Human Development Index Report 2011 – Barriers to future development

The latest HDI report was out a few days ago – you can download the whole thing from the UN website and there’s a handy Guardian map here. Norway comes out on top, with the Democratic Republic at the bottom.

The HDI measures development by looking at progress on income, health and education – and then giving countries a score from 0 to 1. For more details on how the HDI measures development and its limitations- click here

Between 1970 and 2010, the countries in the lowest 25% of the HDI rankings improved their overall HDI achievement by a remarkable 82%, twice the global average. “If the pace of improvement over the past 40 years were to be continued for the next 40, the great majority of countries would achieve HDI levels by 2050 equal to or better than those now enjoyed only by the top 25% in today’s HDI rankings.”

There are, however, two things that could hold these countries back –

The first is the high degree of inequality within certain countries – this can mean that whole tranches of people are not getting access to education (in some cases girls in Patriarchal societies) or basic health care – which reduces life expectancy. This later is arguably what’s happening now in Ghana – which, after making huge progress over the last years in its HDI has now stalled – down from 136th to 135th this year, it could also explain why Britain, despite huge incomes, languishes at a dismal 28th and why Cuba, besides having much lower incomes – comes in at 55 on the HDI rankings.

The second is the adverse effects of climate change – While this is not measured in the HDI – this years report focusses on the relationship between development, and environmental degredation – It is not difficult to see that climate change could easily have an effect on income, and then a knock on effect on health and education. According to the projections below, it is the poorer countries that will bear the brunt of climate change in future years. Countries that have been especially badly affected in recent years include Haiti, Bangladesh and most of East Africa…



Of course, these are just projections and with sufficient political will, these scenarios could change…..

However, the problem is that increasing income is associated with increasing environmental degredation – The average UK citizen accounts for as much greenhouse gas emissions in two months as a person in a low HDI country generates in a year

But, perversly, those countries with high HDI are predicted to more able to ‘ride out’ the adverse effects of climate change – such as global warming, see level rise and deforestation –

It would appear that the ability of developing nations to develop will depend more and more on ‘the west’ moving towards developing a sustainable economy…..

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