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Asian Countries Lead Development Progress

2010 Human Development Report: Asian Countries Lead Development Progress Over 40 Years

Dili, Timor-Leste, 8 November 2010

Most developing countries made dramatic, and often underestimated, progress in health, education and basic living standards in recent decades, reveals a detailed new analysis of long-term Human Development Index (HDI) trends.

The 20th anniversary edition of the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report was launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.

The “Top 10 Movers” (those that have improved most in HDI terms over the past 40 years) highlighted in the 2010 report were: Oman, China, Nepal, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Tunisia, South Korea, Algeria and Morocco.

East Asia and the Pacific had by far the strongest HDI performance of any region in the world, nearly doubling average HDI attainment over the past 40 years.

Timor-Leste’s HDI value for 2010 positions the country 120th out of 169, constituting a rise of 14 places. Timor-Leste now ranks in the medium human development category.

UNDP Resident Representative in Timor-Leste, Finn Reske-Nielsen, congratulated the people of Timor-Leste on the results of the 2010 Human Development Report:

“This progress is a great achievement for the country. Especially given that Timor-Leste is a new nation while the global human development trends are being measured over a 40 year period. The hope is that these improvements will continue to be built upon, and all people will have the opportunity for a longer, healthier and more productive life”.

The HDI is not designed to assess progress in human development over a short time period, because some of its component indicators do not change rapidly in response to policy changes. This is particularly so for mean years of schooling and life expectancy at birth. It is, however, useful to review HDI progress over the medium to long term. Between 2005 and 2010, Timor-Leste’s HDI value increased from 0.428 to 0.502, an increase of 17%.

Between 2005 and 2010, Timor-Leste’s life expectancy at birth increased by over two years, while mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling remained the same. Timor-Leste’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita increased by 228% during the same period.

The Human Development Reports and the HDI have challenged purely economic measurements of national achievement. They helped lay the conceptual foundation for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, calling for consistent global tracking of progress in health, education and overall living standards.

The 2010 HDI, which features some technical adjustments in method and indicators, including GNI and number of years of schooling, illustrates the wide range of development achievements in East Asia and the Pacific. It also introduces three new indices that capture multidimensional poverty, inequality and gender disparities.

In East Asia, most countries have higher income inequality today than was the case a few decades ago, due in part to widening gaps between rural areas and the rapidly industrializing cities.

The UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark, said that although “people today are healthier, wealthier and better educated than before, there is much that countries can do to improve people’s lives. This requires courageous local leadership as well as the continuing commitment of the international community”.


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