. The report features the Human Development Index, an annual ranking of national achievement in health, education and income covering 187 countries and territories.
“This report says the rate of progress we saw in the last 40 years cannot be maintained unless we get these equity, sustainability issues and challenges tackled,” Vatican Radio quoted Clark as saying.
“And the impact in the worst case scenario, which is put in this report, is that countries that are already low on the Human Development Index would see widening inequalities and very little progress if the challenges aren’t tackled,” she said.
Norway, Australia and the Netherlands lead the world in the 2011 index while the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger and Burundi are at the bottom. The United States, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Germany and Sweden round out the top 10 countries in the 2011 rankings, but when the index is adjusted for internal inequalities in health, education and income, some of the wealthiest nations drop out of the top 20: The United States falls from No. 4 to No. 23, the Republic of Korea from No. 15 to No. 32, and Israel from No. 17 to No. 25, the U.N. agency said in a statement on the report.
The United States and Israel dropped in the report’s inequality-adjusted index “mainly because of income inequality, though health care is also a factor in the U.S. ranking change, while wide education gaps between generations detract from the Republic of Korea’s performance, the agency said.
The author of the report, Jeni Klugman, said there is a huge gap between the top and bottom ranked countries, Vatican Radio reported.
“Life expectancy in the Democratic Republic of Congo is 48 years for someone born today while for someone born in Norway it is 81 years so it is a huge difference,” she said.
Aid to poorer countries grew 23 percent from 2005 to 2009 but was still far short of the amount pledged by wealthy countries.
“Bold action is needed on both fronts if the recent human development progress for most of the world’s poor majority is to be sustained, for the benefit of future generations as well as for those living today,” the U.N. agency said.
“Past reports have shown that living standards in most countries have been rising – and converging – for several decades now. Yet the 2011 report projects a disturbing reversal of those trends if environmental deterioration and social inequalities continue to intensify, with the least developed countries diverging downward from global patterns of progress by 2050,” the agency said.
The agency said the report highlights “how the world’s most disadvantaged people suffer the most from environmental degradation, including in their immediate personal environment, and disproportionately lack political power, making it all the harder for the world community to reach agreement on needed global policy changes.”
“Bold new approaches to global development financing and environmental controls” are needed, the agency said, maintaining that these measures are both essential and feasible.
– Research by Catholic San Francisco
From November 11, 2011 issue of Catholic San Francisco.