Norway tops UN development rankings while Niger is placed last

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark (left) meets with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City before launching the 2013 Human Development Report. Photo: UNDP

14 March 2013 – Norway, Australia and the United States lead this year’s Human Development Index (HDI) rankings, the annual United Nations measure of progress in human well-being, while Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Mozambique are at the bottom.

The new HDI figures, launched today in Mexico City by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), combines measures of life expectancy, literacy, school enrolment and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. This year 187 countries and territories were measured.

Norway retained its top position from last year, ahead of Australia and the US, while the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan round out the top 10, in that order.

However, when the HDI is adjusted for internal inequalities in health, education and income, the standings of some countries fall significantly. The US falls from 3 to 16 and the Republic of Korea descends from 12 to 28. By contrast, Sweden rises from the seventh to the fourth spot.

“National averages hide large variation in human experiences, and wide disparities remain within countries of both the North and the South,” the report says.

The report, entitled The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World, emphasizes the unprecedented growth of developing countries, which is propelling millions out of poverty and reshaping the global system.

Human Development Index trends, 1980–2012. Credit: UNDP

According to the report, leading economies in the South such as China, India and Brazil will be the main drivers of economic growth and societal change for the first time in centuries. This growth, however, is not limited to these three countries, and the report spotlights more than 40 other countries that have made greater human development gains in recent decades than what was predicted.


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