A report published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) finds that progress in human development has halted or gone backward. The UN study was released Thursday. It cites the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, economic uncertainty, and other crises as the main reasons for the lack of progress.
The report includes the UNDP’s Human Development Index. The index ranks 191 countries in the world based on health, education level, and standard of living. It found that 90 percent of the nations failed to reach a better, healthier, or more secure life for their people in 2020 and 2021. For the first time in 32 years, the index found that human development decreased for two straight years.
This year’s rankings show some countries are beginning to improve. Others face worsening crises. The report finds Latin America, the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia have been especially hard hit.
Achim Steiner is the head of UNDP. “Nine out of 10 countries in this year’s human development report index are shown to have faced a decline,” he said. “This has never happened before even during the last devastating global moment of crisis, the financial crisis, only one out of 10 countries faced a decline in human development indices.”
Switzerland is at the top this year’s rankings. That is followed by Norway, Iceland, Hong Kong, Australia, and other wealthy nations. Countries from sub-Saharan Africa are among the lowest ranked in human development, with South Sudan at the bottom.
Pedro Conceicao is the report’s lead author. He said that economic recession is the main driver behind the decline in human development. There has also been a large drop in life expectancy.
The United States is ranked 21st in the index. The U.S. has reported a large drop in life expectancy partly because of COVID-19. Since the pandemic, life expectancy in the U.S. went from 79 years to 76.1 years.
Conceicao also said the report shows global levels of trust are the lowest on record. He said those who are most mistrustful hold the most extreme political opinions.
“Uncertainty and the feeling of insecurity hardens people’s commitments to a group that shares a similar set of beliefs and increases hostility to other groups that think differently,” Conceicao said. He added that the “report documents that democratic practices are under stress.”
The report warns that the problems of insecurity and political division often make each other worse. The report said division is preventing nations from taking the collective action needed to deal with the many threats and crises around the world.
I’m Dan Novak.
Lisa Schlien reported this story for VOANews. Dan Novak adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
standard –n. a level of quality or performance that is considered acceptable or required
devastating — adj. causing great damage or harm
stress — n. a state of mental tension, worry or pressure