Addressing Crises and Inequalities key to Arab States Maintaining Human Development Progress

24 Jul 2014

Tokyo — Human development is improving in the Arab states with some countries showing very high development, but there are wide variations between countries, as the region faces several challenges that can hinder progress, says the 2014 Human Development Report, released in Tokyo today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Report, entitled Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience, provides a human development perspective on vulnerability and proposes ways to strengthen resilience.

The Report points to major challenges in the region including conflict, youth unemployment and inequality, which have created overlapping vulnerabilities that, if left unchecked, can hamper human development now and in the future.

“By addressing vulnerabilities, all people may share in development progress, and human development will become increasingly equitable and sustainable,” UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said today.

The conflicts in Syria and elsewhere in the region have severely affected families and created the world’s largest population of displaced people and refugees that face daunting economic and social challenges, the Report says.

Women and children, who make up the highest proportion of displaced people, face overlapping deprivations, the Report adds. They often live in poverty without access to public services such as basic health care and education. Such deprivations can cause lasting health problems, including mental health complications and contribute to lost livelihoods, undermining long-term capabilities.

In terms of overall Human Development Index (HDI) values, Qatar leads the region, while Sudan scores lowest. The region comes out ahead in terms of per capita income, at $15,817, which is 15 percent higher than the world average. The region trails global averages in life expectancy and years of schooling.

The Report finds that the Arab States fall below the global average when measured by the Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index.  Education inequality is the most pronounced at 38 percent. Inequalities in income and health are at similar levels, a little over 17 percent.

The Report stresses that the large youth population requires particular policy attention, to ensure adequate employment to take advantage of the demographic dividend.

“Youth is opportunity, history has proven this,” said Sima Bahous, UNDP Director, Regional Bureau for Arab States. “Indeed, it is precisely at this point in the demographic arc, when the proportion of young people reaches a peak that regions and countries around the world have achieved positive transformational change.”

The Report calls for a commitment to full employment as a policy goal, the universal provision of basic social services and social protections, and better global coordination in shoring up resilience to vulnerabilities. It says these policy goals are achievable by countries at all stages of development, and advocates for “an international consensus on universal social protection” to be included in the post-2015 agenda.

Multidimensional poverty is a significant challenge for some countries in the region, with deficits in health and education seen as the main contributors to such poverty. The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) places 82 percent of Somalians in this category. However, in absolute terms, Yemen has the largest number of people suffering overlapping deprivations— some 7.7 million people in 2006, the last year for which data is available.

The Report introduces the idea of life cycle vulnerabilities, sensitive points in life where shocks can have greater impact, and it advocates for early investments in development to strengthen resilience. It also explores vulnerabilities linked to discrimination and institutional failings that, in the Arab States region, mostly disadvantage women and the displaced.

With the second-highest proportion of children in the population the Arab States are among those for which investments in early childhood care, nutrition, health and education bear most heavily on the region’s future prospects.

Furthermore, the relatively low representation of women in parliament, gender disparities in labour force participation, and other factors combine to place the region near the bottom of the Gender Inequality Index.

This Report comes at a critical time for global development, as attention turns to the creation of a new set of development goals following the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

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ABOUT THIS REPORT: The Human Development Report is an editorially independent publication of the United Nations Development Programme. For free downloads of the 2014 Human Development Report, plus additional reference materials on its indices, please visit: http://hdr.undp.org  

Full press package available here.

Contact Information

UNDP Headquarters
Anna Ortubia
Communications Specialist
anna.ortubia@undp.org
+1 212 906 5964

Joyce de Pina
Communications Specialist
joyce.depina@undp.org
+1 212 906 5698

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